This is NOT a post where I'm trying to make myself or my family look all "saintly and wonderful". The purpose of this post though is to encourage any reader that has been only thinking about foster care. I'm going to share what happened in our house the last four days.
Early last week I got a phone call from my agency asking if we would be willing to do respite for two teen boys. The timing was OK and we knew one of the boys so we agreed. I always fly this stuff by Herman as he's tasked with helping entertain our guest(s) when we have teen boys over. He always says yes.
On Thursday, the day the boys were supposed to come, I called in to my agency to find out for sure what time they would be arriving. Unfortunately, one of the teens ran away the night prior; only one boy would be coming. It just happened to be a boy that came a few months prior, Drake. I knew his stay would be easy and uneventful.
Drake arrived Thursday night. We pretty much just went about the usual routine.
Friday morning, we had to wake early so that he could get picked up for school. Drake lives over an hour away and someone from our agency was picking him up to do the transport. Typically foster parents (and respite parents) are supposed to do all transport. However, in cases like this, when they know transportation may make or break whether a family will help with respite or not, my agency will offer to drive. Drake's agency worker brought him back Friday night right before supper.
Drake is a bit of a quirky child. He's chronologically 15 years old. However, if I had to guess on his emotional development I'd say he's probably around 10 or 11. He spent a lot of the weekend by my side. Herman was so awesome though. He filled our house with all his friends and everyone accepted Drake as one of the gang. Herman hangs with a pretty good group of boys. On Friday night everyone ate over and then we watched movies and popped popcorn. Even though Drake didn't have the attention span to sit through a movie, he kept saying how much fun he was having.
Saturday was pretty much more of the same. Herman had some school to do so he was off by himself for a bit. But Herman's friends came over and hung out with Drake. Through the course of the day, Drake heard a lot of conversation about the pending paintball gathering that was to happen on Sunday. Casually, Drake said to me, "I'd really like to go paintballing tomorrow too."
I felt a bit stuck. Financially I was already in the hole with this placement. Drake accidentally forgot to pack any shirts so we had gone shopping for some new ones for him. (We only get $10-20 per day to do respite and the kids are supposed to come with all they need.) Also, letting Drake go would mean that Herman would have to teach Drake how to do it and make sure that Drake was fully included. Herman just grinned and said he didn't mind. He promptly went to work finding shoes and clothes that Drake could wear.
The part that stunk for me was supervision of the event. When Herman goes, I simply drop him off and leave. But, due to the rules required by the State of Texas, Drake isn't allowed unsupervised time. Someone approved by our agency literally has to be with him all of the time. That meant I was going to have to hang out at the paintball field all day. Reluctantly, I agreed.
It was the best decision I've made in a long, long time.
I had a ball hanging out with all "my" kids. (All Herman's friends call me Mamma L***. In fact, one of his friends just introduced me to kids I don't know as his mom.) I tried to find a balance between watching the boys play and sitting in my vehicle playing on my phone. I didn't want to intrude too much but I had to be on the property if I was going to be following all the rules.
You could tell Drake had never had an experience like this one before. He was super shy and timid but the kids all included him and let him use their guns (which were better than the rental he got). I got a little worried because Herman is VERY social and he kept going all over talking to everyone. Drake kept to himself a lot.
But as the afternoon went on, Drake just grinned more and more. He must have thanked me a hundred times. The one that got me though was, "Thank you so much Mrs. Eldridge. Today has been the best day of my entire life."
Thirty dollars and about 7 hours of my time and Drake got to have the best day of his entire life.
This fostering stuff doesn't have to be difficult. Anyone can make a difference. If you're not in a place where you can care for a child all the time, sign up to do respite care. Help another foster family out. Not only do you get to bless another family, but you can change a child's life just by showing you care too.