Big news! Foster Together Colorado storytelling is hitting the next level. First, a little of our WHY, then, I'll introduce you to our first podcast guest and you can listen in on our chat.
WHY A PODCAST?
For me, a foster mom, my world is naturally full of other foster parents. I'm in touch weekly with the families of kids we've sent home from foster care. I can't scroll for two seconds on my phone without seeing press releases about funding for child welfare, , and adoption photos, and 90% of my meetings, reading, and thoughts related in some way to foster care, it's easy for me to forget how the rest of the world sees foster care.
They don't. They don't see foster care. It's mostly invisible.
Well, maybe they see it on the news. Crisis. Great need. Opioid epidemic. Abuse. New law. Wednesday's Child.
Or maybe in their past. Grandma was adopted. Knew a kid in school who was in foster care.
The general public has a perception of foster care that is vague, secondhand, and mostly negative.
And powerful changes in societies don't come from vague, secondhand, that-makes-me-feel-gross perceptions. They come from being personally affected, or loving someone who is personally affected.
When your neighbor brings home three kids and asks to set up a playdate with your kids, opinions about foster care exit the news-feed and transform to conscious, urgent thought.
When a co-worker explains that her daughter's best friend is living with them for a while, while the court determines if her parents are safe, you find that the words "child abuse and neglect" weigh heavier. More gravity.
When the baby in the hospital room across from your newborn doesn't stop crying, and you overhear nurses and social workers talking about how to get mom from rehab to hold the baby, you can't wish away life's unfairness like you could before.
When it's your neighbor, you want to help.
When you see the person, it seems a little less scary. This podcast exists to introduce neighbors to neighbors, all over Colorado.
On average, a Coloradan needs to meet 1500 adults before meeting a foster parent. Most of us don't even have 500 Facebook friends, let alone 1500 people we actually know well enough to offer a hug or homemade meal. If only one in 1500 Coloradans is a foster parent, most of us will never meet in real life. We'll never get to hear their side of the story.
That changes now.
The foster parents I know are willing to put time, emotions, and certainty on the line, and the experience and wisdom they gain is something I always want to soak up. It's a fascinating, grounding experience to break out of one's social circle and adjust to the needs of a child at home. Among hundreds, I haven't met any uncaring foster parents (but I've heard enough stories from teens in care to know they're out there). And I want to introduce Colorado to the people who make room in their lives for kids and families in foster care.
This personal look is too valuable to pass us by.
I have two goals for the podcast:
1) Fascinate Colorado by a friendly, neighborly conversation about the realities of foster care. Get the wheels turning. Conversations make us ask questions in a more personal way than a statistic can.
2) Inspire Coloradans to connect with a foster family, family whose kids are in foster care, or one of the many programs who put the personal connection into child abuse/neglect prevention and healing.
To kick off our weekly podcasts--public conversations from the living rooms of local foster parents--I talked with Joy. She's a mom of three almost-grown kids and has fostered four kids this year. She is a Navy veteran living in Colorado Springs.
I asked Joy and her daughters:
- What made her decide to be a foster mom
- What's been most challenging and most joyful
- Whether she asked her daughters permission to open their home to new kids
- Whether she has the support she needs as a foster mom
- How she chose a foster care agency
- How she keeps in touch with kids' parents
- Semper Gumby! Why "foster parent chill" is everything
Come back next week to hear part two of my conversation with Joy. We get personal talking when I ask Joy what she thinks about the national push to get more people of color involved in foster care.
Foster Family Assist: This is where you go if you are a foster parent needing emergency support to weather the challenges of parenting kids with trauma.
Courage Community Foster Care: The Child Placement Agency who licensed Joy. Kerri Hankin certifies families around the state and is known for personalized attention and preparing her families to meet the needs of the kids in their care until they are ready to go home or be adopted.
A few favorite quotes from Joy: "When I went on deployments, I would make little recordings for my son. My mom would play them. He would have a little piece of me at bedtime. But he was with my family. What about those people who don't have those family members taking care of their kids?"
Zoe, on whether she thinks "everyone should foster": "They should definitely do it if they want to do it."
Joy, on how to make sure you set yourself up to be a great foster parent: I told the agencies, "I have two teenagers. This is what I can do, and this is what I cannot do, for the sanity and peace of my home."