Circling the Wagons

It’s been a little while since you’ve seen me here.

If you followed A Fostered Life on Facebook, you may have noticed that it’s not there anymore. And if you follow A Fostered Life on YouTube, you may have noticed that most of my content was gone for a while.

I thought I’d jump on here and give a bit of an explanation!

Back in August, I announced that I was making some changes. Here’s what I wrote at that time:

Heads up, folks! I’m in the process of making some changes here, as my focus nowadays is going beyond foster parenting. While I will always have a heart for equipping, supporting, and encouraging new and prospective foster parents, now that all of our children are adopted and we have moved to a new state, we are no longer currently involved in foster care. I expect we will be involved again in the future, but for now, we are circling the wagons around the five incredible children who are part of our permanent family and doing all we can to give them a rich and beautiful life.

The post went on, but that was the main point.

That was in August.

By early October, I was feeling a deep need to circle the wagons even more and create space in my life. Homeschooling four of my children and supporting my eldest child with her senior year online in a brand new school meant that I needed to cancel most of my other “outputs.” I let the members of The Flourishing Foster Parent know I would need to suspend our live coaching calls, and I closed my Patreon account. Because I could not keep up with YouTube comments (and trolls), I created a page on my web site for my YouTube video library to live on and removed them from YouTube while I took a break (they’re back now). I also decided to take a break from social media; I deactivated my Facebook account and deleted my Twitter account. I kept Instagram, but took a break from posting.

The break has been so good.

So, so, so, so good.

I have been more present to my kids. I’ve been able to focus on my own spiritual and emotional wellness. My stress level has gone down. As much as I loved my Flourishing Foster Parent community, I simply could not maintain it with my kids home 24/7. Hosting Coaching Calls, producing the audio and video resources, and writing for the blog required more than I had to give with everything else that was going on. And don’t even get me started on how the state of politics in my country affected me! I needed to not see people’s political posts for a little while (and I’m sure some of them wanted to stop seeing mine!)

All of this said, I am still passionate about supporting foster parents. I want these resources to be widely available. But how can I continue to offer support and encouragement, while recognizing my own limitations in this season?

Here’s what I’ve come up: instead of being an active blog, this web site has been reconfigured to be a static resource for foster parents. There are links to my YouTube channel videos and Season One of my podcast, as well as access to a library of Coaching Call recordings (for a small fee). There is a growing list of books on my Recommended Resources page. And I am still a champion for Positive Parenting Solutions, which remains my model of empowering, connecting, and equipping parenting (and FYI this is an affiliate link).

Also, and this is a little awkward to get into, but I have heard from a number of agencies who have been using my content for foster parent training, so I have created a way for them to license my copyrighted content to download legally. (Did you know it’s illegal to download content from YouTube to use offline? Yup. If you are a foster parent licensing agency or otherwise using my content to train foster parents, you either have to stream my content directly from YouTube every time you show it or pay the licensing fee here on my web site to download the content. It is illegal to download my videos and incorporate them into your training materials without paying the licensing fee.) I didn’t make this rule—but I’m grateful for it. YouTube creators put a lot of time and effort into the resources we create, and the advertising revenue YouTube and its creators receive for the content we create is why we can continue to create content!

So, if you were looking for me on Facebook or wondering where the YouTube videos had gone, that’s the scoop. I have been very conflicted about how to continue making this content available without making myself so available. I long for privacy for my family, while simultaneously feeling driven to support foster parents. I have increasingly wrestled with the fact that, while I signed up to be a foster parent, my children did not sign up to be in foster care. I am comfortable sharing my foster parenting journey—but I want them to have a choice about whether or not/how much to share their foster care (and adoption) journeys.

To that end, I plan to continue writing for this blog, as time permits. I also plan to continue offering private foster parenting coaching in the future. For now, though, the wagons are circled around my family. I hope that you will still find helpful resources here, and if you know someone who is just starting the foster parenting journey, that you’ll direct them to this site.

All my best to you as you seek to find a way to flourish in the midst of what is surely the most stressful time any of us has lived through. We are doing well—and I aim to do my part to keep it that way.

From Cuddler to CASA

I have lost count of the number of times someone has told me that they really want to be involvd in foster care, and they really care about foster youth,  but they are not in a season of life where they can be foster parents. They wonder how they can help.

How can you make a difference in the life of a foster youth without being a foster parent?

There are a number of ways to answer that question, and my guest in Episode 17 of A Fostered Life Podcast talks about two of them. Laura was a volunteer cuddler in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for years before being introduced to a desperate need in the foster care system after caring for one particular baby for several months. She went through the training and eventually became a CASA – a Court Appointed Special Advocate.

Over the six-plus years Laura has spent as a CASA, she has served over twenty-three children, and in today’s episode, she’s going to share what that experience has been like and what you might expect if you are considering becoming a CASA.

I am so grateful for the work that Laura and others have done and I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did!

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!