Written by Washington Foster Team
Reunification of your foster child with their birth parents is, in most cases, the ultimate goal, as it is in the best interest of the child.
Naturally, you may have some anxiety and fears surrounding this process. You may have some preconceived notions as to what to expect, which is normal.
There are several myths around reunification in foster care as you navigate this path for your child and your collective families. These include:
- Birth parents are horrible people
- Children don't want to be with, or shouldn't want to be with, their birth parents
- Birth parents are unsafe for the child
Let's examine each one of these in more detail, and see if we can debunk these foster care reunification myths.
Myth 1: The birth parents are horrible people
Keep in mind that birth parents are people who have simply made mistakes. They deserve to be supported, which means making room for your child to have a relationship with them.
Parents have often experienced similar trauma to their children and are in need of extra support. Ask them what questions they have for you, such as “Will my children have their own bedroom?” In turn, ask them questions about their children, such as “What do they like to eat?” or “What do they need with them at bedtime?”
Create an action plan for parenting the children together. This might look like attending doctor appointments, school activities, birthdays, and other activities together.
Myth 2: Children don’t want to be with, or shouldn’t want to be with, their birth parents
Children usually want to go home, even when the reason for them being removed from their homes is horrible. If that seems confusing, think of it this way — wouldn’t you want to be with your family, too?
We all need our families. No matter the situation, they are still their parents, and that connection is deep and unshakable.
For example, let’s say a father was sentenced to over 100 years for the abuse he inflicted on his children, yet his children begged the judge for leniency. If he were in jail, they couldn’t be with him in their home.
To them, that familiarity of their father was more important than facing abuse.
Even after years of being placed in foster care and eventually being adopted, children still want to be with their family.
Helping in any way that you can to cultivate regular interaction and connection with your child’s family is crucial. The bottom line is, it’s just the right thing to do for your child.
Myth 3: Birth parents are unsafe
Children may be removed from their homes when it is deemed unsafe for them, which may lead many to believe that the birth parents pose a danger to not only their children, but to society as a whole.
While this assumption is common, the reality is that most children come to the foster care system due to neglect, rather than abuse.
These parents are often impoverished and lack the resources to properly care for their children. The caseworker will determine the safety of both the child and foster parent, and, when it is unsafe to connect with the birth family, it won’t be allowed.
Supporting your child’s relationship with their birth parents will help to fill any missing holes in the story of their life, of who they are, and to whom they are connected. It will allow them to have a richer experience in a world that may not have always been kind, but that can now offer hope, support, and love.
Know that there are resources available to you as you explore reunification. Start by reading our full guide here.Then, when you're ready to start looking into becoming a foster parent, download our free checklist to preparing your home and family for foster care.