Foster care is not meant to last forever. At some point in time, a foster child will move from the foster home and reunify with birth family, join an adoptive placement, or move into another foster placement. These moves are often very difficult for all involved.
Part of foster parenting is creating a connection or attachment to children within the foster home. Past foster parents may remain important to a child, even after moving back home with birth family or into a new adoptive or foster home.
Though it may be difficult for some birth family members to see the importance of keeping in contact with the foster parents that cared for their child, it is still in the foster child's best interest for the family to consider continuing the relationship. Hopefully, the foster parents worked positively with the birth family and the birth family will be able to see the importance of maintaining a relationship with the foster family.
Remember: All connections are important to a child. When a child’s past caregivers seem to disappear, it may send a message to the youth that they are not loved, cared for, or important enough to remember.
Here are a few ideas on maintaining relationships with past foster parents:
Correspondence. Help the child keep in contact through phone calls, emails, or letters and cards.
Social media. Social media may also be an option for older foster children. I know enjoy keeping up with former foster youth through Facebook.
Skype. Consider utilizing Skype on a regular basis. Consult with the foster family for a schedule that works best for child and their family.
Invitations to different events. Remember to invite past foster parents to school programs, dance recitals, vocal performances and other events whether sponsored through the community, school, or church.
Special occasions. Invite past foster parents to the child’s birthday parties or graduations. We have enjoyed attending such events for former foster youth, celebrating different life milestones. It is a neat thing to watch youth we have cared for in our home continue to grow, both physically and educationally.
Outings out as a family. Ask if past foster parents would like to join your family at the zoo or for a picnic at the park.
Agency sponsored events. Foster and adoptive families should consider taking advantage of agency sponsored events, such as trips to the zoo, circus, or sporting events, and plan to meet up during. This is a great option for situations when the adults involved struggle to get along with each other, but want to continue a relationship for the best interest of the child.
Pictures and the open sharing of feelings.Simply allow the child the opportunity to express feelings about their former caregivers. Don’t become defensive or angry if the child states that they miss their former foster family. Allow the child to have pictures of the family and other keepsakes.
If the past foster placement was a healthy and happy placement, contact should not be an issue, however, if there is any question as to if contact is appropriate or in a child's best interest, consult with the child's therapist or social worker.
It may be difficult keeping these past connections and attachments alive, but it does benefit the children. Try to get creative in how contact is maintained. Hopefully the above ideas will help to spark other ways that your child can keep in contact with those he or she cares about.