Our girls weekend is off to a great start! Monica, Sheba, and I all miss E (especially Sheba), but we are making it work. I’ll have pictures tomorrow to brag about all of the fun we’re having, but for today, I have a topic: community amongst foster parents.
It seems to me (from the outside) that most first time parents (who do it “the regular way”) find themselves a new little community when they are pregnant – they bond with other parents due around the same time. There are birthing classes, mommy ‘n me groups, play dates, and new friendships. When people become parents through foster care, things are a little bit different. We don’t know when we’ll become parents, so we can’t bond with people over our “due date.” We don’t know how old our children will be when they come to us, so we can’t form a play group. So where can we find our parenting community? Some people find that community in their MAPP class. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t find people we could relate to and lean on in our class. E and I are lucky to have neighbors with children who we’ve been able to lean on and look toward for advice and support. But becoming parents through foster care presents a unique set of challenges, and there is something to be said for finding a community of foster parents with whom we share these challenges and triumphs.
Monica and I spent some time this afternoon with friends of friends (soon to be 1st-degree friends I hope) who are pursuing adoption through foster care and their adorable foster (pre-adoptive) twins. Although their path is slightly different than our own, it was so refreshing to be able to talk openly with people who are facing the same issues as us. I will talk more about our visit in tomorrow’s post, but it got me thinking a lot about the importance of community. Many of us have found a community here, online. Unfortunately, “online” isn’t a place and we can’t easily get together, have play dates, and bitch about social workers and court cases. I feel like foster parents need this community, and it isn’t as easy to find as the hundreds of mommy groups forming on any given week. Foster parenting is uniquely challenging – it takes a great deal of patience, courage, and strength to parent other people’s children, to fall in love with them and treat them as your own, and then to see them go (often to a home that you might not perceive as ideal). We need to find our local community – we need to lean on each other, get advice about which social workers to avoid, where to take your kids to the dentist, which doctors are accessible for last minute appointments, where to find cheap clothes in all sizes, where to find free stuff, who to ask for help …
The friends we visited with today (T and Y … and Frick & Frack) were lucky enough to attend a MAPP class out in Big Suburb (rather than here in Big City), where they found an amazing community. They have a listserv where they share stories of their placements and social workers and court cases, where they share in each others triumphs and challenges. Big Suburb isn’t really close enough either though. They can’t set up play dates and go to the same community events. For E and I (and T and Y), we have each other for now. But I hope that we can carve out a little community for ourselves here, where we can find that camaraderie and look to each other for advice. It just seems like something that DCF could do a better job of encouraging. Or maybe it’s a job for an outside organization, or community organizers. Either way, I’m looking for it. Support groups at our area office start back up in the fall, and I hope that there we will find ourselves taking a step in the right direction.