National Reunification Month – June 2020
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Reunification with birth parents has consistently remained the primary permanency plan for children in foster care.
Celebrated in June each year, National Reunification Month recognizes the people and efforts around the country that help families stay together. Family reunification has consistently remained the primary permanency goal for children who are placed in out of home care (foster care). An important part of successful family reunification is the way in which foster parents support family reunification and family engagement throughout the entire child welfare process.
The role of a foster provider is to provide temporary, supportive care for children who are in out of home placement. Their role is also to be a support to birth parents as they are working through the child welfare process to reunify their family. It is always the goal for families to reunify and remain together as a family unit.
At EVOLVE, we work hard to recruit and provide support to foster providers so that they can be supportive of birth families during their time in out of home care. Foster families that support reunification efforts benefit children, birth parents, and foster parents. Children benefit from having birth parents and foster parents who are able to work together to achieve positive outcomes together. Foster providers play a vital role in the lives of children in care and in the lives of the birth family as a whole. Foster parents keep children connected to their families and communities, ensure the health and wellness of children in their care, support identity development, advocate for the children in care, and meet the various needs of the children in care. Foster providers work alongside the child welfare team and birth parents to best meet the needs of the children in their care.
Beyond the general requirements, EVOLVE holds other expectations of our foster care providers.
Characteristics needed to be a good foster parent include:
- Strong support system, surrounded by others that understand trauma, the needs of children in care, and the value of difference and uniqueness of each child.
- Strong ability to advocate for the children in care
- Strong communication skills
- Willingness to learn and seek out opportunities that enhance understanding related to children in care
- Understanding of your own capacity and limits
- Access to supports and/or being willing to ask for help when needed
- Ability to honor and support the cultural needs of children in foster care (race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, family history)
Part of our work is addressing the importance of the role of foster parents in reunification.
We help position foster parents to help work towards reunification and support them through the entire process. Successful partnerships often make the biggest difference in ensuring reunification or achieving permanency. Partnerships can be between birth parents and foster parents or relative kin caregivers, or between our social workers and older youth. When relative kin caregivers or foster parents practice positive communication and parenting skills, they are “laying the foundation for success” (Children’s Bureau Express. June 2020)
The following resources feature the effectiveness of partnering with birth parents, and how providers can work towards reuniting families.
- A Continuum of Contact – 2010 Denise A. Goodman, PhD
- American Bar Association
– Resource: Families Supporting Reunification
- Children’s Bureau Express
– June is National Reunification Month
- Child Welfare Information Gateway
– Partnering with Birth Parents to Promote Reunification
– Partnering with Relatives to Promote Reunification
– Reunification: Bringing Your Children Home from Foster Care
– Integrating Foster Parents in Permanency Planning
– Working with Children, Youth and Families in Permanency Planning
– Episode 41: Birth-Foster Parent Mentoring Teams