A foster parent recently told the following story: Picture an eight-year-old
boy, nestled in bed and sound asleep. A few hours later, in the dark
of night, an adult awakens him, asks him to dress quickly and explains
that he is going to his “new home.” Just a few of the child’s belongings
fit into a small, plastic garbage bag that he’s given to carry. Abruptly
and quickly he’s transported into foster care.
This was how Jonathan (fictional name) came to live with his foster
family. Eight years later, Jonathan is still living with this family.
The Family Support Network of North Carolina knows that the lives
of foster parents are full of rewards and challenges. Parents who provide
foster care are helping children cope with many special needs. Sometimes
these special needs are due to developmental delays or chronic illness.
Through the Foster Family Project at the Family Support Network of
North Carolina (FSN-NC) families have access to local community resources
and information about a range of special needs and concerns. Upon request,
foster parents can also be connected with another family caring for
a child with the same or similar special needs. Information and emotional
support from a family who has “been there” can be a big help to a family
confronting a situation for the first time.
The FSN-NC was created in 1985 to help meet the needs of families
with premature infants or children with, or at risk for, developmental
disabilities, behavioral disorders, or chronic illness.
Working together with FSN-NC is the Central Directory of Resources,
or “CDR.” The CDR is a statewide resource center available to parents,
families, and professionals by calling 800-852-0042. This computerized
resource center provides access to important information and resources
for those caring for a child with special needs.
The Foster Family Project was established as a part of FSN-NC in 1990.
As a result of the Conference for Families with Medically Fragile Children,
FSN-NC became aware of the increasing numbers of children with special
needs being raised in foster homes. Because the statewide Parent-to-Parent
programs of FSN-NC were already assisting families of children with
special needs, steps were taken to provide more outreach to foster families.
Currently, there are 20 Parent-to-Parent programs in North Carolina,
and eight of them are directly involved with the Foster Family Project.
Program Coordinators are available to help identify foster family needs
and to help provide workshops for foster families. Additional activities
include surrogacy training, sibling workshops, and respite care during
Foster Family Association events. All local FSN-NC Program Coordinators
are available to match foster parents with other parents and help them
connect with local resources.
Recently, the combined efforts of Kaaren Hayes, Program Coordinator
for FSN of the High Country in Wautaga County, foster parents and the
Wautaga County Department of Social Services created personalized notebooks
to contain the medical information and records that travel with each
child to his foster home. The notebooks are child-centered, colorful
and include a section for favorite foods, recipes, and special interests
of the child.
At no cost to families, the Foster Family Project sponsors an Outreach
Library that maintains books, videos, and other resources on such topics
as positive behavior management, fetal alcohol syndrome, attachment
disorder, separation issues, and concerns unique to foster care.
To learn more about the Family Support Network Foster Family Project,
the Parent-to-Parent programs, and to access the Outreach Library or
the Central Directory of Resources, call 800-852-0042 or click here:
Sally Sloop is project coordinator of Parent-to-Parent Programs
at the Family Support Network of North Carolina.