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Resource Parents – Today’s Foster Parents

May 4, 2017

Resource Parents – Today’s Foster ParentsPhill and Vanessa are relatively young resource parents, which is a term used for foster parents since it more accurately depicts the job description of being a resource for children and their biological families. They are in their thirties and they have been resource parents since 2006. It’s not typical that individuals and couples begin fostering kids and teens in their mid-twenties, but Vanessa has known since she was a young that girl she wanted to foster and adopt children. She remembers as a child “wanting to adopt 100 kids and thinking she would need 3 school buses to get them all to church.” Before they were married, Vanessa made it clear to Phill that foster parenting was going to be a big part of her life and if he wanted to marry her, he would need to be up fostering kids and teens. They became resource parents approximately a year after they were married. Throughout their time as resource parents they have had young children and teens placed in their home and have supported children through the reunification process, when children have returned home to live with their biological parent or parents. In the past 11 years, the couple has taken breaks from foster parenting, but during those breaks Vanessa feels “antsy” and “restless,” and longs to use her parenting skills to support kids she knows are in need.

There are some common misconceptions and barriers to individuals and couples deciding to foster children. The one I hear most often is some variation of, “It would be too hard for me to say goodbye.” I had a discussion with Vanessa and told her that when I have conversations with people about foster parenting, they often state that they could not emotionally handle having a child placed in their home, caring for that child, and then having to say goodbye to them should a child return home to a parent or move on to some other family member or resource. Vanessa’s response was, “We never know in any relationship how long we will have with someone. No relationship is guaranteed to last forever. We could have to say goodbye to someone at any point.” Vanessa went on to say that the system needs caring, loving people to be resource parents and yes, it is “heartbreaking” and yes, it is hard. “I have had my heart broken for so many silly reasons in my life. What better reason to have your heart broken?” {Than to give a child a supportive living experience when he or she needs it.} “Our culture seems to have this embedded value of avoiding pain. I think if we’re open to helping other people with their pain, {and show them how we cope with our own pain in healthy ways} we would all be more successful.” Phill and Vanessa give children and teens placed in their home everything they can, while they can, and they are willing to experience heartache in order to help children during the most challenging time in their young lives.

Each May we celebrate Foster Care Awareness month nationwide. We celebrate the resilience of the children in the foster care system, and the resource parents, caregivers, and child welfare providers involved.

If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a resource parent or how you can help kids in foster care and support the adults who care for them, please contact Lauren at the Opportunity Alliance: lauren.archambault@opportunityalliance.org or 207-523-5038. www.opportunityalliance.org.

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