Another way to help: respite care

What does it look like in practice?

Fostering and adoption is a huge commitment on the part of a family, a commitment that brings tremendous rewards but frequently great challenges also. One of the things that helps families meet some of the challenges is having other people to turn to for practical help with the children. For many reasons, not all are called to adopt or foster children, but another extremely helpful way to serve children and families on our Island is to offer respite care.

We interviewed one of our social workers on the island to find out a little more about what respite care is and what is involved with becoming a respite carer.

What is “respite care”?

Respite is temporary care of children and young people in foster care or in their families in order to give the family a break.

Do you need any special qualifications to provide respite care?

Respite providers go through foster carer training and a process which prepares them for their new role. Many respite providers are active foster families with other children in their care.

Who is your average respite caregivers?

People who have an interest in helping our Island’s children and we want to encourage diversity. A carer can be younger, older, gay, straight, single or married the only requirement is love and time.

How much of an investment of your time is this?

It very much depends on each individual child and their needs.  If the child is in school, wether they have complex needs, their hobbies, their age etc. I would say be prepared to invest your time as you are investing into a child’s future and you are supporting the children’ s main carers, who can be their birth parents or foster carers.

What is most challenging about it?

Respite carers tell us that ‘rather than continuing with our regular busy adventures, we find that we have to be deliberate about slowing down when children join our family temporarily.’ Given the disruptions in their lives, children in foster care tend to do best when they receive more focused attention.

What do you find most rewarding about it?

Carers love welcoming new children into their home. Some of our carers have biological children that are usually excited to have new friends (or little ones to help care for) for a weekend – though it can be difficult for them to say goodbye! I think the biggest reward is being part of a system that allows relief to long term carers which enables them to be the best carers they can be by getting the rest they need to go back and do an amazing role and be an amazing role model.

Would you encourage others to get involved in this?

Definitely! This is something that most families could take on – even if committing to just a few days every couple of months. It makes such a difference to foster families or birth families to be able to get the rest they need in order to provide continued loving care.

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