“Do you have kids?” is a common refrain in our lives, a consequence of being in our 30s and married for some time.
We didn’t give birth or adopt. But some days we are parents, waking up early to get the kids to school or helping with homework in the evenings. We have celebrated three 18th birthdays with our kids. We were parents about every other month last year for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. We are a kind of parent people seldom talk about and frankly we didn’t even know existed until a few years ago.
What we are is respite or short-term foster parents. We provide a home to teens when they are between placements, just entering the system, waiting for another family to finish the licensing process, when their parents have to be out of the state or country, or when any number of other life events occur.
When we first considered becoming foster parents we were fairly certain doing so was incompatible with our lives. We both work full-time and often take work home with us. We travel frequently. We weren’t interested in, nor do we have a house that is ideal for, a baby.
But we kept reading about foster care and ultimately felt it was something that made sense for us. Here in Washington there are an estimated 10,000 foster children yet only 4,600 licensed foster families. Last year, almost 200 foster children spent, in total, more than 1,000 nights in hotels or government offices due to a lack of available placements.