I know that this can be a sore subject for some people. When you go on vacations, should you take your foster kids with you, or should you find respite?
To be perfectly honest, when we first started doing foster care almost 7 years ago, we got 2 teenage boys right off the bat, one was 14 almost 15 and the other was just barely 13. It was the middle of the summer and we didn’t really have any vacations planned. There was a family reunion in Missouri that we had talked about not going to because it was so far away, but all of a sudden Ben’s grandpa started going downhill quickly and we decided that we needed to take a drive across a number of states to go and visit him in case we missed the opportunity to see him one last time. Both boys were a little bit annoying, but one was much more tolerable than the other and so we came up with some excuses about why we could take the one and not the other (we had a small suv and we wouldn’t be able to pack everything and take both kids, it was almost the older boys’ birthday and it would be a good birthday present to be able to come along, etc.) So we did it! We took one of our foster kids and left the other one behind.
Looking back on that experience I can only imagine what was going through the 13 year old’s head. How on Earth could we take only one of them and leave the other one behind? It is something I might be tempted to do, but wouldn’t ever do again. I would, however, take a vacation without any of my foster children, I totally believe in the need to get refreshed and ready to dig into it again by taking a break and doing something without them, but a big family vacation is NOT the time to do that. My husband and I usually try to plan one time a month to go somewhere and stay without the foster youth for a weekend and this helps us get rejuvenated so that we can continue to help these kids in the best way we possibly can.
We had another situation a number of years later when we had 3 foster youth and my family was making plans to go to Disneyland. The 3 youth we had had never even been west of the state we lived in, let alone to Disneyland or even just the beach. We decided that we would make the effort this time to let our foster youth know that they were a true part of our family. We spent 3 days at Disneyland and I actually don’t know that they were all that impressed–they were older teens–but the point wasn’t ever that they were going to have the time of their lives, it was that they were going to have a time in their life where someone cared enough about them and their feelings to include them as part of a family and do something that maybe they wouldn’t ever get a chance to do again. And even though we were super busy and didn’t plan any beach time in, we decided to hit the beach on our way home, even though it put us in very bad traffic. In the end the boys had a blast and an experience they may never would have had again.
When you have foster children I think there is a good rule to follow for taking vacations. Take your foster children with you on family vacations. If you aren’t going to take your foster children don’t take ANY of them. Don’t be like us and make the same mistake. These kids are in your home to be part of your family; it doesn’t matter if you are fostering to adopt or fostering to just help out, these children need to feel loved and cared for by you and they need to know that they are a part of your family right here and now.