To follow up on my review of The Beauty and Brokenness of Foster Care, I interviewed contributing author Jason Johnson for more ideas about how foster parents can find support. Jason definitely knows a lot about being a foster parent. He and his wife Emily are licensed foster parents in the state of Texas, and they are the founders of The Orphan Care Network, a non-profit committed to serving, supporting and equipping foster and adoptive families. A former pastor, Jason is passionate about helping churches establish and maintain orphan care ministries. He is currently the Director of Church Ministry Initiatives with Christian Alliance for Orphans.
What was the impetus for creating The Beauty and Brokenness of Foster Care?
As a foster parent who also happened to be the pastor of our church at the time, I attended some foster parent support groups and found them to be lacking. They often veered in one of two directions – either a gripe session for the most stressed out person in the room or a therapy session for the most emotionally heavy one. While there’s a place for both of those things, I sensed there needed to be a resource that helped make those times of connection
a bit more healthy and helpful. As you see in some of the introductory material in the book, I found foster parents experience some unique emotions and situations that only other foster parents can relate to. There’s power in creating environments for them to come together and not have to explain themselves – for them to simply see that they’re not alone in this and that other people just like them are experiencing some of these things. The resource is designed to address some universal experiences that every foster parent will walk through and then provide a healthy and helpful grid through which they can be encouraged in it.
You write your resources from a Christian perspective. How is foster care relevant to your faith?
My faith is in large part the driving force behind this. I find the heart of God in scripture uniquely leaning towards the most vulnerable and marginalized in our society. It’s not simply what we celebrate about Him but also what we as followers of Him are called to demonstrate about Him. These two ideas in scripture, celebration, and demonstration are not mutually exclusive. You simply cannot have one without the other. I’m convinced that if Jesus were still on this earth, among other places, the child welfare system in our country is a space He would be uniquely and persistently leaning into – because that’s who God is and what God does. You can read all kinds of perspectives on this at www.jasonjohnsonblog.com/posts.
What other resources are there for foster parent support groups?
Anything by the late Dr. Karyn Purvis about parenting kids from hard places. My friend Pam Parish has a great book called Ready or Not. There are some good blogs out there, but I would caution against only reading the sensationalized stories about foster care. Spend time on those that provide a realistic perspective on it – one that acknowledges the brokenness but also shines a light of hope on the beauty. Another great resource is Dr. John Degarmo.
How can a foster parent find a support group if he or she currently does not have one?
Look for healthy and helpful online forums, not just online gripe groups. Attend local, regional, or even national conferences or events where you can rub shoulders with other families in the trenches. Ask your local DSS office if they know of other families you can connect with. If you’re a church attender, ask your church what other families they know of are involved in foster care. Get creative, and put yourself out there. You have nothing to lose.
What advice do you have for someone leading a foster parent support group?
Always end hopeful. Be realistic – acknowledge people’s struggles and difficulties are real and valid, but then also help them approach them from a different, more helpful perspective. Create a safe place where people don’t have to explain themselves. They can be who they are right where they are, but they can also be committed to becoming better versions of themselves. We’re not helping if we’re simply allowing people to stay where they are. Let’s move forward together.
What do you wish you knew about foster care before you became a foster parent?
Check out my blog post for a detailed answer to that question!