Respite care, or short-term care, is an important aspect of foster care. The word respite means a period of temporary delay- or in this case, temporary care. Respite care is when a family takes in another family’s foster children for a small amount of time such as a week or weekend, in order to give the foster family a bit of a break. 

The need for respite care comes in different shapes in sizes. Maybe the foster family has a situation where they have to be away from their home for a period of time, or perhaps they simply need a restorative personal break. Children with more intense emotional or physical needs are often candidates for respite care. It isn’t always an option to call for a last-minute baby sitter in these instances. In fact, many states have a law in place that requires foster parents to have a respite care provider step in if they are going to be away from their home for even a few hours, rather than a friend or family member. 

While respite care is a great resource for full-time foster families, it can also be a way for people interested in becoming a foster parent to test the waters. Whether you’re unsure if you’re ready for the commitment or its’ simply not the right time, beginning to provide respite care is a great way to get involved. Kids often don’t stay for more than a few days at a time, and the care rarely strays beyond two weeks. The system is very flexible- you’re able to choose when you’re available to provide care so that it fits into your schedule. Often there is some sort of mandatory training, requirements and background checks in order to get started. 

So if you’ve been looking for a way to dip your toe into foster care, consider this a sign! Reach out to a local respite agency for more information on how to get started- they’ll steer you in the right direction.