Written by Foster Team
In foster care, reunification happens when a child returns to live with their biological parent or parents full time. Many prospective foster parents may be surprised to learn that reunification is the most common goal of foster care cases.
It's important for you to understand the importance 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 tie to their biological family.
In most cases, children enter foster care because of neglect, not abuse. Foster parents help biological parents toward reunification by creating opportunities for them to learn how to take care of their child.
Supporting reunification is one of the biggest emotional and logistical commitments you make as a foster parent. But, it's worth it. Let’s take a look at how it works in practice.
Respect and Compassion for Birth Parents
First and foremost, foster parents support reunification through compassion for a child’s biological parents. The bond that a child shares with their biological parents is incredibly unique. But that doesn't mean a parent always has the resources they need to care for their child. Understand that there are lots of reasons a biological parent may have to take a break from providing 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 a foster child and their families. Foster parents work with agencies to coordinate visits between a child and their biological parents, extended family members, and siblings if they were not placed together.
These visits can range from short, supervised visits to unsupervised, overnight visits. As biological parents work toward reunification, visit frequency and duration typically increases, allowing a child and their biological parent to reconnect and establish a positive relationship. When you support visitation, you're supporting a child's chances at reunification in a powerful way.
Staying in Touch with the Family
Sometimes, visits aren't easy to coordinate because of a biological parent's location or schedule. Beyond physical visits, foster parent's 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 parent's and biological parent's regarding everything from learning about a child’s medical history to finding out their favorite games or foods.
Support At All Times
You're not alone in supporting reunification. Your agency will set up coordinated, supervised visits so you're always comfortable communicating and working with a child's biological parents. You're always supported throughout reunification.
Carrie and the Ellis Family — A Story of Reunification
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. Join families like the Ellises. Find out if foster parenting is right for you.