So, some of you may still be reeling at the thought of giving the biological family your contact information once the child has been reunified. And if that’s you, you may want to sit down for this post.
For part two of my blog about exceeding expectations with reunification, I mostly want to address the idea of having continued relationship with a child’s biological family after reunification. The point of this is twofold; it serves to continue to support the family while keeping the child safe, and ideally from returning to the system.
And though it seems unlikely, this type of thing is happening more and more frequently because it does help keep some kids from returning to a system which is already overloaded. But why?
A big reason children come into care to begin with is because the biological family does not have a support system; while a child is in care, and the parents are working their plan, there is plenty of support for both them and the child. However, when reunification happens and the case is closed, all that support suddenly dries up…so what is likely to happen in this instance? The same thing that happened initially. But when a foster family reaches out and continues to be involved in the child’s life, and thereby involved in the parents lives, they create a natural support for them…which benefits the entire family.
Understandably, you may be wondering truly how often this is done. I honestly don’t know how often this is done, because it’s not something that DCS tracks. Once the kids are “off the books” there’s no telling how many still have a continued relationship with the foster parents. But ideally, it is quite a number of them.
More and more research has shown that having the support of the foster family (who, it should be noted here, is giving freely of their time, as there is no per diem for this) can help the biological family feel empowered and enabled. Plus, the foster family can help them tap into resources that they may not have been aware of previously.
Additional research has shown that children who remain with (or are reunified with) biological family, assuming it is a SAFE and HEALTHY environment, are better off in the long run, when compared to children who have suffered the trauma of permanent separation.
Now I know that’s not what those of you who are looking to adopt from foster care probably want to hear, but DO NOT HEAR WHAT I’M NOT SAYING. There are still many, many children in the foster care system who need forever homes. There are absolutely instances in which the biological family is not safe or appropriate for them to continue to be with, so they need a safe and loving adoptive home.
My point in telling you all this is that if the biological family can be supported and given resources, and specifically have that support from a former foster parent, the family of origin, along with the child, is more apt to be successful in maintaining their original family unit.
Now you may be wondering how this is done, and honestly I’m not entirely sure. As I mentioned…I’ve never had opportunity to do it. But this I do know: in posts I am reading, in blogs I am reading, and in podcasts I’m listening to…they all increasingly talk about preserving families of origin and how instrumental foster parents can be in this movement; all through having and maintaining a relationship with the biological family.
If you realize that the point of foster care 99.9% of the time is reunification, then of course the role of the foster parent is to help maintain that. The goal is not reunification temporarily, just to check it off a list… It is meant to be a permanent reunification, if at all possible, and foster parents can play a huge role in that.