A network of adoptive families, birth families, and adoption professionals which exists to improve the lives of children and others touched by adoption through support and education. UFA is actively engaged in community outreach and advocacy to raise awareness of adoption as a loving option.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Visitations in Foster Care

My plane trip to Texas was cancelled, leaving me standing in the terminal, alongside dozens of others, stranded without a flight. As I was scheduled to speak to a group of foster parents at a convention, I was anxious, and even a little stressed. Indeed, this was the second time in a month that I had encountered flight troubles. Just weeks before, I was stranded in Chicago, Illinois, snowed in and missing a flight to Iowa for a speaking engagement at their state conference. Certainly, there was not much fun in the conundrum facing me.

image by marsmet546
Refusing to miss the seminar I was presenting, I rented a car, driving the additional hours and miles. Not only had I been looking forward to working with the caseworkers and foster parents of that area of Texas, but I simply did not want to let people down, disappointing all involved. After all, I was scheduled to attend, made a commitment to do so, and it was my responsibility to see that I made it there. Fortunately, after some last minute changes in travel plans, I was able to make it, held some exciting seminars over the next few days, and met some wonderful people, all dedicated to helping children in foster care.

Unfortunately, there are those times when schedules do not go as planned, and individuals are let down. For children in foster care, this can be especially difficult when it comes to visitations with birth parents and biological family members. As one who has watched many of my own foster children come home from disappointing visitations, my own heart has broken, as these children struggle to figure out why their mother or father did not come to see them.
image by Arvind Balaraman
For children in foster care, visitations with family members are often an event that they look forward to with great eagerness. After all, they are seeing their parents or other family members, being reunited with them, if only for a very brief time. Often times, visitations are held at child welfare agencies, while other times they are held in neutral locations, such as restaurants, parks, and even faith based institutions. The time usually flies by quickly, and the child and biological family member are once again separated until the next meeting. Visitations are important for a number of reasons, and help to maintain the relationship between both child and adult.

Yet, there are those times when a biological family member cannot make it, for whatever reason, and the scheduled visit is cancelled. Too many times, these children are left wondering why their parents did not show. Self doubt sets in, as they question if it was something they may have done, or perhaps if their parents were mad at them. Some may believe that their parents don’t care about them, and that they do not even matter. For all involved, it is another rejection, another painful experience, and another heartbreak.
image by sean dreilinger
When the child arrives back home, it is important that the foster parent be understanding. To be sure, the child will be filled with emotions and feelings. The child may come home confused, angry, sad, depressed, listless, distressed, frustrated, or any combination. Indeed, this will be a difficult time for many homes, as the child tries grapples with his feelings of rejection. It is most essential for the well being of all involved that foster parents give the child space, time, patience, comfort, and of course understanding. While child may be difficult and perhaps even lash out or misbehave, the child will need the stability and reassurance from the foster parents. Do not miss out on this appointment, do not be late to meet the child’s emotional needs.

Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 11 years, and he and his wife have had over 30 children come through their home. He is a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system, and travels around the nation delivering passionate, dynamic, energetic, and informative presentations. Dr. DeGarmo is the author of the highly inspirational and bestselling book Fostering Love: One Foster Parent’s Story, and the upcoming book The Foster Parenting Manual: A Practical Guide to Creating a Loving, Safe and Stable Home. He also writes for a number of publications and newsletters, both here in the U.S. and overseas. Dr. DeGarmo can be contacted by email, through his Facebook page, or at his website.

Have your foster children dealt with visitation disappointments? What strategies did you use to help them cope? Please comment below, or submit your own guest post on a foster care topic.

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