Parental resilience in reunification

March 30, 2021

Parenting can be difficult, even under the best of circumstances. Parenting after reunifying after foster care has unique challenges, too. The excitement and joy of coming back together after an out-of-home placement can be quickly overshadowed by the reality of everyday life.

“Throughout the step-up process toward reunification, I mostly got to be the fun mom,” said Heidi who was reunified with her 9-year-old son several months ago. “We would tell each other stories and go on adventures together. We were both just excited at the idea of being able to be a family again.”

For any family, daily rituals like getting ready for school or work, making meals and doing laundry can be key to a household running smoothly. For a family who was recently reunified, those rituals can be tricky due to a lack of familiarity. Without the comfort of a routine, there can be power struggles, inconsistent enforcement of house rules and disagreements about how things should be done. For Heidi, resuming her role as the authority figure led to some growing pains as she and her son had to make adjustments after living apart for more than three years. 

While Heidi’s son was in foster care, they both had access to myriad supports - from family therapy and parenting classes to rental and utility bill assistance. But as they followed the process toward reunification, they also began to transition away from the supports provided by the county.

“I didn’t realize how much work I would still have to do after my son was back home with me,” continued Heidi. “I was so focused on the work I was doing to get him home, I wasn’t fully prepared for what having him home would look like. We still get along great much of the time, but there are also some really hard times when I lose confidence in my parenting.”

Heidi has been able to work with counselors at her son’s school for individual therapy but knows she needs to find another family therapist since their case was closed. She continues to be in contact with their caseworker, who has proven to be an invaluable resource even though they now live in different counties. She also uses the skills she developed during their separation to work on things like what to do when you feel yourself losing patience.

One of their biggest challenges continues to be a lack of trust in each other and in the system. Heidi worries that if she was completely open and honest about some of the challenges she faces, she and her son might be separated again. While her former caseworker assures her she is just undergoing normal parenting challenges, the past weighs heavy on their minds. 

Recently, Heidi was connected with Raise the Future, which offers resources for families who have been reunified. She has also been able to secure additional support for her son outside of his school. For other parents who are working toward reunification, Heidi encourages them to keep fighting for what they know is right. 

“Every parent wants to be a good one,” shared Heidi. “I think sometimes we just need a little extra support to be the kind of parent we know we can be.” 

The Colorado Department of Human Services CO4Kids campaign encourages all Coloradans to strengthen families and communities. If you know of an organization or individual working to strengthen Colorado families and communities that would like to be highlighted, please reach out to Dianna Robinson.

To learn about the signs of child abuse and neglect and for information about how to become a foster or adoptive parent, visit Call 844-CO-4-Kids to report concerns about child abuse and neglect. If a child or teen is in immediate danger, dial 9-1-1.

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