Q&A with Ana Jose, Recruitment Specialist, Refugee Foster Care, Bethany Christian Services of Michigan, Grand Rapids
Continued from last week’s post.
*Bethany Christian Services has been providing refugee services since 1976. We have a particular need for foster families for refugee youth in Michigan and Pennsylvania.*
4. Is the training to be a refugee foster parent the same as domestic foster care training?
The baseline training is the same except we provide additional, in-depth trauma training. We begin with two hours of orientation followed by 30 hours of training over five weeks.
I often ask a youth in care to come to the orientation to tell their story. I can provide information about the program and how beneficial it is, but there’s nothing like hearing it firsthand. Hearing these stories puts all the information in context and helps people see the difference refugee foster parents can make in a young person’s life.
5. What is the first step to become a refugee foster parent?
We hold an orientation each month. But even before those take place, I will pick up the phone and talk to someone who is thinking about becoming a refugee foster parent. I want to make sure they have an opportunity to ask questions and decide if this is for them before they commit to come to an orientation.
The orientation meeting provides more details, and there’s a licensor at each meeting who can answer more specific questions.
6. What’s one common question prospective foster parents ask?
People often ask about religion—are the youth Christian, Muslim, or another religion. We do serve youth from predominantly Muslim countries, so we do have a lot of youth who are Muslim. Foster parents must give these youth the opportunity to exercise their religious beliefs, which could include a special diet and taking them to religious services. I know it can be a challenge to encourage someone to observe another religion in your home. That’s why we give foster parents all the information we have so they can make the decision that is right for them.
7. What motivates someone to become a refugee foster parent?
There’s been a lot in the news over the last few years about refugees, particularly children who are fleeing war and violence. I think people want to do something tangible to make a difference. They want to stretch themselves beyond their usual comfort level and do something different.
If you can set aside your fears and feelings and embrace the opportunity to learn from one another, you can make a change, meet a need, and make a difference in a young person’s life.
8. What are core qualities a refugee foster parent should have?
You need to have thick skin. You’ll be dealing with teens, trauma, and cultural differences. You’ll need to be patient and understanding to help the teens adjust unrealistic expectations of “life in America.”
9. What support does Bethany provide for refugee foster parents?
You’ll have a team of support made up of therapists, counselors, the licensor, the case manager, and foster care supervisors. We want every placement to be successful for both the family and the youth. We’ll work together to give you the support you need.
Families come to Bethany hoping to adopt a child for many reasons. We work closely with these families to identify their strengths and the child they are most able to parent and we help place children of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds in the safety of a loving home.