By a Foster Parent
As a trainer for new foster and adoptive families, I always say, “It is not about us, it is about what is best for the child.” There are so many tremendous rewards to building relationships with biological families. In my role as a social worker and trainer, I emphasize the importance of the relationship between foster/adoptive families and birth families. However, as a foster parent, I have had the joy of experiencing all the benefits myself.
In early summer 2005, my husband and I took placement of a precious one-month old baby boy, who I will call Sean. Just before Sean’s birth, his parents’ rights were terminated to his older sister. We were selected as Sean’s foster family by the agency because of our willingness to adopt him in the event that his parents were not successful in completing their treatment plan. We were overjoyed and excited about becoming parents and the prospect of possibly adopting Sean. Despite our own history of infertility and deep desire to adopt a child, my husband and I knew that our role as Sean’s foster parents was not to fulfill our own wishes.
Our role as Sean’s foster parents was to do everything in our power to provide him with a safe and stable home and to support his permanency goal of returning home to his birth parents. With open minds and open hearts, we met Sean’s parents at a meeting to discuss his transition to our home. Although we were all noticeably nervous, meeting in-person at the very beginning was instrumental in breaking the ice. From the time Sean came to our home, my husband and I actively participated with his birth parents in meeting the requirements of the treatment plan and moving toward Sean’s goal of returning home. We chose to supervise Sean’s visit with his parents ourselves and ended up spending hours each week with his mother and father. Shortly after Sean’s move to our home, his mother discontinued her contact with him. However, we continued to build trust with Sean’s father.
As that trust developed, we became a support to Sean’s father and eventually developed a friendship. When the Department approved, we moved Sean’s visits to his father’s home so that Sean could become familiar with the home he would be returning to. The relationship we built with Sean’s father helped all of us to meet Sean’s needs and nearly eliminated the difficulty Sean could have experienced upon returning home. Sean returned home to his father when he was 13 months old. Instead of feeling divided in his loyalties between us and his father, Sean was able to make smooth transitions between our home and his father’s home when longer visits occurred. When he returned home permanently, Sean was very comfortable and at ease. He knew that he was loved by all of us.
Although it was very difficult for us to say good-bye to Sean, we knew that he belonged with his father and that his father would do an excellent job raising him. We love Sean and miss him very much. By putting aside our own needs, we were able to give Sean a great start and help his father to be ready to provide him with a bright future. Sean was never meant to be our son. Instead, he taught us about the joys of parenting and gave us the opportunity to assist his father in beating the odds. I am so impressed by the strength and determination of Sean’s father. While I miss Sean everyday, I am so blessed to have had this opportunity. “It is not about us, it is about what is best for the child.”
May is National Foster Care Month and the 2016 theme is Honoring, Uniting, and Celebrating Families. Be sure to visit The Children’s Bureau’s National Foster Care Month website to find free resources for youth, professionals, birth parents, foster parents, and caregivers as they work toward reunification.
- Helping Families Support Reunification
- How can foster parents and birth parents successfully co-parent?
- Completing the Circle: Uncovering, Discovering & Creating Connections for Your Foster & Adoptive Children
- Being a Foster Parent