What Is Respite Foster Care?
Sometimes a foster parent needs a short break from looking after their foster child or teen. This could be for a variety of reasons, including an emergency, financial stress, health issues, or a simple need for self-care so they can continue to be a great parent.
So what is respite foster care? It means another approved caregiver can look after the child or teen until the primary caregiver is back on their feet. Read on to find out who needs respite foster care and what it takes to be a respite parent.
How Respite Care Works
Respite care lets the primary caregiver of a child or teen have a break. It’s common among foster families because, unlike biological families, foster parents may not have the option of leaving the child with a family member or friend on a casual basis.
Here’s what you need to know about respite foster care:
- Respite foster care gives foster parents a short break and another family cares for the foster child or teen during that time.
- The child or teen may be up to 21 years old.
- Respite parents at UMFS go through the same process of training and approval as foster parents.
- The typical timeframe for respite care is a single weekend but up to 29 days is possible.
- The goal is to provide the primary caregiver with relief so they will be more likely to be able to continue caring for the child or teen in the long term.
- Once the respite period is complete and the primary caregiver is ready and able to resume their responsibilities, the child or teen will return to their long-term foster home.
Why People Might Need Respite Foster Care
Both children and families can benefit from respite foster care. It offers foster parents a chance to relax or recover from any difficulties, and it protects the child or teen from possible neglect or abuse. The break means there’s less chance the child or teen will be displaced.
Here are a few situations that can help you understand when respite care may be requested:
- Temporary financial difficulty means a foster family cannot provide for the child.
- Life challenges and stress mean they cannot give the child adequate attention.
- Sickness means they are unable to care for the child.
- The child or teen may have special medical, emotional, or behavioral needs and the primary caregiver simply needs a break for self-care.
- The foster family needs or wants to travel out of state but the foster child or teen is not legally allowed to leave the state.
- Without a break, the primary caregiver may choose to give up custody of the child or teen leading to long-term instability in their home life.
Children and teens often build healthy relationships with their respite caregivers. At the same time, the experience provides an opportunity to build trust with their primary caregivers because they see a parent can go away and come back as promised.
Who Can Be a Respite Parent?
Respite parents need to go through the same approval process as foster parents and provide an equally welcoming home. Though respite foster care is for shorter periods, you’re committing to support kids in foster care just as much as their long-term foster parents.
Respite caregivers are a valuable part of the foster care experience. After undergoing training, it’s hoped you’ll continue to offer respite foster care on an ongoing basis.
Requirements and Qualifications for Respite Care Providers
Here’s what you’ll need to become a respite foster care provider:
- Age 25 or over, single or married
- Financially stable
- In good physical health
- A home that can pass health and safety inspections
- A spare room for the child or teen
If interested, you can attend an information session to receive information about the process and training involved to become a respite parent.
Learn More About Foster Care in Virginia
Foster care is an essential part of society, allowing children across our state to enjoy the benefits of a welcoming and loving home with another family. Kids may enter foster care for a wide range of reasons and at any age from infancy through 21.
Just 50% of these kids end up going back to their biological parents or primary caregiver. Sometimes the foster family may adopt them or the child may pass from one foster home to another until they age out of the system. Learn more about foster care statistics in Virginia.