Monday, March 31, 2014

Respite Care as a Single Parent

drawn by the youngest
This was my first weekend to have foster children in my home for respite. Respite care is valuable because sometimes foster parents need someone to look after the children but the state requires that only certified individuals with proper training and FBI background checks should be used so this limits options and can create a challenge in an emergency or other situations, like going to a doctor's visit where it's not ideal for children to tag along.

In the case of this weekend's respite, the foster mom's mother had a stroke and she needed to spend extra time caring for the needs of her parents. Sometimes respite can be planned in advance but often there is little notice. I wanted to update friends on how the weekend went and also provide some tips that I learned for anyone out there searching for advice because when I did "pre-respite" research there was not a lot of practicals out there! [Especially for a single, with no kids who is providing respite for the first time.]

Some key information to find out:

  1. Drop-off and pick-up days and times
  2. Type of meds the children take (since pysch meds need to be double locked, etc...)
  3. Any trauma and abuse triggers, food allergies & foods they refuse to eat
  4. Kids' routines for eating, bedtime, naps & favorite activities
  5. Behavioral/medical issues: how quickly a child escalates, bed-wetting issues, how they do with pets, how they react around the opposite sex and if they ever try to run away
  6. If the children need car seats...
  7. The emergency number for the specialist on call [which I did use!]
I bought lots of activities & food children usually like but here is a list of some items that were a HUGE success with the girls or that I found valuable:
  1. For Activities: Hula-hoop, jump ropes, bubbles, beach & footballs, puzzles, sidewalk chalk, paint with water books, pom-poms, legos, Disney movies and my STOMP movie [I have used this movie to bond with kids from 7-15+ since they are always fascinated by them
  2. Food: build your own pizza, fruit, milk, gummy fruits, hot cocco, water & ice, cookies to bake that break apart, golden oreos. [Foods that one/other refused - chicken nuggets, veggies, gold fish]
  3. Kids radio [the girls slept better with the radio on a Spanish station], night light, bed-wetting mattress covers [I have one for each child's bed but wish I'd had three], pre-printed visual instructions [below]
When the girls, ages 7 & 10, arrived with the case worker, they came in and started to watch cartoons which allowed us time to discuss the medical logs and the girls' medicine in details. When it comes to the medicine, one thing I learned is that I can't have both kids standing there at the same time because it can get confusing with the kids talking and errors can be made very easily. I kept all the girls meds. double locked (inside a locking medical bag, then inside a new tool box that locked) and kept the keys in my pocket the whole visit. After the caseworker said goodbye, I showed the girls around the house. Immediately the girls said they were hungry. Often children who have experienced neglect can become food hoarders or what I call "food focused." These two sweethearts were definitely food focused so the whole weekend was a balancing act of the eating schedule. After eating dinner and dessert we watched a movie. The girls would ask for food about every hour. Fortunately for me, these girls accepted being told no. *whew* The girls were excited to meet the cats so I showed them my pre-printed sign that explains to them how they should treat pets. I found it online and I don't remember the source but it was great. My Trickle cat, who is practically a therapy animal, did wonderful with the girls! I also created a sign in the bathroom that explains some things to do for good health and it made a big impression. For instance, as the girls were brushing their teeth one night, the oldest said, "Miss! My sister rushed the brush!" (see below - LOL) so we were able to discuss why it's important to take more time brushing our teeth. :) The girls also started requesting water after seeing the section about the Otter. I have a print out about how to call 911 in an emergency too.

The first evening we talked and the girls asked if we could pray before lights out. The oldest slept through the night but the youngest woke up after sleeping for about 5 hrs. She said she couldn't go back to sleep for fear of bad dreams so she made a bed on the floor next to mine and we talked for about 2 hrs while she colored and told me stories about her family. We all woke up around 7:30am when the oldest came to tell me she wet the bed. I knew pre-visit that she was having some challenges in this area so I did my best to make sure she didn't feel embarrassed and just told her, "No problem...we'll take care of it." :) Much of their visit consisted of playing and doing laundry! ha. The girls were super helpful and serving to one-another and me. At one point, I heard the youngest in the kitchen puttering around. I called her name and asked her what she was doing but she was quiet so I walked in the kitchen and found her cleaning and organizing my fridge! So I learned quickly that the girls thrived when given tasks/chores they could complete because they wanted me to be proud and also for me to give their foster parents an A+ report.

picture drawn for me by the oldest
We spent most of Saturday playing outside using all those activity items I mentioned above and watched some movies inside. Since the girls are originally from Puerto Rico, I asked them often to use Spanish when they counted, named a color, and name people in their drawings. The girls loved this!! I do not live in the same town as the foster family, so I don't know if I'll get to see these girls again. One of my personal goals was to try to take every opportunity to build them up and share positive things. The girls drew me pictures so I made them encouragement gifts and talked with each one about how much I believed in them and encouraged them to dream big. I then put my "art" in small picture frames so they could carry them home. On Saturday night we created a huge pallet in the living room so we could pretend to be camping. I did need to wake up around 2am and do laundry though so I moved the youngest back into the bedroom and after the mattress pad was clean and dry I spread it on the floor for the oldest to go back to sleep. Sunday morning we picked up a bit and packed their things. When the fosters arrived, the girls were SO excited to share all that they had done. Even things I had showed them or shared with them that they didn't seem to care about originally, they shared them with excitement to the foster family, especially my framed dream list & my album showing "her vacation with cheetahs." HA. 

I bragged on how well the girls had done and I was very proud of them. There is, of course, so many more details to the weekend but too much to type. I've included some pictures below and am sending a huge THANK YOU to all my friends who prayed for me, encouraged me by text or sent scriptures by email. The respite visit, or "respect visit" as the youngest one calls it, was great and God allowed me to wrap these special ones in a little more love and care this weekend.

drawn by the oldest

puzzle for 12+ the oldest LOVED doing puzzles

my gift to the oldest

my gift to the youngest

The cats and I relaxing after a busy weekend of kid'os! 

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Amy! What a wonderful influence you had in their lives. This seems like such a natural fit for you. -Kristin