Antoine and Jeremiah Smith-Rouse

When one becomes a foster parent, certain training requirements have to be met. However, there is no such thing as too much training, or support, when it comes to being a foster parent, adoptive parent, relative or fictive kin caregiver.

That’s why programs like Adoption Support for Kentucky Virtual Interaction Program (ASK-VIP) are perfect for foster/adoptive parents. ASK-VIP is an award-winning program that has been serving foster and adoptive parents for nearly two decades through adept peer-led support groups and training initiatives. The program, which is housed at the College of Social Work’s Training Resource Center, utilizes seasoned facilitators and trainers who have lived experiences with fostering and adopting. 

Antoine and Jeremiah Smith-Rouse became ASK Parent Liaisons (APLs) sometime in 2018 after first being program participants. The Smith-Rouses first learned about the 20-year program from a flier and continued attending even after achieving their required training hours.

“If it were not for ASK, we would not still be fostering today. So, when the opportunity came to become APLs, we jumped on it,” they said. “We thought that it would be nice to have some diverse representation within the APL group so that foster parents can see themselves represented.”

Representation in the ASK-VIP groups is vital, which is why the Smith-Rouses work with specialized groups. The duo facilitates the LGBTQ+ Foster/Adoptive Parents and Medically Complex Foster/Adoptive Parents groups, where they let the members lead the direction of the conversation.

“Sometimes we do discuss typical (normal) foster parent concerns, but we do also discuss issues specific to us within the specialized group,” they said.

In the Medically Complex group, like most support groups, conversation is essential. The space allows a place to discuss resources and options. They sometimes have members present an issue where they were struggling to get something taken care of for months, but after being pointed in the right direction and connected to proper resources, they were able to resolve their problem.

According to the Smith-Rouses, the LGBTQ+ Specialized group has a tight-knit core group that has continued since the start of the pilot program.

“Within this group, we are always delighted to have new members and it is a safe space. Within this group, nothing is off-limits, and it is a 100% judge free zone. Within this group, laughter happens often, but in-depth help discussions also take place,” they said.

All support groups and training are important. However, the Smith-Rouses said the specialized groups are just as important because, “…sometimes it can feel as if you are going through this journey alone.”

The specialized groups are virtual and will remain so even after COVID 19. When the pandemic began to shutdown businesses and organizations, the coordinators of the ASK-VIP program worked diligently to transition the training and support groups to a virtual format. This was important because it allowed APLS to connect to individuals from across the state.

While each specialized group brings different things to the table, the connections and relationships that Antoine and Jeremiah build bring something completely different.

“As foster parents, we know how vital self-care and support are, but at times we put it on the back burner,” they said. “We enjoy being able to motivate and empower each other. We are problem solvers by nature and are thrilled to be able to help other foster parents across the state.”

The Smith-Rouses also said they love the connection between other APLs, creating lifelong family friends with the other APLs.

Because of this, both Antoine and Jeremiah whole-heartedly agree that those thinking about becoming APLs should take the leap.

“I have learned that not everything is as it seems, and we are all in this together,” Antoine said.

“It truly does take a village, and no matter where you are in your foster journey, more things make us the same than different.”

Posted in ASK

Q&A with ASK-VIP Liaison, Rachael Wall

Rachael Wall has been working as an Adoptive Parent Liaison (APL) for Adoption Support for Kentucky-Virtual Interaction Program (ASK-VIP) just over 2 years. Something Wall loves about ASK-VIP is that it always evolving to meet the changing needs of Kentucky’s Foster and Adoptive Families.

“Although we offer support and training to the parents, that service ultimately helps support that entire family, making ASK a vital program to families throughout the state,” Wall said.

Read her Q&A below to learn about her work as an APL and the difference she makes in the lives of her support and training groups.

Q. How did you hear about the ASK-VIP program, and what moved you to become a facilitator?

A. I learned about ASK as a new foster parent and participated in ASK meetings for years. The support and training I received were crucial to my success as a foster/adoptive parent.

Becoming a facilitator was an exciting opportunity and I am grateful to be able to continue to provide support and training for other parents comparable to what I had received for so many years. Foster and adoptive parents have a vital role and their success is a direct reflection of the success of Kentucky’s children.  

Q. Tell me about the work you do with the specialized group you facilitate – Single Parents Support Group – and why this group is important to you.

A. I believe ASK has hit the mark with specialized groups. After all, who else can understand the struggles and celebrate the successes better than someone who understands it personally. These specialized groups are wonderful resources available and provide support based on similarities of families and individuals.

Facilitating our Single Parent Support Group is something I look forward to each month. As a single mother of 4 children, I know firsthand some of the challenges and demands that go along with being a single parent.

Providing support and watching as parents support one another is an amazing experience. They not only relate to the day to day worries and challenges of single parenting but are also supportive in times of need and share in the excitement of one another’s triumphs.

Q. Tell me something you enjoy about being a facilitator.

A. There are so many things that I enjoy about being a facilitator, it is hard to choose just a few. I think first and foremost, I enjoy the relationships I have with my families. Whether I see them for one support group or training, or they revisit my groups frequently, I am always happy to see and interact with them, building a connection or even friendships. I also enjoy being able to provide a safe environment for parents to meet and engage in support or gain additional knowledge to help them on their journey as foster/adoptive parents.

