Choosing to become a foster parent is a life changing decision. Not only for the family that becomes licensed but their extended family, friends, and of course, the children that will enter their home. In 2019, D.A. Blodgett - St. John’s helped 276 children in the foster care program thanks to the incredible work of our foster parents.
With May being Foster Care Month we wanted to reach out to our current foster parents to offer some encouraging words and support to those who may be considering becoming a foster parent. We believe that some of the greatest tips come from those who are on the front line and experiencing this on a day-to-day basis.
These tips are not only for foster parents but are important words for anyone raising children, caring for children, or working with children. For many who work with kids, they may encounter a child who has experienced trauma or who need another kind of emotional support. This foster mom shares, “Take all the trauma training possible. Really. All of it. Find yourself a group of people who "get it" and that will allow you to vent without judgement and with knowing what you're dealing with. This journey is hard, but totally worth every moment.”
Taking the time to learn about trauma, why it happens, and how to care for a child who has experienced trauma is so important for the long term care and well being of the child and their family. Investing the time to learn new tools and techniques is a way that we see our foster parents show their love and dedication to the foster care system and the children and families it serves. It’s more than checking a training box. It’s about taking the time to learn something that may be foreign to you in order to provide the BEST care possible for children in our community when they need it most.
Something we hear that gets tossed around a lot to parents is “support system”. We have seen first hand how having a support system while parenting can drastically change the outcome of a story. In Stephanie and Rich's story, they share how they chose to walk alongside the biological parents of the children they cared for as foster parents, and how by doing so, the future of these children were bright and reunification was made possible. And we can’t do it alone. We all need a support system; biological parents, foster parents, staff, and community members. Another foster mom shares, “Spend time sharing your knowledge of foster care, trauma, what to expect, etc. with your support system. When they are well-informed, they are better equipped to effectively support you.”
Another important tip that we heard from one of our foster parents? “Reach out to your agency for a mentor. It’s great to make a connection with someone who can be there to give you advice in advance and encouragement in the trenches.” While DABSJ doesn’t offer official “mentors” for foster parents, we would be happy to connect you with veteran foster parents who can help you with any questions or challenges you may face. As written earlier, it’s extremely important to establish your support system and having a seasoned foster parent as a mentor would be a great help throughout the process.
We hope that these few tips will help you navigate your journey of becoming a foster parent. Not a foster parent yet, but thinking about becoming one? We would love to hear from you! Consider attending one of our Foster Parent Information Nights (which are always the second Monday night of every month) or fill out this inquiry form to receive more information.
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About Megan Zars
Megan graduated from Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in 2011 with a degree in Public and Nonprofit Administration. After working a temporary role in the development department at GVSU, she landed herself an assistant job at DABSJ. This role evolved over the years and eventually lead to her role as Communications Specialist.
During her childhood, Megan's parents cared for 67 children in foster care and they grew their family through adoption four times, making Megan one of seven children. Megan has been married to her husband since 2014, and has two beautiful boys. She loves to dance, garden, and share her story with others.