Businesses across the world have been bringing in motivational speakers for years in an effort to inspire and encourage their staff. Speakers, especially those with expertise, can often provide a much needed spark during stagnant times. It’s with this in mind that the foster care community has reached out to its experts – former foster parents and former foster children — to become foster care speakers and talk to those involved or interested in being involved in the foster care system.
The foster care community can seem pretty insular. For an outsider interested in becoming a foster parent, the world of fostering can seem both daunting and impenetrable.
That’s why foster care agencies, both national and statewide, have recruited former and current foster parents, as well as caseworkers, to work as foster care speakers that share their experiences and raise public awareness of the need for foster and adoptive families.
AdoptUSKids, a project of the US Children’s Bureau that provides tools and technical assistance to help child welfare systems connect children in foster care with families, has its own speaker bureau of 93 people all over the US, including Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.
According to their website, the “speakers bureau allows AdoptUSKids to promote positive stories and information on adoption and foster care and increase awareness and interest from a variety of audiences—including members of the media and potential foster and adoptive families.”
Meanwhile, other agencies such as Foster Care Alumni of America (FCAA), look to adults who were formerly in foster care to speak with the hope of transforming policy and practice. They believe that the unique perspective of having lived in foster care allows for insight that can help improve the foster care system.
The FCAA currently has 19 chapters across the US, including in California, Florida and Massachusetts.
In New Jersey, Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) offers the Resource Parent Speakers Bureau.
Through FAFS’ Resource Parent Speakers Bureau, speakers participate in various engagements throughout New Jersey to share their personal experiences as licensed resource parents in an effort to assist the Division of Child Protection & Permanency (DCP&P) in recruiting and retaining resource homes.
“What better way for newly licensed resource parents to learn about what it means to be a foster parent than from an actual foster parent,” FAFS Director of Support Services Tara Rizzolo said.
The Resource Parent Speakers Bureau, much like FAFS’ Heart to Heart Mentoring Program, is aimed at connecting foster, adoptive and kinship parents with one another as well as letting them know they are not alone in their journey.
For a new foster parent, the idea of caring for an abused child who is acting out in strange ways while juggling an angry biological parent and a demanding caseworker can seem like a unique and harrowing situation. However, having that parent listen to a speaker who has been through it and is willing to share her successes and failures will help instill confidence and provide motivation to keep going.
If you’re a resource parent in NJ interested in becoming a speaker, please click here.
To learn more about foster parent speaker programs in your area, please contact your local child welfare agency.