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May 2019Vol. 20, No. 4Our Daughter Needs Us

Written by Irene Clements, executive director, National Foster Parent Association

Upon opening a Facebook message recently, I found the following from the biological mother of one of our former foster daughters: "I think our daughter needs us." This may not sound significant, but the relationship between her mother and I has been ongoing for the past 19 years. Our family's willingness to mentor—and at times parent—our former foster daughter's mother resulted in her being able to have her daughter returned to her care at the age of 15. It took 2 years of frequent support opportunities to help this mother make it happen. 

Over the past 20 years, there has been a decline in foster families mentoring birth families, with many foster parents and staff fearing communication and connection between the two families. Common sense must be utilized when determining how much communication and connection is safe and best for the children involved. But, that said, this relationship can make or break reunification. 

As the tenets of the Family First Prevention Services Act are developed and rolled out across this great country, it is imperative that foster families and those who support them recognize their intrinsic value in the reunification process and seek ways to encourage the vital role they play in the foster care system. Important, too, is the support and services available to the caregiver families as they experience secondary trauma through their work with the children who join their family through foster care and as they provide supports to the birth families.

Recruiting families that want to make a significant difference to numerous children over numerous years must become a priority, and assessments, training, and supports help prepare each family for the work ahead. When a child joins a foster, kinship, or adoptive family, there will be opportunities for learning and growth that can lead to wisdom over the years. The wisdom these families gain can prepare them to care for children and youth with increased needs while building trusting relationships. 

Foster parent associations and other support groups are key to providing understanding and compassion for the families who practice what my friend and former foster child, Rhonda, calls "radical hospitality."

The National Foster Parent Association is available to all foster, kinship, and adoptive parents. The association's Council of State Affiliates is available to assist foster caregivers in the states in which they reside.