Sunday, February 20, 2011

Respite Care: It's fun to have a fling!

Keeping in line with foster care being our love story, respite care is like casual dating. It's fun, breezy, short-lived, and a sub-category of foster care that we like quite a bit. Kids need respite care when their foster family can not care for them for a short time. There are two types of respite, vacation and behavioral/medical. While we love taking foster care placements, respite relieves us of the emotional turmoil that comes when attaching and saying goodbye to kids. Respite is taking a child into your home for a short, set amount of time. When they leave, they go to their foster home where they are already comfortble and you know the situation is safe.

Fireman Respite 1, Trick or Treating with the YoGabaGaba Gang

Most of our respite cases have been vacation placements.  Respite 1 was a 3yr old boy who we had for 10days in October 2009. His foster parents were helping foster Grandma move to Florida for the winter. We've had him several other times since then, and eventually had to stop becuse his fostermom was using respite like discount babysitting, but I enjoyed him very much. Respite 2 was an 11mo baby that stayed just overnight while his foster mom went to her cottage for the weekend. We have respite #4 right now, and her foster family went on vacation with their older children for winter break.

If a foster family has to leave their child for over 8hrs (or 12?) the caregiver must be a certified foster parent. Kids you get with vacation placements can't go with their family for a variety of reasons that can include: bioparents won't give consent for them to go, the trip isn't kid-friendly or is work-related, the child has school, the child doesn't adjust to change well, etc. We love vacation placements because we can go all-out spoiling the child without being too concerned about discipline or getting into a schedule. You also get to be blissfully unaware of the terrible details that come with every foster care case. And just when you get tired or realize you've eaten out all weekend- their foster family comes back and you ship them off , eat some vegetables, and take a nap. I want my respite kids to think my house is Disneyland, we go to the zoo, Build-A-Bear, indoor play centers, parks, anything fun! It's a vacation for the kids in my home too since they get spoiled right alongside the respite kids.

Baby 2 jumping with Respite 3

Behavior/Medical respite kids have special needs that require a more intensive care than vacation respite cases. They get repite regularly to give their families time to refresh since having a special needs child is so demanding. We've never had a medical respite, but are super-open to it. Respite # 3, a 4yr old boy, was our only behavior respite. We had him first for a 3-day weekend that went GREAT! Now I understand the phrase, "Honeymoon Period". The next stretch was 19 days that included Thanksgiving and the start of Christmas season. I experienced his first meltdown on the night of our Family's Thanksgiving dinner. After telling him he could have another apple after dinner, but not before, since he already had 2- he insisted that he had never eaten an apple. This escalated into him punching, kicking, biting, spitting and saying things like "I hate you!", "I'm gonna kill you", "I'm telling my Daddy you pinched me!", "I'm gonna cut my head off!". Remember, this was over an apple and he's 4yrs old. Immediately after he calmed down, he crawled into my lap and politely asked to watch a movie together. If he were my kid I would be all up in arms, calling his caseworker and diagnosing him with PTSD and bipolar while looking up treatment plans on WebMD. I'd be so embarrassed that my family just saw a 4yr old punch me in the face. But, alas! He was going home in a mere 10days and it wasn't my problem. I was able to love him without the obligation to understand or fix his behavior. Afterall, his foster family was at home resting up so they'd be fresh to do that when he got back to them. I let them and his caseworker know about the incident, then took him to the climbing wall at the indoor bounce center.

Another positive about respite care is that you can continue to utilize the child's daycare if they are normally enrolled- which all of our respite kids have been. This keeps the child's routine in tact as well as the schedule of our kids.  This allows us to take kids that might not mesh perfectly wth ours or who are coming at a time that's busy for our family.
Finally, a quick note about our family right now. Babies 2 & 3 are going home in 5 days. We've moved most of their belongings their Dad's house, switched transportation for Baby 2's preschool, and we've been getting lots of cuddles and "Love you"s in. AND we got to see baby 3's FIRST STEPS!!!

Respite 4 is also proving to be quite an adventure:
1. She's our 1st girl. We always agreed that we wanted boys, but after baby 3, I found myself thinking about dresses and hairbows. We have a pink bedroom in our house for goodness sake! We needed to use our dollhouse bed. So I was excited when we got a call for her. She is so much different from our boys.
2. She's our first white child. It's a HUGE issue in adoption circles that white parents have a hard time caring for the hair and skin of their black children. This is currently hysterical to me since my boys hair and skin have not been an issue for me at all, but I have no idea what I'm doing with her hair and skin. She has super sensitive and dry skin that requires extra attention than what I give my skin, but cannot handle thick cremes like my kids' skin. AND HER HAIR!!! I should preface this by saying I'm just getting used to  doing my own hair, so I'm a little behind the curve. Her hair is baby-fine and straight. It it all one length and falls into her face and food. It tangles while she sleeps and she has no tolerance to getting it brushed out. With my boys' tangles, I can oil and condition their hair and the the comb will slide through the knot, but white hair absorbs oil and easily looks dirty. When I have Baby 2's hair put in braids, it's a pain, but it stays for  3weeks, I'm not doing it every morning!... Long story short, I think I need more practice to get this down :)

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes your extended family can feel uneasy about your choice to be a foster parent. So meeting the foster children before the holidays and family gatherings can help this situation or confirm their fears.
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