When we began our first steps toward getting involved in foster care, like most everyone else at that stage, we set out to become licensed to take foster child placements. We already knew God had called us to live out the gospel. We knew we were to feed the hungry, give aid to the poor, be a friend to the friendless and care for the orphans and widows.
It wasn’t until we started taking the steps to become licensed as foster parents that God showed us a unique, quiet need within the foster care community – the need for respite care. As we started to talk to foster families, we learned many had need for babysitters or caregivers for their foster children.
We could see that these foster families occasionally needed some help and because they had foster kiddos, not just any babysitter could be used. When foster families need child care for any reason, they can only use approved caregivers – usually background-checked friends and family – for up to 72 hours. If they need more than 72 hours, however, their foster kids need to be in a fully-licensed foster home – a respite home. Becoming licensed to do respite care meant caring for another family’s foster child for up to 14 days.
Once we became aware of the need, we felt God calling us to support foster families, single-parent foster households and the system by being an ever-ready help. The assignment we felt God leading us to do was to provide respite care to the foster families who already had placements and thus decrease the chance of burnout for the foster family.
Everyone in ministry needs to take a break from time to time. Pastors take sabbaticals and missionaries take furloughs. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat (Mark 6).
Foster parents occasionally just need a date night, or those with infant placements might need a weekend of being able to sleep through the night. Other times, they need the flexibility to go on an out-of-state vacation they planned before their placement came, or the freedom to handle whatever comes their way day-to-day. Single-parent foster homes sometimes need the ability to go on a business trip or an afternoon away to run errands.
In some cases, these breaks are planned months in advance. Sometimes the break can’t be planned due to family emergencies, last-minute business trips or life in general. We felt a calling to give foster families the assurance that whenever they needed a break, for whatever reason, they could know another loving family would be ready and willing to step in and give them the time or rest they need to continue their ministry.
During the past year and a half, we’ve had the opportunity to care for nearly 40 super adorable, absolutely wonderful foster kids. We had no idea how much joy we could have from providing a well-timed help to children in foster care and the amazing families caring for them. We’ve had 2-day-old babies, twin toddlers, sibling groups, teenagers and everything in between. We have had respites that have been as short as just a few hours and others lasting the full two weeks.
Over the past year and a half, God has showed us not to be afraid to commit to helping others in any way we can. Without hesitation, care for God’s children in their time of need all while trusting that God is our ever-present, well-timed help.
Jason and Kelli Gray are respite foster parents in the Dallas area. They have provided respite care for nearly 40 children.
If you're interested in providing short-term respite care for children and families involved in foster care, contact us here.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Texas foster care system has been in headlines all over the state. There has been a shortage of foster families and an increase in the number of children removed, which means children are having to spend the night in CPS offices on makeshift beds while they wait for a safe place to go. Buckner is a leading foster care and adoption agency in Texas and as Christians, we feel compelled to respond by bringing awareness to the issues, dispelling stigmas and giving tangible ways for you to help a hurting child who needs a warm bed and loving family. See full coverage of the crisis here.