That Dirty Word: Respite Care
Respite care. It’s a dirty word in our world, and I promised myself I would never opt into it. It’s one thing when parents and judges force it upon you, but to choose to place your child in respite care? You must be some kind of of monster.
After 5 years straight and over 20 placements, I’ve learned it’s not as simple as an “I would never.” Like the new mom who swears only organic, home cooked, everything-free forever until she meets the realities of play dates and practices and, inevitably, processed food. Sometimes real life knocks your plans off their pedestals. You trade “the best” for “the best we can do.”
Newborns, behaviors, medical needs, business trips, marriage, family dynamics, and limited spaces. The whys of a family’s decision to place a child in respite care is endless, beyond a simple explanation, and no one else’s business.
Respite care is something we’ve needed to utilize a number of times in our years of foster parenting. It’s never an easy decision. But the thing that’s made it less hard? Community. I’m now surrounded by a network of foster parents who love me, love my kids, and are happy to step in as temporary family. The difference between leaving a child with a stranger and leaving a child with a dear friend is everything. “Respite care” becomes a fun visit with a family friend, “leaving a child” becomes entrusting a child to someone you actually trust.
If you have community like this, thank your people. You know they make all the difference. If you don’t, fight for it, create it, be it for someone else. Volunteer to do respite for another family, lean into awkward or challenging relationships, create a network for parents in your area, join even if you’re not a joiner. Community makes all the difference.
Foster parent, if you’ve struggled through the guilt of respite care, hear it from me, loud and clear: Respite care doesn’t make you a bad foster parent. You need to do what’s best for your foster children. You need to do what’s best for your other children. You need to do what’s best for your marriage. You need to do what’s best for yourself. I won’t tell you what that is...and no one else should either.