Should I Believe in Reuniting Foster Kids with Their Parent?

Here is what I believe in.  Reunifying parents with their kids who are in foster care.  Helping families who are going through hard times get past their troubles .  So why do I catch myself hoping for quick termination of parental rights?

Today, 4-year-old Jumping Jack came to visit our 8-year-old foster son Watchful and 10-year-old foster daughter Joyful.  Jumping Jack is their biological brother who is placed with another foster family.  Jumping Jack’s foster mom and I took a quick break to have an adult conversation out on the patio, and she confessed to the same feeling.  She had gotten into foster care to help families heal and reunite, but she is doubting the wisdom of reunification in this case.

As I mentioned in Too Early for the Adoption Word, our social worker and guardian ad litem think there’s a good chance the case will move to termination of parental rights.  At court yesterday, it was made clear that the county will definitely be seeking to terminate mom’s rights later this year.  They are giving dad his chance to fix things, but they are not optimistic that he will be able to turn things around.

Dad diligently shows up for every visit, but then ignores Watchful and Joyful.  He expresses concern about the children’s eating habits, but denies that the trauma has negatively impacted the kids.  He’s says he’s interested in reunification, but chooses not to call the children.  He says he would protect the kids, but blames the children for the abuse and blames the school system for not teaching children how to defend themselves.

This is the kids second time in foster care, and dad received a year’s worth of training back then.  Counseling and parenting classes didn’t fix the problem last time, though. Why would counseling and parenting classes work this time?

And so, I am left in a quandary.  When I see dad make efforts to turn things around, I want to cheer him on.  Yet, when I am reminded of the horrible trauma that happened under his watch and observe some of his current poor choices, I want to help the children move on to a life without him so they can lead safe, healthy, and eventually happy lives.

Every time I have the fleeting thought that maybe Joyful and Watchful would be better off if adoption becomes the plan, a little part of me dies.  Those very thoughts violate one of my most deeply held beliefs.  But apparently, I have a belief that is stronger than my belief that families should stay together.  My most powerful belief, apparently, is that children deserve safety and  love above all else.

4 thoughts on “Should I Believe in Reuniting Foster Kids with Their Parent?

  1. I agree with you on a lot of this. I think there is something to be said about the importance of the biological family, however, I do not agree that the notion that reunification is automatically in the best interest of the child. The state I live in now has seen a major overhaul to its foster care system in the last year due to three separate cases of children being killed after reunification. There needs to be a harder look at what truly is in the best interest of the children.

    The children I have now are from a case that was so bad it made national headlines , yet the dad seems to be taking all the steps necessary in his plan and I’m sure reunification is going to happen. I hope the case workers and judges truly look at the best interest and don’t get blinded by the habit of automatic reunification.

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    1. Sorry to hear that the emotional yo-yo’ing is happening to you, too, Bruised Banana. We all want to believe in the happy ending of reunification where the family is healed and the threat of recurring abuse or neglect has been abolished. Sometimes this happens, but sometimes not. 😦

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  2. It’s easy to preach reunification as an abstract concept, but when you have these precious children in your home, your mama bear instincts kick in. Suddenly, you ONLY want them to be reunified if you can be confident they will be loved and well cared for. Unfortunately, I don’t believe this happens very often. I have personally watched a “successful” reunification of my sister’s foster daughter slowly unravel into the exact same conditions that caused her removal in the first place. It is so frustrating and frightening! It is very hard to break the cycle of abuse, alcohol, drugs and other destructive behaviors. No amount of classes and training can do that.

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    1. My heart goes out to your sister’s foster daughter. It’s so hard to believe that life has changed for the better, only to find out that you’re right back in the difficult situation you started off in! Sometimes training, therapy, and rehab are successful, and sometimes not. The problem is that there’s no crystal ball to know which families will stay “fixed” and which ones will unravel.

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