|Photo courtesy of Flickr ~Emilio Dellepiane|
o as often as we can. There is something about the Magic Kingdom that helps me feel like a kid again, allowing me to take a mental break from all of the worries and stresses in my life that can at times exhaust me. My wife feels the same way, as she is able to find refuge from her duties as a business owner, mother of four, and foster mother of many others. We simply enjoy taking some time off from the real world, and find peace of mind at Disney World.
This past month, we visited the Magic Kingdom again. As we live a relatively short drive away, we drove down there for the start of summer vacation, spending a week at the park. As we had in the past, we took some foster children with us. Three to be exact, along with our own four children. Yes, you counted correctly; there were a total of seven children with us. It doesn’t really sound that restful, now does it! And you would be correct.
Yet, we have also found that we very much enjoy the opportunity to take foster children on vacation with us, as sometimes, it is the first vacation they have ever had. For all those foster children that have accompanied us to Disney World (and there have been quite a few), it is the chance to allow them to escape from the daily challenges and even horrors they may face. For this, it is certainly worth the effort my wife and I put into it.
When taking a foster child on vacation, there are a few things to consider. First of all, ensure that you know the child well enough before you take a child in foster care on a holiday with your family; as the child may not be able to properly function and behave during your vacation, making the trip a miserable one for all. Allow a foster child to be in your family for a length of time, getting to know the child and the child’s behavior, temperament, etc.
Make sure that the child is old enough to participate in the activities planned in the family vacation. On one occasion, my wife and I took one of two foster children with us to Disney World. The oldest child, who came along with us, was four years of age, while her sister was only nine months old. Not only would the baby not appreciate her time during the vacation, the rest of the family would not have benefited from her traveling there, as well. Instead, we placed her in another foster home, taking advantage of the opportunity of a respite placement for the few days we were gone.
Consider also what the child might miss out on if vacationing with you. If the child has scheduled therapy sessions or visitations with family members, it may be best that the child not accompany you. Consider the child’s feelings on the matter, as well. There is the distinct possibility that the child in foster care may not want to have a holiday with your family. If the child is old enough to comprehend and appreciate the situation, ask the child’s opinion of the matter.
Indeed, it is essential that you gain the case manager’s approval before you drive off, and give plenty of notice beforehand. Ask the case manager if you can take the child with you. If you are traveling outside of the state, it may be necessary that you also gain approval of birth family members.
You may also have to have some paperwork from your case manager, with written approval that the child is allowed to travel with you.
Vacations are often a wonderful break from the routine, and allow families to grow closer and relationships grow stronger. For children in foster care, a vacation may be a healing opportunity, as well. With the right planning, you can make a foster child’s vacation a most special event.
-Dr. John DeGarmo
Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 11 years, and he and his wife have had over 30 children come through their home. He is a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system, and travels around the nation delivering passionate, dynamic, energetic, and informative presentations. Dr. DeGarmo is the author of the highly inspirational and bestselling book Fostering Love: One Foster Parent’s Story, and the upcoming book The Foster Parenting Manual: A Practical Guide to Creating a Loving, Safe and Stable Home. He also writes for a number of publications and newsletters, both here in the U.S. and overseas. Dr. DeGarmo can be contacted by email, through his Facebook page, or at his website.
Have your foster children dealt with visitation disappointments? What strategies did you use to help them cope? Please comment below, or submit your own guest post on a foster care topic.