Reunification: The Ultimate Goal of Foster Care
For families familiar with the foster care system, the concept of foster care reunification is not foreign. Reunification refers to the ability to reunite families after a child has been cared for in a foster home and serves as the ultimate goal for most families who have to enter the foster care system.
After all, foster care reunification provides a clear goal for everyone: children want to be reunited with their birth family, parents want to have their children at home again, and the work that needs to be done to ensure reunification will help reinforce positive habits and give parents the resources they need.
The most easily recognized goal of the foster care system is to provide children with a safe and loving environment to grow up in until they can return to their parent’s care. What others fail to acknowledge is that many children and youth do return home after being in the foster care system and are reunited with their parents. This foster care reunification, or reunion between a child and their parents, is truly the ultimate goal of foster care.
What is Family Reunification?
Family reunification is, at its core, exactly what it sounds like. The goal of foster care is to allow families to be reunited after steps have been taken to ensure the health and wellness of their family for all that reside in it. Once this has been achieved, the ultimate objective is to return the child from foster care to live with their parents full-time.
Foster care advocates hope that a child’s time in foster care can allow them to grow and age safely while their parents are also making necessary adjustments for the betterment of their entire family. There are many ways children can end up in the foster care system, but a common theme is that foster care reunification remains the ultimate goal.
Reunification has no set timetable. Much like no family situation is the same, it’s hard to predict when reunification might be possible for each individual family. We do know, however, that a family’s commitment to following their case program and adhering to the goals set out in front of them can help expedite foster care reunification.
#DYK? Children who are visited routinely by their parents and/or siblings experience less anxiety, depression, feelings of abandonment, and behavioral adjustment compared to children who are not visited regularly.
Why Prioritize Family Reunification?
There are many noted benefits of foster care reunification. Nationally, about 50% of parents reunify with kids in foster care. Plus, studies have shown that reunification significantly improves permanency outcomes for children and parents. After foster care reunification, children do better in school, parents do better at work, and families thrive long-term.Studies show that reunification significantly improves permanency outcomes for children and birth parents after some time in #FosterCare, learn more from @NEChildrensHome:
Washington Fosters does a great job outlining the most tangible benefits of reunification and how it can help families thrive:
- Improved Outcomes — The safety, security, and stability of returning to home life paves the way for futures in which children and their parents can thrive.
- Positive Impact On Parents — Foster care reunification means parents have the opportunity to get the help they need to care for their children and lead productive lives.
- Better Development — Children who can return to permanent, stable routines in loving homes are more likely to succeed in school and social settings because they aren’t occupied with thoughts of when they’ll move or switch homes again.
- Less Stress For Children — Moving is stressful for anyone, but especially for children. Reunification promotes better mental health, reduced anxiety, and happier lives for children.
- Ties To Extended Family — Children in foster care don’t just lose touch with parents, but with extended family members too. Through reunification, they maintain those connections, traditions, and cultural identities.
By becoming involved with the child welfare system, parents, foster parents, and children are hoping for the best outcome for all parties involved. Foster care reunification allows families to eventually be able to stay together permanently and provide the best care for the children in their life.
What Does The Reunification Process Look Like?
Parents and foster parents work closely together toward reunification during the entire foster care involvement. This usually starts incrementally. Weeks or months before foster care reunification, parents may increase their visitations or even implement overnight stays for the children, so the process isn’t as intimidating when it is time for them to go home full-time.
To achieve successful reunification, child welfare agencies implement multidimensional strategies that build on family strengths and address concerns.
Example strategies may include:
- Family engagement
- Maintaining family and cultural connections
- Connecting families to evidence-based services in the community
- Regular and frequent visits among family members and with the case social worker
- Parent education and training
Our foster care team is well-equipped with the information and strategies you need to explore options for becoming a foster care parent. Together, we can ensure you have access to the resources and support you need to provide safe and loving care for every child and their family. Give us a call: 402.659.9996
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