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Respite care for foster families

In this season of giving, many people are looking for ways to help others in their community. One way to make a life-changing impact on a child’s life is through becoming a foster family. There are many other ways of helping foster children as well. One of these ways to help is to provide respite care for foster families.

When a family is caring for a foster child, a date night is not as easy as a phone call to the teenage babysitter down the street. Foster children must be cared for by a pre-approved adult, who has passed a background check. Most foster families have substitute caregivers they can call in case of an emergency, but hesitate to call on these people for minor things such as an evening out, a run to the grocery store, or an overnight trip. At these times, respite care can be a tremendous help for foster families.

Respite is a temporary break, given to caretakers, that provides a period of rest and renewal. It is a much needed service for all families. Scheduling for respite care allows primary caregivers to keep from becoming overwhelmed and experiencing burn-out.

Respite is not only a great opportunity for foster families, but it is just as important for the foster children. Often when children are in respite care, they are able to build healthy relationships with others, pursue a special interest, or have fun doing an activity they enjoy. They get the opportunity to build onto their social skills and self-esteem. This allows them to learn to trust others, and to trust their foster family is going to come back to pick them up. This is often important for children who are in foster care because they may have been abandoned by people earlier in life and they fear they will be left again. Ultimately, respite leads to healthier families and less placement disruptions.

Sometimes, a family may be interested in becoming a licensed foster family but they may be hesitant. Because fostering is such a significant commitment, they may feel they do not have the time or the resources at the moment to become a foster family. Providing respite care for foster children is a great way to “test the waters,” to see if fostering is something your family is able to do. Providing respite care allows a family to care for foster children and provide support for their primary caregivers, but without the significant commitment required for foster care.

Becoming a respite care provider in Michigan is a fairly simple process. A licensing worker will visit the family at home to assess the safety of the home and the willingness and ability of the family to care for a foster child. Then, there is a background check on the adults in the household. Foster parent training is encouraged, and is offered regularly in the local area.

Most foster parents need temporary relief from the demands of caring for foster children, particularly those with disabilities or medical conditions. Without a break, any parent can be taxed to the point of losing the ability to provide high quality care. Periodic respite enhances the quality of care for the child, gives foster parents a needed break, and ensures healthy, stable placements for children.

If your family is interested in helping foster families and children by providing respite care, please contact Dolores Kilpela at UP Kids at 906-487-9832.

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