It’s the everyday things resource parents do
by Jamie Bazemore •
We all know resource parents provide love, nurturing, and care to meet the immediate needs of young people in foster care. But their support for the child’s permanent plan is just as important. In this article, I’d like to highlight some of the ways resource parents take action every day to support permanence.
The Permanent Plan
North Carolina’s child welfare system is built on the belief that children should be raised by their families whenever possible. For that reason, when a child or youth enters foster care, reunification is almost always the first goal—officially this is called a “permanent plan.” If the court eventually determines a child cannot grow up safely with their family of origin, the permanent plan for that child becomes adoption, guardianship, or another form of permanency.
Resource parents’ countless thoughtful actions encourage both legal permanence and permanent connections for children and youth.
When I think about the everyday things resource parents do to help children and youth achieve permanency, shared parenting is at the top of my list. Shared parenting is the practice of developing an active partnership with the young person’s family. Building this relationship bolsters the child’s well-being, and it supports reunification.
As my former colleague and former foster parent Donna Foster has written, “When foster parents and birth parents participate in shared parenting, the child wins! This relationship can continue when the child goes home. I was surprised that I became friends with my children’s birth parents. I was welcomed in their homes after their families were reunited.”
“When I showed them respect for being their child’s parents and looked for shared parenting opportunities,” Donna explains, “the fight in them moved into doing what was required to get their family back together. I was not the enemy, but the advocate” (Foster, 2011).
A shared parenting approach is useful even if reunification is no longer the plan. When resource parents build a relationship with a child’s future adoptive parent or guardian, it makes the child’s transition to that forever home easier. For more on shared parenting, please click here.
Visitation and Contact
Actively supporting visitation and frequent contact is another everyday thing resource parents do to support permanency. Maintaining children’s connections to family helps their well-being. And, like shared parenting, it can smooth their return home.
Resource parents do a lot to ensure the success of visits and contact. For example, they advocate: if contact isn’t taking place, they ask why. They advocate that birth parents attend medical appointments and school meetings whenever possible. They also provide transportation to visits, supervise visits, host visits in their homes, and set up video calls. Other examples of how resource parents support and enhance connection through visits, include:
- Sending the child to visits with artwork, schoolwork, or even homework they can do with their parents.
- Sending the child to visits dressed in clothing that the birth parents have provided for them, to make it clear that the resource parent recognizes and honors them as the child’s parents.
- Writing down important information such as milestones, new food choices, and other updates in a journal and sending it with the child to visits.
- Arranging the child’s schedule so the parent can feed their baby a bottle or give their child a snack during the visit.
These and countless other thoughtful actions encourage permanent connections for children and youth.
Resource parents know we can’t achieve permanence for kids in foster care without honest, transparent communication. One important example is when resource parents are engaged partners during Child and Family Team Meetings, or CFTs.
CFTs are golden opportunities to discuss and address decisions, barriers, and successes associated with the youth’s permanent plan. By actively engaging in these meetings in partnership with the young person, resource parents help everyone focus on the urgent need to achieve permanence. To learn more about Child and Family Team meetings in North Carolina, take the online course “Introduction to Child and Family Teams.” You can find it here: https://bit.ly/3d4Sj7e.
Resource parents also communicate one-on-one with birth families. They provide daily updates on the child, ask parents for information about the child, model and reinforce parenting skills, and engage as a partner in supporting the family’s success.
I deeply appreciate all the ways resource parents contribute to permanence for kids in foster care!
Resource parents also contribute to permanence by acknowledging and managing the complicated, difficult feelings connected to it. This is some of the hardest work they do.
When we achieve or are on the threshold of achieving permanence for a child, resource parents are excited and want to celebrate. At the same time, they often feel a deep sense of loss.
If the young person is leaving the resource parent’s home—whether through reunification, adoption, or guardianship—the resource parent often feels sad because they will miss caring for them and seeing them every day. Even if the youth is staying put and the resource parent is adopting them or becoming their guardian, emotions can be mixed. This is especially true if the child is severing legal connections to their family, even if the family will remain an active part of their life once the adoption or guardianship is finalized.
For any resource parents out there who struggle with this, I would encourage you not to struggle alone. Please communicate openly about any feelings of grief and loss you are experiencing with your licensing worker and professional supports. Participating in support groups and attending training on grief and loss (such as the course found here: https://bit.ly/3lS3rZl) may also be helpful.
I hope this article makes clear my deep sense of appreciation and gratitude for the many ways resource parents contribute to permanence for children and youth in foster care. To put it plainly, we couldn’t do it without them.
Jamie Bazemore, BSW, MSW is the Child Welfare Program Consultant for Cansler Collaborative Resources and the Adoption Facilitator for Stephenson & Fleming, LLP.