As we have interacted with foster and adoptive parents through the years, there is one theme that comes through loud and clear – Help! Because of our own experiences, we know that even though there are what we call “Disney World adoptions”, many of us struggle in our journey of parenting children who have faced separation, rejection, neglect, and/or abuse. In the past year, we have asked many families what would be most helpful and the overwhelming response has been the need for support, relevant trainings, and a place to find encouragement and families with similar experiences. We heard you and have organized relevant trainings over a variety of topics.

Trainings are held in Mechanicsburg, PA and are open to any foster, kinship, and adoptive parents. These free sessions will each be taught by experts and professionals; those right in the midst of adoption and foster care. Sessions are held on Saturday mornings, 9:00 – 11:00AM at Mechanicsburg Brethren in Christ Church (1050 S. York St., Mechanicsburg, PA 17055) with snacks, a speaker, Q and A, and time set aside to connect, encourage, and support each other around tables. Certificates will be given at the end of each session for foster parents who wish to submit these hours for their mandatory training. Please check with your agency to see if these topics/hours will qualify.

Please spread the word; tell your caseworker(s) and fellow adoptive/foster parents. We encourage you to bring close family and friends who would benefit from a better understanding of the needs within your family, and of your children from hard places in particular. Each session will end with time for support and encouragement in small groups. Again, your guests will benefit from hearing stories of others in similar circumstances. We have found that for single parents, it is especially helpful to have at least 1 or 2 people who can walk this journey with you so invite your family and friends to join you.

Below is our 2017 schedule.  Please check back for updates and descriptions in the future.

January 21 – “The Other Voices of Foster Care”, Speaker: Regina Fike, Addressing the challenges of biological children in fostering and adoptive families. Identifying issues of sibling rivalry, separation and loss, family dynamics and other issues from the perspective of our biological children. Strategies for mitigating challenges and including all family members in the work of fostering and adoption.

February 25 – “Transracial Adoption”, Speaker: Rachel Thiessen, Rachel is a transracial adoptee and a transracial adoptive parent. With her unique perspective on multiracial families she will lead a conversation about race in adoption and foster care. Bring your stories and questions and be ready to learn from Rachel and each other.

March 25 – “The Trauma of Foster Care: Identifying, Supporting, and Managing Sensory Needs of Children with Disrupted Attachment”, Speaker: Nikki Toler

April 29 – “Birth Families: Boundaries and Blessings”, Speakers: Ric and Jennifer Jacobs, Ric and Jen come with experience in both foster care and adoption. They will share their journey of navigating the sometimes difficult path of connections with, and compassion for, the birth families of their children. While finding appropriate boundaries in these relationships can feel like a moving target, the Jacobs family has also found that there can be blessing in honoring their children’s first families. And even for those who have no contact or communication with birth families, it is important that we learn to always honor birth families in our speech and actions. Time will be given for each participant to think through their own situation(s) and how they might better set boundaries and honor birth families.

June 10 – “In Our Words”, Speakers: Panel of Adopted Adults, Panel members, who come from a variety of experiences, will share their stories growing up in foster care and/or being adopted. Come with your questions for each of them as well!

September 23 – “Living in the RADish Patch: From Surviving to Thriving”, Speaker: Regina Fike, For those of us who attended Regina’s session in January, we can tell you that you are in for a treat. Regina speaks from her family’s experience and is always encouraging in her message. If you love a child with a diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder, you know that life in the RADish Patch can be exhausting. Participants will find hope as we redefine the way we think about parenting a RADish. Regina will share strategies that will help you move from merely surviving, to thriving life here in the “patch”.

October 21 – “The Home-School Connection”, Speaker: Melinda Burchard, Melinda is an adoptive parent and Associate Professor of Special Education at Messiah College. Her teaching and research expertise includes developing confidence of teachers, learning strategies for struggling learners, and behavior interventions. Melinda and her husband Jon have four children, two grandchildren, and a third grandchild on the way. She will share a bit of her own adoption story and will also present about the home-school connection specifically for parents of children who are fostered or adopted, focusing on aspects of that connection with an emphasis on your rights.

November 18 – “Compassion Fatigue”, Speaker: Toni Shearer