Over the past 26 years that I have been a part of the Family Care Network’s Circle of Serving as a Resource Parent, I have gotten to know many, many other Resource Parents. Before I learned about the diversity of kids needing foster care I had a picture in my mind of what a foster child looks like and what a foster family looked like. My picture included infants or toddlers needing families composed of young couples with or without their own kids. Back when I started foster parenting in 1990, I was surprised to learn that there were teens in need of homes and that Resource Parents came in all ages, and were both couples or singles. After all these years, I can truly say that there is no standard demographic for a Resource Parent. There are the parents whose kids have grown and left the nest, and parents whose kids have grown, left the nest and then returned to the nest. There are single women and men who have never had kids, and young parents with kids, as well as grandparents who’ve already raised their families but felt they had more to give. There are Resource Parents who work outside the home and Resource Parents who’ve made specialty foster care their full time job. Some parents even have home-based businesses such as daycare or animal boarding. There are Resource Parents who have committed themselves to providing emergency shelter care 24/7 and Resource Parents who specialize in providing respite care for other Resource Parents.
As diverse as Resource Parents are, they all share some strong qualities:
- A positive outlook on life
- An interest in learning and trying new things
- The ability to give love unconditionally
- The ability to “go with the flow”
- The ability to laugh and see the humor in life
- Faith in a higher power
- Accepting of other ethnicities, cultures and sexual orientation
- The ability to see the “big picture”
Just as there is great diversity among Resource Parents, there is a great diversity among the children and youth in need of care, and sometimes the most unlikely combinations of the two make the best matches. Like the couple who, after raising their kids and welcoming grandchildren, dedicate themselves to providing a home for dozens of kids, mostly teens, but when a rambunctious four year old comes into their care, they decided to adopt him to provide him stability and security for the long haul. Or there’s the couple who are raising their teen son while providing a helping hand to their 21 year old and then decide to open their home to foster a seven year old girl who’s been moved around from home to home until she found the stability and nurturing she needed with them. And then there’s the single mom caring for her adult son with disabilities who opens her home to receive emergency placements and provide respite for other foster parents.
When I became a foster parent, I was in my early 30’s, married and had never had children. When we decided to try being Resource Parents, I discovered, to my surprise, that I had the best rapport and success with teens. At 32, I was young for someone with teenage children. I’ll never forget the day, 20 years later, when I was going through the grocery checkout with my 13 year old foster daughter and the cashier looked at her and said, “Are you having a shopping day with grandma?” GRANDMA? Me? What? I believe being around young people keeps you young, so it never even occurred to me that I would now be mistaken for a grandma to my foster kids.
The point of this article is that there are so many types of people providing foster care and so many different types of kids needing care. I hope that there will be folks who read this and think, “You know, I could do that,” and call the Family Care Network to find out how to get started. Back in 1990 when I started the process, I told myself that I would “just give it a try.” And here I am, 26 years later, blessed to have known and cared for all the different kids in my life; thankful that I could make a difference in their lives, just as they’ve made a difference in mine.