Attachment and Bonding
James Kenny, MSW, PhD and Peter Kenny, JD
Bonding is a significant attachment which can be defined in a clear and objective manner. According to extensive research, interrupting such relationships correlates with a statistically significant increase in mental illness, crime and homelessness. Federal law states than the child’s right to permanence within a reasonable time is paramount. When placing or moving children, bonded relationships must be recognized as equal to or more important than kinship.
A Psychological and Legal PerspectivePublished in the December 2015 issue of Policy and Practice The term “bonding” is frequently used but rarely defined. Nationwide, more than 397,000 children live in foster care.(1) When a court decides where to place a child whose primary residence has been shattered, certain guidelines must be followed. However, the lines between blood and bond are not so clearly drawn when a foster parent files to adopt the child for whom they have provided long-term care, and a previously unknown blood relative emerges to challenge the placement. Whatever guidelines are used, the court must still understand the child’s best interests. How does the court weigh the genetic relationship against the parent-in-place? When properly defined and understood, bonding merits serious consideration. In short, bonding matters. The unnecessary disruption of existing bonds can have devastating consequences.
For courts and welfare departments to give bonding the attention it deserves, the concept must first be objectively defined and carefully explained. After an extensive review of the literature, we offer this definition: