My Fostering Village includes my
By Judy Hollywood Bonnett
Foster parents have backgrounds and experiences as varied as the children and families they serve. As a skilled foster parent, you embody the best in child-centred parenting and personal self-care. You are capable, competent, and collaborative. You’ve taken on a staggering task and prepared yourself to thrive by knowing, as the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. In this article we explore building your fostering village and the benefits of joining forces with your Foster Parent Support Service Society (FPSS) coordinator.
Building an effective fostering village will improve the in-care experience for all its members. At its heart, are vulnerable young people from challenging situations who come into the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) or Delegated Aboriginal Agency. With your guidance, over time, they will learn to look to you for comfort and stability. You support them and then lean on your village of expertise and experience for support. The fostering village is a unique place bordered by privacy and confidentiality agreements. It exists within limited timelines as determined by courts or MCFD placement decisions. You rebuild your village with each subsequent placement, saying goodbye to some past members and welcoming new.
In your thriving fostering village, you’ve welcomed the child, their family, their significant friends, communities and, often, their distinct cultural heritage. You make room for child/youth educational, support and/or justice professionals. MCFD workers join to deliver guardianship and legislative direction and oversight to your fostering efforts.
You’ve also invited your personal support team into your village. This includes your own family, MCFD Resource worker, respite service providers, and trusted fostering peers. Included on your support team are foster parent support workers from community agencies – known as Behavioural Consultants, Resource Enhancement Counsellors or Foster Support Workers. These parenting and behavioural specialists assist you to stabilize those in your care and hopefully, to thrive within the home you’ve erected in your foster care village.
Key among the personal support workers in your village is your local Foster Parent Support Service Society coordinator. Often an experienced foster parent herself, she is a concerned and knowledgeable professional who brings a toolkit for your personal support and individual information. She guarantees the confidentiality of your voluntary access to her coordinator services.
Your Foster Parent Support Service coordinator works alongside you. Among her tools is the provision of information on a wide variety of topics from child welfare legislation to managing lice and from first placement to FASD training. At your request, she locates current resource material or Ministry publications to assist you in your caregiving role. With your FPSS Coordinator’s support, you can identify MCFD policies, procedures or practices, and then contact your Resource worker for placement-specific clarification.
Another tool in her kit is a familiarity with your local fostering community. Speak to your FPSS coordinator when you wish to expand your fostering peer contacts. If you are new to fostering, your coordinator can match you with an experienced foster parent mentor. Strong peer relationships can become an essential element in your personal self-care and foster home preservation. She invites you to rejuvenate and connect with peer foster parents at support coffee meetings and fun foster family activities arranged in conjunction with your network of fostering partners.
At the community level, your FPSS coordinator collaborates with your local foster networks or associations, MCFD Resource workers and other foster support agencies to provide the workshops and presentations that are in demand in your community. These fostering skill development opportunities are paramount as you face increasingly complex fostering placements. In short, your local FPSS Coordinator will be a crucial source of information, support and connections for you and your fostering village.
Developing and managing your fostering village can be tough work. Initially it may require determination and time to build these relationships. Remember, you are not alone in this task. A conversation with your local FPSS Coordinator reduces the hazards of fostering in isolation and provides you with a certainty that developing your fostering village benefits you and those in your care.
You can contact your FPSS Coordinator in one of seven Vancouver Island communities from Victoria to Port Hardy. TOLL FREE 1-888-922-8437 Monday through Thursday 9:00am to 4:00pm, Friday 9:00am to 1:00pm Closed Weekends and Statutory Holidays. The FPSS Society Coordinators are available 5 days a week to assist you.
Your coordinator is available to assist foster parents in obtaining current information; support services for caregivers; ongoing training and development opportunities; peer support and mentoring; and BC Foster Care Education Program information.
Coordinators provide support services to foster parents through the organization, scheduling and facilitation of Peer Support Groups; offering foster parents an avenue for personal, individual support by making referral recommendations and suggestions; providing foster parents with necessary Ministry publications to assist them in their role as caregivers; to introduce them to experienced foster parents as mentors; to assist them in locating relevant resource material; and to ensure they are aware of Ministry, council and community support services available to them.
Through caregiver contact at meetings, social events and workshop evaluations, the Coordinator identifies areas of concern, topics foster parents want more training on, and policies or procedures which are unclear. In consultation with the other FPSSS staff members and the Strategic Planning Committee, the Coordinator organizes and facilitates workshops and forums to address the needs of foster parents in each area.
