E-Notes, the monthly newsletter from the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment at AdoptUSKids.
May is National Foster Care Month, a time to focus on enhancing the lives of children and youth in foster care. This year’s theme, “Honoring, Uniting, and Celebrating Families,” centers on reunification.
In this issue of E-Notes, we offer seven strategies to help child welfare systems recruit, develop, and support resource parents who can actively support reunification when it is the permanency goal for children in their care. For additional information, visit our new page focusing on supporting reunification.
7 strategies for engaging foster parents in supporting reunification
Share clear information about the importance of reunification–including how it is in the best interests of children—throughout the whole process, from recruitment to after foster parents have children placed with them. This can help foster parents understand the need to be part of the team working toward each child’s permanency goal.
Use data to help develop prospective resource parents’ understanding and knowledge about their role. Agencies can share data about goals and outcomes for children in care with prospective families early in the process, so they understand that most children in foster care return home.
Engage birth parents who have reunified with their children and foster parents who have successfully supported families in reunifying as co-trainers for prospective foster parents. This can help prospective parents develop realistic expectations about the foster parent experience and the needs of children in care. It can also help prospective parents understand birth families’ feelings and experiences. At times when having these co-presenters isn’t possible, videos and digital stories, such as those on the National Foster Care Month website, can be a useful tool for bringing the voice of foster and birth parents into the room.
Establish practices that build relationships between foster parents and birth parents. Consider holding “icebreaker” meetings so birth parents and foster parents can meet, discuss the needs of the child, and begin to work together early on. Provide information to foster parents about how they can partner with, mentor, and support the birth family. For instance, mentoring might mean that the birth parent goes to the foster parent’s home and together they cook dinner, bathe the child, and put the child to bed.
Provide foster families with support around grief and loss during training, throughout the reunification process, and after reunification takes place, recognizing that even foster families who are supporting reunification may experience feelings of loss after a child leaves their home. Agencies can offer support groups for resource families as well as for children—such as for foster families’ biological children—to help them process their loss when children leave the foster home.
Explore whether foster and birth families are interested in maintaining contact after reunification. This ongoing connection can help foster families, birth families, and children continue to feel connected and provide stability for children during the transition. The foster family could have a role in continuing to support the child and family, such as by providing occasional respite care.
Celebrate successful family reunification and recognize the role of foster parents in supporting reunification (for example, in your newsletter and at special events).
News and announcements
National Foster Care Month webinar series
Implementing Parent Partner Programs and Supporting Reunification
Wednesday, May 4, 2:00–3:30 p.m. ET
This webinar will provide child welfare professionals with an overview of parent partner programs and explore how these programs benefit parents and children and ultimately support reunification. Presenters will discuss how parent partner programs guide and motivate parents to have constructive interactions with the child welfare system and courts and how they support positive outcomes for children and families.
Post-Reunification Supports and Prevention of Reentry Into Out-of-Home Care
Wednesday, May 18, 2:00–3:30 p.m. ET
This webinar will provide professionals, stakeholders, and families with an overview of the benefits of reunification and post-reunification supports and explore how these strategies help prevent reentry into foster care. This webinar will discuss best practices for supporting reunification, including specific examples from states, and will offer strategies for preventing reentry. In addition, the webinar will explore key social factors to consider during strategy development, challenges, lessons learned, post-reunification supports, and family sharing to promote family stability.
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