Back in the 1970’s not much effort was placed in helping a child to maintain a connection with their birth families. There were no planned family visits or attempts to get children adopted back at that time, which lead to the passing of Public Law 96-272 which emphasized family reunification and judicial oversight. It was also common for foster children to move frequently to avoid attachment with their foster families. Today, we now know about the importance of visitation and helping a family reunify or for a child to find a forever family through adoption. The frequent moving of children from home to home is also something that most agencies try to avoid.
The Development of a Bond between a Parent and a Child
Consider all that goes into a parent creating a bond with their child. It all begins in infancy. Some researchers even say it begins before birth. A baby will cry wanting to be fed or for a diaper change. The parent will come when the baby cries with a warm bottle or a fresh diaper. The baby and the parent both feel relaxed knowing that the baby’s needs are met. The parent then also feels confident and competent as a caregiver. As the baby grows this cycle of need continues. The attachment is further strengthened between the parent and child through activities, needs being met, and special memories being made.
New Attachments Build Off of Other Attachments
If this child then enters foster care or goes into an adoptive home, the new set of foster or adoptive parents would then build their attachment off of the bond that was already created by the birth parent. The new foster or adoptive parent may ask the parent or child for ideas on favorite meals, or about fears the child may have and how to properly address them. The child will feel secure in knowing that his new placement respects the connection he has with his birth parent. The foster or adoptive parent will have an easier time creating a new connection with the child if the child already has an attachment or bond to someone else.
This is also true if the child formed an attachment with a set of foster parents and is then reunified with birth family or placed into an adoptive home. The attachments formed will be very important to the child and hopefully will be respected when the child moves from the foster home.
Cutting Past Attachments Hurts Everyone
Some foster and adoptive parents have a difficult time respecting or honoring a child’s past attachments. This could be due to jealousy on the part of the foster or adoptive parent, especially when children talk a lot about their birth family. Some caregivers have a hard time sharing a child with a birth parent and wish that the child loved them in the same way or that the birth parents would just disappear.
Some foster or adoptive parents hold anger over past abuse and neglect that the child endured at the hands of the parent. This is often times very difficult to rise above when working with children. It could also be that some foster and adoptive parents don’t understand the concept or importance of respecting past attachments.
When new caregivers like foster or adoptive parents, attempt to cut or remove birth family or past foster parents from a child’s life, they are usually hurting their own relationship with the child. A foster or adoptive parent may start missing visits with birth family, not allowing a child to make phone calls, or not putting in an effort to grow and maintain those connections. These foster or adoptive parents are in a way asking the child to choose, and the new caregivers may be on the losing end of that choice.
Saying demeaning things or making rude comments about a child’s parents or past foster parents is never appropriate. Not only is it immature, but very hurtful to a child. In effect the caregivers are saying demeaning and rude things about the child, since the child came from the birth parents.
Creating and Maintaining Connections
Please remember, that all attachments are important to a child. By destroying one attachment you are hurting the opportunity for a child to attach to you. Remember, if a child can attach to you, a child can attach to others in their life.
PS-MAPP Curriculum written and designed by the Kansas Children's Alliance