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Adoption Blog: Fostering Love
Respite Care and My First Week as a Foster Parent
My husband and I decided to open our home to foster children as we waited for an adoptive placement from the system. The first placement call that we got after receiving our foster parent licenses three years ago was to provide respite care to an 11-month-old boy. We were excited just to get our first placement, but, in retrospect, we couldn't have asked for a more perfect way to ease into foster parenting.
Respite care is when you temporarily care for a foster child who is already placed with another foster family. This little boy's foster mother needed someone to care for him while she had to go out of town for job training. When you provide respite care, you know how long the child will be living with you and, with any luck, you are given a clear idea of the child's daily routine and unique requirements.
After a child enters the U.S. foster care system, there is generally a period when his foster parents and case manager are trying to figure out how to best meet all of his needs. When you provide respite care, the child has usually been living with a foster family for a while, and so a lot of the initial questions and concerns have been addressed. For this reason, providing respite care made our first foster care placement less challenging than it might have been otherwise.
Our first foster son -- I'll call him Devon -- was beautiful. When he arrived in our home he was just learning to take his first steps; by the time he left us, a week later, he was walking across our living room. Watching a child learn to walk during our first parenting experience felt very special to my husband and me. The week that Devon lived with us couldn't have gone more smoothly or felt more rewarding.
When you provide respite care, you know how long the child will be with you. I knew exactly when Devon's goodbye would happen, and under what circumstances. Even so, I cried when he left. Part of being a foster parent is learning to let go of people you care about. Sometimes you see them again or hear about how they're doing, and sometimes you don't. We did get some updates on Devon after he lived with us, and I'm happy to report that he's doing well.
Some foster parents only provide respite care and do not take any long-term placements. Not everyone realizes that helping foster children on a short-term basis is possible. It's not the best option for a foster parent who is hoping to adopt, but there are many foster parents who have no desire to permanently add to their families through adoption.
When my husband and I cared for Devon, we felt good knowing that we were not only helping a child, but we were also helping another foster family. Providing respite care for Devon taught us about some of the challenges of being a foster parent without overwhelming us the first time we cared for a child.
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