New Year, New Self Care Plan [Free Printable]

Whenever I have an opportunity to offer advice to new foster parents, I find myself coming back to the same thing: be intentional about taking care of yourself. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the challenges of foster parenting and suddenly find yourself empty, stressed out, exhausted, and at the mercy of many factors that are completely out of your control. As we have heard many times, you can’t give what you don’t have. You can’t pour from an empty bucket. Put your own oxygen mask on before helping others. Or, as Sufi philosopher and poet Rumi is often quoted, “Never give from the depths of your well, but from your overflow.” Sadly, too many foster parents are just barely surviving the day. Especially new foster parents find themselves crushed under the weight of trauma-related behaviors, unreturned calls to social workers, misinformation, no information, abrupt placement changes, lack of resources, and—hardest of all—lack of community with people who understand the often surreal experience of being a foster parent.

As we finish up 2019 and head into 2020, I invite you in to my year-end process of reflection and planning for personal flourishing in the midst of what is promised to be a chaotic and stressful path. Looking back on the year behind us is a good thing—what went well? What was hard? What, with the benefit of hindsight, could I have done differently? What lessons have I learned for next time? It’s good to sit with some of those reflections.

Looking at the year ahead is also important. While we can’t possibly know what tomorrow holds, if we are foster parents, we can be nearly certain that there are going to be a lot of ups and downs, they will often come without warning, and no one is going to fight for our personal well-being as much as we can.

One area of planning I am doing—and want to encourage you to do—is to create an intentional and robust Self-Care Plan.

This is not about pampering yourself—this is about planning to flourish in the midst of what is sure to be a very, very challenging home life if you are a foster parent. Even with a child who does not struggle with hard behaviors, there are all the outside stressors involved with foster parenting. There’s no way around it: foster parenting, under the best of circumstances, is stressful. We need to plan for how we will flourish despite that.

Toward the end of 2019, I hosted a live Coaching Call for foster parents entitled, “New Year, New Self Care Plan.” In that call, I talked through six “Fields of Flourishing” I’ve recognized as areas of my life that require regular attention if I am going to stay strong and avoid burnout. These areas include:

  • Heart | Soul | Mind | Intentions
  • Nutrition
  • Physical Rhythms of Exertion & Rest
  • Tools
  • Relationships
  • Supports | Systems | Simplifiers

If you would like to download the little guide I use to create a robust and intentional self-care plan, in which I offer some questions to reflect on to help guide your plan, here it is! My gift to you 🙂

There are going to be some really hard times in the year ahead. I hope you have a community of people you connect with regularly who understand the unique challenges you face as a foster parent. It is so important to know you’re not walking this path alone! There are also going to be some wins! It’s important to share those too! No one understands the victories of foster parenting like other foster parents!

I am excited about this new year and how we can help one another grow and stay encouraged as we walk this road that is so needed in our world. I wish foster parents weren’t necessary—but we are, and as long as there are kids in foster care, there will be foster parents who need to keep sharpening our tools and finding encouragement from one another.

Here’s to a wonderful new year. Thank you for reading and following A Fostered Life. I hope to connect with more of you in 2020!

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

The Evolution of A Fostered Life

As 2019 comes to a close, I have been doing a lot of looking back at the year behind me, and I’m also thinking a lot about the year ahead. I thought I would share some of my journey with you, since you are here and obviously interested in foster care and, more specifically, foster parenting.

In July of 2014, I was six months in to being a foster parent. It was hard, to say the least. There was *so much* I did not know. Like many foster parents, I was well-meaning, determined to give the kids in my care a good home and a good life—and completely unprepared for the roller coaster that defines the world of foster care, for everyone involved (kids, parents, foster parents, extended family members all around, etc.) I made a lot of mistakes early on. Not knowing much at all about how childhood trauma affects brain development and emotional regulation, I treated my son like someone who should know better. Not having tools for supporting reunification efforts, I stumbled my way through showing support for my kids’ mom. Not knowing too many other foster parents, I felt like a terrible mother when I didn’t know how to help my kids as they were struggling.
I started looking around online to see if I could find some other people whom I could relate to, with whom I could find some camaraderie, and it wasn’t there. (Well, if it was, I couldn’t find it.) I was lonely, disillusioned, and completely stressed out.

So I did what I do: I started something 🙂

I started a YouTube channel. I began sharing the things I was learning from my parenting coach, trauma classes I was taking, therapists I was seeing (both for myself and my child), and books I was reading.

