Before we were licensed, I heard about another foster family in town, Cathy and Bob. In order to be licensed, we had to interview another family. Our interviewees just had their sibling group go home but we got plenty of stories. The kid who had his hands down his pants. The kid who got caught smoking pot in his room. The kid who came into care pregnant. They had four siblings for most of a year and all four had been reunified with mom. Foster mom was at court every time advocating for the biological mom. She knew biological mom brought home cooked meals to every visit. They went grocery shopping together and discussed parenting together.
Two days after being licensed I got a phone call from Cathy. There was a mistake with the paperwork and two of the kids were sent back to their house until the courts reviewed the case again. (Foster care bureaucracy is an absolute nightmare. Paperwork, filing, and slow going!) We were asked to watch the school aged eight year old boy while Cathy and Bob were on their pre-planned vacation.
In foster care, there is an often talked about – rarely taken – thing called respite. A background screened person or people essentially watch/care for foster children while the custodial foster parents take a break, go on vacation, care for loved ones or deal with other life events.
So we did respite. Or as we called it, practice!
Eight year old Jose was a sweet heart. We had specific instructions on his routine and followed them to a tee. We woke him up at 7, laid out his clothes, told him to brush his teeth, walked him to the bus stop, played “I spy with my little eye,” picked him up from the bus stop, colored, played, ate, and put him in his room at 8 with the television on, finally turning in off at 9. Somehow he never had homework in his backpack, drank apple juice like a fiend and went through several pop tarts a day. We cringed at his sugar intake and continued following the instructions. We went to the park and even brought him to a festival where he was spoiled rotten. We were the babysitters- not the Mom and Dad, even temporarily.
It was magical and fun and in no way what so ever an indication of what was to come!