Patrea Womack knows about the challenges adoptive and foster parents face—she's one herself. In January 2009, the president of the South Side Elementary PTA in Harrisburg, Pa., started a group for families with adopted and foster care children, helping dozens of parents connect to the school.

"Adoptive parents will go through things and have fears and concerns that natural parents will never go through or experience," says Womack, whose four adopted children range from 6 to 13 years old. As the group's facilitator, Womack ensures that the school's "nonnuclear families" can freely discuss and address those issues together.

The group formed after Womack wrote a letter to all the school's parents and guardians advertising a new support group and open forum on adoptive and foster parenting issues. Only a few people attended the inaugural meeting. "But then word circulated that we were meeting, and more and more people became interested and willing to share their experiences with others even outside of meetings," Womack explains. "As a result, some parents and families have expressed interest in becoming foster [or] adoptive parents and seek us out for more information."

The support group's structure has since become less formal; instead of monthly meetings, members are more apt to congregate during school events or at the PTA's chili cook-off. Womack is usually in the middle of the crowd, leading the discussion and answering questions about adoption paperwork or agency protocol.

Families also report important developments and special milestones in their lives. Just recently, one family shared plans to adopt its five foster children. "The mom sent out an email announcing the news," Womack says. Of course, the support group has been a godsend to Womack, too. "It helped me to realize that my husband and I are not alone, and that the struggles that we have faced are also faced by others in similar situations," she says. "It gives me a chance to share joys and triumphs."