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What is Reunification?

In Foster Care, reunification is the process of reuniting children in care with their birth parents. When a child is initially placed in Foster Care, the goal will typically always be reunification. Studies show that care by family has better long-term outcomes for the children as they maintain lifelong connections. Although reunification is the best outcome for children in care, CPS/OCOK will never push a situation that is not in the best interest of the child. If reunification is no longer a viable option, they will consider a kinship or adoption placement instead.

Christian Connection

God’s original plan was for the biological family to remain together as one solid unit. His intent was never for the biological family to split up. But, when the fall happened in Genesis 3, sin entered the world. This resulted in all of mankind to be filled and overcome by sin. But there’s hope in this story! God provided a way in which we can live eternally with Him in heaven. He sent His is one and only Son to in Earth in the form of man to die for our sins. We are all sinners but we’re also capable of redemption when we submit our lives to God. The same grace that God extends to us is the same grace that He extends to biological families. As believers, a foster family’s goal in Foster Care should be to encourage and promote family reunification. Instead of praying for the opportunity to adopt, families can pray for and support the birth family’s healing so that they can welcome their children back home!

How can you promote reunification as a foster parent?

1. Respect the Birth Family

As foster parents, you can model Jesus by extending grace to birth families and speaking about the family in a respectful manner. You may not agree with the situation that led your foster children in Foster Care but, it’s still important to be respectful. Here are practical ways that you can respect the birth family:

Refer to the birth parents as “mom” and “dad
Focus on the positives about the birth parents, not solely on the negative
Remind yourself daily that biological families are also children of God
Allow your foster children to talk about their birth family and help them understand that their parents still love them
Stay in Contact
When children go to their visitations, prepare a folder or notebook of items to give to their birth family.
Offering an outlet of communication to stay informed can relieve a birth families concerns about their children’s daily life.

2. Connect with the Birth Family

Imagine that your own biological children were removed from your home and placed far away from you with complete strangers. Allow yourself to imagine this heartbreaking situation. Think about all the ways that this would impact you and your children. Each family has their own history that led to the removal. Anyone of us has the potential to make mistakes that could lead to similar outcomes. When foster parents make a point to let the birth family know that they are here to temporarily love on their children until they heal, that shows the love of Christ. Yes, birth families have made mistakes that have led to their children being in care but, we’re all capable of healing through God’s grace. Here are practical ways that you can make a connection with the birth family:

How can you prepare for reunification?

1. Prepare your foster child(ren) for the transition

Children in care are accustomed to uncertainties and unexpected losses. When a reunification date has been set, as the foster parent, you’re able to prepare your foster children for that transition. Here are practical ways that you can prepare your foster child for reunification:

2. Take time to grieve

Although reunification is to be expected, it can be heartbreaking to say goodbye to children that have been in your home for several months, if not longer. We should experience grief and loss when a child leaves our home. When we grieve, that means we have loved and cared for this child as if they were our own. Take time to grieve and work through that loss. Lean on your support network because working through those emotions alone isn’t easy. Reach out to your case manager if you need support group referrals. Jumping into a new placement can cause burn out and compassion fatigue, so take a break if you need more time to process your grief.

Mark the reunification date on a calendar that is posted at their eye level. Remind them of the upcoming date consistently so that they know what’s coming.

Often, when children leave foster care, a whole chunk of their life is missing. While a foster child is in your home, make it a point to develop a scrapbook of their time in your home.

Overall, listen to your foster child and allow them to share their emotions, negative and/or positive, about reunification.

While foster children are in a foster care placement, it allows time for the biological parents to heal and improve. When we look at Foster Care as an opportunity to redeem the biological family, we can view it as our ministry to disciple and care for children in a way that glorifies God! Attachment and bonding between the foster family and the foster child is exactly what children need to start healing from their trauma.

Written by: Olivia B.

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