Experiences on respite parenting or respite parents?

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by SuZir, May 27, 2013.

  1. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    We were at church marriage camp last weekend and they promoted their new respite parenting program. Around here it takes really a lot from CPS to take the kids. By law they have to try every possible service first. And there are not enough respite parents, so usually if you become respite parent, you likely will get a kid that is in verge of being taken into the care. Not only does it mean that situation with kids tend to be very problematic, it often also means, that kid you have gotten to know, will be looking for foster home in few months and you will be asked. We have absolutely no interest of becoming foster parents so even though we have often read from papers that there is shortage of respite families and thought it could be something we could do, we haven't been interested. And it would also be emotionally very difficult to be a respite parent for the kid you feel is not being taken adequate care at home. I can't imagine how it would feel to take kid back to home after the visit if I would feel that home was abusive to the kid.

    But because the system through CPS is clearly not working for it's intended purpose of providing families with no or little support networks and challenging situations a much needed respite to help them manage, our church is having this new community service there they pay the education of respite parents and help match families needing respite (and not being in as dire situations than those CPS tries to find respite homes) to ordinary families wanting to do respite parenting in it's original purpose. More or less providing help grandparents usually provide for those who don't have grandparents around. It would be one weekend and one or two weekday evenings a month. Training is the same CPS gives for new respite or foster parents and CPS has to approve both respite family and family getting help, but costs are paid by church and they try to find respite parents.

    I and husband sincerly hope we will not become grandparents in about ten more years, but we would have time, opportunity and even some experience of special needs we could offer to help some young family with little support network and draining life situation. Next class will be arranged in August and we are thinking if it would be something we would like to do.

    Does anyone here have experiences of this in any side of the fence?
  2. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I don't have experience in providing respite nor do I have any experience in fostering. on the other hand, due to my volunteer work as a child advocate through the Courts (GAL) and as a human rights advocate on a State level I feel well informed. Personally I could not do it. Children in need (including teens) are drawn to me like magnets and I totally know that even as a GAL it was often difficult to drive away after visiting for four hours or so with the child. Most of "my" Court kids were not physically abused but were living with instability. Many asked if they could "come visit at my house" or if I "could come to their school programs" or sometimes if I would buy them some new clothes or toys. For me it was stressful.

    on the other hand I came to know two ladies who were foster parents and trained respite providers for years and years. Like me they had children of their own but somehow they opened their doors for unknown children on a regular basis and their point of view (which I greatly admired) was that they would provide the best care they could whether for a weekend or for years as the situation dictated.

    Just as most churches encourage I believe there is a need for indepth "self examination" before making this form of decision. It "sounds like" a short term act of Christian charity. Often there are longer term ramifications. Many of the kids have issues that are not readily recognizable, require very diligent oversight and in a smaller community end up having overlaps with caregivers. I suggest that you and husband give alot of thought before making a decision. Hugs DDD
  3. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    What little exposure I've had (through some friends who have done it) is that there are essentially three kinds of respite...
    1) kids with serious behavior problems
    2) kids with serious medical problems
    3) kids whose parent(s) must be absent for medical reasons - single parent needs to go into hospital for surgery, for example.

    I'm not sure I'd tackle the first case.
    Because husband has worked with serious medical issues... if we were going to do it, we'd take on kids with medical issues - MD, quads, etc. - kids where the parents just need a physical break from the incredible work it takes to care for these kids. Many of these are intellectually normal, and are interesting people. If you can develop a long-term relationship, it makes it easier (i.e. you get the same kids back on a regular basis).

    Kids in the third category, well, it depends on whether they fall into category 1 as well...

    And then there are the grey areas. Would you take on someone else's Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kid? How about a bi-polar? or severe depression? These are "medical" issues, but... specialized skills.
  4. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    Very good points DDD and something we need to think hard. If we would do this, it would be same kids every month and we would be expected to create a bond with them. They asked to consider it at least two year commitment, ideally longer. Good thing would be, that commitment is not required before the class. And even after it, they arrange a date in neutral place between family needing respite and potential respite parents and only if both parties consider it a fit, commitment is made.