Q. What does a typical support group/training group session consist of?

A. In my groups, we start with introductions and a challenge thought or question. We then move into the primary function of that specific group, whether it is support or training, allowing time for interaction and questions throughout. Even though I facilitate each group the same way, they are each unique. I delight in seeing what each family brings into the group and how it incorporates into the topic of discussion.

Q. What kind of lessons have you learned through being a facilitator?

A. I have learned many lessons and grown as an individual from being an ASK facilitator. My compassion for others and their individual experiences has expanded and my communication skills have been refined.

Q. What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an ASK-VIP facilitator?

A. Becoming an ASK facilitator would be a great opportunity to grow personally as well as assist others. As an ASK facilitator, you have an essential role providing support and training to families that change the lives of so many children in Kentucky. This is a great opportunity to have an impact in your community and state.  

Q. What benefits do the participants get from being in the ASK-VIP program?

In our question we belive that online casino canada belongs to ASK-VIP program

A. The ASK-VIP program is not only a great resource during challenging times, but also an innovative way to provide support and training to foster and adoptive parents all over the state. They have access to customized support and trainings as well as numerous options for scheduling. They are able to register online and can participate from the comfort of their own home. Most importantly is they have access to trained facilitators and the insurmountable knowledge and support from other foster and adoptive parents, which is a one of a kind experience.

Posted in ASK

Mollie Cole, Adoptive Parent Liaison (APL)

Mollie Cole has been working as an Adoptive Parent Liaison (APL) for ASK-VIP for two years.

When she was still fairly new in the Adoption Support for Kentucky Virtual Interaction Program (ASK-VIP), she was approached by the director to fill in as an ASK-VIP-Pilot facilitator due to some last-minute staff changes. Her role as facilitator for the group was a great fit, and she soon found herself on a new path in life.

“After the great experience I had facilitating that pilot, I was asked to consider a VIP Specialized Support group for Transracial Foster/Adoptive families and knew I wanted to connect with other families in this capacity, walking a similar journey as myself,” Cole said.

For Cole, being the facilitator of the Transracial Foster/Adoptive Support Group (TFA) was built on her own experiences as a parent to children of another ethnicity. Since becoming a foster parent eight years ago, Cole had been searching for a place where she could open up about the struggles, rewards and challenges of being a transracial parent.

Looking in mostly online spaces, Cole began trying to learn and grow in the unfamiliar territory of transracial fostering, but found it difficult to learn, understand, and share with vulnerability in a group where she didn’t have relationships with the other members. It wasn’t until Cole found ASK did she find a place where she could truly flourish.

“This group has been different because it has been built on closer proximity to parents looking for the same kind of growth and answers, and the relationships I’ve built have fostered honesty and support in a way I haven’t experienced before,” Cole said. “Even as a facilitator, I’m learning and growing alongside the group members each time we meet.”

The Transracial Foster/Adoptive group first began as a pilot program. For 10 weeks, Cole said bonds, connections, and support thrived among the members, which created a strong foundation of honesty, humility, eagerness to learn, and encouragement to the group as they later began meeting monthly.

The members of the group share their challenges, questions, resources, and support with one another as they meet each month. Cole said she spends time each month gathering ideas to discuss if members don’t have concerns or things to share. However, most weeks the group members are waiting to come to the group and discuss questions or experiences they have, she said.

A typical support group meeting consists of introductions before Cole opens up the space for anyone to share thoughts, questions, or experiences they have had to discuss with the group. She also keeps a list of topics to discuss that are either directly related to common experiences of foster and adoptive families (trauma, behaviors, current events and their impact on families, etc.).

When Cole isn’t serving as the facilitator for the TFA group, she’s leading training groups as an APL. After introductions, Cole goes over the specific topic at hand, such as Bullying, Healthy Boundaries in Teenage Relationships and Healing After a Foster Child Leaves Your Home.

“I love having participants to ask questions and share during the time we are covering training material! While I have experience with many of the topics we (ASK) offer training in, I’m certainly not experienced with everything, and am not an expert of anything,” Cole said. “Hearing from others’ experiences and learning about resources they are knowledgeable about adds such a richness to our training time.”

She also tries to bring some laughter, hope, and positivity to each group she facilitates.

But each meeting, whether it is a support or training group, brings with it so many benefits – not just for those attending, but for facilitators like Cole as well. Through this process, she’s learned how to listen to the experiences of others as well as grow in her understanding of those who might be different from herself.

“The way I parent my children or facilitate an ASK-VIP group doesn’t happen in a vacuum nor is it compartmentalized apart from the rest of who I am. If I am growing in how I love and care for others; if I am learning to unlearn misconceptions and unhealthy beliefs, that all affects how I lead a training or support group,” she said. “I’ve learned that my success or failure in this area is connected to each part of me, and this holistic growth has changed me for the better.”

The best part is ASK-VIP allows for parents to connect with others for support and growth at their convenience, Cole said. Due to COVID-19 restrictions and safety, ASK-VIP expanded to offer trainings along with the support groups already in place. They can access both support and training from their home, while out of town in a hotel room, as they wait to pick-up their groceries, or as they walk the dog. There is a different level of comfort while being at home – wherever that may be. But it also allows people to connect no matter the distance between them.

“I’ve had families in one group join together to “meet” virtually, who would likely never have met in person. They lived on opposite sides of the state and more than five hours away from one another, but this space brought them together,” Cole said. “It really is accessible in a unique and different way than an in-person meeting can be.”

Posted in ASK