Placement stability: What resource parents can do
Moves for children and youth in foster care can be traumatic. They can also undermine permanency efforts. Changing placements can increase the risk a young person will develop behavioral challenges that make it harder to achieve reunification, adoption, or another permanency outcome (Casey Family Programs, 2018).
The opposite is also true. A stable placement that meets their needs offers children and youth immediate and long-term benefits and can pave the way for timely permanence.
Children and youth do better when they have stable, healthy relationships with loving caregivers who meet their needs. These relationships are a foundation that keeps their development on track and makes it easier for them to form trusting relationships when they grow up (Wulczyn, 2010). Kids in out-of-home care need the adult connections, consistency, and predictability that come with being in a stable home (Pecora, 2010).
What Can You Do?
As a resource parent there are things you can do to help ensure stability for the young people in your care. They include:
Make an informed decision. On an ongoing basis, be mindful of where you are as a resource family. What child needs can you meet? Which can you not? When your agency calls about a possible placement, ask as many questions as you need. Only you can say whether the child is an appropriate match for you and your family.
Ask for help. Placements sometimes disrupt because families wait too long before seeking help. Ask for help before you are past the breaking point.
Use respite. Respite care is not just for emergencies. It is a break that allows resource parents to renew their energy, which can enhance the quality and the longevity of placements.
Learn. Research suggests placements are more stable when resource parents have a clear understanding of the issues children are struggling with and have the knowledge and skills they need to parent them successfully. In particular, resource parents should learn all they can about:
- Trauma and other issues that affect children and youth in foster care;
- How to advocate effectively for mental health and educational services; and
- Appropriate behavior management techniques, especially for young people struggling with trauma, mental health issues, and oppositional/aggressive behavior.
Support family connections. The child’s connections with their parents, siblings, friends, and other family members can add to their sense of stability. Maintaining a sense of connection and stability is important for children, especially those with a history of trauma.
Maintain your own support system. Strong connections to your own family, friends, faith community, and other resource parents help you stay healthy and ready to look after the children and youth in your care.