Supporting reunification while also creating a bond with my foster child
In my previous post, I briefly mentioned reunification in regards to how to engage in a healthy relationship with the biological family. Reunification is the first and ultimate goal for our foster children. When feasible, I believe all children should be reunified with their biological families. However, there are situations where this is not possible and the children should remain in an environment that is healthy and provides safety and security.
As foster parents, we never know what might happen when a little one is placed with us. We can never be sure of how long they will be with us, the behavioral challenges we might encounter, the support we may receive from their social worker, if they will go home, or if they will be a more permanent placement. There is so much uncertainty in the foster care system and it can be very overwhelming and stressful at times. Navigating this system requires a significant amount of flexibility and patience. If we worry about and dwell on all of the what if’s we will drive ourselves crazy! All we have control over is how we choose to respond.
Securing a healthy attachment and bond with our foster child can be challenging. This bond may not last after your little one returns home and you are now left with the heart break of losing someone with whom you have grown very close to. However, bonding with your foster children will allow them to thrive in your home, and as foster parents it creates a fuller experience with your children.
Now there are many ways that you as a foster parent can bond with your child. Finding out what they are interested in and taking an interest in that activity is a great way to begin to break down the walls these little ones have put up as a means of their protection. One round of video games or one wedding between Barbie and Ken will not eliminate all of the obstacles, but it will start allowing bricks to fall and the opportunity to move closer to our children. Children who feel safe and secure are able to grow and develop in a healthy manner.
Another aspect that I have experienced with our children is providing them with the opportunity to choose. So much is outside of children’s control, especially children who have entered into the foster care system. When we can give space for our kids to make decisions about food, clothing, activities, toys, etc., they will start to feel valued and known. When our children feel known their walls start to come down and you can begin to inch your way closer to them.
There is no clear road map to support and connect with your child, especially while you are also helping them stay connected to their biological family. While these children are entrusted to you, your goal should be to provide space for them to grow and heal in a safe environment so they are prepared to reunify with their biological parents or find permanency in an adoptive home with you or with another foster family.
This work is hard and scary, and may not always feel rewarding. There are many “thankless” days when you choose this role, but you are planting seeds in the lives of these children and providing them with a chance to grow and engage in healthy relationships, and to find joy and passion in their lives.
Please schedule a free consultation if you have further questions or want to schedule an individual session to create space for you to be filled back up. Also, please reach out if you are interested in engaging in a foster parent group to connect with other foster parents and process the obstacles and celebrate the joys together.
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