Reunification with Biological Parents: Compassion and Understanding is Key

There are many memorable experiences that occur for social workers over their time serving in foster care. One such occurrence that comes up is when a biological parent is distressed with the removal of their child who is placed into the foster care system. There are many reasons this takes place including substance abuse, incarceration, mental illness or neglect of the child. Whatever the reason for the child’s removal, it is for their safety and in their best interest. This can be devastating, not only for the child, but also for the parent and biological family.

The purpose of foster care is to provide a temporary safe place until a permanent solution can be achieved through reunification with family, adoption, or emancipation. It is the hope and responsibility of foster care agencies and foster parents to ensure every opportunity for reunification is attempted. At Trinity Youth Services, we deeply hope and root for biological families to change the circumstances necessary to reunify children with their family. We look to foster parents to help by getting youth to and from visitation meetings with biological families, attending family meetings, and utilizing mental health and counseling services.

It is very important that all parties maintain respect and compassion for one another for the sake of the child. It is also important to understand what the birth parent is going through, listen to their feelings and remember they are deserving of respect and a chance to be reunited with their child if it is safe to do so. Until then, we make certain that biological parents know we do everything to ensure the safety and well-being of their child.

If reunification cannot be achieved, their parental rights will be terminated and the child will be available for adoption. Our goal is to provide the child with the best permanent solution as soon as possible so they may have a chance to heal from the trauma experienced in their life and find the normalcy they long for.

This process isn’t always easy and our social workers certainly have had to form a thick skin to effectively and compassionately communicate with upset birth parents, but this work is rewarding. We often hear from families long after a child has been in our care regarding their progress and how, ultimately, the experience changed their life for the better. Our reward is knowing a child is safe and leading a stable life. Years later, we get phone calls and letters of gratitude about our genuine concern for everyone involved. It’s stories like these that make it all worthwhile.

Jenelle PhillipsDirector of Development
Jenelle’s role is to identify and access resources for youth in our care. She is also responsible for maintaining a distinctive look and voice for Trinity through our online presence, media and community outreach. Before joining the Trinity team in 2016, Jenelle worked in the newspaper/magazine industry for nearly a decade as an award-winning graphic designer, photographer, writer and editor. Jenelle earned a bachelor’s degree in communications at California State University Fullerton. Jenelle is very involved in the community and is active in her church.

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