Things to Tell Your Respite Provider
Respite care can be a great way for foster parents to get some time for self-care , but preparing for your children to stay with a stranger can be very stressful. My husband and I currently have two boys staying with us for respite care. Being on this side of respite has taught me a lot about what respite providers need to know.
Beyond the basics like medical conditions, allergies, schedule, and your contact information, there are a lot of little things that can help the respite provider care well for your child and make the transition as smooth as possible.
Having information about behaviors and triggers can make a huge difference. Sometimes being in a new place can cause a child to regress so it’s good to know about behaviors that may not be issues at the moment, but have been in the past. If there are certain things that trigger behaviors or tend to upset a child, make sure to note that as well.
A key thing to discuss is discipline methods. It is generally important for kids to have consistent discipline methods. For foster kids, who may have experienced abuse or unpredictable discipline, not understanding discipline methods can cause a lot of anxiety. Knowing they will have familiar expectations and consequences not only helps them with their behaviors, it also helps them feel safe from unpredictable responses. Include details like consequences for specific common behaviors. If you use time out specify how long it is and where the child goes. If certain discipline methods or consequences trigger the child, make sure to note that. For example, if the child has abandonment issues and doing a time-out alone causes fear, let the respite provider know. Definitely fill them in on tips for helping the children calm themselves down when they’re upset.
In addition to where and when family visits occur, tell your respite provider how your children feel about the visits and what to send (e.g. things parents bought) or things they should not send (in case they don’t come back). Let them know how the kids act after visits and what helps them if they miss their parents or come home upset. Also note if the parents have a history of missing visits and how you handle missed visits with the kids.
One thing that can really help kids feel comfortable is familiarity. Tell the respite provider if your children have favorite toys or comfort objects and if they have a bedtime routine. Let them know what characters, books, tv shows, games, etc that your children really like. Making a list of favorite foods and foods they don’t like is also really helpful.
Many foster kids have food issues, so be sure to explain if your child has any history of food insecurity, hoarding behaviors, etc. If so, let the respite provider know what helps your child feel safe when it comes to food. For us, the boys’ foster mom was really thorough and helpful and even created a sheet with important information and their day-by day schedule with contacts for everything (school, daycare, visits, services, activities, agency contacts , etc.). This has been so helpful and I would
encourage you to create a similar document. It’s really important to have a conversation with the respite provider to give more detailed explanations, but have something written to reference is really useful.
Making sure that your respite provider has all the relevant information can help things go well for your kids and help you have peace of mind too.