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TAGS: Reunification
Written by Foster Team
April 24, 2019

In foster care, reunification happens when a child returns to live with their family full time. It is actually the most common goal of foster care.

If you're considering becoming a foster parent, it's important to understand the significance of reunification, and what it can do to allow a foster child and their biological parents to thrive.

Because, when you foster, you're not just offering love and support to a child, you're offering it to their whole family.

How Foster Parents Support Reunification

Reunification benefits children and their biological parents because it improves permanency and development outcomes and allows a child to maintain their unique and special ties to their family. 

In most cases, children enter foster care because of neglect, not abuse. Foster parents help biological parents be reunified with their children by creating opportunities for them to learn how to take care of them. 

Supporting reunification is one of the biggest emotional and logistical commitments you make as a foster parent. No matter how much you prepare, no matter how much you support the end result, no longer caring for a child you’ve come to love is a challenging process.

But, it's worth it. Let’s take a look at how it works in practice.Reunification-Photo-CROPPED

Respect and Compassion for Birth Parents

First and foremost, foster parents support reunification through compassion for the child’s parents.

The bond that a child shares with their parents is incredibly unique. But that doesn't mean a parent always has the resources they need to care for their child.

There are many reasons a parent may no longer be able to provide for their child. Foster parents should respect a birth parent’s role and support them in getting the help they need to care for their child responsibly.

Visitation and Frequent Contact

One of the best ways to support reunification is to provide opportunities for relationships to continue between foster child and their families.

Foster parents work with agencies to coordinate visits between the child and their parents, extended family members, and siblings if they were not placed together. These can range from short, supervised visits to unsupervised, overnight stays.

As parents work toward bringing their family back together, visit frequency and duration typically increases, allowing a child and their parent to reconnect and establish a positive relationship.

When you support visitation, you're supporting a child's chances of being reunified with their family in a powerful way.

Staying in Touch with the Family

what does reunification mean? a person writing a note next to a laptop

Sometimes, family visits aren't easy to coordinate because of a parent's location or schedule.

Beyond physical visits, foster parents support reunification by staying in close contact with a child’s family through phone calls, letters, video chats, and other forms of communication.

Communication should also include conversations between foster parents and biological parents regarding everything from learning about a child’s medical history to finding out their favorite games or foods.

Support At All Times

The most important thing to remember is that, as a foster parent, you're not alone in this.

Your agency will set up coordinated, supervised visits so you're always comfortable communicating and working with a child's biological parents.

In Washington State, there are many support systems set up to help foster parents through the emotional and logistical roller coaster that they go through every day. No matter what, you will always be supported throughout the process.

Carrie and the Ellis Family — A Story of Reunification

carrie and ellis reunification - a mother and child hugging each other, smiling

The Ellis family took in Elyse when she was four years old. Her mother, Carrie, had given birth when she was just 14 and couldn't care for Elyse.

Then, came a surprise. Carrie entered the foster care system, and the Ellises welcomed her into their home as well.

With support from the Ellis family, Carrie got a job and worked to afford a new car and a new apartment. But, more importantly, Carrie learned the skills needed to become an incredible mother. 

With support from the Ellis family, Carrie got a job and worked to afford a new car and a new apartment. But, more importantly, Carrie learned the skills needed to become an incredible mother.

Eventually, Elyse and Carrie left the Ellis household as a new, stable family of their own. And when Carrie got pregnant again, Mrs. Ellis acted as her coach, fostering continued support for Carrie, Elyse, and Elyse’s new baby brother.

The Ellis family went above and beyond to support reunification for Carrie and her two children.

Thinking about becoming a foster parent, but aren't sure if you're up for the job? You could join families like the Ellises. Download our free resource to find out if foster parenting is right for you.

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