A special education teacher recently told me about a kid from a troubled home. The boy was in her class, because the parents’ neglect had led to developmental delays. This young boy, though, had captured his teacher’s heart. She could not help falling in love with his determination to better himself. How could he study harder? How would other “normal” kids behave? The teacher took him under her wing, lavishing him with extra attention. She adored this plucky young boy enough that she wanted to become the boy’s guardian, but just assumed it wasn’t possible.
Do you know what to call this teacher? Fictive kin. Fictive kin are almost like family and can be teachers, coaches, neighbors, friends of the family or anyone with a special connection to a child in care. Fictive kin can make excellent adoptive parents. They already care about the child, have been or are currently playing an active role in the child’s life, and can help link the child’s life today with the life, friends and community the children knew prior to entering foster care. The best social workers realize this and purposefully seek out fictive kin when researching potential adopters.
So if you’re a foster parent, think about reaching out to that Little League coach or the ballet instructor. Help keep them involved in your kids’ lives through teacher gifts, cards, and opportunities to just spend time together. Point out these special connections to social workers. If the children return to their birth family, they will still have another trusted adult in their life to turn to as needed. If reunification doesn’t happen, fictive kin could be your children’s future permanent parents.