the Disney World effect

It was nearly a year ago when my husband and I were first licensed as foster parents. While we waited to be matched we helped provide respite for a few foster families.

About Respite Care

Respite is temporary (1-10 or so days) overnight care for children who are placed in a foster home.  You can get licensed just to (A) provide respite care, (B) provide foster care, (C) adopt through foster care, or a combination of these options. Our license was initially for C, then we added A.  And then to have a legal-risk placement we are now licensed for B as well.

Preparing Our Hearts & Home

Our first experience was for a sibling set of two brothers.  We didn’t know the foster family but we were willing to get some experience under our belt. I was particularly excited about this opportunity because the boys were African-American and I wanted to see how our families and friends would support us as an interracial family.  Believe it or not, I was actually the one questioning the timing as the date was going to be during the busiest time for my job – I knew I’d need to do some work during weekend while the boys would be in our home.

My husband’s reply:  Marcy, what will you do if a year from now we have kids living in our home?  The event will still be there again and we will need to figure out how to juggle it along with kids.

Me:  Good point.

In discussing how to prepare, we decided to write out a list of questions to discuss with the foster family so we could make the kiddos’ stay with us as comfortable as possible.  My dad – who has been a loving coach to us throughout this ENTIRE process – cautioned us to beware the Disney World effect.

Me:  Dad… what is that?

My dad:  When you do things with the kids that are special but outside their lifestyle that they feel like they’ve just been to Disney World after staying with you.

Me:  Oh… good point.  I could only imagine how confusing that would be for the children.

As respite provides, we planned how to support the children in our care based on answers to these questions…

Foster Parent Name(s):

Respite Care Dates:

  1.  Name(s) and age(s) of children.

Their agency:

Their Case Worker:

Who do they live with:

  1.  What would make the kid(s) feel at home?
  1.  Have the children been in Respite before?  How did that go?  What was their best experience like?  What about their worst experience?
  1.  Please describe a weekday routine.  When is their bedtime?  What time do they usually wake up?
  1.  Please describe a weekend routine.  When is their bedtime?  What time do they usually wake up?
  1.  What kinds of activities do you normally do on the weekend?

(Are these okay: park, walk dogs, walk Katy Trail, Science Center, Zoo, Magic House, Pump It Up, Chuck E Cheese, City Museum/Circus Harmony)?

  1.  What are their favorite foods & snacks?  Do the child/ren have any food allergies?
  1.  Do we need to send them to daycare with any supplies (hygiene, food, etc.)?
  1.  Do they like small dogs?
  1.  Do they go to church with you?  If so, do they go to Big Church or Children’s Church?
  1.  (if applicable) Will you be able to loan us: (a) car/booster seats (b) high chair (c) hair care products
  1.  Do they sleep with anything special at night?
  1.  How often do the children bathe?  Do they prefer shower or bath?
  1.  Where/when would you like to meet up?  And how about drop off?
  1.  Are there any special requests?

17.  How would you like to be contacted while the child/ren are in our care?

Our first respite experience was very fun!  The timing ended up getting extended due to the foster family having snow-induced travel delays.  No problem.  One of the days school was cancelled and my husband took the boys to Pump It Up – which they really enjoyed.  No problem either.  And my event?  All the details came together just fine.  Respite increased our confidence about loving on children in foster care.  We knew we were in the right field of parenting.

We’ve loved our respite experiences. And to be completely honest with you… my husband and I talked about adopting each of these boys during their stay but we knew each already had a forever home plan.  I have cried when we sent each boy home.  But the beautiful thing is… we know the first sibling set we cared for has been adopted by their foster family just a few weeks ago!  And the other little guy we provided respite for on two different occasions has since been adopted by his grandparents!

I hope hearing about our respite experience makes you ponder opening up your home for a few days this year.

Here is the short Missouri respite application. There is a small amount of required training which can be mostly completed online (in Missouri). If you have an extra bed in your home you can do respite.

published 1/4/2015

Published by MarcyBursac

Marcy Bursac has been a carhop on roller skates, a golf cart driver, a fundraiser for the underserved, and a computer programmer. But her childhood dream has always been to be a magnet maker. She and her husband reside in Missouri with their two brave children.

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