It was so much easier to make friends as a kid when all you had to do was share the right snack and you were in. As an adult, especially in a virtual world, it feels nearly impossible. When we first started fostering classes, you could feel the apprehension lingering in the air, even through the internet. Usually, you’re in person and you get some time before the class and during the breaks to get to know one another. Instead, everyone was logging in right on time, and cameras went black during the breaks.
While there were many pros to the Zoom class (eating dinner during the class, getting to make my cardamom tea during the break, no commute time), there was the major con of never meeting anyone in real life. I had watched the movie Instant Family and was ready to become just as close with my classmates like Mark Wahlberg’s and Rose Byrne’s characters. Since meeting in person isn’t possible right now, our last class was focused on building community in different ways—here are some helpful takeaways.
1. Your classmates
I know, I just got done saying how hard it is to make friends in an online class. While it is difficult, everyone there was hungry for connection. At the last second of our last class, one of the other parents raised their hand and asked if we could share contact information with one another in an easy way. The relief was palpable. All of a sudden, the chat started pinging with, “I’d be interested in a contact sheet,” “Oh, me too!”, etc.
As much as I love my friends and have deep close friendships, the challenges of foster care are very unique and will likely only be truly understood by others going through it.
As much as I love my friends and have deep close friendships, the challenges of foster care are very unique and will likely only be truly understood by others going through it. The abuse the children face (sometimes from birth families, sometimes from other foster families), the behavior that comes with trauma, and the unique challenges of co-parenting with a birth parent will be a common language with other foster parents.
2. Social Media Groups
I know I just get more and more virtual, but social media is a simple way to connect with lot of people. I did a quick search on Facebook using the words “Foster Parents,” and there were five groups right away to pick from, with more to access if I wanted. Three of the five were local to my state, city, and neighborhood, which is great because you can connect on whatever level you need. It’s often helpful to be in community with people in your state since they are dealing with the same rules and regulations as you.
They can help navigate the bureaucracy that comes with fostering, be a shoulder to cry on when things get hard, and celebrate with you when it’s time to. And local folks might be able to meet up with you when you just need a break and want to take a walk around the block.
3. Your Agency
I mentioned Instant Family earlier, and for those of you who are unfamiliar, it’s a movie that follows the journey of a couple who decides to adopt through foster care. Throughout the movie, the characters, played by Rose Byrne and Mark Wahlberg, attend a weekly group meeting with other foster parents.
While I’m not clear on how true to life the movie’s version is (since, you know, social distancing and all that), our trainers told us that every agency does in fact have a weekly meeting. I’m hoping that once we can be in person again, I can join. I find I’m more able to be myself face-to-face and hope the coffee breaks can lead to deeper connections.
4. Following Adoptees on Instagram
One of The Everymom’s Contributing Writers, Melissa Guida-Richards, wrote about her experience as a trans-racial adoptee and wrote a great article on adoptees to follow on Instagram. As soon as I read it, I hopped on and added all of the handles. That was a few months ago, and I continue to be so grateful to have access to this much thought labor around adoption and the myriad of challenges that come with it.
One of the most important parts of adoption and/or fostering is the trans-racial adoptee community. If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase, it refers to a person adopted by parents of a different race. According to a survey administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, 40% of adoptions in the U.S. are trans-racial. By following these adoptees, I get a lot of nuanced perspectives on how to re-contextualize the adoption process to center my foster child or adoptee’s personal needs and experiences. As much as I might have my own thoughts and concerns, so will the child, and it’s so crucial to recognize that you need to be a resource for your child too.
By following these adoptees, I get a lot of nuanced perspectives on how to re-contextualize the adoption process to center my foster child or adoptee’s personal needs and experiences.
If you are still wondering if fostering is even right for you, consider that community is a large part of it. Every current and former foster parent I have spoken to echoes one another: It’s one of the most incredible experiences and also one of the most challenging, and you can’t do it all by yourself. It always takes a village to raise a child, and I can’t wait to build my foster village.