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  • Ally Monarch

How Do I Help My Friends and Family Understand and Be Involved?

Oh man. I saved this one for last because this aspect has felt the most daunting and challenging for me. When my husband and I were processing what it means to be foster parents and making decisions early on about how many children and what ages our home was open for, this piece of the puzzle never crossed our minds. After we made the decision to become foster parents and had our first placement, we soon realized how large this obstacle was for us. When we made the decision to become foster parents we also made the decision for our families to become grandparents, aunts, and uncles, to foster children.

Let me start with families and then we can discuss friends. Having children changes the family dynamic for you personally and with your extended family. Biological children can feel like a natural and expected transition. When adopted children and foster children are introduced into the family system, it can be a bit harder. Not only are you as the parents trying to bond and connect with a child who is not biologically yours, but are trying to aid your family to bond and connect as well. This felt very overwhelming for me during our first long-term placement. My family wanted to be involved and we were overwhelmed with caring for a 1- and 3-year-old whom we had no idea how to parent. When our families asked how they could help we had no idea what to say because we had no idea what we were even doing in the beginning!! We later had conversations about what we needed and we got into a bit of a better rhythm, but boy was it tough! My response is to sit and talk with your support system about your expectations and needs so they can aid you in the most effective way while your focus can be on your little ones.

The other piece to the family aspect is the connection. What I came to realize is that not everyone is built to be foster parents and that includes foster grandparents and extended families. Knowing that children may not stay in your life permanently can be scary and sad and may also keep some at a distance. We experienced this with our own families who did not know or understand how to develop a relationship, while also protecting their own hearts in the process. This is particularly noticeable and challenging when biological grandchildren are in the mix. The goal here is to keep talking, keep the conversation open. Have the hard discussions and educate your family, because creating a space of growth and healing for your children is worth the awkwardness and discomfort that might arise.

Now on to friends. Your friends may also have similar reservations as your family in regards to how to help and support you. My response is the same, talk with them. Be up front and honest about what you need from them. Our families and friends are not mind readers and most of them have never been involved in the foster care system. You need to take the lead. There are helpful books out there and podcasts that can aid you in this ongoing conversation. One book that I found helpful with my family was Honestly Adoption: Answers to 101 Questions About Adoption and Foster Care by Mike and Kristin Berry

As I keep saying, this is hard work, so extend yourself and your friends and families grace as you navigate the speed bumps along this journey.

Please schedule a free consultation if you have further questions or want to schedule an individual session to create space for you to be filled back up. Also, please reach out if you are interested in engaging in a foster parent group to connect with other foster parents and process the obstacles and celebrate the joys together.

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