Foster families offer 'respite' for children in need
Respite foster care parents are able to relieve the primary foster care parents of their duties for a short period of time - typically a single day, a weekend or one to two weeks.Posted — Updated
For foster parents who need a short break from their fostering responsibilities, respite foster care parents are able to relieve the primary foster care parents of their duties for a short period of time – typically a single day, a weekend or one to two weeks.
Pearl Robinson, a licensed foster parent for the Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina, said offering respite foster care services allows her to help other foster parents who are in need of a night out, a vacation or a brief sabbatical.
Melissa Graves, another licensed foster parent for the B&GH, added respite foster care services are also available to foster parents who must travel out of town to attend to family emergencies.
Why Become a Respite Foster Care Parent?
Robinson said she and her husband became respite foster care parents after first serving as "full-time" foster care parents.
"As my husband and I aged, we realized that 'full-time' fostering was becoming a bit much. But we still had a spare bedroom and more than enough love in our hearts," she explained. "We didn't want to give up on fostering. So, respite fostering has been a great alternative for us."
Graves added respite fostering offers a great way for licensed foster parents to "test the waters" due to its short-term nature.
"If you get the opportunity to offer respite foster care first and to see how it feels, then your life will be changed after doing it," she said.
The Choices of Respite Foster Care
Graves said respite foster care mirrors traditional foster care in that respite foster parents are allowed to choose which foster children they bring into their homes. Graves and her husband said "yes" to two recent requests for respite foster care, and had one child for two weeks and another child for one week.
Likewise, Robinson recalled making a similar respite decision.
"My husband and I had decided that we wouldn't provide respite care for teens. But then we got a call about a young lady who needed a short-term placement in order to graduate from high school," Robinson said. "So, we made an exception to our 'no teen' rule and we brought her into our home. She did well in school, graduated and we still hear from her."
"Some kids just need a little help," Robinson continued. "God has been good to us. We recognize that everything we have belongs to Him, so we try to do what He asks of us and to share what we've been given."
The Ties that Bind
"When you provide either respite or longer-term foster care, you're offering up your family as an example of what home life should be," Graves said. "So, we want to treat our respite foster care children just as our own biological children."
Robinson admitted that despite the short time span, you still "fall in love with the kids." She emphasized that respite foster parents often continue the relationship long after the respite care ends.
The teen the Robinsons is now in the Army, and she continues to call and drop by when she's able to.
"I feel so blessed to still be a part of her life. It touches my heart," Robinson said.
Regardless of whether foster parents choose to offer respite foster care or longer-term foster care, both Graves and Robinson shared that foster parents don't do it alone.
"When you're working with the Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina, there's never a time or an hour when you need someone that you can't reach them," Robinson said. "They are there when you need them."
"I love the foster parenting community," Graves added. "The thing we all have in common is that we want to help each other and our foster kids. We stay in touch through social media, phone calls, social events and trainings. It's so helpful to be able to talk to others who have experienced what you are going through, and can hold you up and give you advice."
Robinson's neighborhood recently hosted a block party. During it, she put out brochures promoting foster care because she hopes more people will consider becoming foster parents.
"My husband and I are living witnesses about how foster care changes lives. So, if you've got extra room in your home and in your heart, I encourage folks to serve as either respite or full-time foster care parents," Robinson said. "After all, the children are our future."
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