Let’s talk about some natural supports for foster parents. Sometimes people ask me, how do you survive at this foster parenting thing…how do you even do it?”
And the answer is lots of support. Support while fostering can, and should, come from several different sources. If you rely on one avenue for all your support, that avenue is probably going to get burned out and you are more than likely going to crash and burn.
That said, I always try to encourage new, or potential, foster parents to make sure they have multiple streams of support available to them as they begin, and continue, their foster care journey.
To address this more fully, I’ll be doing a series over the next few weeks which covers what some of those supports could be. To lead off, here are a few of the topics we will be discussing in the weeks ahead; this is not necessarily a comprehensive list, but it does give you an idea of where we are going:
- DCS and your Agency (see https://fireflyin.org/kris-corner-foster-care-support-from-dcs-childrens-bureau/)
- Natural Supports
- Online and In-Person Support Groups
- Peer supports from other foster families
- Care communities
- Foster care closets
By natural supports I mean people in your life who already support you: family, friends, and neighbors…people in those kinds of circles.
Now, I will say you might meet with some resistance when you tell them that you are considering becoming, or are definitely going to be, foster parents. Not everyone understands why you would do that and not everyone can be supportive of that decision. At least not right off the bat.
So, to garner the support you’ll need, you might have to be proactive with some of your friends and family. To do that, I encourage you to go into the conversation with a soft approach…along the lines of “I feel like I should do this, but I’m going to need your help and support.” And then list out some of the ways that you are going to need help, or ways you anticipate you will need help, to see if your natural support system can get behind you on those specific tasks.
Another way to encourage this groups’ support is by trying to help them engage. Provide resources and information to help them understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. The child’s behavior may be different than any other child they have been around. So sharing, for example, how trauma effects the brain will help each person to understand and appreciate the differences of children from hard places and it will help engage them in your journey.
There are others, in your natural supports, who will be very supportive of your decision from the outset, and will give you everything they can to encourage and support it. They will jump in feet first with you and might even tell you what they would like to do to help. Cherish those people!
And then there will, undoubtedly, be those in your life who will never understand why you’re fostering and they won’t be able to physically or emotionally support you. So, try to just let that go and lean into them for other needs, if you can. Try not to expect help and support from them in fostering; they might eventually change their tune, or they may not.
As I said, natural supports definitely should not be your only avenue of support, but it is a big one. And quite possibly your journey will ignite in them a foster care journey of their own!