Contact a Coordinator in Your Area
South Island Area Coordinator
South Island Safe Babies Coordinator
Regional Office: 145-735 Goldstream Avenue,
Victoria, BC V9Z 0Y5
Tel: 778-430-5459 / Fax: 778-430-5463
Mary Catherine Williams
Upper Island Safe Babies Coordinator
You can reach the Regional Office for support toll free at
Monday to Thursday, 8:30am to 4:00pm
Fridays, 8:30am to 1:00pm
I Use The F Word
By Janet Christie
Yup, I use the F word.
The word holds different meanings to people based on experience, and if you have parented (and then grand parented) then your definition of family has likely evolved. I know mine certainly has.
My case in point…
When I was eighteen, I got married one month after graduating from high school (admittedly, not one of my finer moments, proving my mother right–I told you so). Shortly after, I had a baby. To make a long story short, that family didn’t last long. My marriage ended when my son was nine months old. We left with a suitcase and playpen and thus began our journey as a single parent family.
Mine is an example of a story come full circle.
Mine is an example of a story come full circle. As a young, single mom, I was heavily addicted to alcohol. By todays standards and scrutiny, my son may have been removed from my care. I don’t say that proudly, obviously, but I do speak up because I believe these stories need to be told. My mentor reminds me that my story is my greatest asset. I’m grateful that didn’t happen, and since that time, I became a foster parent, hence the ‘full circle’.
My son was 12 years old when I got sober in a twelve-step program (the one listed really, really, close to the front of the telephone book). As history has a habit of repeating itself, my son blessed me with a granddaughter when he was twenty years old. Surprise!! He was also heavily addicted, and believe me, it did not feel like a blessing at the time.
When my granddaughter was five years old, she was apprehended by Children’s Services in Alberta. I got “the call” and that’s how I became a GRG (Grandparent Raising Grandchildren), and my entry point into the foster care system as a caregiver. That was thirteen years ago.
Since then, I have fostered teen girls. Seems like that “bad behaviour” came in useful after all, relating to them. My last foster daughter made me a foster grandmother. We all continue to make more history and stories together, each in our own families, in our own way, each significant event marking a new chapter in our lives.
Everyone is growing up.
That is the one constant with children.
Over the years, I’ve also noticed similarities amongst parents, regardless of “type.”
These are some things I see bringing our lives together, connecting us.
3 things ALL parents have in common
- Being a parent is a continual process of letting go. No matter whether you are a foster, adoptive or biological parent, we are continually, forever and always, learning to let go of our children, at each age, stage and transition in their lives. That takes grit.
- Kids are our teachers. Without my son I wouldn’t have learnt about unconditional love. Without my granddaughter, I would have never felt the tug new moms not tormented by addiction feel when they hold their baby for the first time. Had I not been a foster parent, I would have never experienced being able to give back and then receiving so much more in return. The love is the same but different, if you know what I mean.
- We ALL need support and connection. Nothing has been more impactful in my life than being told by a peer, “I know exactly how you feel,” and, “It’s going to be ok.” Honestly, I would be dead without it. This is powerful stuff.
The last point (not the dead part) is especially true. As it pertains to foster parenting, the longer I fostered, the more evident this became. Today, the point is driven home every day in the work I do with foster parents. Makes sense. Foster parenting is more serious, has more implications, and is more complicated than biological or familial parenting. Foster parents are contractually obligated to provide the highest level of service possible to the most vulnerable children and youth in our society, all this while working within an extremely complex and changing system. I would NEVER have been able to advance as a caregiver and navigate this on my own without other foster parent mentors.
Yup, I use the F word.
From one Foster Parent to another, we all walk this path. Why do it alone?
If you are a foster parent on Vancouver Island and would like to learn more about having a foster parent mentor, please visit our Peer Mentor Page.
If you are a foster parent on Vancouver Island, and wish to give back to the fostering community as a volunteer mentor, you can learn more about the FPSS Society Foster Parent Mentoring program on our mentor page.
Quick Facts about Peer Mentoring:
- Peer support mentoring programs are growing around the world for any type of employment, cause, illness, etc. that you can think of. Peer support has been identified by the Mental Health Commission of Canada as “Best Practice” in the provision of comprehensive mental health care. The Canadian Mental Health Association defines peer support as “the pillar of self-help.”
- Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935, was recognized as one of the top most influential people of the 20th century by Time Magazine in 1999. At that time, AA had already helped, and continues to help, millions of people. AA is completely self-supporting and built entirely on peer support.
- FPSS Society Foster Parent Mentoring program is the ONLY foster parent mentoring program in British Columbia, and one of three in Canada.
Please feel free to add to my list of things all parents have in common in the comments section below.