Kris’ Corner: In Person Support Groups

by Andra Martinez

To continue our series on supports while fostering, I’d like to take some time today and talk about in-person support groups.

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, they are often virtual. But they still differ from online support groups in that you actually can see and talk to people. You can get to know them, hear their stories, listen to their advice and decide if you want to take it or leave it.

To be sure, there are many of these available. But it’s often a matter of finding one that fits your needs, wants, likes and dislikes.

Sometimes these groups are offered through churches; sometimes they are through DCS, agencies or other organizations; and sometimes it’s simply a bunch of foster parents who found one another and started their own support group.

Additionally, support groups vary in their structure. They may have a set topic schedule and/or an agenda for each meeting, or maybe they have some sort of book study. Others groups might have speakers come in, and this could translate into training hours for your re-license.

Some groups offer childcare, which can be helpful, especially for single foster parents; sometimes finding a sitter can be a challenge for all of us.

Other times, the meetings are a free-for-all of sorts…meaning that whoever shows up, shows up, and you discuss whatever is on people’s heart at that moment.

So I’ll be honest…the group I am a part of rolls like that. As much as I love structure and routine, I have to admit there is comfort in knowing that these ladies are there for me, no matter what I want to talk about AND I don’t feel pressured to only discuss the topic on the evening’s agenda. We have no agenda, no set topic and no childcare. We come to share with each other, support each other, advise each other and sometimes cry with each other.  And even though we have no childcare, we have all taken our turns at passing around the little foster loves who sometimes attend the meetings.

What I love the most about the in-person groups, at least in my experience, is that you actually can see and talk to people. You get to know them at a core, basic level, which may not happen with online groups. You can hear their stories, (hear their voices!), hear what makes them tick, and maybe learn about who they were prior to fostering (which is sometimes a different person!). Who we were before foster care shapes and molds who we are as foster parents, so it’s nice to know “who” someone was before.

Also, you can give them a hug if such a thing is needed (no worries…not everyone is a “hugger” so just because you’re in an in-person group does NOT mean you have to hug anyone…I’m saying it might come up though, so be prepared, especially if that’s not your jam).

In-person groups can help you let down your guard, let you tap into your underlying worries, concerns, needs and feel (and be) emotionally supported. Granted, that can also happen with online groups, but personally I feel that it is more difficult to connect and feel the safety to open up about “all the things.”

There is something to be said for sitting across the table and talking face to face…and handing over a tissue should the need arise.

However, an in-person group may not work best for you, your personality, or your schedule, and that is perfectly fine. It may not work for your lifestyle or your comfort level. That’s why there are other options available which may support you in the way you need.

Next up: online support groups.

Sincerely,

Kris