From Foster Parent to Family Preservation Advocate (Podcast Episode 11)

Over the years, my heart for helping foster parents feel more equipped to support reunification efforts has grown. Recalling my own fumbling efforts to show support for the women whose children have been in my care over the years, I know how much I could have used someone to show me the way. While it is not ultimately up to a foster parent to make sure a parent and child are reunified—the onus really is on the parent to do the hard work involved with reunification—I have learned over the years that there is a lot foster parents can do to encourage and support their foster child’s parent(s) as they move through the brutal stages of reunification.

In this episode of A Fostered Life Podcast, I speak with Tonya Foulkrod, a woman whose experiences as a foster parent led her and her husband to start an organization aimed at providing wraparound-type support for parents in crisis. Three Strands is a nine week, faith-based parenting program offered by local churches and volunteers to families in crisis. It is for parents who have lost custody of their children, or who are at risk of losing custody, and are working toward family reunification and preservation. In addition to parenting classes, participants experience home-cooked community meals and mentorship from dedicated volunteers who are trained in trauma-informed care. They have moral support in court and life-long friendships with people committed to helping their family stay together and thrive.

My conversation with Tonya was pretty long, so I’ve divided it into two parts. In this episode, which is Part One, she shares about how she went from being a foster parent who was intimidated by her foster child’s mom to becoming that mom’s biggest cheerleader and advocate. In the next episode, we’ll hear more about the work of Three Strands.

I hope you enjoy this episode, and if you are a foster parent, I hope it gives you some ideas and inspiration in how you might be able to support your foster child’s family.

Stock Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash. Note: the people depicted are models and not involved with Three Strands.

Adopted at 20: Podcast Episode 6 (ICYMI)

One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that, while I have a lot to learn from other, more experienced foster parents, mental health professionals, books, etc., the people who have taught me more than anything about how to be a good foster parent or foster caregiver if you prefer is children who are or were in foster care. The kids who have come and gone from our home as well as adults who are former foster youth have taught me more than anyone about what it’s like for kids in foster care and what they need most from those of us who step in to care for them when they are in trauma or transition. One of the things I love about this podcast is that it’s giving me a chance to connect with people like today’s guest—former foster youth who are willing to share from their experiences in order to help foster parents like me do a better job caring for our kids.

Brittney entered foster care when she was 16, but her journey with the department of child services and CPS started way before that—years earlier. Brittney spent most of her childhood bouncing around between friends and family members, going from school to school (or sometimes not going to school at all), experiencing many forms of trauma and violence, before finally entering foster care as a teen. When she did, she landed in a home where her life changed dramatically for the better. As I listened to Brittney, I noticed a theme that comes up over and over when I hear from former foster youth, and that theme is presence. What foster youth need more than anything else when their own parents are unable or unwilling to care for them is a caring adult who is consistently present—someone who is there for them through thick and thin and able to give unconditional love and patient guidance. 

It’s so important for us foster parents to hear from those who have lived through the system. So with that, here’s my conversation with Brittney.

If you’re interested in supporting my work at A Fostered Life, please go my Patreon page, where you can become a patron. Just one dollar a month helps offset the cost of producing these resources and enables me to offer them freely to new and prospective foster parents, and I’m grateful for the support of my patrons.

Thanks for listening and thanks for caring about foster care.

“Back to School” with Ernest Henderson, Jr. (Podcast)

It’s back to school time, and for youth in foster care, that can either be a really good thing or a really, really hard thing (or a bit of both.)

Today I’m speaking with Ernest Henderson, Associate Director of Eastern Washington Education Programs at Treehouse.

Ernest not only brings the professional insights of someone who devotes his career to helping foster youth succeed in school, but he also brings a background of being a former foster youth and a former foster parent. In this episode we discuss some of the ways a foster parent can support their child in school, how to navigate communicating with your child’s teachers and school personnel, and tips for preparing your foster youth to succeed in a new school. We also touched on positive discipline for youth in foster care and ways to empower and encourage our kids.

Ernest mentioned a few things for foster parents to learn more about, including the Every Student Succeeds Act, and I’ve included several helpful links in the show notes for this episode—so be sure to check those out.

I really appreciated what Ernest had to share, and I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did!