We know that the role of foster parents is to make sure that a child’s basic needs are being met, in addition to being supportive with the goal of reunification. Foster parents learn this in their training during the licensing process. However, once foster parents are emotionally engaged with the children in their care, they may find it hard to support every decision made for the child.
Anxiety is common as reunification goals are closer to being achieved. On good days, foster parents may feel that it was an honor to have loved a child as they love their own and have positive feelings about having helped a family in need. However, on bad days, their thoughts may be filled with “what ifs,” “how comes,” or “I don’t feel good about this.”
Here are some ways you can help foster parents who are experiencing reunification anxiety:
- “I don’t know” is an okay answer if it is a truthful answer. For example, if a family is wondering if they will ever see the child again after reunification, “I don’t know” may be the only answer you have at that time.
- You may not be able to offer reassurance if you don’t have all the answers, but you can sit in the moment with them and be the support that they need.
- Be as clear and transparent as you can regarding timelines for transition dates.
- Your foster families may need assistance in helping the child understand what is going on. Explain that a child’s reaction to reunification can manifest in different ways. Let them know that you understand that helping the child cope with a transition may be their most challenging experience as a foster parent.
- Reaffirm that you recognize reunification is hard, but the kids in their care need them to continue to be the calm, loving presence they have come to count on.
Remind your families that although it can feel like a loss, it is never a loss to have loved and cared for a child in need. As always, please contact us at the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families for additional resources to support your families as they experience the many hellos and goodbyes of foster care.