The foster mother stood in front of my resource table, tears in her eyes, voice shaking. It was clear she was at a crossroads in her foster parenting experience, and she was questioning if she could even continue caring for children in her home.
With as warm as a smile as I could place upon my face, I tried to reassure her. "I am so glad you are here, and believe me, I understand what you are experiencing I have been there, myself. You have taken the first step in trying to find help," I said, sweeping my open hand across the room. "You are here, at the National Foster Parent Association's conference, surrounded by hundreds of foster parents, and where you will find others who are going through the same experience as you are, facing the same challenges as you are. Let me introduce you to a friend of mine, who I think can better answer some of your questions, and I think can point you in the right direction." I then led her across the crowded room to another table, and introduced her to a friend of mine, a foster parent with years of experience.
I admit it freely. I can't do it by myself, and I don't have al the answers when it comes to foster parenting. That's just one reason why I surrounding myself with other foster parents. Whether it is at my own local foster parent support group, that meets once a month, or when I meet other foster parents as I travel across the nation, speaking at events, and holding training seminars at private agencies and state led foster parent conferences. No one truly understands a foster parent like another foster parent.
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There are a number of foster parent support groups and associations across the nation. A few of these organizations may be national ones, like the National Foster Parent Association's annual conference I just was a part of, leading some training seminars, while many others are, comprised of foster parent, like you. Either way, you will benefit by being in a support organization, as they will provide you with not only support, but information, fellowship, and important insight that will help you be a better foster parent.
Support groups and associations offer you the opportunity to develop relationships with other foster parents. These relationships will are wonderful occasions for you to validate that your own experiences and emotions you feel as a foster parent. Fellow foster parents will also be able to discuss common experiences and common concerns related to the foster children living in their homes, as well as share ideas and resources with each other. No one will truly understand and appreciate what you are experiencing and feel then other foster parents.
Many associations meet once a month, while others may meet every other month. It is important that you attend these meetings, as it not only keeps you connected with other foster parents, and the resources they might have, but many associations include training during their meetings. Training will take several forms; CPR certification, drug and alcohol awareness, behavior modifications, etc. The hours spent in training will go towards the yearly amount of hours needed in order to remain certified as a foster parent.
When some of my friends and family members wonder why I continue to bring children into my home, or tell me they could never do what I do for some reason or another; when I grapple with a the grief of a child leaving my home and family; when confusion and frustration from a flawed system threatens to sweep over me; for whatever situation I might be struggling with as a foster parent, I know that I can find a listening ear, and understanding heart, and a comforting word from my fellow foster parents, both at the local and national level.
If you do not belong to some type of foster care support group, some form of foster parent association, I encourage you to do so. If there is not one in your area, it may be the time for you to take that lead, and create one yourself. It is not a difficult task, and I write about it in the book The Foster Parenting Manual. If yo are still unsure, contact me, and I can give you some suggestions.
So with all this mind, I thank you. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for helping me, as I try my best to help children in care.
For more, purchase Dr. DeGarmo’s training book The Foster Parenting Manual: A Practical Guide to Creating a Loving, Safe, and Stable Home. Get your signed copy HERE.