Resource parents (also known as foster/adoptive parents) are the amazing individuals who partner with agencies like Koinonia to provide care for youth in need of a home. One of our resource dads, Ryan Stockton, sat down with us and was gracious enough to answer a few questions that speak to the ups and downs of being a resource parent.
What advice would you give to other resource parents and birth parents?
My advice to resource parents would be to have a compassionate heart towards the birth family, try to put yourself in their shoes, and learn what they have to do to get their kids back. Even though we may know some of the reasons the kids were removed, we don’t know all the circumstances around it. Approach those interactions with love and grace, pray for them and their circumstances. Try to discern with the agency’s help if you could support them in any way.
My advice to the birth family is to be patient with foster families, as most of them want the best for the kids, and are trying to figure things out too. Give them a chance and try to get to know them; you may be surprised to find a great life-long relationship.
How has your role and understanding of being a father changed or evolved since being a resource parent?
As a resource parent, I was blessed to care for four amazing little boys before they reunified with their birth families. In each of these placements, I was challenged and blessed to have my heart and mind changed in ways I could not have imagined. As each child came and went, I learned that loss is not always bad and grief can teach. The growth in these losses allowed for me to empathize with the birth parents and relate to what they must be experiencing. I now have a heart not just for the children in these sad situations, but all that are involved. I know at this time we are not ready to take in more kids, but there are ways that we can love and support others that are working through similar situations. We can still come alongside foster parents, foster youth, or a young parent who is doing their best to find a way to provide for their children.
I see fostering as more than just opening my home to a child; it’s also an invitation to be part of a community. We continue to have many great opportunities to love, encourage and support people that we have met through fostering. Now they are part of our family, and we sincerely love them deeply. We know this is not always the case, but we are glad we took this risk, and they gave us a chance.
All our experiences (the good, the sad, the painful and the funny ones) have better prepared me to be a loving and compassionate dad to my two beautiful children that I was eventually blessed to adopt.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a resource parent and current resource parents?
- Fostering is a bumpy, messy and often painful process, but it is also so beautiful and life giving.
- It is a great opportunity to show genuine selfless love and be surprised with the joy it brings.
- Read about the foster system, and if you are a person of faith pray diligently.
- Befriend other resource parents, and make them part of your inner circle.
- Identify who will be your initial support system, and if possible bring them along to some informative meetings. Your support system will hopefully grow as you interact with other families within your agency. Trust me, you will need them!
- Be mindful that you will need time just for you (and your spouse) to relax, to process what is going on with your placement, to be refreshed and energized to continue the journey.
- Take breaks if needed between placements.
- Honestly, you may never feel you are fully and completely ready. Take risks, be open minded and pursue an open heart. Even in the midst of uncertainty there is so much to enjoy and love to extend.
- Be vulnerable, take courage and reach out when you feel overwhelmed; we are in this together.