What is reunification in foster care?
Reunification is a term used often in the foster care world.
If you are a foster parent or considering becoming one it is vital that you understand what it is and the role you plan in this process.
Reunification is the process of children that are in foster care returning home to live with their biological family or guardian(s).
In foster care, biological parents, sometimes known as “first families”, have steps ordered by the court that they must complete in order to bring their children home. These steps may include things such as rehabilitation clinics, parenting classes, securing safe housing, completing drug screenings, finding a job, and so forth.
The hope is that parents work the necessary steps and gain the healing that they need so they can be reunited with their children. Yes, foster care is about providing safe homes for children, but it is also about providing space and time for the first families to recover so that parents can be restored back to their children.
Since reunification is the primary goal of foster care it is crucial that foster parents prepare their hearts for this possibility and that they champion this goal. Becoming a foster parent with the sole intention of adopting is dangerous because the potential for children to return to their first family is high. We at Foster 325 want to prepare you for foster care and we would be doing you a disservice if we didn’t prepare you for the possibility of children going back home. Does foster care end in adoption? Sometimes it does and we are for adoption when it is in the best interest of the child. It is wise, however, to keep in mind that adoption is the last option for children placed in foster care. The first goal is to help the biological family heal so they can be reunited with their children. If that does not happen the second goal is to place the children with extended family. This is known as a kinship placement. It is only after reunification and kinship placement are ruled out that adoption becomes the next solution.
How does reunification affect you as a foster parent? You GET TO be a part of a family being restored. When you start your fostering journey with this mindset you are able to champion the biological parents and show them you are on their team. For some of these first families, you may be the only representation of Jesus they have ever seen. You get to show them God’s grace and mercy in a powerful way. You get to speak life and hope over them and call them up to be the parents God created them to be.
What if we as Christians did foster care differently? What if we intentionally loved the entire family and not just the foster kids? Imagine what could happen if foster parents were open to fostering a connection of mentorship and friendship with bio parents? Not only would foster children be well-taken care but families would be restored and generations would be changed forever in the process.
May we be a community that champions reunification.
Photo of a foster family with biological mom on reunification day.