Providing Support for Adoptive and Foster Families
By Grace Allen
It takes a great leap of faith to decide to adopt or foster a child. And while each family’s situation is different, they all share one thing in common: a need for support. That’s where a local group comes in.
The Friends of Adoption and Foster Care (FAFC) was started in 2018 by two Wrentham residents. Jane Williams, one of the group’s founding members, said adoptive and foster families face many challenges, and support groups can provide ways to share information and resources, as well as opportunities for socialization and learning from other parents who have experienced the same issues.
“This group is so helpful for adoptive and foster parents because you often feel you’re all alone in the struggle,” said Williams, who is an adoptive parent herself. “These children can have difficult behaviors because of past traumas and they don’t always adjust well.”
In addition to providing peer and family support, the FAFC group has also held backpack drives to help children in the foster care system. Backpacks filled with essentials—such as pajamas, toiletries, school supplies, and stuffed animals—are collected and donated to the Arlington office of the Department of Children and Families (DCF). From there, the backpacks are distributed by social workers to children who are being removed from their homes to be taken to a safe place.
“These children are living through the worst day of their life and feel like no one cares about them,” said Williams. “The social workers tell us that even the teens, when you give them a backpack, their faces light up. It makes the day a little bit easier for them. It really is a huge comfort for these kids.”
KP Cares, a community service group at King Philip Regional High School, recently donated 27 filled backpacks to the latest FAFC backpack drive. The high school group also collected and donated extra boxes of school supplies, toiletries, and stuffed animals to FAFC for later distribution.
Williams says FAFC has worked with social workers from DCF to help support families struggling to keep their own children at home. The group has collected gift cards, diapers, baby formula, and other necessary items for these families, as well as for families who suffer a financial burden when they open their homes to foster children.
While foster care is intended to be a short-term solution, with the ultimate goal of reuniting a child with his or her birth parents, the need for foster parents is acute. And yet nearly half of foster parents quit in their first year of fostering due to lack of support or feeling ill-equipped to deal with the challenges.
Adoption too can be fraught with issues, even with infants, who can suffer from reactive attachment disorder as much as older children. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that between 1 and 5 percent of adoptions end up being legally dissolved. Children put up for re-adoption will have their lives deeply disrupted, and the effects can last a lifetime.
Williams says it takes more than a big heart to open your home to an adoptive or foster child. It’s important to be flexible and understand that children and teens express complex emotions and experiences through behaviors that might not make sense in the moment.
“I think you must be very open to learn, and you must be able to bounce back and not take things personally,” she said. “These kids can have a lot of problems, and they know how to push your buttons. They’ve been through a lot. They were pulled out of their homes for a reason, whether it’s neglect or abuse. Every adoption or foster care situation begins with a tragedy.”
She added, “A foster or adoptive parent can read 1,000 books, but you won’t really learn until you go through it. And you have to be willing to accept help and support from others who will listen to you without judgement.”
The Friends of Adoption and Foster Care group meets twice a month. New families and volunteers meet on the first Wednesday of the month from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Teen Room of the rectory at St. Mary Catholic Church, 130 South Street in Wrentham. Current families meet on the third Wednesday of the month at 5:30 p.m., either at a member’s home or in the Teen Room for a pizza or potluck supper. There are games available for the children.
While the church provides the meeting space, the group itself is not faith based. A Zoom option is available for the meetings.
People can still support the foster care community, even if they are unable to foster a child, noted Williams. Volunteers are needed to help with outreach, backpack and diaper drives, and activities for families. Donations for the drives can be dropped off at the bin in the rear of St. Mary’s parking lot. Gift cards can be dropped off at the rectory.
For more information about FAFC or to come to a meeting, contact Williams at [email protected] FAFC is open to adoptive and foster parents from any community.