All parents need a night off once in a while but for foster and adoptive families this means finding someone who can care for the unique needs of their kids without causing major behavioral set back or triggering past memories. The traditional babysitter is often not an option while the expense of good childcare might make a night out seem impossible.
When Defending the Cause first launched as a church-based ministry, our goal was to create opportunities for everyone to meet the needs of kids and families. One of my very favorite parts of our ministry was running "Respite Nights" or "Parents Night Outs"! Three or four times a year we would reach out to foster and adoptive families, inviting them to drop their kids off at the church while they enjoyed a night by themselves! Each child was paired, one-on-one, with an adult buddy who was trained in effective ways to encourage positive behaviors from kids who had experienced trauma. Over the course of the evening, these amazing volunteers would give their complete attention to the child assigned to them as they ate dinner together, went through themed activity/learning stations and later watched a movie. Our team and leaders did an incredible job creating an accepting and fun-filled environment for these kids. By the end of the night, most of them didn't want to leave! The smiles on their faces as the hugged their buddies goodbye was all the reward our volunteers needed to keep signing up time after time.
Since free childcare in a trauma-informed setting is almost impossible to find, families began to come from 30-60 minutes away. As parents checked their kids in, they would often share what a blessing it was to go out for a quiet dinner, see a movie or run errands. A few parents smiled as they admitted they just needed to go to the grocery store in peace, get a haircut or return home to watch a few shows on their DVR without interruption. How easy it is to take for granted these simple, self-care tasks! Giving parents time to recharge with the peace of mind that comes from knowing their children are having fun and their needs are being met is priceless!
Tiffany Loeffler is the Director and Founder of Defending the Cause Regional Alliance. She believes that everyone can do something to help protect kids and strengthen families and that when we all work together will will see our community transformed. If you'd like to learn more information about hosting a Respite Night for foster and adoptive families in your church or area, please email Tiffany at firstname.lastname@example.org.