Multiple Attachments or Bonds
Bonding is person-specific, but it is not exclusive. What can be done when there are conflicting attachments or bonds? Older children may be significantly attached to birth parents, and subsequently, during their stay as foster children, they become significantly attached to foster parents as well. Following the research that indicates that bonded relationships are disrupted at peril, an effort should be made to maintain contact with all parties. Where foster/adopt parents already know the birth parents, this may happen naturally. A cooperative adoption may be in the child’s best interests, giving the child the advantage of a stable and permanent home while still maintaining ties with the biological parents. (See Chapter 12)
A choice of home for the child must sometimes be made between competing parents or families. When bonding can be proven, then bonding should weigh more than mere genes. If the child is already bonded by definition to more than one set of parents, then the comparative strength of the bonds should be considered. The strength might be measured by comparing the length of time spent with the parties and the future prospects for permanence contained in the commitment.
Bonding must be defined in a careful and factual way because, as we shall see in the next four chapters, the consequences of its interruption are severe. Permanent harm may result. Bonded relationships must be given the attention and respect they deserve.
When a child who becomes free for adoption is living with and bonded to a foster family, that family should become the family of choice for permanence. Biology and genes are important, but not so important as to put unknown kin ahead of a bonded family in the search for permanence.