Community Beyond the System for all Caregivers

by Aimee Hill

Imagine for a moment that you are a parent who has spent the past year navigating your children being removed from your home and placed in foster care.

Over the past 12 months, you have checked the boxes on a long list of services, therapies, and classes that you were court-ordered to complete, all while keeping steady employment, maintaining sobriety, and attending regular visitation with your children. CPS is ready to place your children back in your home, and you will now navigate the stresses of relearning your children’s habits, schedules, likes, and dislikes, not to mention how to parent them in a new and healthy way. 

The transition can feel exciting and overwhelming, especially for the many reunified parents we work with at Foster Village who do not have a healthy support system to rely on. They are essentially parenting alone.

Now imagine that the foster parent who has loved and cared for your children for the past year is ready to walk alongside you as you navigate the changes.

How does it make you feel to know you’re not alone, maybe for the first time in your life?

This feeling of having support for the parenting journey is the foundation of our Partners in Permanency (PiP) program. 

We are all too aware of the incredible lack of resources for birth parents following reunification with their children, which results too often in the future need for a secondary removal and more CPS involvement.

PiP provides wraparound relational and tangible support to birth parents and children and allows these precious children to maintain a connection with the previous caregivers who also love them deeply. 

Each partnership between birth parents and partner parents is unique, but the basics are the same. Partner parents work together with Foster Village and the birth parent to assess ongoing needs and the best ways to meet them. When an unexpected car repair, job loss, or crisis hits, our birth parents have their partner parent to lean on.

Support may also include help with childcare if there is a time gap between work and daycare hours. Some of our parents are relieved to have a night off from cooking when provided with a warm meal and a time of connection with their partner parent. Others are most grateful for having someone to listen to them as they process the daily challenges of fully parenting their children again.

And our PiP program is a much-needed support for foster parents as well. For foster parents who are preparing for children to reunify with their families, there are so many mixed emotions. Reunification means holding the children you’ve cared for open-handedly while preparing them for the transition and cheering on their birth parents along the way. Being the children's primary caregiver and then letting them go is sometimes the most challenging part of fostering.

And many foster parents feel alone in their desire to support the birth family during the case and following reunification. 

As a result, we have created a monthly support group, our Partner Parent Gathering, that provides a safe place to navigate these things together. It is so helpful for a foster parent or kinship caregiver to know that others understand the joys and challenges of supporting birth families. Our gathering provides a space for foster parents, adoptive parents, and kinship caregivers who are in various stages of involvement with the birth family. 

Some caregivers have attended the gathering while in the process of getting licensed to learn about how to start a healthy relationship with birth parents from the beginning of a new case. Others attend who are years post-adoption but maintain a relationship with the birth family.

No matter what stage our caregivers are in, many have found that sharing their experiences encourages others to continue on the journey and gives them a place to be supported, understood, and known.

As we work with individuals who have intersected with the child welfare system from every angle, we see the benefits of community and support for everyone involved. At Foster Village, we provide a community beyond the system not only to children experiencing foster care and their caregivers but also to the birth families that we hope to wrap around and give the needed support as they raise their children.