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How long can a baby remember a caregiver?

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

I think some foster moms here must have experience with this sort of thing. I would be interested in both research and "just" opinions.


We are a short term foster family and had a baby here when she was 6-8 months old, so for two months. While with us, she was held and carried in a wrap all the time, slept in the same room with me, etc. However, she also kept on having visit with birth family and went through some rather traumatic things during this time period. She was then reunited with birth parents, until a couple of weeks ago. 


She has now been placed in another foster family. (This kills me, but we were caring for another baby when she was placed in crisis care and I was never even told that she had been taken from the parents. I had no legal right to know, although the social workers knew how attached we all were to her.) I just happened to bump into her and the new foster mom. As I knew nothing about her new situation, it was a huge shock to me. Now I am wondering, if at any level she remembered me. It had been 5 months since she left, so, rationally, I would say no. Yet, I cannot help wondering.

post #2 of 5

How long has she been with the new family? Any chance of her being placed with you? greensad.gif  My experience (which is limited) is that foster care agencies put little stock in any kind of attachment or emotional needs of babies.


So she was with you from the age of 6-8 months and then was RU'd and recently placed back into FC and is now 13 months old? If im following the timeline correctly? you can never know for sure, but i'd say there is a good chance she would know you on at least a physical level (like, she may not be like "oh mama!! i missed you!" but might find your smell, the way you hold her, your home, etc very comfortable and recognize that this is a place she has been before.)


I hate hate hate that they often overlook contacting a previous foster family. I had a little girl for two months (ages 11.5 months at placement) and i know that if she came back into care they wouldnt even bother to call us. It really makes me worry too that if a sib to one of my kids is born, that the child could fall through the cracks and be placed with another family, they are supposed to call of course but was they should do and what they actually do are sometimes very different.

post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

I am not in the US and I think our system sucks just a bit less. I really think we would have got the call, had we not been caring for another baby... She was with us from 6 to 8 months, then back with the parents for 4,5 months, and now has been with the other foster family for about 2 weeks. Yes, she is now 13 months old. No chance of us getting her, unfortunately, and I cannot really claim to know that it would be in her best interest, anyway, to move once again. The foster mom said the beginning has been rough, which does not surprise me one bit. If only the past almost 5 months with the parents had not happened.... She was doing so much better when she left us, although I really think she will never be able to form a normal attachment to anyone. I hope I am wrong.

post #4 of 5

I've been curious about this too, because the fact that very young children "forget" has been used by my county's child welfare workers to justify multiple shorterm foster placements. My county seems to place very little emphasis on the notion of continuity of caregivers. Like queenjane said, "they often overlook contacting a previous foster family." Makes me sick to my stomach.


We had a placement quite a while back, a little boy we only had for 3 weeks. If he had become available for adoption we would have happily adopted him. But he was reunited. Then I came to find out later he was back in the system. No phone call to us or email, nothing. And we even had an "open bed". Even if it was only for another 3 weeks, we would have loved to care for him. There was no need to introduce more strangers to him during a time of family upheaval.


Anyway, I did some research and the truth is that the brain cannot form longterm memories during infancy. So no, they won't remember us fostermoms. Even if we had them for the whole first year or even first two years they probably won't remember. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Childhood_amnesia


However, their memories are not the sole determination of what is in their best interests. Continuity of caregivers is still proven to be in a child's best interests. It's essentially the idea that familiarity is good for children and that too much abrupt change harms a child. Children with multiple caregivers and no consistent primary caregiver develop intellectually and emotionally slower than children who have at least one consistent caregiver. Consider, for example, that newborns have taste/smell preferences related to what their biological mother ate during pregnancy. And they respond to their biological mothers voice more than to any other voice. That familiarity is the first basic key in bonding/ attachment. Clearly, the concept that familiarity/stability/continuity is good for children's development transfers to any situation where the child is cared for by someone other than the bio mom.

post #5 of 5

I can only speak from our situation. DD2 was with a caregiver from birth to three months. A friend of moms. We got her at 3 months. I got to take her to see the lady about 2 weeks after she left and there was a huge attachment still. Then, about 6 weeks she got to see her again and still a huge attachment. Unfortunately due to mom, she was not allowed to see her again until recently, so 11 months after removal. Mom had a say that this lady who cared for DD2 for the first three months of her life was not allowed to see her until mom's rights were terminated.

We couldn't get DD2 to go to the lady at the visit 11 months after she was taken into care. DD2 either didn't recognize her or was just not in the mood, who knows.

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