Last month, I posted a Facebook Live event I was hosting on my Facebook page. As part of that announcement, I shared about a book giveaway I was doing to do as part of the Facebook Live.
One person responded.
I have over two thousand followers on that page, so when I got such little engagement, I started to grow a bit suspect. I posted a simple question asking people if they happened to see that post.
They had not.
Follower after follower commented that they never saw it. For some reason that I will never understand (because my brain does not work that way), people who “Like” and “Follow” my Facebook page don’t see a lot of the content I’m posting. (I always get invited by Facebook to pay them to “boost” posts.)
Why should I pay Facebook to show people who supposedly follow my page things I post on my page?
It makes no sense.
Not only that, I am also hearing from more and more people who are “getting off Facebook” as they become more and more concerned about privacy (and for good reason). I don’t blame them one bit. I’m considering it myself.
So I’ve started a Monthly Digest.
It will be one email delivered to your in box once a month that contains some of the same content I’ve shared on social media (other people’s articles, my own blog posts, YouTube videos, and podcast episodes), as well as one tool or word of advice for people who are, or are thinking about becoming, foster parents.
I want to help people who care about foster care feel more informed and equipped and encouraged as they go about this hard-yet-meaningful journey.
To sign up, just go to this short form. Answer five quick questions and you’re in. I’ll start sending the Monthly Digest out in March.
This is a free resource I’m putting together especially for those of you who either don’t use Facebook, don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook, or are simply missing some of the important things I’m sharing because Facebook’s algorithms aren’t showing them to you. I think you’ll find it informative and encouraging!
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!
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.