Finding the right team of counseling services has supported our foster care journey in more ways than we imagined.
I started exploring the idea of finding a counselor in my early 20s. I attended a couple sessions with different therapists over the course of several years. It wasn’t until 2019 that I committed to consistent help. I have many things I’ve worked on since then, but this season of fostering and parenthood makes me extra grateful I have a counselor that I’ve got history with. She is there to walk me through the heavy and helps me process the weight that comes with being a foster parent.
Counseling for the Kids
Our two older kiddos also have their own counselor and this is pretty standard for kids in foster care. They are at the age where either my husband or I come with them and sit in the session. This has helped them become more comfortable during their appointments and also allows us to provide context and direct some of the time to focus on behaviors or feelings they may not be mature enough to bring up on their own but are capable of processing with trusted adults.
The arrangement that has worked best is that I’ll send their counselor a text prior to their appointment with any updates in their case, difficult behaviors, and any other important factors that may be relevant. Then either my husband or I will take them to the appointment and allow their counselor to direct the time based on those updates. Sometimes the time looks like our kid playing or drawing while the adults talk. Other times there are a lot of intentional questions and activities to engage our kiddo. Our two kids have their own appointments but both work with the same counselor. We’ve found this helpful as their counselor has a great picture of their relationship to each other and overall family dynamics.
I have found that having this two sided approach to my own counseling has been very healthy. When I am with my counselor, the goal with that time is personal growth and introspection. However, I can often feel like my time with the kids’ counselor is also another session for me. We often talk about how to handle behaviors and the deeper meaning behind some of their actions. This can lead to deeper conversations of why I might be triggered by certain things they’re doing or my heart behind why I’m struggling with one child more than another.
These sessions have been mutually beneficial for the kids and for myself. While it is their session, as the adult providing their care I often walk away with more on how to love and support them. Typically, it comes back to my expectations on what they are capable of processing. Many of the things we’re dealing with now are things that are best addressed by structuring their environment and parenting them in a way that supports their development. One day they will be capable of processing all they’ve been through on a deeper level, but for now it’s my job to educate myself on how best to encourage their innocence and support them in their growth. The appointments with my counselor help me take those things I learned from the kids’ sessions and implement them in a way that considers my capacity and personality.
Find Your Team
This dynamic of support has worked very well for me and our family. My husband also has his own counselor that he sees. That provides us this triad of support that offer different perspectives to support our own mental health as well as the kids’. My advice to anyone starting a foster journey is to find your team. I’m so thankful I was already established with my counselor prior to our first placement. I was able to process with her as we prepared and work through my anxieties and fears. Then, we jumped in with our first placement. She helped filter my emotions and feelings to become a better mom.
Finding a great counselor for the kids was an added gift and I’m thankful we started right away. Their first sessions occurred early in their placement with us. Now, a year later, they have a great relationship as they continue to grow and face new triggers and challenges. Wherever you are in your journey, finding your team early will give you the support you need to face the unknowns that lie ahead.