    IC: Around here types of respite through CPS tend to be either with kids with serious behavioural problems or more commonly with kids from families with serious issues (substance abuse, mental health issues, inability to parent etc.) and to be honest, dealing with that stuff is not something we would be willing to do. Serious medical need kids have respite care in institutions (usually in same that will later provide them also 'least restrictive, as independent as possible adult living services (with 24/7 care)') and kids whose parents have need for absence for medical reasons are placed to children's homes or short term/crisis foster homes.

    Why they have started this particular program is precisely that. Only extremely needy get respite through CPS and many people who could be interested giving respite care to less needy kids, are not interested on working with kids who are very needy. Of course we can't know, if it really works, but what they tried to sell us, was being respite to much less needy families. There were three families who are doing this through this program and at least those situations did sound like what they were promoting. One family were respite for two kids with no special needs of their own, but with a siblining of high medical special needs. The special needs kid has respite through institution, but healthy siblings spend one weekend a month (when needy sibling is home) in respite family to help everyone get a break and one week night when the special needs kid is also in respite to give parents time alone. Another family was respite for rather mildly special needs boy (high functioning asperger), who lived alone with single mother, wasn't in touch with his dad and grandparents were far away. Both to give a mother a break and for kid to have a male figure in his life. Third one was more intence and more short term situations. Kids had been in respite family two weekends a month, but it lasted only six months. Kids were older siblings of somewhat medical needy baby twins and again, no family living near and being able to help. That one ended when babies started to sleep little better and be easier to take care and parents had bit easier time.

    While we are not ready for respiting extremely needy families, the situations like those three are something we could be willing to deal with.
  5. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Did you say you were moving to Canada to do this?
    Boy, WE sure could have used that a few years ago... especially the idea of giving the "other kids" a break from a very needy sibling...!!
  6. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    Now, I knew you would notice why we think this could be a great program ;) We were supper lucky to have mother in law and father in law close and extremely helpful and also husband's siblings etc. If not, we would had been screwed. Around here there has been lots of relocation going on in recent decades and many families live far from their relatives and don't have that kind of support networks. That is why I see this kind of respite program for those less needy to be a great idea, because it can help those families a lot and prevent them ending up very needy.

    It certainly is a program that I hope would succeed and that some people would do respite parenting through them. And concept of how 'someone' or 'some people' should do this or that, and not to be that someone, if possible, kind of goes rather badly against our family values, which is a big reason we are considering this. Other one is, that it could be fun, if the family we would respite would be a fit. We like kids, we like doing stuff with kids, we have room and time. But yes, there are concerns and that is something we have to think hard.
  7. nerfherder

    nerfherder Active Member

    Now, I'm curious. Here in the states we have the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program, which is as far as I know a charitable program and not a state or federal program. It sounds like that's the sort of thing you'd want for NT/mildly affected kids without major issues, at the very least lacking the appropriate parent or role model in their lives. (I don't know their policy with kids whose mother or father figure is ill or otherwise unable to be involved.) How much of the agency's "respite parenting" services that aren't a full-time thing are manageable by BB/BS? Am I completely missing the idea here? Possible that I am... :)
  8. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    Sorry, I don't really understand what you are asking. Could you maybe rephrase? (My lack of fluency in English showing here...)
  9. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Nerfherder... Big Brothers/Sisters is a "day" program. As in, the "mentor" will spend 1-2 hours a week with the kid, to help fill a gap in their lives. Typically, not respite, but rather... building things like social skills, or providing a "healthy male role model".

    Respite is... around the clock. As in, overnight, or a weekend, or a week.
  10. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    Ahh, you meant difference between BB/BS-programs and respite parenting? At least here in BB/BS-programs the idea is to provide male/female role model to a kid who is lacking one and they usually meat for few hours a time. Respite parenting has bit different aim. In this program the aim is to give a breather for the parent(s) and help them carry on. And yes, in some cases to provide to the kids something they may be lacking (that role model, one-on-one time with an adult etc.) And kids stay longer. In this program we are considering, one weekend (from Friday night to Sunday night) a month and one weekday evening. And at some cases a week during the summer. In CPS program official aim is about the same, but in reality aim is most often to give the kids a chance to see how ordinary family works or in some cases simply full fill the legal obligation to offer all possible help before taking the kids.
    Last edited: May 31, 2013
  11. nerfherder

    nerfherder Active Member

    Ah, I get it. Thank you!