Having a strong support system is essential for foster and adoptive parents. It’s one of the essentials that we wished we had known before starting this journey. You’ll experience many joyful moments, but there will be days when you’ll need a strong second line to back you up.
As a foster parent, you’re caring for a child during their toughest season of life. While doing so, you’re coaching and supporting the ones those that, in many cases, caused difficulty for the child.
And, you’re doing so with the expectation that child will go back. For adoption, there’s a whole other set of issues to walk your child through. In other words: it’s hard, messy, unending work.
Community can be formed in a thousand different ways. It could be formed from a church or a faith community, group of friends, extended family or community support groups. We are blessed to a have a combination of many of these circles. Your community will expand and contract over the seasons and evolve as you work through different needs. We’ve experienced that community…
Gives strength for the journey.
There are four basic types of supporters in your community. They will experience the highs and the lows alongside of you. When times are touch they’ll help share the burden, to give you encouragement, to simply listen, to distract you when you need a break. Often I find people in my community help me to see the bigger picture. Simply put, community gives you strength.
Supports the challenging moments.
You and your spouse both fall to flu-like illnesses at the same time. Your agency asks you to take in a newborn hooked on drugs and in the NICU. You find your adopted child in a mental health crisis years after they came into your home. These are the moments that happen in our world. Each of these is beyond your ability to cope on your own. Your community will walk with you through these tough moments.
Develops a healthy family.
Foster and adoptive families like to isolate. Just as light and darkness can’t coexist, community drives away isolation. In community, those around you will shape you. Those closest to us will encourage our strengths, support us in our weaknesses and challenge us in our faults. For me, the men that surround me point (and sometimes push) me in the direction of becoming the best husband and father I can be for my family.
Why is this so important to us? We’ve lived on the other side and never knew that we were so isolated. Even now in a healthy community, we tend to drift toward isolation. It’s insulating and it’s comfortable. Bottom line is this: We didn’t know how much we needed community until we found it. We didn’t know how essential it was until we walked through some of the most difficult weeks imaginable.
If you’re a foster or adoptive parent struggling with isolation, know you don’t have to walk this walk alone. Find a fellowship, or foster/adoptive support group, that encourages you to do life with others. It will change your life.