For the past three days I have been in the company of a select group of individuals that are in a class above. Individuals made of Foster Parents, Adoptive Parents, Kinship/Guardians, Guest Speakers, Therapists and my own surrounding county's Social Workers and County Representatives. This year's Annual Conference was a true grace for me. One, it was a mini getaway but in all reality I really appreciated the training given. More so, each year I completely enjoy meeting, listening and learning from other parents that are on the same journey that my husband and I chose several years ago. The journey to give back - to be a Foster Parent!
The journey has been and continues to be a navigation of learning. Everyday my belief is you should learn something new. I instill this in my children, in all my children - homegrown, adoptive and foster. Learning something new; though it may be something really small or it may be something really big but in the end it is something. Do not take it for granted. Knowledge is power in my day-to-day life. It should be in everyone's. As I had time to speak with fellow peers, I was excited to learn more on how to navigate the system in different ways as well in sharing on personal experiences thus being able to help or provide information that I had been given. In a nut shell we were doing basic 101 networking.
I know that foster parenting is not considered a "job" but our group conference was so like a business network meeting. We had the opportunity to see others from across the state, others from within our own county and others from the surrounding counties. When not in training meetings, we were able to meet many peers, therapists or county representatives. Honestly, for me it was nice to put faces to the people that emails have been sent to or many telephone calls have been spoken over our journey. On the other side, you understand the years reflected in many children's lives. How they were touched and changed. Also, it was a chance to step away from our normal daily routine to learn of upcoming events, system changes, take in our own experiences or just chit-chat. Some decompression of our own 24/7 routine that is sometimes so needed but may not be able to have the chance due to many factors of the system and/or the child in your care.
Reflecting on the meetings or engagements I had these past few days, I feel thankful for all our children (homegrown, adoptive and foster). There is a sense of reaffirmation that we are all in this together. We are all doing the same "job"; however, there is the quick realization on how much our "jobs" are different. Whether it is from county to county or home to home. Things are definitely different.
Using my own home as a rough comparison. Take into account having five special needs children. All with varying degrees of needs. Break it down further, my three youngest children (almost like triplets) who are so close in age is a great example. It is amazing to see how much they are the same but so very different. With each milestone or development stage, one soaring right through most with flying colors but having issues on others while another is behind and the last is hitting some while missing others. Their common dominator - love, stability, early intervention and therapy.
Just as I noted above, we gathered at the conference as group that in essence do the same "job" but in reality we all are so very different. It is not because each child is different with their own needs or circumstances; the differences comes because of the road blocks we face along the way. Our common dominator - love for the children, stability to work within the system, advocacy and our own therapy and help amongst one another. The struggle is real but we always seem to manage, we are Foster, Adoptive, Kinship/Guardianship PARENTS!!!!
Yes, we are all different, all different walks of life, ages, backgrounds and life experiences but being a Foster Parent, an Adoptive Parent, Kinship/Guardian is not for the faint of heart. As with parenting it takes love and patience but it also takes a guidance within yourself to know that the infant, toddler, child or teenager that may be placed into your care has needs or situations that you may not understand. Nonetheless, given the opportunity, to be a temporary place called home for an infant, a toddler, a child or a teenager even for a short period of time, a place providing love, safety, shelter, food and stability is a gift all in itself. The ability to make a difference in that relative short period of time. To have the chance to be a part of the reunification process with parents or family or an adoption process for someone who is growing their family in better terms is PRICELESS!
So when it is all said and done, at the end of the day through the thick of everything, I have had great revelations as I am a parent, a foster parent, an adoptive parent but truly I am me who just wants to make a difference with giving back in a person's life and I am surely honored to be in the company of many others who have the same outlook.
It is awesome to be a part of this huge family not only in my county, my state but more importantly across the world and to that I Thank you ALL the Foster Parents, Adoptive Parents, Kinship/Guardianships, Social Workers, Judges, Attorneys, All Representatives and Everyone else riding this carousal by working to make a difference whether big or small! GOD BLESS
While we try to teach our children all about life, Our children teach us what life is all about. ~Angela Schwindt
Until Next Time...Make It A Great Day!
- National Foster Parent Association
- California State Foster Parent Association, Inc.