Our First Respite Weekend

Respite foster care is when one foster family cares for the foster children of another foster family allowing the first family a break. This type of foster care is especially helpful when foster children have behaviors such as seen in many therapeutic foster homes.

I am happy to report that we survived our first weekend as a respite family! The Teen arrived on Friday night around dinnertime and settled in quickly. That night Tinkerbelle was coloring the under side of Daffy’s hair pink (and added a streak to mine) and the Teen joined us and chattered away. She mentioned the next day that she really had felt welcomed by Tink (which made me quite proud). Clearly she felt comfortable… she shared with Tink that she is 3 months pregnant (and her foster parents are aware and didn’t want ME to know). I thought maybe she would mention it directly to me later in the weekend, but she never did bring it up.

Saturday morning the Teen and I took Daffy to gymnastics then headed home to meet up with Mickey to go strawberry picking. The Teen seemed really excited to do this! I wish I could say it was amazing, but I was sad that Tink, Goofy and Pluto weren’t joining us for our usual summer tradition. It felt odd to be just the 4 of us. Anyway, somewhere around that time the Teen started talking about how we really SHOULD make strawberry turnovers…. and we really NEEDED vanilla ice cream. Maybe if I wasn’t such a pushover, I would have found a way to say politely that we all prefer strawberry shortcake and that Mickey didn’t WANT to make turnovers, but there didn’t seem to be a nice way, so we let it go and he made the turnovers. She complained they weren’t flakey enough but was the only one to go back for seconds so I guess they couldn’t have been that bad after all, LOL.

She was up bright and early this morning and ate breakfast followed by several cans of Coke (something we usually dont have in the house other than when we host parties but she found stashed while rummaging through our cabinets) and then attempted to “roast” marshmallows using a lighter, my microwave and the toaster oven. Once the marshmallows were gone, she literally BROUGHT me 4 boxes of cake mix from my cabinets suggesting that I make her a cake. Being my non-confrontational self, I simply found a way to ignore the requests.

After the boy’s baseball game this afternoon and a quick dip in the pool, she began to pack her stuff (you wouldn’t believe how much stuff she brought). She decided to “clean” Tink’s room, making Tink’s bed and lining up all of her stuffed animals and laying things out on her bed. I am hopeful this was simply a nice gesture and not her way of covering any theft. I hate to assume that, but she made several comments throughout the weekend about Tink’s nice things and I know that its a pretty common issue for foster kids who have been in residential settings.

I reminded myself many times throughout the weekend that her food issues are just that… ISSUES. I don’t know her history well enough to pinpoint where the issue comes from… in fact, it could be any number of things… but accepting her behaviors as something from her past playing out now to protect herself allowed me to be a lot more understanding and compassionate.

Overall, it was a good weekend. She seemed to enjoy our company and we found her pleasant and, more importantly, safe. It’s something we would do again, I think. (I would definitely check in with the fam before making any commitment, LOL)

Things I would suggest asking when called to do respite:

  1. Age and gender of child
  2. Allergy and medical information (including medications to be given in your care)
  3. A summary of history including any assaultive or abusive behaviors (to people or animals, if you have pets) or fire starting
I hate that there is a need to be so direct, but my experience with foster care dictates that you can never be too cautious when it comes to the safety of your family and many times social workers will not provide information unless they are directly asked (and sometimes not even then!) I completely support the concept of respite, but above all I support making INFORMED choices. If you accept a child, even for the weekend, that has needs you are unable to handle, you are setting yourself (& the child) up for failure. While most kids are better behaved during respite, saving the worst of their behaviors for their foster family or biological family, you are certainly not doing anyone any favors by not educating yourself about any potential risks and taking actions to keep everyone safe.
Things I would suggest asking of the foster parent once you accept respite:
  1. Favorite foods (or any food issues)
  2. Usual routine (bedtime, bathing habits, etc)
  3. Any special rules that need to be followed (contact with friends/family/etc, use of phone or internet)
  4. Bring age appropriate toys/games
  5. Bring appropriate clothing (clothes to play in snow, swimwear, dress clothes for church, etc)
  6. Make arrangements to meet the child ahead of the respite (if possible) to alleviate anxiety

I think we were just about as prepared as we could be and I know each respite will be different, but the above suggestions are definitely a good rule of thumb for being a smart and prepared respite family!

If you have something to add or an experience to share, I would love to hear from you! Please leave me a comment below!

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