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Hey YOU! Yes you. Ever thought about becoming a Foster or Respite parent? Well, let me tell you, it’s no walk in the park, but it will definitely change your life. Now, I’m not going to pitch you this grand plan to become a foster parent or respite parent like those people who try and get you to buy a time share or like the ones who want you to buy into their company – No, because that’s not what this is about. It’s about something more. Something grander. Something that could potentially make you feel something bigger than yourself.
You remember when you were a kid and you always thought you could be something more? Maybe you pretended you could fly or like you were an astronaut. Or how about that time when you learned to ride a bike or drive a car? What about your first kiss? Combine all of those feelings you had. How do you feel? Do you feel free? Maybe like you could fly? I don’t know about you, but my feeling – that feeling of being infinite is what life is about.
When I was little girl, I always wanted something bigger for myself, something that made me feel alive. Growing up, when I helped someone or volunteered, I always felt a sense of worth, something bigger than anything I could do to help myself feel something for myself. Sometimes, I even felt so free, almost like I was flying. This still reigns true today when I volunteer or help someone out.
With this in mind, I would say that fostering or respite could do this for you. It is just like volunteering. You are doing something for someone else. You are helping society for the greater good. You are doing something so valuable and precious, almost earth-shatteringly, heart-wrenchingly, irrevocably life changing. You can make a difference in the world, even if it is doing something as simple as becoming a respite parent. For more information, please go to https://kentuckyfostercare.com/foster-parenting/
Going out to dinner is something everyone loves. These outings serve many purposes; celebrations, meetings, dates, family time, you name it. So something that a new foster parent may not have thought about is how your new foster child will react to going out to dinner, and how you as a parent will have to react to SO many questions you may face.
Depending on your foster child’s culture, going out to dinner may not have been something they often got to do, so this can be a very exciting experience for them. On the other hand, they may have gone out to dinner a lot, and have preferences or bad experiences tied to these outings. Either way, ask the child’s input on where they would like to go. Make sure this is a positive and happy experience for the child, so that this can be something they come to enjoy doing with your family.
Now for the questions. The people you know that you may run into. The “Who is this little fella/gal?” or the “Oh, this must be your new foster child.” There it is, the F word. We really try not to call a child in care a “foster child” but simply a child. So you can say “yes, this is our child (name.)”To make your new addition feel normal instead of like such a family outcast.
Remember, these are memories that will stay with the child for a very long time, and these moments have impact. Take a deep breath, and smile about the adventure you are embarking on!
Recruiter/Trainer – Elizabethtown office
If I could go back in time and help myself through the parenting years, I would tell myself to, “Take more time for respite!” In my effort to be a protective and devoted mother, I forgot the essential truth that you can’t pour from an empty vessel. My shortsightedness was unfair to me, my husband, and our children.
What are the things that got in the way of taking time off to recharge?
The best time to plan respite is BEFORE you need it. I would think about taking some time off to recharge, but then I would convince myself that everything was fine and I didn’t really NEED to take a break. Then when I became overtired or stressed, it was too late to make arrangements and I lacked the creativity to think of anything that would be rejuvenating.
Taking respite should be planned and scheduled at least every year, quarterly if possible. Respite should be added to the list of yearly things that must be done…annual physical, dental appointments, eye exams, family vacation, etc. Respite is just as necessary as those other self-care activities.
2) “Unqualified” Respite Caregivers
Somehow I convinced myself that my husband and I alone had all the parenting knowledge of the universe and that no one else could possibly parent our children for a weekend in a manner that was up to our standards. The problem with this logic was that as we became more fatigued, our parenting skills were in a corresponding decline.
Respite caregivers need to be safe and responsible, but they don’t have to walk on water to qualify to watch the children for a weekend. The children will survive if they eat different foods (even junk food). They will be able to manage the health issues and if there is an emergency, they will be just as capable of dialing 911 as I would be. There might be a less strict adherence to the bedtimes and chore charts, but the children will survive. Actually, the parents are not the only ones who need a break. Children need a break from the routine once in a while, too. Also, if you want to model ideal parenting, then you must include time for respite for children to learn about life balance strategies and to value themselves in the future.
This is where planning ahead and having some creativity really helps out. Respite doesn’t have to be a five star resort with room service. It can be trading houses with someone, going camping, having the kids go away for respite and enjoying a stay-cation at home. (Alert!!!! If you do stay home, DO NOT use respite time to clean out the basement or garage or get caught up on paperwork.) Use respite time to rest, rejuvenate, recreate (play), reconnect with your spouse or friends, refresh and reflect on your divine purpose and goals.
Each person will have different methods for achieving respite. These don’t have to be expensive, but it is also o.k. to give yourself permission to splurge on a treat for yourself once in a while. We sacrifice for our children to meet their needs and it is o.k. to take a turn to meet ours, too.
There is no magic number of days, weeks or hours for the perfect amount of respite. Each parent has to discover the right amount needed. Here are some symptoms to watch for that indicate if respite is needed more urgently:
- Difficulty concentrating / forgetting things
- Feelings of futility
- Sleep disturbance
- Feelings of depression or sadness that linger
- Losing interest in things that used to be meaningful
- Desire to escape
- Frequent headaches
If you are feeling some or all of these symptoms, please reach out to your support network to schedule respite right away. Taking care of yourself is the most caring thing that parents can do for their children.
Recruiter/Trainer – Louisville