And as my channel grew, I started hearing from people. I started receiving messages from people all over the world! Australia, New Zealand, England, Poland, Canada, Israel, the Netherlands, and beyond, not to mention all over the U.S.

My YouTube resources are being used in universities to train new social workers. My videos are shown in foster parent trainings across the country. Last year, I was invited to speak at a conference for social workers in Poland (which I did via video). I was hired by Arizona’s department of child welfare to record all of their new foster parent orientation videos. I’ve been interviewed by two different radio personalities in the past month, invited on to share my heart for everyone involved in the world of foster care. And I continue to respond to as many email and Facebook and Instagram messages as I can.

Because it was getting hard to keep up with messages, I started a blog a few years back. I began addressing questions I was receiving in blog posts rather than just to individuals who wrote, so I could offer some support more broadly.

But it all felt so one-sided, so one-directional. I needed community with other foster parents, and it was really hard to participate in the brick-and-mortar support groups that meet once a month. I needed more! So, at the beginning of 2019, I launched The Flourishing Foster Parent—an online community of new, prospective, and experienced foster parents. I host weekly “Coaching Calls” that are live for all members, where we explore a particular topic relevant to foster parents. Often, I invite experts in fields related to foster care, experienced foster parents, and former foster youth to be our guest speakers on these calls. Sometimes the calls are just a time for the members of FFP to catch up and check in with one another—to share trials and triumphs with others who get it. And sometimes it’s just me talking about a particular topic, with time for others to share their own insights. These calls are usually recorded and made available in a library of resources available to all members of FFP.

This past summer, I launched a podcast as well. A Fostered Life Podcast is free to all, and is a place where I explore the various facets of foster care through the voices of people who participate in the system. I have interviewed former foster youth (FFY), social workers, foster parents, trauma therapists, and authors, trying to help educated and inspire people to do better for kids in foster care, the families they come from, and the foster parents who care for them during their time in transition.

With the exception of The Flourishing Foster Parent, which people pay $20/month to be part of, and the work I did for AZ, I offer most of this for free—YouTube, my blog, and my new podcast.

I do it because foster parenting is a hard and lonely world. Connecting with other foster parents does not happen easily—people don’t walk around with “Foster Parent” written on their t-shirts (usually!)

I also do it because foster parents need to do better, and a huge part of DOING better is KNOWING better. I do it because, as I have heard from so many people over the years, there is not much out there like this, and it’s really helping foster parents do a better job of being foster parents.

And, let’s face it, I also do it because I’m an Enneagram 1 with a strong 2 wing—a reformer by nature with a strong instinct to help. I guess I can’t help myself—I’m wired this way!

I love offering all of this at no cost to people. But the fact is that I put many, many, many hours into writing, recording, editing, posting, and creating content for foster parents. So this past year, I started a Patreon page.

If what I’ve described above sounds like something you think is valuable and worthwhile, and if it sounds like something you’d like to support, would you consider becoming a patron of A Fostered Life by pledging a monthly investment? You can pledge anything from $1/month or higher.

I’m going to keep doing this whether I get paid for it or not. But the income I receive will help me do more, and do it better. While historically I have created content as I’ve been able to find time here and there, one goal for the new year is to schedule dedicated hours for this work. That will mean outsourcing more, and that costs money. Software, recording equipment, editing help, hosting, design, occasional babysitting, and other services will be necessary to devote the time it will take to make this resource something I can offer more consistently, more broadly.

If you appreciate my work with A Fostered Life, please consider supporting me with a financial pledge. I am grateful for my patrons and looking forward to what the new year holds!

Ringing My Bell on Several Seattle Radio Stations

It’s funny how things happen sometimes.

If you follow my podcast, you likely heard my interview with Kevin, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who shared his story and gave some wonderful insight for those foster parents who are caring for children—especially boys—who are victims of sexual violence. I am so grateful for Kevin’s willingness to share about his experiences, and how he has experienced healing and freedom from the trauma of his youth.

When Seattle radio personality Laurie Hardie heard our interview, she invited me to come on her show, Spotlight with Laurie Hardie, and talk about foster care. Laurie is a foster grandmother, and she shares my passion for spreading the word about foster care. Our interview aired on five radio stations in Seattle last weekend, and I am so grateful for the chance to ring the bell about foster care.

Most people go through life not giving a second thought to foster care.

I aim to change that.

I want everyone to care. I want everyone to realize that foster care is everyone’s concern.

Click here to listen to my interview with Laurie Hardie!

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash