All For Family recently held our first annual Foster Parent Training Extravaganza the weekend of August 20th - August 22nd at Pinecrest Camp & Conference in Fredericktown, MO. The photo here is of one of our groups during our Foster Parent Cafe' we had at the end of our training day, Saturday, August 21st.
During the Foster Parent Cafe', foster parents were able to talk about current struggles they were facing in their homes, and other foster parents were able to offer suggestions, feedback, and resource information. During Covid, and with so few in-person training events being offered, foster families were beginning to feel isolated in their journey. Many foster parents at our event told us that they already had a lot of the training hours they needed, but came so they could learn from and be around other foster parents & families. We also heard foster parents say that it helped them to realize they were not alone in their struggles, and that other families were having similar issues. It was greatly expressed how many wanted a local foster parent support group.
Also during our event, we had several training classes available for foster parents. Foster Parents are required to complete 30 hours of training every 2 years to maintain their license, which can be challenging when also trying to care for children with special needs, planning around school and work schedules, and limited child care options. During our event, foster parents were able to complete required CPR/First Aid/AED training (6 hours - Thank you Kathy Haddock), Ready, Set, Fly, if they still needed it (5 hours - Thank you Kathy Haddock), Emotional Regulation (1 hour - Thank you Erin Lakebrink), Foster Parent Organization (1 hour - Thank you Pamela Coombs), Foster Parent and Foster Child Grief & Loss (1 hour - Thank you Kathy Haddock), Foster Parent Self-Care & Marriage (1 hour - Thank you Nicole Batten), Building Healthy Relationships with Bio Family (1 hour - Thank you Nicole Batten), Education Advocacy (1.5 hours - presented by Angel Williams), Understanding Grief & Loss From a Foster Youth's Perspective (1 hour - presented by Angel Williams), and the above mentioned Foster Parent Cafe' was also for one hour. So, as you can see, foster parents had the opportunity to complete several hours of training in one weekend while their children were being care for by approved volunteers on the campground premises.
Since our event included lodging and meals, foster families were also able to get in some valuable family bonding time that included hiking, swimming in either the outdoor or indoor pool, boating and fishing. We also can't forget to mention S'mores that we enjoyed Saturday evening. While foster parents were in training, children were able to play with toys, do bubbles, outdoor water play, play on a playground, ride bikes or scooters, play basketball, take a nature walk, do play-dough, crafts, and other games.
We took many great pictures during our event, but, due to confidentiality, we are not able to share them. When I asked one girl in the swimming pool what her favorite part of the event was, she quickly responded "making new friends". Quite a few children and foster parents were coming up to us asking about doing this again next year, and they seemed to really enjoy the experience. My own foster son made a new friend as well, and he cried when his friend went home.
This event was made possible by our volunteer trainers, volunteer helpers, and our gracious host - Pinecrest Camp & Conference Center, who were amazingly helpful during our stay and gave us great discounts for lodging and meals. The meals they prepared for our families were delicious and more than adequate.
This event was also made possible by a grant we received from Jefferson Foundation, a $1,500 donation that was earmarked for this event, $200 we received from Hillsboro Lion's Club, donated items from the Jefferson County Foster Children's Fund, and donated food from Victory Church Food Pantry in Hillsboro (All For Family provided breakfast and lunch on Friday, August 20th). Thanks to all of this generosity and support, All For Family was able to sponsor 80 foster parents & children, as well as our volunteer helpers, at 100% for lodging and meals with exception of a $20 deposit per family. We were prepared to sponsor even more families, but we had a few cancel due to illness and other emergency reasons. This support helped our families be able to participate in our event without financial hardship, for which we are extremely and forever grateful.
We are very much hopeful to have this event next year, which we think will be even better now that we have worked through the first year kinks and organization. We are also hopeful the campground will give us a weekend that is not the weekend before school starts, which kept some families away.
All in all, we are very pleased with how the event turned out. A lot of work went into this, and, sadly, I am still worn out, but I would do it again in a heart beat. I know we will definitely need even more helping hands next year, so we hope anyone reading this will consider helping with this for next year &/or making a donation so another event will be possible.
One person can make a difference! Let Change Begin With You!