Imagine that a child in your care is going to be reunited with his or her birth family. As a member of the professional team, what strength and skills you have to help with thr reunification?
What support would you need from the rest of the team?
We do mostly emergency-type care, so we have this experience quite frequently, as opposed to maybe a family that does more long-term care.
I think my strength is in knowing that I did the best I could by that child, and that I am sending them on to their next placement (in this case their birth home) in the most positive way I know how.
Sometimes a weakness can come into play when you start to think the child is cared for better in your home than in the new home. That is where support from the team can help remind you of the objectives, and why we do what we do! We are a temporary home to care for them until their birth family is able to, and to support that birth family to provide the best care they can. Not always easy, but so important!
I am a NW Washington native living in Williston, ND, where I have been since 2005. My hubby and I have six children (his, hers, ours), are foster parents, and run two businesses from home, including www.cyberdoulas.com -- the birth doula business that is changing my life!
If it is a child that had emotional difficulties or problems with attachment, you gave the gift of a positive experience and a solid emotional connection. This is valuable if it will be lacking somewhat upon reunification. Every positive experience influences resiliency.
If you get to do a healthy transition and goodbye, you will give the gift of that experience as well.
Skills you can help teach your foster children:
Communication. The more you can encourage a child to talk about problems and seek help, the less likely he/she is to become violent or self-destructive. So that starts very young with basic spoken words and sign language. It evolves into teaching kids "I statements" and asking for hugs or help.
Self-soothing. For example, teaching a child to sleep in a separate bed and comfort themselves with a stuffed animal or blanket is a great skill to have in the event that this child will be moved from your home (and perhaps moved again later). Foster kids are very likely to experience lots of disruptions. If they can maintain some regular sleep habits then their bodies and brains have a better chance for surviving fostercare.
Basic wellness and safety. Teach them good hygeine and nutrition. As soon as they're old enough, take them to learn first aid and CPR. Teach them to wear bike helmets, use seatbelts, duck and cover for earthquakes, how to escape a fire, etc. Teach them that they should call 911 if they are in danger. Lots of kids in care don't learn this stuff. So it's your job.
We are getting ready to transition our first two (siblings, 5 and 2) to their family. I actually just started surfing through here to look for suggestions on this. They came in Oct. and we expected to have them till May (then back to mom) but suddenly the plan changed to going back to their grandparents (where they were placed before coming to us) on Jan. 13. We think this is a terrible idea, and will only hinder a healthy reunification with their mom, but we have no say.
I am totally OK with sending them on (they are lovely boys, but it was never in the plans for them to be here long term)-but feel very sad at how our experience with them has turned out-I expected more time with them, and the next two weeks look like we will be 'lame duck' parenting.
Marsupial-Mom, your post has helped me feel better about the short time they were here, knowing they are going back into a pretty dysfunctional situation. While here, our 2 year old potty-trained and learned to go to bed by himself, and our 5 year old learned much better communication/literacy skills, and both were exposed to wonderful literature and are in love with books now. Thank you!!!