How can foster parents “listen” to their new arrival? One good way is to work with the child to prepare a story of the child's past. Called a Life Book....
A Permanent Home
How can foster parents promote permanence? Working to provide a stable home from which a child can grow is the best thing foster parents can do. The first step is to prepare the child for a return to his birth family. Foster parents need to cooperate with visitation. Encourage and support the birth parents as they struggle to remedy the reasons for losing their child. Model and teach parenting skills. Monitor the progress or lack of it toward reunification and keep the caseworker informed.
The foster parents must recognize the critical nature of bonding, and honor that original attachment to the birth parents where appropriate. If the birth parents can remedy the problems that led to the child's removal within a reasonable time, this will maintain the attachment with minimal disruption.
Delay, however, is not an option. Time is not on the side of the child. The child is growing and developing. Childhood is a formative period, not a time to be shifted back and forth. Drift works against nature's clock. Society and the birth parents may feel that they have time, but the child does not. Follow ASFA’s wise timelines. Reunify within child time or find a new permanent home.
If and when reunification fails, the foster parents should prepare the child to be adopted, either by kin, by a non-relative, or adopted by themselves. Foster parents adopt 60 percent of foster children who are adopted. Twenty-five percent are adopted by kin.
Foster parents have many ways to actively promote the well-being of their foster child. Four possible interventions will be discussed in this chapter:
- Preparing a life book for the child is an important way to get to know the new arrival and to connect him to his past and, perhaps, his future.
- By recording daily happenings in a journal, the foster parents concretely invest themselves in the child’s growth and development. A journal is the strongest record of early events in the child’s life. The journal can be critical in defending against unwarranted allegations and in documenting the emergence of bonding for possible adoption. See Appendix G.
- Modeling attachment is an excellent way for foster/adopt parents to confront the emotional isolation that is generated by the temporary nature of foster care.
- Foster parents need to be advocates. This chapter will end with some suggestions on how foster parents can make themselves heard as they advocate for the children in their care.