The topic of child welfare looms large in my novel Our Orbit. It tells the story of an Appalachian girl who crosses the tracks to become foster daughter to an educated family. Love and conflict ensue as all the burning social issues of our time raise their sometimes ugly heads. In gratitude to those who helped me learn about the many demands and great rewards of foster care, I am sharing information on this topic throughout the month of May 2015, National Foster Care Month.
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“Cherub Mama” is a blogger and a work-at-home mom of bio and foster children. When I went browsing her blog to look for information on family reunification, I stumbled on this brief post. It is practical, to-the-point, and yet I found her words deeply moving. So much is said between the lines. Foster children’s visits to non-custodial parents can be fraught with emotion, but this blogger explains their fundamental purpose.
my thoughts on visits
The goal of foster care is (almost) always reunification. Even if the State determines that the biological parent(s) is not safe, a family member is always preferred over non-relative adoption. The goal is to keep families together.
Most of the time that is a very good goal!!!
Please don’t go in to foster care if you’re not willing to support reunification. Because this stuff is hard. Super hard. Crazy hard. But it’s necessary.
Here are my thoughts on visits. A metaphor if you will. And I don’t take credit for this idea, but for the life of me I have no idea where I heard it first.
Visits are the equivalent of ripping a band-aid off a wound so you can keep it raw.
Imagine if you will…their family tree. Each member is a branch. When the children were removed from Wendy (Bio Mom), their branches were cut off their tree. They were separated from what kept them alive. My family welcomed them into our home. They’re Red Delicious. We’re Granny Smith. But we’re all apple trees and my tree can keep their branches alive.
However, the goal is for their branches to get grafted back on to THEIR tree. They aren’t supposed to attach to our tree forever. So we have to keep the wounds raw. We don’t want the kids’ branches to dry off and die. They do have to attach to us. But they can’t attach permanently. We have to continually keep the end of their branch wet and raw so they can attach back to their Red Delicious tree (or at least to a tree in their orchard) when it’s safe.
Every visit keeps that wound open and raw so the ultimate goal of reunification can take place.
These cherubs came to my home a month ago. We’ve had one month for them to get used to our orchard. We’ve nourished their branches and given them all they need to be strong, healthy and to grow.
Today we get to rip that grafting tape off and send them back to their original tree for a visit.
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Visit the National Foster Care Month website.
Visit Cherub Mamma’s blog.
Find her on Facebook.
Read Welcome to the Roller Coaster, a book that she helped create with a group of fellow foster mothers as a fundraiser for their children.