Respite Care versus Foster Care:
What’s the Difference?

Original Author
Angelina Velazquez

Release Date

Respite care and foster care are two different types of caregiving arrangements designed to support children and their families, but they serve distinct purposes and have different structures.

Respite Care

Purpose: Respite care is a short-term relief service for foster families or primary caregivers of children with special needs, disabilities, or those requiring significant care. It allows the primary caregivers to take a break from their caregiving duties, which can help reduce stress and prevent caregiver burnout.

Duration: Respite care can be for a few hours, a day, or a short period such as a weekend or a week. It’s typically temporary and designed to provide immediate, short-term relief.

Providers: Respite care can be provided by anyone who is open to providing relief to families and who is qualified to look after the specific needs of the child and pass background clearings. Respite providers are individuals or families who are approved by child welfare agencies or private child placing agencies like La Causa, Inc. to provide care for children in need.

Settings: Respite care typically occurs in your home.

Regulations and Training: Providers of respite care generally undergo a screening process by the licensing foster care agency like La Causa, Inc. and take part in an onboarding process to prepare you for respite processes.

Foster Care

Purpose: Foster care is a longer-term arrangement where children who cannot live with their biological parents due to various reasons (such as abuse, neglect, or abandonment) are placed with a foster family. The goal is to provide a stable, nurturing environment for the child until they can either return to their biological family or find permanency in other ways.

Duration: Foster care placements can vary in duration from a few days to several years, depending on the circumstances of the child’s case. Some children may remain in foster care until they reach adulthood.

Providers: Foster parents are individuals or families who are licensed and approved by child welfare agencies or private child placing agencies like La Causa, Inc. to provide care for children in need. They undergo training and background checks to ensure they can provide a safe and supportive environment.

Settings: Foster care typically takes place in the foster family’s home. The home and the foster parents are regularly monitored by child welfare professionals or child placing agency staff like La Causa, Inc.

Regulations and Training: Foster care is highly regulated by government agencies. Foster parents must meet specific criteria, complete extensive training, and maintain their licensure through ongoing education and home inspections.

Key Differences
  1. Purpose:
    • Respite Care: Provides temporary relief for primary caregivers.
    • Foster Care: Provides a stable, long-term home for children who cannot live with their biological parents or guardians.
  2. Duration:
    • Respite Care: Short-term, from a few hours to a few days.
    • Foster Care: Long-term, ranging from days to years.
  3. Providers:
    • Respite Care: Can be anyone who is open to providing relief to families..
    • Foster Care: Licensed and trained foster parents.
  4. Settings:
    • Respite Care: In the respite provider’s home.
    • Foster Care: Primarily in the foster family’s home.
  5. Regulations and Training:
    • Respite Care: Varies, but typically includes an onboarding process with the agency.
    • Foster Care: Strictly regulated with extensive training and regular oversight.

Both respite care and foster care play crucial roles in supporting children and families, but they are distinct in their purposes, duration, and the nature of the care provided. Our La Causa Treatment Foster Care Program would love to talk with you more about any interest you may have in either level of care so please give us a call! (414) 902-1902

To learn more about how you can make a difference in the lives of Foster Children, check out our Treatment Foster Care page at Treatment Foster Care & Becoming a Foster Parent – La Causa.