Despite prevention and family preservation efforts, certain child welfare cases result in the removal of a child from his or her parent. Research shows that removals cause lasting trauma for both the child and the parent. The majority of children who are removed from their parents are placed in stranger foster care When the family does not know the foster parent with whom the child is placed, the anxiety that parents and children are already experiencing is even greater. Parents yearn to know whether their children are safe, and children worry about their parents. They often feel unable to express their unease to their foster parents out of concern that they will hurt feelings or even be moved to another placement. This division of loyalty worsens over time.
To ameliorate the undue anxiety felt by both parents and children, LSNJ supports a model in which foster parents play a larger role in the case planning process. They have the capacity to serve as a resource to both children and parents, helping children heal from the trauma of removal and supporting parents in the path to reunification. Foster parents often express that they feel excluded from the case planning process and misunderstood by parents. If they are involved in the reunification process as resource parents, children will feel more comfortable telling their parents that they feel safe and loved in their foster homes, rather than feeling unwarranted guilt for that positive relationship. Additionally, parents will feel supported in their efforts to reunite with their children. Resource parents can facilitate in-person visitation, which further alleviates the trauma experienced by both children and parents.
Rethinking the role of resource parents so that they support the reunification process can reduce unnecessary anxiety and improve outcomes for children and families involved in the child welfare system. Moreover, these special relationships between parents and resource parents can last well past reunification, as resource parents continue to support parents in various ways.
To learn more: Listen to LSNJ's Jey Rajaraman as she discusses prevention efforts and the importance of resource parents in this Court Improvement Program webinar: https://vimeo.com/367911380.
Hear from two members of LSNJ's Reunified Youth Foster Project about their experiences in foster care and the important role their resource parents played in their lives.