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One of my favorite training exercises was creating a Family Eco Map. The link provided describes this process as it related to the foster children and their family. When performing this training exercise in the PATH classes, the Family Eco Map created pertains to the foster parents and their resources. This exercise is meant to show prospective foster parents two things:
- Who they consider to be their resources and how effective they consider their resources to be, and
- What the process looks like for DCS as they create the same Eco Map for the child in care. Developing an Eco Map for a child in care can take time and birth families sometimes do not respond well to this process. Remember Eco Maps represent a snap shot in time as Eco Maps evolve and change over time.
What I loved about this exercise was that it gave Rent-a-Dad and I an idea of who our support network would be. When we completed the exercise we had to give a copy to our PATH Trainer so a copy would be in our file. Essentially DCS wants an idea of the type of resources that prospective foster parents have. My take-away has always been that DCS wants to make sure foster parents have resources so that when it feels like the world is falling down around us we have people we can turn to.
The first time we drew an Eco Map for our family we felt a little timid not quite knowing who we should include and how we should describe our relationships with friends, family, work colleagues and acquaintances. As we drew the Eco Map we found out something about ourselves and the relationships we had with our family. It showed us that we weren’t sure how our extended family members would take our journey into the foster care system. This realization made us both eager to bring the topic up with our family members so we had a better answer. By the time we developed our second Eco Map we not only had answers to those questions but had a better sense of who and what our resources really were.
When we went through our home study process we discussed our second Eco Map with the DCS Home Study Evaluator. She wanted to know why our Eco Map was laid out in the manner we drew it. For us it was about relationships we could count on, family members that cared but may not be ready or able to help, our relationship with my faith, etc. The evaluator was impressed that we had a good idea of our extended resources and so were we. By this time we really knew how many people in our lives were willing to be apart of this journey.
It is good to keep in mind how people move into and out of our lives over the years. Eco Maps change for a reason. As you journey through life you develop a sense of who will be helpful in your journey and who is really only there to be a spectator. Knowing the difference between the two means you have the knowledge of who will be there for you as the road gets bumpy. Our Eco Map today is just as bountiful as it was 3+ years ago. Some people have moved on and other relationships have grown stronger.