Our sons have lots of friends at school, and we have those friends over after school, on weekends, school holidays and have endless backyard cricket battles! One of those friends is a child in foster care. He is a great kid and loves being at our house. He also has great carers who we are friends with.
We have seen and heard both the joys and struggles in foster care through them. One day we had the conversation about whether we could become his respite carers, so rather than just having him over whenever, we intentionally have him over for a sleep over once a month to give his full-time carers a break and be his extended family.
For us it was an instant yes! We adore this kid and from the outside saw incredible steps in his development, emotional growth, and overall happiness during his time with his fostering family.
Becoming his formal respite carers gave us an opportunity to step into his life in a more intentional and natural way, as the kids are already friends and we are all part of the same school community.
For the kids in our life, both our own and this little boy, they don’t know we are ‘respite carers’, we just have this kid over for sleepovers as we do other friends. However, our lives are more intertwined as we celebrate milestones together, the full-time carers have an understanding ear and know we are here for them. We are all on a journey around this kid. Having stepped into each other’s lives we form a village for all our kids.
Respite carers play a huge role in being extended family around children in care as well as providing support to full time carers. Ideal respite carer situations are when kids feel like they are just going to a mate’s house, a cousin’s house, a cool uncle’s house, a pseudo grandparent’s house, where they fit in and belong in a place outside their home. Unfortunately, kids in care can often lose their extended family when they enter care, so creating this for them can be really helpful. It also allows other supporters into their lives who may not be full time carers, but play a really important role as respite carers.
Right now in Tasmania, there is a huge shortage of both full-time carers and respite carers. If you know a child in care in your church, school community or neighbourhood, could you be their respite carer? Could you be their extended family?
You can be at any stage of life to be a respite carer. Maybe you are single, a couple with or without kids, or perhaps your kids have left home and you have more time!