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Pediatricians: The Respite Foster Mom's Best Friend

Updated: Oct 5, 2023


Pediatricians play a crucial role for foster children. When a child enters the foster care system, they're required to see a doctor within a certain period of time. Long-term foster families will be responsible for getting these appointments taken care of.

You may think that a pediatrician's role is less important for respite foster care. (After all, you hopefully won't be taking your respite foster child to the doctor during their weekend stay!) However, having a pediatrician available to you is very important. Here's why.

When you receive a respite care request, the worker will let you know what medical conditions that a child or sibling group has, in order to help you make a decision on whether to keep them. If they don't offer this information, it's very important that you initiate and ask. It may be that a child needs medication, and you'll be responsible for logging what you gave them and at what times. Or, it could be another health condition that requires more understanding.

On several occasions, we were contacted about children who had health conditions (either confirmed or suspected) that we weren't familiar with caring for:

One infant was in the NICU withdrawing from meth and would need close monitoring

when he came home.

One child was thought to have suffered seizures prior to entering care and we were told

it could happen again.

Another had a birth defect impacting his larynx that basically resulted in a strange

wheezing sound when he slept.

We didn't need to be doctors (or even therapeutic foster parents) to take care of these kiddos, but we did need to be informed about their conditions to know how to respond if something were to happen.

Cue: the pediatrician.

I am so thankful to have a close friend who happens to also be a pediatrician. Before we "say yes" to a respite placement where a medical concern is mentioned, I know I can call her and explain (confidentially) the situation. She provides us with a better understanding of the condition and the care needs, so that we can make an informed decision and be confident in our ability to care for a child before we say yes.

If you are a hopeful foster parent looking for ways to prepare for the journey, consider seeking out a "pediatrician friend" who can serve you in this way. Call around to different offices or, if you have biological children, ask their pediatrician about whether they would be a resource in answering questions for you about potential placements.

The biggest challenge is that time isn't on your side. When you receive a call about a respite placement, you need to say "yes" or "no" as soon as possible. This pediatrician needs to be someone who is easily accessible for same-day responses (not someone who only looks at MyChart messages once / week).

Don't be afraid to ask for help on social media, too. Let your connections / friends / followers know that you're looking for a pediatrician resource. You never know who your circle is connected to, and they may know someone who wants to be of service to foster parents in this way.

To hear directly from a pediatrician about some of the common physical issues seen in foster children, check out this informative podcast by The Forgotten Initiative:

Emily | Respite Foster Mom


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