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Experienced Foster Mamas: Do you take 'breaks' from fostering? How do you do it?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Some time ago I ended up on the phone with another very experienced foster mom.  She mentioned that she doesn't take kids over the summer - she is a single mom with two adopted daughters (from fostercare) and she takes the summers to devote time to her daughters, who sometimes feel a little ignored with other little ones coming in and out.  When I find her phone number, I am going to ask the logistics of this..


We have always been of the mind that we take all our kids whereever we go (on family adventures, that is), rather than get respite care.  We have a sibling pair now, and we've taken them with us on our summer camping trips.  Here's the thing;  turns out, they don't travel well.  Camping trips have ranged from tolerable to disasters.  There are just some real psychological issues that make new experiences and changes in routine out of the question.  We've canceled a couple trips later in the summer, staying home and plan adventures from here.

However, we are planning on taking the family (DH, myself and DS) on a road trip next summer, like for a week or two.  I know DCFS would let us take kids, but I can't count on having kids that can handle this sort of trip (for instance, these two would not).  If it turns out we have kids with us who could handle the trip, I'd be willing to recant, but I don't want to be in a situation where we've planned this trip and we have kids who can't handle it that don't go on to another better placement (family, permanency, etc.)  I'm not sure how to go about that...

Does anyone else out there take scheduled breaks from fostering?  If so, how do you arrange that?  Do you just tell social workers when they place kids that you are out for that time? 

post #2 of 10

My daughter's foster mom and dad took amazing trips.  They had a a lot of foster children, all with medical needs.  Each child did respite with a nurse/health aid.  My feelings toward this practice have been sort of a roller coaster ride.  I found out about it long after our daughter had been placed with us.

 

Most of me thinks you need to do anything you can to keep yourself "charged" to be a good foster parent.  A tiny piece of me worries about the affect that these vacations had for my daughter.  I do know that the social workers involved thought that these vacations were totally acceptable.

post #3 of 10

I would either set up respite for the time you'll be gone, or, if the timing works out, close your home temporarily for your "break."

 

We wanted a summer vacation and were told our FS was going to be with us all summer, so we planned with him in mind. We didn't go as far away as we would have liked, only planned a weekend instead of a week, etc. I thought we did a good job meeting everyone's needs with the planning. Turns out, he suddenly (with two weeks' notice) got moved the day we left. If we'd had a month or more, we could have had a nice long vacation. Instead, we left for our weekend a little later, and without FS. It turned out to be a nice, relaxing weekend anyway.

 

We closed our home for that weekend and a few weeks beyond to get ourselves together and enjoy part of our summer "just us." It worked out well, and we had no pressure to reopen before we were ready.

 

I don't think there's anything wrong with putting the kids in respite if you need to. It's better than resenting them for not being able to take a vacation, and way better than resenting them for "ruining" a family vacation. Plus, I have heard that lots of times the kids love going to respite b/c it's like a vacation for them, too.
 

post #4 of 10

We take a lot of breaks because we keep having biological children! We are currently on a 2 - 4 year break, until this about-to-be baby is between the ages of 2 & 4. I let our cw know once I'm pg & he puts us on "no vacancy" until we are ready again. We did respite for another mom earlier this summer. She was flying across the country to visit some relatives and, while she would have had no problem taking her dfd, since dfd was 1, it meant buy her a plane ticket or have her ride on lap for 6+ hours. Her baby was able to stay with us and play with our kids, no problem. She cried some cuz she didn't know us and wanted me with her all the time, but overall it was positive for everyone. If you do not have foster kids close to the time of the trip, let your cw know that you are "no vacancy" until you come back. It's really no big deal. If you have kid(s) that could handle the trip and you want to take them, take them. If they couldn't handle it, you should have enough time before your trip to schedule respite.

 

If it were me, I probably would go on no vacancy at the beginning of the summer just to be on the safe side, if we did not already have a foster placement. It would put my mind at ease, no "what ifs". Then go back on vacancy when we returned from the trip. Fostering is definitely also hard on the kids who live with you, I would enjoy the mental break for me AND them.

post #5 of 10

We have provided respite for a foster family for the same sibling group three different times, usually for about a week. It has allowed them to enjoy a family event and go on a vacation alone. We have a little farm and same-age kids who got along pretty well, so the children in care accepted the respite very well thinking it of their own vacation.

post #6 of 10

I always felt uncomfortable with respite.  It was as much a matter of not knowing the family (and type of family) that would have my "kids" and partly because I felt like they would feel abandoned again and/or not a part of the family... especially hearing about our adventures when we got back.

 

So yeah, we did take breaks.  And to be honest, it wasn't even just to go on trips or anything--it was a time for our family to reconnect and just "be" in a way that we really couldn't be with the other kids in the house.  We learned to take 8-10 weeks at a time because it TOOK you a full month to feel like you were alone again.  Like the other shoe wasn't going to fall.  Don't get me wrong: we rarely had a really difficult placement... but things were just different and we didn't even realize that until we were on our first break (which happened by accident).  After that, we instituted breaks.

 

In our case, we just kept in close contact with our resource worker (it's like the caseworker assigned to the care and feeding of the foster/resource families).  They were good about it.

post #7 of 10
I used respite pretty much involuntarily when a "very brief" Placement turned into a four-month thing and we already had a trip planned. It wasn't good for the child, we should have been allowed to take him with us. I will not use respite again - particularly with our current placement, The Sensitive Atheist. I think we're the only foster family in the state who is a good fit for him.

We're on our third placement, and have had a break of at least a month. Etween each placement. That seems like a very good thing.
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 

We actually met the kids we have now while doing respite for their previous foster family, who apparently used it a great deal.  (There were many issues with that family that we have been working through with the kids...)
So, my goal is to not use respite.  Our only form of 'respite' is our parents, who have their licenses, and I don't think of that as respite; just what a family does.  (our bio son and any kids placed here visit the grandparents for occasional evenings away for DH and I;  they love it.)

We are going to plan multiple trips during July.  I guess as soon as these guys leave (maybe Sept.?) I'll try to get the info in our file and we'll start notifying the social workers when they call that they can certainly place kids with us, but we will be 'closed' and they can use their best judgement on whether we would be a good place for that child.  My concern is that social workers will say 'no problem, it should be a short placement' to get the kids in (we have 2 openings and our area, as in all areas, is desperate for sibling placements)   and then we'll be in a sticky situation in June when kids are still here and we are leaving.  Our parents can't take kids for that long, and I hate, hate, hate the idea of taking our son on an adventure and leaving other kids behind.  Like I said, I am open to taking them, but there is always the possibility of kids who can't hang with it, such as these two.

I guess IF we are in that situation it will go back to the social worker, not us, (as we warned him/her) but that won't help the kids at all...

post #9 of 10
Oh my! I wish someone in my family would get licensed as a foster parent, respite provider, or non primary caregiver. I have tried and tried but they're unwilling. They want me to just break the rules and leave the kids with them! Soooo frustrating!

Anyway, the only breaks we take are between placements. We actually just canceled a much-needed vacation so we could take a placement of preemie twins who are our son's brothers.

We're really picky about placements now and only accept bio relatives to our adopted son or children with a very high chance of becoming adoptable. We figure we'll invest a few hard years now without regular family vacations in order to be able to take them in the future. Once we've built our family of 2-3 children, we will probably just stop fostering until our kids are grown. It's just way too stressful and restrictive.
post #10 of 10

Most of me thinks you need to do anything you can to keep yourself "charged" to be a good foster parent.  A tiny piece of me worries about the affect that these vacations had for my daughter.  I do know that the social workers involved thought that these vacations were totally acceptable.

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