When I was brainstorming what was on my heart to blog about this week, an image started coming into my head: an image of a web. Now, I’m not a huge fan of spiders so this is a web unrelated to something creepy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s a web I’ve found myself right in the middle of, weaving connections day by day, and sometimes minute by minute. Let’s call it the Relationship Web of Resource Parenting.
I have found being a foster parent, you often feel two completely different feelings, sometimes at the exact same time – overwhelmed with support but also bogged down by loneliness. Resource parenting can be isolating. It’s an experience not everyone can fully understand or relate to. On the flip side, so many new doors of support have been opened to me. What I’ve found is the importance of using these supports as often as you need.
Here’s a personal example of my own relationship web. At my home, we recently had a really, really, really rough morning. Emotions were high following a visit the day before. This is, of course, not a negative towards bio parents. It’s important to note the heightened emotions can stem from confusion and missing their bio parents, too. I called in my mom and a friend. Once at school drop-off, I sought out the secretary, who then found the principal to help turn the morning around for school. The guidance counselor called to let me know the day was going well. I reached out to my support worker and the DHS worker. I spoke with a friend who works in the field for recommendations for services. This was one tough morning, and I knew I needed my web. I knew it was fair to the kiddo to be supported by his web, too. How I imagine it is the child is at the center of the web, I am on the outside of him along with his bio parents, and the rest of our support web out from there. I am lucky – our web just keeps growing.
In my clinical work, one of my favorite quotes is, “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” meaning if we don’t care for ourselves, how can we properly care for those around us? Using our support system and resources are the way we fill our cup. Sometimes it just takes someone else to offer a kind word. Where do you find your support? Over the last several months, I’ve formed so many connections and relationships with people that either have the same desire to care for the kiddos in my home or (imagine that!) just simply want to support me on this journey.
My biggest day-to-day support is, of course, my family and a few great friends. They knock it out of the park. Outside of them, my LSI support worker comes through whenever I need her. She’s fantastic and has helped me navigate this new journey. Other places to look for some support? Your local support group, the child’s DHS worker, the child’s school guidance counselor, teacher, secretary, the child’s daycare provider, people that help you find services, and of course, fellow resource parents. I have formed a couple of connections with other foster parents that I will forever be grateful for.
When we use the supports, we always want to keep in mind confidentiality and honoring the story of the child and family. Using our support system doesn’t mean confiding in them information that they don’t need, but instead accepting their knowledge and comfort as we go through uncharted territory.
If you’re reading this blog and you are not a resource family, here’s my tip to you. Check in with the foster parents you know. Offer to bring a meal (or coffee!). Let them know you’re thinking about them. Foster parenting is the most rewarding thing I’ve done, but it’s not easy. It’s emotional and raw. There are days the pain we are carrying for the children is overwhelming. There are days we support the children through such big emotions stemming from things we don’t even know about. It’s hard. Beautiful, but hard.
It’s all worth it, though. This morning, I heard “I love you so, so, so, so, so much and I will never stop caring about you.”
It’s all worth it. Stay tuned…
By Anne Peters, LMFT