Respite is a much needed service to fostering families. It allows foster parents to take a break, which helps prevent burn out. Respite offers birth children of the foster home quality time with their parents. It also gives the foster children a break. Hopefully, the foster children will be spending a weekend with other foster children; children they can relate to.
A poorly planned respite weekend can cause more stress for everyone involved: foster family, respite provider, and the foster children. Here are some tips for having a successful respite weekend.
Setting it Up With Your Agency
Contact your worker well in advance of your respite date so she can have adequate time to find a respite family for you. Two weeks advance notice is usually a good amount of time to give. If you find your own respite provider, let the social worker know who you have chosen and get it approved.
Do your foster children know the respite family? To avoid further trauma, try to have a visit with the respite family beforehand. Sometimes this is not possible especially, in emergency cases, but highly recommended, especially for children with attachment issues.
Setting it Up With the Respite Provider
When contacting the respite family make sure to clarify the drop off and pick up dates. I have done respite for a foster family in the past, and we had a major misunderstanding on the pick up date. This caused confusion and stress for both myself and the foster family, as they had to pick up their foster children a day ahead of their planned schedule.
Not a good way to end a restful weekend.
During your first phone contact remember to mention any appointments, such as visits to the respite provider. It would be extremely unfair to spring this information on them at the last minute. If they are unable to make these appointments, you may need to choose another provider, or speak with your social worker on rescheduling the appointments. If conflicting schedules mean that visits may be missed, it's in the birth family's best interest if another provider is searched out. If this is impossible, again, contact your social worker on rescheduling immediately. Visits are the heart of the reunification process.
Packing for Respite Care
When packing for your foster children, be sure to include enough clean clothes. Don't forget extra underwear and socks. For infants and toddlers too many diapers and wipes are better than not enough. It would not be fair if the respite provider had to go purchase more items because they were not given a sufficient supply to get through the weekend.
Have the children pick out a special toy or stuffed animal to help them at bed time.
I am also a big believer in picture books. Put together a small scrapbook. The kind with pages that you can just slip the pictures into would be easiest to prepare. Include pictures of birth family, foster family, friends and pets.
Making a Respite Packet
A foster care respite packet is something you only have to make once and can make ahead of time! Find a handy printable worksheet and step-by-step instructions on how to create your own respite packet by following these links:
When I need to use respite, I only have to add medication to the packet, update appointment information (if any) and the kids are ready to go. This packet also comes in handy when going to doctor or dental visits as all needed paperwork is ready.
Preparation is the key to a great respite weekend. You can come back to the children relaxed and ready to get back to work serving your community, providing homes for children, and helping families heal.