The concept of foster parents as “alloparents” became a connecting thread at Utah Foster Care’s (UFC’s) Symposium “Gathering Wisdom for the Healing Journey.”
With the vibrant autumn leaves of Park City as a backdrop, keynote speaker Michaeleen Doucleff, PhD and NPR correspondent, kicked off the annual gathering of foster families and child welfare professionals with a presentation of her book “Hunt, Gather, Parent.” This behind-the-scenes look at her journey exploring parenting and village cultures around the world taught us a few things…
- “Alloparenting” is practiced when parents utilize the help and support of other community members, other than mother and father, to help raise a child. It allows children to see the world as safe and kind.
- The importance of being calm. Remaining calm and waiting for the child to calm down, that is when you can teach a child and they are teachable.
- Children crave to be in the adult world. Include them in your world. Let them contribute and support. Allowing them to do so grows autonomy and resilience.
First Lady Abby Cox was presented with UFC’s Fostering Community Award for her work in shining the spotlight on foster families through her “Show Up” initiative. She says Utah families who foster in every corner of the state are the real heroes.
“You can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to show up,” says Cox. “Utah is lucky to have such great foster families who show up and help all Utah children to feel safe.”
Vanessa and Joseph Knickerbocker, foster parents from Tooele, shared their powerful experience fostering and helping reunify two brothers with their mom and dad. The Knickerbocker kids also shared their perspectives about the “hardest” and “best” parts of being foster siblings.
Both families appeared on stage together, as a valuable example that when you foster children, you have a chance to foster healing and connection for an entire family. The experience was an emotional one for both families, including the mother who was able to reunify with her children.
“I finally believed in myself because someone finally believed in me. This gave me the confidence to heal and be the mom my children needed.” said Megan Carter. “The Knickerbocker family became my role model and is now part of our extended family.”
In the afternoon we gathered wisdom from experienced foster parents about communication with professionals, integration, managing expectations, holding/managing our grief, cultural humility, and resilience. A day of learning, vulnerable conversation, and shared wisdom has sent us all into the end of the year and into the next with a renewed drive and passion for healing, showing up for foster care, and the importance of family and connection.
Thanks to all who joined us! We look forward to seeing you at next year’s Symposium!