This is the text conversation I had with Andrew:
Me: FYI-I am keeping this little girl. You have a sister!! Her name isThere are some really amazing people fostering children - I am only doing respite care on weekends, which is nothing really, a 72 hour commitment. Others are taking in a child full-time, with no idea how long the child will need care. It's the foster care situation you probably think of - some police officer or social worker calls you at all hours of the night and lets you know they are bringing by a child in need. And now you have a scared child in your house...and you just go about your business...with someone else's child in your home.
(we should change that) and she turns six in February and we will celebrate our birthdays together and I will never beat her. She is wonderful!
My role is much easier. Around Monday or Tuesday, I will get an email and it will have intake forms for 1-3 children who need a place to go on the upcoming weekend. I can look at the forms and decide which one sounds like a good match for me.
I don't know how other respite foster parents do it, but I look first to see if the child has any history of fire-setting or animal abuse. These are potential deal-breakers for me. I keep an open mind because the intake forms are completed by one underpaid, overworked social worker who is probably getting their information from an exhausted, overwhelmed parent or foster parent looking for assistance. It's possible that they started a fire accidentally while playing with matches because they were in a home with no parental supervision and they were just curious (aka being a child). Or maybe they were in a tantrum, completely out of control of their body, and while flailing around, they hit an animal nearby. Social services forms don't tell the full story and it's not fair to judge someone based off some random check boxes completed during a stressful period.
The next thing I look for is bathroom issues. I'm just not in the place in life where I can mentally deal with dirty diapers on a half-grown child. Bed wetting at night isn't such a big deal if they wear something, but bathroom issues during the day aren't something I want to take on right now.
Sleeping difficulties is another checkbox I focus on. I'm just not able to function at a good level when I get minimal sleep. If the child is known to be one who wakes up every two hours, then I probably won't be the best match. I would prefer to find the form that says: sleeps for 12-14 hours, but I have yet to see that come through. It's not just being in a functional state while the child is with me on the weekend - I need to be alert and prepared for anything that may come up with the child. If they suddenly go into a tantrum, I need to be alert and prepared to prevent them from hurting themself or others-which may include being in the right position to prevent them from accessing something harmful or may include having to put them in a physical hold for ten minutes. And also - this is my weekend. I can't start my work week exhausted from my weekend.
Other information I'm provided:
- Clinical Diagnosis Axis I-V. Usually one of the diagnosis is PTSD. PTSD!!! In small children??!! Sad.
- Positives: what does the child enjoy
- Challenges: potential triggers
- Community: how does the child do in public
- Can they be around other children, and specifically male vs female, and what age ranges.
- History of stealing
- Sexually acting out
- Hygiene issues
- Medical issues
I have the right to ask for the therapists evaluation, or I can call the therapist and talk directly to him/her about the child. I did this for the first child I had, only because he was suicidal, coming straight from the hospital, and I wanted to know HOW suicidal he was and if I really needed to be worried while the child was in my house for a weekend. The therapist felt that the boy would be fine and it was mainly being around his bio mom that was causing him the major stresses in life. If I was going to take a child in for more than just weekend care, I would definitely need to see the therapists eval, but for just a weekend, I don't need an in-depth report. And honestly - these are REALLY sad stories!!! I don't need to hear all the heart-breaking details.
This is the matching system for the non-profit I work with - I'm sure that other agencies do things slightly different. I like our system. I feel like I have enough information and I'm always able to say no, I don't think that would be a good match, and then I get different options.