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What does it take to be a respite carer (short-term foster parent)?

Becoming a respite carer can be a daunting undertaking. Being a parent to your own children is a challenge in itself, let alone welcoming others into your home. Taking care of a respite (foster) child is not just baby-sitting for a few weeks. You have to understand the fact that a child has lost their family — sometimes with no idea of when exactly they will return. With your own children, you were eased into parenting from pregnancy to birth. But when providing respite care, the child starts off as a stranger you have to get to know.

However, if you are willing and able to give a child in need a loving home, then you are already making a great start.

If you have considered being a respite carer but are not quite sure what that entails, Sanctuary Care can help answer all your questions, let you know what to expect and support you on your journey to becoming a respite carer.

Getting your license

To get your license, you will have to go through a thorough series of background checks. This process involves a case worker interviewing you and your family. The case worker will want to know everything from how much money you make to what type of family you come from. Safety inspections of your home will be carried out as well. They will determine if your home is a safe environment for a child before you attain your license.

During the period of interviews and safety checks, you may begin your training. Respite carer training covers many rules that you must follow, such as locking up medication, completing paperwork, and not taking the child out of the country without permission. All these rules and regulations are there to ensure that the child is in a safe and healthy environment.

Welcoming your respite child home

Once you have your respite care license in hand, you are ready to go. You will be eased in with very short-term cases in the beginning. This means you will mostly be taking children in for one day or over the weekend. As you become used to having children come and go without creating a toll on you emotionally, you will be assigned longer-term cases with older children. This will involve getting into a school routine and helping with homework and assigning the child household chores. In such cases, you have the opportunity to really impact your respite child’s life for the better, even though their stay with you will be for no more than three months at a time. The social worker will support you as well as the child, making sure you are physically, mentally and emotionally ready for all the challenges that come with providing respite care for a child.

Parenting a respite child

Uncertainty will definitely be the toughest part of your experience as a respite carer parent. You’ll never know just how long a child will be in your home and you won’t know for certain where they’ll end up. Raising respite children also requires a certain flexibility in your schedule as family visits, therapy appointments and meetings with case workers are likely to be scheduled in the middle of the day.

As with anything else in life, there are bound to be ups and downs. Some days, you may feel like it’s all just too much for you. On days where your respite child won’t stop crying or acting up, you’ll be physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. It is on those days that you need to realise that no matter how hard it is for you, it is nothing compared to how your respite child feels. But there will also be days when you bond as a family over a fun activity and you wish you could keep them for a little longer.

By providing respite care (fostering) a child, you are providing them with a stable, loving and safe home. Their safety, well-being and happiness is now in your hands. If you have ever thought about becoming a respite carer (short-term foster parent), enquire about the process. You may just discover that you are up to the challenge.

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