Stories Of Impact

Aaron & Dustin McNeely


We are the McNeely family – Aaron and Dustin – and our kids are 8, 5 and 3.

After hearing Michaela Guthrie talk at our church, we wanted to get more information, but we had no experience with foster care. Once we heard more about foster care, we learned there is a need for respite care.

Respite care is needed when foster parents are temporarily unable to care for their foster children. The situation could be due to a need to travel out of state for a funeral, for example. At times, foster parents need someone to care for their foster kids, and we fulfill that need as respite parents. We take the kids in for the weekend or sometimes longer, whatever is needed

on a temporary basis. Afterwards, the kids go back to their foster home. When we first entertained the idea of fostering, we had three biological children under the age of five, so we were very busy. We decided to try respite care as a way to help, but not take on a fourth child full-time. Being a respite foster family is sometimes compared to dipping your toe in the water before becoming a full-time foster parent.

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As you go, you learn what you’re capable of and what fits best for your family. We have definitely learned a lot about ourselves through this process. And we have made a lot of friends.

As respite parents, we are required to go through the same state training as regular foster parents. Therefore, we could easily move from respite care to full-time foster care.

One of the most memorable placements for us was at Christmas. We had a call that a 12-year-old boy needed respite care during Christmas. In fact, it was our very first placement. We were very excited and immediately accepted. But then all of the emotions followed as we thought about this boy who would not be with his family at Christmas. We also wondered how our children would share their Christmas.

It was a wonderful experience. The boy was so kind and appreciative to be in our home with us during Christmas. We shared some of our traditions with him, and we incorporated some of his Christmas traditions as well. It was a Christmas we will never forget.

There have been a couple of times that respite kids have returned to our home. When we told our kids that the respite foster kids were coming, they erupted into excitement as if they had been surprised with a Disney trip! It’s sort of like having the cousins come to spend the weekend. Our kids love it! And it gives us great joy to see our kids embracing respite foster care the same way we are as parents.

Since we became a respite foster family, our biological children have learned to share more and they look forward to the other kids coming to our home. As soon as the respite kids arrive, they want to give them a tour of our home, show them where they play in the woods, and the bouncy house in the basement.

There have been quite a few moments when we have felt this is just right for our family. When we say goodbyes to our respite kids, there are great hugs and sometimes there are tears shed. Just knowing we have been able to love them for a short while is great.

Respite care is not always planned, which means we are sometimes pulling things together at the last minute. (Dustin works full time and Aaron is a stay-at-home mom.) Taking in more children can be challenging, but we always seem to manage things. Teamwork is important. And Crossroads has been wonderful for us. We can reach out to anyone at any time with questions or to ask for the help we need.

We’re just a normal family. We do all the things that a normal family does. We go to the grocery store and take our kids to soccer. Serving as a respite foster family with Christian City’s Crossroads program comes from our heart. It’s a place of just being God’s hands and feet.