A Story of Respite Care and Hope

By Bobbi Gagnon

Adopting an older child who has been in the foster care system for years…sounds like a tall order for most, wouldn’t you think? Our Foster Care team in South Portland, Maine recently had the great pleasure of supporting such a situation for a client in our program — thanks to a foster family providing the ever-important resource of respite care. From that start a relationship developed, and it became clear that this child was a great match for the family she had been visiting!  As a result, a beautiful family has evolved…

For the Simmons family, it began when they agreed to welcome a child for a respite weekend. Lynda and Dean Simmons knew right away that the girl felt comfortable and truly special around them. They did fun things as a family and enjoyed their time together. The three of them were able to engage in meaningful conversations that quickly established a connection – one so strong that the child, who has experienced a number of foster care placements, bravely and abruptly asked Lynda and Dean if she could just stay with them.

I clearly remember Lynda calling to tell me what an enormous tug at her heart that one question had been, and that she felt that she simply could not dismiss this very powerful request. She and Dean discussed it and together decided that they needed to further explore their feeling for this child. They continued to provide a number of additional respites and soon fell completely in love with the child Lynda describes as “brave and resilient… an amazing young lady.”

The Simmons family enjoys snowmobiling, swimming, 4-wheeling, and camping. They love to travel; the family has visited Canada, Atlantic City and Florida, and is planning to take a cruise in the near future. Dean shared with us that “this girl has the personality that fits great with our family; she is adventurous, likes to try new things, and see new places.”

Lynda and Dean persisted in their efforts to learn all that they could so that the process could be initiated. They participated in meetings with KidsPeace, DHHS, the therapist and the schools to establish a plan of how they could best support this child as she became a part of their family. As is often the case in pre-adoptive transition periods, there were some turbulent times. But the Simmons family committed themselves to working through those tough times, and has found their relationships grow stronger as a result.

When asked what has been the biggest adjustment thus far, Lynda indicated that having their phones on and being available 24/7 as a parent has been an adjustment for Dean and her, as they previously had been living a very independent lifestyle. They now describe themselves as “very busy…but busy in a good way!” They attend swim team practices and swim meets, as well as a number of school functions. They also enjoy it when their daughter has friends over to hang out.

Lynda and Dean both emphasize the need for children, regardless of age, who are available for adoption to utilize respite in order to make those very important connections with families. They are very happy about the way their respite experience has worked out for all involved!

Bobbi Gagnon is a family resource specialist in KidsPeace’s South Portland, ME office.

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