Written by Amanda Kemp

For many of us, the holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year- the kids are home from school, we are busy shopping, wrapping gift, baking cookies, celebrating with families and friends, and the list goes on. It can be overwhelming and maybe you need a break, or maybe you are going out of town for the holidays. We strongly encourage you to utilize your substitute caregivers to give you some personal time.

A substitute caregiver is an adult who is approved to provide care to your foster child in your absence.  This could be a friend, relative, neighbor, someone from church, another mom from your yoga class, etc. The caregiver will need to complete a local police clearance as well as a Central Registry clearance in order to become approved. It is recommended that all foster parents identify multiple substitute caregivers with at least one of them being a non-relative. If you are looking to expand your support system, a great place to meet other foster parents is the foster care support group and other agency events. It is helpful to utilize non-relative caregivers in situations where you might have a family emergency, family event, or a family vacation where the foster child may not be able to attend.  If you anticipate being out of the home overnight or for several days, you can utilize multiple caregivers who rotate coming to your home to care for the child rather than having only one substitute caregiver for the duration of your absence. Please talk to your licensing worker regarding the rules as it relates to your substitute caregiver(s) providing overnight care. It is beneficial to have many approved substitute caregivers, even if you don’t end up using all of them!

If your substitute care providers are unable to care for your foster child while you are away, you can contact your licensing worker and the licensing supervisor to request respite care. Respite is a safe temporary placement for foster children when a foster parent is in need of a break for self-care, family emergencies, or vacation. Although the licensing department cannot guarantee that a respite placement will be identified, they will do their best to identify another licensed foster parent who is able to provide for your foster child during the time needed. As soon as you have plans where you will require respite care, whether you make plans weeks or months in advance, please inform the licensing department so that they can begin searching for a respite home- the more time they have to search, the better chance a caregiver will be found who can provide care to your foster child. Please provide an absolute minimum of two weeks’ notice. After contacting the licensing department, you will fill out a form about your foster child which includes his or her likes, dislikes, medications, services, school information, and any other pertinent information that the respite provider will need to know.

In addition to utilizing your substitute care providers and requesting respite, another option for taking some personal time is to take advantage of Respite Days offered at the agency. You can drop off your foster children to have some fun with other kids at the agency playing games and doing crafts for a couple of hours. This would be perfect for a date night or even just some down time. If interested in attending, let your worker know you are interested so that the agency can schedule a respite day based on the availability of all interested families! Don’t be afraid to ask for a break when you need one. Utilize your support system and resources available to you, and practice self-care. Happy holidays!