As a foster parent, you will also need a support group. To be sure, your friends and family members can and hopefully will offer you support as a foster parent, and will be there to help out in times of struggle. Yet, you will find that you will need another group of people to surround yourself with. For you see, your own friends and family members may at some point question whether or not you should be a foster parent, whether out of concern for your well-being, confusion about what you are doing, or maybe even from their own guilt they might feel because they may feel that they are not doing enough, themselves. These questions from your friends and family members are normal towards foster parents. I have heard them time and time again from dear friends and from my own family. You might also have found, or will soon find, that you are not invited to all the parties, gatherings, and events that you once used to be invited to. You may find that your friends are now doing things with others, and that there is a distance growing between you and others. Some may feel that the children you are caring for are “too rowdy”, and you are no longer wanted in their homes. Soon, you may find yourself lonely, isolated, and with no one to talk to. As I note in the book The Foster Care Survival Guide: The Essential Guide for Today's Foster Parents, no one will truly understand you and what you do like another who has walked in your shoes and lived your life style; another foster parent.
Perhaps the best thing a case worker ever helped me with was setting up a foster parent association, or support group, in the small town I lived in. When my wife and I became licensed, so many years ago it seems, we did so with four other families in our rural town. At that time, there was no foster parent support group. Though I did not see the importance at that time, my caseworker did, and she helped all of us new foster parents organize a support group, one that met monthly. I can tell you, without hesitation, it has saved my sanity on more than one occasion. I just love my foster parent support group, and truly enjoy going to each meeting, once a month.
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A foster parent association or support group gives you the opportunity to find the support system you need and deserve, and to develop relationships and friendships with other foster parents, just like you. These relationships and new friendships are great opportunities for you to validate that your own experiences and emotions you feel while caring for children from foster care in your home. You will also have the opportunity to share with your fellow foster parents some of the challenges, frustrations, and difficulties that you feel and experience, without being judged by those who don’t understand you or understand the challenges that children in foster care face. You can laugh along with them at some of the craziness that comes with being a foster parent, vent your frustrations to those who understand, and cry in front of a group of people who truly appreciate what you are going through. You will find the support and encouragement that you need when you face the very unique challenges and difficulties that go along with being a foster parent.
Along with this, a strong foster parent association will allow you the opportunity to learn from others, as you listen to their stories and experiences. Indeed, I have learned more from my fellow foster parents, as I listen to what they went through and how they handled it. Another great benefit from being in a foster parent support group is that you will be able to share ideas and resources with each other. No only are there local foster parents, there are also national ones, like the National Foster Parent Association, an association that does great work, not only for foster parents across the nation, but also in helping to improve the foster care system, overall.
If you are not aware of a foster parent association or support group in your area, contact your foster care agency or local child welfare agency and ask them if there is such a group that you could join in your area. If for some reason there is not a support group in your area ask your agency if there is one nearby, or go ahead and get online and do a search for one near where you live. If you find one, send them a message and ask if you could join and attend meetings. The answer will probably be “yes.” Of course, you can meet great foster parents at state and national foster parent conferences, and you might even see me at one of these, as well. Speaking of national foster parent conferences, there are also some fantastic national foster parent groups, as well, that you can join. Oh, and don’t forget the many foster parent support groups on social media, too. All of these are opportunities for you to find the support, encouragement, and wisdom you need from those just like you, your fellow foster parent.
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