If you have foster parents in your community who are looking for more ways to help, starting a foster parent mentoring program might be a great fit. Foster parents care about the needs of children and families touched by foster care and understand the demands of fostering. They are in a unique position to help and support new foster parents through the tough times, which can help with keeping current foster parents, as well as recruiting new foster parents.
Benefits of a foster parent mentoring program:
- Can help retain foster homes
- Can inspire new families to become foster home resources
- Enhance child safety and well-being
- Increase stability of placements
- Increase successful reunification of families with children in care
The support provided between one foster parent and another is powerful. Being able to share without restraint, shame, or feelings in inadequacy is liberating. Experienced foster parents are one of the best resources to provide support and a sense of community for new foster parents. Entering into the world of fostering can feel like moving to a different country where everyone speaks a different language. Foster parent mentors can supplement the work you do in your organizations by:
- Reaching out to the new foster family right after they have received their license and acting as a contact throughout their journey
- Helping with school system issues
- Supporting new foster families going through the grief and loss process
- Helping the foster parent find local services
- Guiding new foster parents who are just learning how to navigate the child welfare system
- Sharing skills and resources to deal with challenging behaviors
So, what are some of the qualities of a great foster parent mentor?
- Understand and demonstrate the ability keep confidentiality
- A proven ability to work with biological families
- A semi-flexible schedule
- Commitment to using a positive approach
- Strong communication and interpersonal skills
- Experience with hardships and a good problem solver
- A good understanding of how to successfully navigate the child welfare system
- Understanding of licensing rules
When pairing a foster parent mentor with a new foster family, keep in mind similarities between both families and proximity. You want to help create connections that will flourish with regular contact, especially at times when a new child is coming into the home or when a child may be leaving the home. You might consider a scheduling a foster parent mentor for each new foster family for a period of at least six months to one year--while the foster parents have children in their care.
Aside from the benefits of increasing retention and recruitment of foster families, putting a foster parent mentoring program in place can also create a larger, stronger circle of support around all of those touched by foster care in your community or county. If you'd like more information about starting a program like this, please contact us for help, resources, and support!