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5 Ways Respite Foster Parents can Support Long-term Foster Parents

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

The primary goal of respite foster care is to provide a safe and loving home for children. As a respite provider, you can go above and beyond to support the child's foster family too. Here are five specific ways you can do that!


foster family

1: Before the child stays with you, send the foster parent a few pictures of your family, home, pets, and anything else that they may want to show their child(ren) beforehand.


Both foster parents and children in care may feel nervous about the unknowns of respite care. You can ease their fears by showing them where the child will eat / sleep / play. Maybe the child will be excited to see that you have a cute, fluffy dog. Maybe they'll feel more relaxed when they know what you look like before they arrive at your doorstep. Maybe you have a fun playground or a cool Lego set that the foster parent can show them ahead of time to help make the transition easier for everyone involved. Don't overwhelm the foster parent with a ton of pictures but send just enough that you can help the child get a better idea of where they're going (and that it's a safe, warm, loving, fun environment).


2: Before the child stays with you, ask the foster parent if there are specific skills or behaviors that they're working on so that you can support their efforts during the child's stay.


Consistency is so important for children. Respite care is a disruption to consistency, so try to replicate the child's schedule and the foster parent's efforts where you can. If the foster parent is working really hard to potty train a certain way, develop a bedtime routine, or not allow the child to eat sweets after a certain time, they will appreciate your willingness to reinforce those things also. This helps the child know what to expect and also makes their transition back to their foster parents easier.


3: While the child is with you, give them an opportunity to make or purchase a gift for their foster parents.


In my experience, younger kiddos who have been in foster care for most of their lives really miss their foster parents while they're in respite care. That's totally normal and okay. Allowing kids to talk about their foster parents and make / purchase something for them will help ease the child's homesickness and also bless the foster parents upon their return!


Ideas for children ages 10 and under:

  • draw pictures

  • write cards

  • make a craft

  • record a video of the child talking about what they love about their foster parent

  • a "good behavior" sticker chart - kids 5 and under love this (they get a sticker when they listen, show kindness, etc. and they get to show it to their foster parent); you can have the stickers already on hand at home, or you can take them to the store to pick out their own

  • take them to the dollar tree and let them pick out something they think their foster parent would like or use

  • little girls love photo shoots - take some nice pictures in the backyard and get a few 4x6 photos developed at a 1-hr pickup place; the girls will enjoy looking at the photos and be excited to show them to their foster parent

Ideas for children ages 10 and older:

  • help you cook a foster parent's favorite meal to send back home with them

  • pick out a fun snack, fancy chocolate, bath bomb set or other treat

  • ask the child for ideas about how they could surprise their foster parents (and if they think this isn't cool or don't want to do it, respect their wishes)


4: Offer to keep their kid(s) again in the future.


Let the family know that they can reach out to you when they need respite care again! This helps them feel like they have someone in their corner. While foster families shouldn't feel guilty about utilizing respite care, some do. When they see that their child(ren) enjoyed staying with you and were well taken care of, they will feel better about letting them stay with you again in the future. This provides so much piece of mind.


Additionally, a long-term foster family may be more open to taking another placement in the future if they know they will have support in the form of a consistent respite care option.


5: Send cards / gifts / party supplies for their child(ren)'s birthday.


As part of the paperwork for respite care, you'll receive the child's date of birth. When their birthday approaches, let the family know you're thinking of them and that you'd love to send a card / gift / cake / etc. to help them celebrate (if the child is still in their care). Alternatively, you could ask the family what would be most helpful to them - purchasing a specific gift the child has already asked for, running errands to pick up a cake or last minute supplies, wrapping the presents or decorating so foster mom doesn't have to, etc.


Remember that your role as a respite foster parent is temporary, but the impact you can have on the child's life and the long-term foster parent's well-being is significant. By working collaboratively and maintaining open communication, you can provide valuable support to the long-term foster family and create a positive experience for the child in care.


Emily | Respite Foster Mom



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