Respite Nights Make a Difference
Not everyone thinks of Monday as a day of rest and refreshment. But because of the Local Good Center's Advocacy Program, several foster care/adoption families have been able to do just that.
This past June, these families were invited to participate in four themed Respite Nights. The parents were able to take a much-needed night out/off while their kids enjoyed dinner and fun together. Ten volunteer Family Liaisons helped to host each gathering, with movie night, board games, sports, and even a dance party in the lineup. The evenings were a huge encouragement to the families involved.
Why are Respite Nights such a big deal? The answer is related to the foster care system itself.
Needs in Our Own BackyardAccording to Children Protective Services, children may be removed from their homes and placed in foster care if a judge determines that children have been abused/neglected or are at risk of future abuses/neglect and they need to be removed for their protection.
Neglect is the biggest reason for kids entering the foster care system. Even in Collin County, children may be left alone for extended periods, or experience the lack of basic needs like food or necessary medical care. Other forms of neglect might include abandonment, trauma, the death of a caregiver, and drug/alcohol abuse.
Justin Claunch, Team Lead for the Foster Care/Adoption group within the LGC's Advocacy program, shares that
Those that know about the "system" already know about the growing epidemic of a shortage of foster homes for kids entering foster care … They know that those that work in the field (caseworkers/foster parents) are often overworked and undervalued with little appreciation and high demands. People too often think that foster care (and abuse and neglect) happens elsewhere and not in our own backyard. But the truth is that Collin County has 200+ kids removed from their homes each year on average.
Respite Nights Make a DifferenceFoster parents do face high demands, daily. A simple evening off can provide a valuable break for these parents; however, they are legally required to only use babysitters who are background checked, fingerprinted, and CPR certified.Finding qualified childcare is a challenge. However, churches can host events which satisfy state requirements with pre-approved childcare volunteers.
According to Justin, there are roughly four nights a year, across all of Collin County, when churches (including Chase Oaks) host official Respite Nights. These events book up quickly. But, he says, “Even if you can book all four, can you imagine only getting one night off every three months?”
Respite Nights can
- Give foster/adoptive parents a night off. Respite Nights are available to specific families who have a harder time finding sitters but need (and deserve!) a break
- Give the kids a chance to connect with other peers. All kids from participating families are included, whether foster, adopted, or biological.They all get to enjoy a super fun night together and to spend time with other kids in similar situations
- Provide a fun way for Family Liaisons with the Foster Care/Adoption team to get to know the kids.
- Signal to foster/adoptive families that they are seen and supported by the church community.
A Powerful “Why”
Respite Nights at the Local Good Center wouldn’t happen without the hard work of volunteer Family Liaisons. Below, several of these dedicated team members share more about why they have chosen to invest in this ministry.
The Respite Nights were a great opportunity to get to know these wonderful kiddos better. I loved seeing their faces light up playing together. Seeing these beautiful sibling groups caring for each other was amazing. Regarding why I chose to serve with the Foster Care/Adoption ministry, I am adopted and grew up in a chaotic family and have dealt with the trauma of abuse and recovering from that. I may have only experienced a fraction of what some of these kids have had to deal with, but I feel God has gently nudged me out of my comfort zone to work with these wonderful families. – K.
We fostered and eventually adopted a sibling group (half-brothers) when they were ages 5 and 8. We have wonderful family and friends; however, no one, including us were truly prepared for some of the challenges that would accompany our decision to foster/adopt. Being a foster/adoptive parent can be isolating. We are involved in this ministry because we have "been there, done that." We want parents to know they are not alone. We want them to get a break and know that their kiddos are with a group who want to sow love and grace into their lives.
I suppose my why is ultimately rooted in gratefulness. I'm grateful for God's unsurpassable grace and mercy to pull me from a broken childhood into the beauty that is my life today. I'm grateful for the families that took me in and gave up their chance at easy. I'm grateful for those people who supported the families who took me in, because now that I'm an adult, I know how much support those families must have needed.
I think we can often go about life with our eyes shut to the things that burden our hearts. Truthfully, in so many ways it's easier to do that, isn't it? Taking a closer look into these situations can be messy and maybe it causes a person to face things they'd rather not feel. I've had times in my life where I've chosen that easier road. You know, times when I've said to God, "Hasn't it been hard enough?" Unsurprisingly, He always seems to bring me back to the truth that we find our lives only as we give them away, and for that too, I am grateful. – M.
My reason is simply the foster care system was a large part of my own background. Even though I’ve been in the “tech world” for over 30 years, I’ll never forget the kindness and caring of foster parents, practical farm living, caring teachers, and a faith community that walked alongside my struggles to grow up. It’s so encouraging to see a similar faith community (Chase Oaks and the LGC) take an active role to support current foster parents who put their lives on the line 24x7, and to invest in building a team to sustain the commitment, long-term. – B.
I serve foster/adoption/kinship families because I fall into two of the categories. It is so important for me to have someone walking this journey with me without judgment. It can be quite daunting at times and to know I'm not alone and to be able to offer the same support to those in the struggle makes things/situations so much easier to bear. – D.
From my work in the field, I have seen the impact that a well-trained, well-supported, loving and compassionate familycan make on a child comingfrom foster care and this, in short, is my reason "why". Some of these kids come from hard places and face things that we could never imagine suffering in a lifetime ... Chase Oaks has the potential to bring light and hope to a very broken system and support foster kids and families in a way that can make a difference. – J.
As word about the needs of the foster care community continues to spread, so do opportunities to support these special families and children. The Local Good Center's Advocacy program is looking provide additional respite nights in August, October, and December for Chase Oaks families. These special evenings will give kids a great chance to get out and have fun, for volunteers to engage with kids, and for families to feel the love that a few hours away can provide.
The best part? You don't have to be a foster parent to make a difference in the community. Everyone can play a role in supporting these kids and families, and the Foster Care/Adoption team wants to provide everyone an opportunity to be impactful in whatever way they are willing.
Everyone can do something to make a difference! To find out more about opportunities with the Local Good Center's Advocacy program, email [email protected] or visit https://www.localgoodcenter.org/advocacy.