Being a foster parent is tough, and no one understands this fact better than a foster parent. That is why foster parents need other foster parents to encourage them. In Another Place at the Table, Kathy Harrison writes of her foster parent friends:
We were an eclectic group, often with little in common beyond our commitment to our children. Within the group we shared everything from baby furniture to department gossip. Only among this group of friends could Bruce and I share our stories – tales of triumph about the families and kids who made it, and stories about lost children and our own broken hearts… I know that the first time my heart broke, it wasn’t my social worker or my family or my friends from the other part of my life I called. It was the other foster parents, the ones who had been there and could really understand.
Unfortunately, not every foster parent has a network of foster parent friends, so one way to support foster families (or even yourself if you are a foster parent) is to host a foster parent group. And a great starting point for the group is a book by Jason Johnson, The Beauty and Brokenness of Foster Care: A Foster Parent Support Resource.
Written from a Christian point of view, this book offers ten weeks of readings to start conversations about being a foster parent. Before each reading is a “Before You Begin” section with an agenda for the group meeting. The agenda is the same for each reading so that anyone can pick up the book to start a discussion and so that the group doesn’t have to do the topics in order.
Each week’s reading offers a positive, challenging way of thinking about foster care. For example, chapter one emphasizes, “Foster care is less about getting a child for your family and more about giving your family for a child.”
Chapter ten states, “Foster care is not just a means by which we may change a child’s life but also the process through which a child may change ours.” Perspectives like these help group members look at foster care in ways that might be different than their natural inclination. Per the “How to Use This Book” section, “The goal is not necessarily for you to agree with everything presented in this resource. Rather, the goal is that everything presented in this resource acts as a catalyst for healthy and encouraging discussion within the group.”
If you have ever been part of any kind of group, you can recognize the wisdom behind the book’s approach. Without structure, group members will wonder what is being accomplished during the meeting. Without a positive way to steer the conversation, people may complain the whole time, and participants could leave feeling drained. The book enables groups to create a reassuring atmosphere for people to connect and grow.
As I mentioned, The Beauty and Brokenness of Foster Care is written from a Gospel perspective, so it is most suitable for a Christian group of foster parents. However, since I do not know of a similar resource presenting a secular point of view, I encourage anyone seeking a resource for a foster parent support group to check it out. I think you will find it not only inspiring but also realistic, acknowledging both the good and bad aspects of being involved foster care. And its readings can refresh your group members so that they can return to the trenches of their important work.