Finding Help in the 21st Century: Foster Parent Networks

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Foster parents have to cope with a lot of unique situations, whether they’re dealing with medically fragile children or navigating the complexities of finding a state-approved babysitter. Sometimes, we all need the experience and wisdom of someone who’s been there before – that’s why it’s important to network with as many foster care organizations and foster parents as possible. By signing up with and participating in a foster parent network (or a few!), you can constantly ensure you will be supported on your journey through the foster care system.

Fortunately for foster parents today, networking has never been easier – the internet can help you navigate the deep pool of knowledge that exists within your peers. In a past blog, FAFS encouraged foster parents to stay up-to-date on social media which could help them understand their foster children’s online activity. Today, it’s time to turn the tables – by getting involved in social media, you can improve your ability to help the children in your care.

Let’s take a look at some of the networking opportunities you can make use of as a foster parent.

Connecting Families Programs

FAFS’ Heart to Heart Mentoring

Despite all the preparations one might make to welcome a child into your home, no one can be truly prepared for all the various zigs and zags of fostering a child. That’s why Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) created the Heart to Heart Mentoring program – to help foster parents network and learn from one another.

There are two ways to sign up – either apply to be a Mentor or a Mentee. Mentors work closely with the FAFS Family Advocates and understand the various questions, concerns, struggles and victories of fostering. Mentees, on the other hand, are foster parents looking for some guidance. FAFS pairs a Mentee applicant with a Mentor who can help her through the struggles she might be facing.

Whether Mentor or Mentee, the Heart to Heart Mentoring program is a great way to meet, and stay connected with, local foster parents. Check it out here.

A Foster Parent Asks

fosterparent-asksEvery Wednesday, FAFS posts a question asked by a foster parent on Facebook so that other foster parents can provide their responses.  Whether you’ve got a question to ask or are looking to help others in need, A Foster Parent Asks is a great place to branch out and start building your own foster parent network consisting of real foster parents right here in New Jersey.  You can ask a question by posting it directly to our Facebook page, found here.

Here’s a sample question that was asked:

A foster parent asks, “I adopted my son a little over a year ago and I’d like to go the foster to adopt route again. But I’m now worried there’s a chance that the next child I foster might not be a good permanent fit and won’t result in me adopting him/her. How do you then approach the situation without hurting the new foster child?”

(Click here to see the responses)

Even if you’re looking for answers to questions more related to your first time fostering, A Foster Parent Asks is a great place to start.

A foster parent asks, “We finally got approved today and have a potential placement. The baby is only a few days old and we were told mom is in prison. They also told us that they weren’t able to find family members willing to take him in and that he doesn’t have any drug exposure. So far, this is all I know. With this being our first placement, I was just wondering if anyone can offer some guidance on what to expect during the next few weeks? This wasn’t covered in our training, so we’re at a bit of a loss on what exactly to do.”

(Click here to see the responses.)

Not only does the FAFS Facebook page have A Foster Parent Asks but it’s also consistently updated with various events, programs and news about foster care in New Jersey.  Be sure to Like Us on Facebook and follow our feed to stay connected to other foster parents and the community at large.

Local Holiday Parties

Each year, the FAFS Connecting Families community-based groups invite families from open, licensed foster homes to local holiday parties. The Holiday Parties are a great place to meet up with other foster families and kick back and relax as the kids play.

Thanks to the efforts of the New Jersey Policemens’ Benevolent Association (NJPBA) and other donors, many of these parties provide a complimentary holiday gift. Before each holiday season, every open, licensed resource home receives an invite to the party in their local area so, keep an eye out for next year’s party!

Confessions of a Foster Parent – A Real-World Foster Parent Network

Disclaimer: Some content found on Confessions of a Foster Parent may be offensive to some.  Foster and Adoptive Family Services does not endorse Confessions of a Foster Parent. Opinions and ideas expressed therein do not represent the perspectives, values or beliefs of Foster and Adoptive Family Services.

Although the name seems transparent, ConfessionsOfAFosterParent.tumblr.com is more than a confessional; posters also use it as a place to share their everyday feelings or successes.

This blog, hosted on Tumblr, documents the frustrations and concerns of the posters. Whether celebrating a struggle you’ve faced as a foster parent or searching for some sympathetic ears, Confessions Of A Foster Parent provides a real life perspective on the struggles and triumphs of foster care. Though not technically a foster parent network, it is the face of the foster community on Tumblr, the site that people subscribe to in order to post here. Below is one example of the community’s interest and goodwill.
To check out the latest confessions and epiphanies, check out Confessions of a Foster Parent here.

FosterIt – An Open, Peer-moderated Foster Parent Network

Disclaimer: Some content found on FosterIt (and its parent site, Reddit) may be offensive to some.  Foster and Adoptive Family Services does not endorse FosterIt or Reddit. Opinions and ideas expressed therein do not represent the perspectives, values or beliefs of Foster and Adoptive Family Services.

Reddit is an online collection of user-maintained communities called “subreddits,” and one of those exists exactly for members of the foster care community. The moderators encourage posters to answer what they call the “10 Standard Questions” – some questions aimed at introducing you and your experiences to the other foster parents, former foster youth and child welfare workers online. In this way, FosterIt serves as more than a foster parent network as it allows foster parents to connect with workers and former foster youth as well.

Ever heard someone say something about foster care that drove you crazy? Other people know that feeling, too:

“…had someone act surprised when we told them that our foster kids have been well-behaved. “Really?! That’s not what I expected.”

And also, “I wonder what a ‘nice’ kid like yours is doing in foster care.” (Ugh, it’s not a kid’s fault if he/she is in foster care. Nice or not, it makes no difference.)”

To see some responses to the 10 Standard Questions, visit this link.

What are some things people say to foster parents that bother you? from fosterit

By using the tools at your disposal on both your smartphone and your computer, you can find valuable friendship and share in the wisdom of other people who understand your dedication and commitment to helping children in the foster care system.

After all, FAFS was founded by three foster parents who decided to get together. With a single post, you might be on the road to becoming an influential voice in the foster care community.

Author: Frank Alvarez, Digital Media Coordinator

Frank Alvarez is the Digital Media Coordinator at Foster and Adoptive Family Services.

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