One of the mandatory things everyone who wants to adopt or foster in Florida has to do is attend MAPP (Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting) classes. Ours were weekly, 3 hours long, and lasted 10 weeks, so you do the math. It’s a lot of training.
What was interesting about our class, which happened to be unusually large, was that we were almost the youngest couple there. I’d say that the average age was around the upper 30s with a fair share of middle-aged parents. The vast majority of them had kids already or had adopted already. Many were there because of the church’s ministry to fostering as a way of helping as many children as possible – as the most helpless members of society.
We fell in love with that mission after the first meeting and switched from wanting to selfishly adopt to selflessly foster. That decision immediately altered how to soaked up the information and made for quite a few good dinner discussions as we went over our homework and thought about various scenarios that people should never, ever have to think about. It breaks your heart to just consider some of the topics as remotely possible in our country, let alone our county.
Some of the topics covered are:
- gains and losses (entering and leaving the foster care environment)
- helping children manage their behavior (2 sessions)
- understanding the impact of fostering
One thing we heard repeatedly from parents taking the class or guest speakers who have been through the process was that they wish they’d taken a class like this before they had their biological kids. That made me feel better about entering into the process where we might not be starting out with a newborn that sleeps most of the day. The spectrum of kids in the system is as wide as they come, but I think the class did as good of a job as possible in a non-hands-on environment to prepare us mentally and emotionally for what is to come.
Reboot my brain
One of the biggest mental adjustments for me, personally, was coming up with non-corporal punishment techniques… even more, positive techniques rather than negative methods. Their research and support was thorough, and quite obvious, as most of them will have either been neglected and/or physically/mentally/sexually (or all of the above) abused by their protectors in life: their parents. They have had all of the negativity they need in a lifetime by the time they come to us. It’s a time to be built up and repaired. If they do something negative, it’s up to us to avoid any methods of coercion and punishment.
This blew my mind for the entire first session on behavior until I got through the material. Then it made sense. I was sitting there wondering how you get through to a kid who is wrecking your house or calling you every name a sailor ever conceived of without punishment. At least this is new to me, so I’m a blank slate except for my childhood experiences. Examples of positive discipline:
- reinforcing acceptable behavior
- verbal disapproval of the behavior, not the child
- loss of privileges
- grounding (never lock them in a room and isolation is only for short periods when out of control)
- redirecting activity (when playing with a sharp object, replace it with a safe toy)
I’m going to have to learn this proactive parenting as we go, and it’s a bit overwhelming, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it molds me as a parent rather than going on gut instincts.
Have you taken MAPP or something like it?
I’d assume requirements vary by state. What did you have to take to foster or adopt? Was it helpful when it came down to putting things into practice? Would you recommend any other resources?