Thursday, June 18, 2009

Local resources prevent foster parents from losing minds, wallets

Note: This column appears in the 6/18 issue of The Glendale Star and the 6/19 issue of the Peoria Times

Every day, it seems, we are discovering more and more about foster care. I have been amazed by the resources available to us.

No matter how many training classes you have taken, and no matter how prepared you think you are to be a foster parent, the fact of the matter is that one day a child –- or maybe two –- will arrive at your door, and then you will be left wondering what the heck you are supposed to do. By the time you are giving one child a breathing treatment while the other child is pooping in her pull-up in the corner and the dog is barking and the phone is ringing, it becomes that much more difficult to find the clarity to hearken back to your training days for guidance.

You feel like you’re on an island sometimes. And you’re always three seconds away from sending out a smoke signal.

But you do settle in. For us, it’s been during this settling in process that we have –- mainly through the invaluable help of our foster parent friends –- discovered how much support we really do have. Like, right here.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how we took our foster daughter back east to NJ with us. Not only did we want her to experience the thrill of a plane ride and the chance to meet new people and to see the ocean, but we also did not want to leave her behind in yet another unfamiliar environment. But we weren’t quite sure if we could afford the airfare.

It was then that our friend told us about Arizona Friends of Foster Children, a non-profit organization that helps fund activities to enrich the lives of the 10,000 foster children right here in Arizona. I reached out to them –- they have an office right here in Glendale -– and, after filing the necessary paperwork, they paid for our foster daughter’s trip. All they asked for in return was a “thank you” letter from her, and for us to spread the word about what they do. We were happy to oblige.

Besides physically and emotionally, being a foster parent is often financially exhausting. Of course, this is true of all parents, but never being parents ourselves, we needed everything to get going. Combine that with the cost of daycare, the gas and mileage for family visits, and important items like scrapbooks, and things were getting scary.

Little did we know that all foster children in Arizona are eligible for WIC services. WIC –- Women, Infants & Children –- is a federally funded program that provides residents with nutritious foods, education, and referrals. They too have offices right here in Glendale, and after one meeting with Gracie over at the Thunderbird Road office, we had formula, milk and juice for the next six months.

It amazes me sometimes that we live in a country not only where a thing like foster care exists, but where it thrives, thanks to the government programs, non-profit organizations, and generous donations of so many private citizens.

So yeah, sometimes, as a foster parent, it does feel like you’re on an island. But when you take the time to look around, you realize -– it’s a big island, and the locals are pretty darn helpful.

To donate or to find out more about Arizona Friend of Foster Children Foundation, visit www.affcf.org; to learn more about WIC visit http://www.azwic.gov/

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