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Respite - extended family for a child

My husband and I have two of our own children; our daughter is in Year 11 and our son has moved interstate to study. We started providing respite care for a little girl at the start of this year. She has been such a blessing to our family and we have all grown to love her. Together with her, we have decided that we are her aunty and uncle and I introduce her to people as my niece. She is now part of our extended family. She feels at home when she attends our church, she has made some friends there and elsewhere, and just fits in with our family routines and events that we go to.

Because of our ‘niece’, I have been given a second chance to enjoy having a child around again. I relish the opportunity to go places such as the park and festivals that my own children are no longer interested in doing with me. I have been able to form great friendships with our younger families at church as we have had some of the children around at our house for a play. My daughter recently turned 17 and she invited our niece to her party. We played classic children’s party games like pass-the-parcel, charades and the chocolate game because she was with us, and we hadn't laughed so much in ages!

We don't have extended family in Hobart so it is such a gift to have a new niece who comes to stay. We look for opportunities to create memories with our niece. One of these was a weekend at Grindelwald. We enjoyed going for a short bush walk and visiting the Evandale Market on the way home. The pool at Grindelwald was so much fun, despite it being the middle of winter and the pool heater breaking! I enjoy spoiling her in a way I wouldn't with my own children – taking her out to morning tea occasionally, having an ice cream at the park or taking her roller-skating.

My daughter and niece have such a special bond, which has been wonderful to see. They spend time chatting together or sometimes reading and occasionally our daughter looks after our niece when I have to pop to the shops. While we sometimes go out as a family to different events, my husband has developed a lovely relationship with our niece through their mutual interest in football and they sometimes just visit the nearby school oval to have a kick of the footy.

We have a flexible arrangement with her foster parents and while we aim to see her once a fortnight, we jointly select the dates that we would like her to stay, which is working really well for us. Our lives are so much richer because of the respite care we provide. For me, the hardest part is that I miss her when she leaves and I am always looking forward to and planning the next visit.

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