The Impact of Respite Care
● By Jacqueline Gonzalez
By: Jacqueline Gonzalez Illustration by: Jarred Schuetze
Respite care – care provided to foster children for a short period of time by someone other than the primary caregivers – provides a temporary relief of duties for parents. It requires specific training that gives them the tools necessary to properly care for foster children that may have special medical, emotional, or behavioral needs. Respite care providers are difficult to come by, and Liddy Vargas, Program Director at Agape Ranch, focuses on raising awareness through fundraising projects and community involvement.
In an effort to not separate siblings, or children that have grown up together, foster families tend to take in multiple children. Some foster parents are often afraid or ashamed to ask for help for fear of being deemed a bad parent, while others are unaware of the existence of respite care to begin with. For this reason, Vargas encourages the community to get involved in providing assistance.
The stigma surrounding the foster community casts a pall on the lives of these children. Vargas identifies one of the biggest misunderstandings as “the idea that these kids choose this life, thus creating a community among themselves, when the reality is that they understand the hardships, and getting others to understand is difficult for them.” Many of these kids don’t feel accepted or understood by non-foster families and are often dismissed as discipline problems.
Any “aging out” child not placed in a foster home by the age of 18, is released from the child placing agency. With little to no life skills training, these individuals end up being the biggest contributions to jails, trafficking, homelessness, and death. Everyone deserves a chance to survive in the real world, and Vargas and her team are working tirelessly to implement a home for aging out kids. The home will provide shelter for one to two years where they will receive plenty of resources and a lot of support. Essentially, the goal is to empower these individuals to learn the basic life skills to thrive in adulthood, such as how to look for and obtain a job.
Fundraising events are also a great way to get the community involved. Working in tandem with child placing agencies, Vargas works to bring positivity through programs to youth experiencing trauma. This month, an art contest, brought to local schools in the area, will assist the teachers in identifying students experiencing trauma. The art contest not only provides a therapeutic avenue, it also empowers teachers to present art as a medium that students can use to express themselves and combat the trauma they may be experiencing.
Every December, Agape Ranch teams up with Crossbridge Fellowship to bring the Christmas Store. This event allows the members to coordinate with counselors in local school districts to identify students that could benefit from a Christmas gift. Local businesses and churches sponsor the gifts, while the team at Crossbridge Fellowship don costumes and manage the store. The collective effort has seen much success over the years during this event and hopes to continue the tradition.
Vargas strives to gain a cohesive citywide understanding of the need to take care of these kids. She encourages anyone wanting to help to consider volunteering. Although there are many avenues from which to help out, volunteering is the best way to encourage and empower the foster families.