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Kodi Baughman

The importance of connection

For me, it was really important to stay connected to my mom. My dad was incarcerated and out of the picture early on, so the only parent I was able to form a close bond with was my mom. My mom was the one person that had been there for me and my siblings, our constant. Of course, there are things that she struggled with as a parent which is why we ended up in foster care, but that didn’t change our love for her. It also didn’t change the fact that she was our biggest support and cheerleader and never failed to let us know how much she loved us. While I was in care I was able to stay connected to my mom and ensure our relationship remained intact and that meant the world to me.

Reunification

When youth enter foster care usually the goal is reunification and in my case, that was what happened. If reunification would not have been possible my connection to my mother would have been just as important. If anyone would have attempted to keep us apart it would have been devastating for me and I know that the instant I turned 18 I would have been out looking for her. Even though I had great influences in my life throughout foster care none of them would have been able to replace the relationship I had with my mother, that bond is critical. I believe taking this connection away from youth in care and not working with them to plan for connecting with their biological parents is setting them up for failure. If we do not talk to and prepare youth, they are going to take it upon themselves to make contact and if they reach out with no plan the reunification aftercare has a greater chance of failing. Instead, we could be working with them on a plan to make sure this aftercare reunification goes the best way possible. Working with them to say “Okay, I know this is really important to you, let’s talk about what happens if this initial plan doesn’t work out - what is plan B?”

The connection while in care

There were barriers to staying connected to my mom while my siblings and I were in care. Our biggest barrier was the supervised visits, there should have been more but having to be supervised by a worker and not allowing our grandmother to facilitate the visits forced us to have to work around everyone else’s schedules. There should have been more time for us to be together as a family prior to the reunification, it would have made things easier. My mom had done so many things to work on herself and prepare to be the best mom she could be to get us back, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to work on anything and when we went home I was not prepared to be her child. I was not ready for my mom to take on a mom role, she had changed the way she was doing things so much to alleviate concerns from the system and I had always been just fine taking care of myself. This created a lot of growing pains and struggles in what should have been a happy and smooth transition back into the care of our mom.

My advice for foster parents

My advice would be for the foster parent to reach out to the biological parent and be genuine in that interaction. Being genuine can help alleviate the fear the biological parents may have about the foster parents trying to take their children away from them. I believe foster parents can be the biggest support and help the case take a whole new positive direction once the biological parents know they are there to support them and not judge them. This kind of healthy connection between the children, the foster parents, and the biological parents can make such an impact that the foster parents stay engaged with the family long after the case closes. Making that connection to the biological parents and building a rapport will also help the relationship between the foster parents and the child. Take the time to ask the biological parents what their child likes, if they have a favorite blanket, about the activities they are interested in. It is also just as important to ask about cultural norms that may be important to the family and especially the child, keeping these consistencies for the child makes the entire process less traumatic. The big takeaway is to align with the bio parents so you are not working against them so that everyone is moving forward together as a team.

Kodi is a former foster youth from Iowa. He spent 1 year in kinship placement with his grandmother. Kodi currently works heavily within the state of Iowa in a variety of capacities helping families entering the foster care system and ensuring culturally equitable guidelines within the state are met. He also works on the National Foster Youth and Alumni Policy Council and is finishing his Bachelor's Degree in Human Services. Learn more about Kodi.

Location

Iowa
12 Comments
Oct 9, 2018 By ashleyatfosterclub

Comments

lmacgregor's picture

lmacgregor said:

We have a 13-year old foster daughter. It has been a wonderful experience for all of us to work with her biological family towards reunification.

daddydh's picture

daddydh said:

Here in Florida, Its called "The Positive Parenting Initiative", but my wife and I have been doing this for years. We have expanded our family base by including both the reunified children and their families, as a continued part of our family. We see some every week, some yearly, but we maintain contact. The kids have said it helps to know their loved still, and parents admit its the ongoing relationship that helps them maintain learning as most came from broken homes themselves!! Keep on helping, YOU DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!

tcoons4's picture

tcoons4 said:

I agree with this article and think it is important to include the biological parents in this process

1NatashaK's picture

1NatashaK said:

I agree! What if the biological parent doesn't want to have a relationship, what are we as foster parents to do?

Krystalk's picture

Krystalk said:

I agree.

rrobinette58's picture

rrobinette58 said:

good read

Ahmed Amer1's picture

Ahmed Amer1 said:

I strongly agree with foster parents working with biological parents when it comes to the reunification parents with their child, as it will bring ease and reduces lots of emotional stresses on the child's mental state!

Sithrune's picture

Sithrune said:

Great advice. Thank you.

jdupuis8120's picture

jdupuis8120 said:

Our goal is to maintain a line of communication with our sons bio parents. We are hesitant to give them our home address and advised them to send mail to the social worker. We haven't had any sort of communication from the mother or father since seeing them at the last court hearing. It can be frustrating doing damage control for a very disappointed little boy when there is a lot of talk and no action from the bio parents. Hopefully, this will improve in time.

Trent Brown's picture

Trent Brown said:

Building a relationship with bio parents is key to a healthy foster parent relationship