Building a foster care support network is one of the best things you can do, starting right away, to be a successful foster parent. You may already have a great team on board with you in your existing group of friends and family. If so, awesome! You are blessed! (By the way, I highly recommend front-loading your new lifestyle with your friends and family for optimal success in that area!) But you will also need a tribe of folks who are down in the trenches with you.
Because no one really understands the rocky road of foster parenting like other foster parents do. But what if you are really excited about becoming a foster parent … and you don’t know any other foster parents? Here are some things that have helped me along the way.
Ways to Build Your Foster Care Support Network
- First off, just TELL PEOPLE you are a foster parent! Now, I’m not saying you need to wear a name tag like this. That would be so awkward! 🙂 But don’t be shy about allowing it to naturally come up in conversation. I think sometimes, we keep it quiet because we don’t want people to ask us the embarrassing and intrusive questions about foster care. They may ask, and that’s OK. (Remember you never have to answer.) But I have had great conversations about foster parenting with other moms at the park, colleagues at work, and even the checker at Trader Joe’s. And I’ve found that you just never know who may have a connection to foster care. I have been fortunate to make new (foster parent) friends simply by being open about our lifestyle.
- Your agency’s foster families. If you attend a training at your agency, don’t just get your hours and leave! Step outside of your comfort zone and connect! Reach out and get to know other families. Get the digits of folks you click with. Maybe arrange a playdate. Or have a family over to dinner and let the kids play while the adults have some much-needed talk time! This is a potential treasure trove of great people for your foster care support network.
- Church and local support groups. There are many out there! And I will say this as delicately as I can: don’t be afraid to “shop around” to find one with the vibe that resonates with you. Some are better than others. I like the ones that are positive and proactive. You are under no obligation to keep going if it doesn’t feel right.
- Get on Facebook. OMG There are TONS of foster parent support groups out there! Some may be local to you. If so, get together for some of their meet-ups. Others may be more globally-based, but they can still be a good sounding board. And I will reiterate my encouragement to shop around. Some have unhealthy/toxic tones. But some are valuable and a good use of your time.
- Friends of friends! I’ve met a lot of people this way, too! It works like this. One of my friends, who knows our journey, will say, “hey I have another friend who is thinking about foster care.” Its like a blind date, foster parent style. 🙂 If you are open to this, you may meet some really awesome people!
- Reach out. So, once you cultivate that group of friends, check in regularly. Even when (or maybe I should say especially when) you are feeling “in the weeds.” Ask them about the latest on their kids. I have had my best “vent” sessions with other foster moms. It truly helps, because it is so easy to feel alone in our struggles. The foster parents I know are some of the least judgmental people I’ve ever met. They understand.
“True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world.”
Thank you, Brene Brown! (Quoted from Daring Greatly – affiliate link here, because I believe this is highly relevant reading for foster parents.) I totally agree, and feel that it is so apropos in building your foster care support network!
Speaking of which, I am hesitant to do this until I make the big reveal of my blog’s new name, but I am thinking of starting a Facebook support group connected with my blog. Is this something my readership would be interested in? If so, feel free to chime in with a comment or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know your thoughts.
And how about you? Has it been hard to find other foster parents who you can share your triumphs and travails with? How do you make friends who understand your family? Shoot me a comment. I always love hearing from you!