Recently we hosted our second annual Support to Succeed foster care conference. Over 100 adults and almost as many children came together at First Baptist Church in Simpsonville to learn from a variety of experts and be encouraged by fellow foster carers. Many of the comments we received from attendees complimented the organization, the variety of information presented and encouraging messages from many of the speakers. Our breakout sessions included practical tips for working with children from trauma and educated them on issues ranging from effects of drug and alcohol addiction and adverse childhood experiences to a faith perspective on foster care and how to create the best environment for a foster child who has a different skin color. The keynote speech by Dr. John DeGarmo was a highlight for many as well. Dr. DeGarmo shared out of his extensive foster care experience and spoke to some of the common challenges that foster parents face and gave us ideas to be able to overcome those challenges.
I’ve been reminded a few times recently of the importance of spending time with ‘your people’. Your people are people with a common heart and mission – who you can talk with about issues that other people may not understand. This is vitally important in foster care. Foster care people are unique (some may say weird) and need to be with other foster care people in order to fully process some of the things happening in their lives. It’s hard for traditional parents to comprehend some of the things that a foster parent experiences on a day to day basis. From behaviors to bio families to working with the system, people who’ve never experienced the world of foster care can’t understand. As hard as they try to be empathetic, only foster parents understand the sacrifice that’s involved in all areas of your life. That’s why ‘your people’ are so important. It’s easy to feel alone and crazy when you’re in the middle of the mess. Having someone who can say “yeah, I know how you feel. I went through that with my last placement” is a huge help. It can take away the feelings of ‘I’m the only one experiencing this and nobody understands.’
At Thornwell we understand the importance of being with ‘your people’, and that’s one of the reasons we do our conference. We are always looking for opportunities to bring our foster parents together so they can support and encourage each other in ways that we as an agency aren’t always able to. We do this throughout the year by hosting quarterly foster family fun days to provide our families with a chance to spend time with each other and have intentional fun time with their kiddos. We also have a Facebook group that’s exclusive to our foster parents. Through this, they can stay in contact and check in with each other more frequently, and we are able to share training dates and other helpful resources.