Be gentle with yourself. You are your child’s biggest and best resource. Remember when you first get on a plane? The stewardess is giving safety instructions. In case of emergency, if you are traveling with a small child, she tells you to put on your own oxygen mask first. Without you, your child may be lost.
That same principle applies to foster parents. Everyone needs a break, especially foster and adoptive parents, who are on duty 24/7. Pace yourself, or there will be nothing left to provide the special parenting that your kids require. Anticipate, and build in normal escapes, the way ordinary parents do.
Unless you are either a saint or a masochist, you and your spouse need to get away for an evening once every week or two. Go out to dinner together. Visit with friends. Take in a show. Go to a ball game.
As long as you are available and willing to meet any of your foster child’s needs, that should be sufficient for a short time away. “Indiana DCS does not consider field trips and sleepovers to be respite care when the resource parent(s) maintains care and control for the child while the child is absent from the resource home i.e., the resource parent(s) is available and willing to meet any of the child’s needs which may arise.” (DCS Child Welfare Policy Manual 8:17)
Respite care refers to longer periods of time away, four to fourteen days. With your adoptive children, that presents no problem. For foster children, however, DCS policy says you need to leave them in care of a safe person. A “safe” person is defined as someone who has passed a criminal background check. That’s not hard to arrange but it may take some anticipation.
Extended family members are an obvious choice. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, and older siblings are ideal. Call your agency or your DCS case manager and arrange a once-and-for-all background check for any potential temporary caregivers. In fact, this may be a wise thing to do when you first get your foster parent license.
Another possibility: If you know other foster parents nearby, work out an exchange. Trade off child care. You can make the exchange a short vacation for your child. If you don’t know anyone, call your case manager and find foster parents in your neighborhood who may be interested.
You are not alone. Use your family and friends regularly to catch your breath and when needed. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child.