Children in Foster Care Reuniting with Parents

The+setting+for+parent+and+child+meetings+is+home-like+and+comfortable.

Emily Clotfelter

The setting for parent and child meetings is home-like and comfortable.

Emily Clotfelter, Reporter

In the United States, over 400,000 children are part of the foster care system. There are many reasons that they might be in foster care. In the system, foster parents take in children and provide for them either until they are able to be reconnected with their biological parents or be adopted eventually. When their children are in the foster care system, biological parents are permitted to have weekly visits with their children. Family Connection at The Connecting Grounds provides a safe, fun space for these families to meet.

According to Holly Madden, founder and director of Family Connection, “It was an idea that I had along with our Connecting Grounds pastor, Christie Love, to start a program to just support families that are in the Foster System by supervising visits.” Madden says that the goal of the visits is to give these families a way to heal. Kelsie Bayless, a volunteer at the Family Connection, says, “We’re just there to provide a space for the family to get together and have normal family time.” 

At the Family Connection, families are able to have time together in a much more home-like environment than where government visits would be held. Another Family Connection Volunteer, Amy Clotfelter, says, “At the Family Connection, it’s more relaxing; there’s lots of toys.” There are lots of toys, activities, games, crafts, a TV, and even a kitchen area where families can enjoy a meal together. This provides a great, fun place for families to spend quality time together. Debbie, a kinship foster parent who brings her grandkids to the visits says, “The girls love it! It’s such a blessing for us.”

Another important aspect of the Family Connection is the important bonding between biological families. Despite being separated, these families still need to build their relationships. According to Holly Madden, “A lot of families in the foster care system still really love each other and still want to be together despite the struggles and trauma they’ve been through.” The Family Connection helps to provide a place for families to be together although they are apart. Debbie says “It has helped the children bond with their mother tremendously.” 

According to Holly Madden and Kelsie Bayless, both the kids and the adults involved in the visits grow a lot during their time. Madden says, “A lot of the families really turned around and I believe that part of that is the support they received from our volunteers.” The volunteers at the Family Connection provide the support needed for the biological parents to eventually be reconnected with their children. According to Bayless, “When you see the change they make for their children, I mean it’s just, it’s awe-inspiring, and it makes you feel like people can do anything.” And as for the kids, Kelsie says, “You really see them becoming more comfortable and start finding this as another home.”

The ultimate goal of the Family Connection program is reunification if at all possible. According to Holly Madden, “There are so many families in our community that exist in a place of crisis, and many that are in the foster care system have the potential to be reunited.” At the Family Connection, volunteers supply the families with the love and support that they need to eventually be together again. Kelsie Bayless says, “It can be done. Give people the chance, help them, and they will do the best thing for themselves and their kid.” 

The most important thing that the Family Connection offers is support. According to Holly Madden, “What we do at the Family Connection is that we just show people that they matter.” Also, Amy Clotfelter says, “We’re just an accepting place wherever a family is, and hopefully a support and resource for the family, foster parents, and the children.” This support can be the most important tool for changes to occur in families. Holly Madden says, “I think that when you give somebody hope that they can do it, that changes the dynamic of that journey.” This journey includes the changes and sacrifices that must be made by the parents. Kelsie Bayless says, “Seeing the action and sacrifices that parents are willing to make for their kids, as long as they’ve got the support, the resources they need, it has absolutely changed my point of view in the positive aspect.” This support is also very helpful to the children who come to the visits. According to Debbie, “The first day we walked in there, the kindness and love that the staff showed was amazing. We love all of them.”

There is lots of judgement surrounding the foster care system, but it’s important to hear other sides of the story. According to Amy Clotfelter, “Parenting can look tons of different ways, and one way or the other isn’t the right way.” Volunteering at the Family Connection puts these differences into a new perspective. Clotfelter says, “It’s easy for us to judge people and say, ‘Oh, well they did drugs,’ or ‘They were in a domestic violence situation,’ but you kind of get to see a different side of it.” According to Kelsie Bayless, it’s important to “Forget what you know and take the time to learn” about the Family Connection and families in the foster care system. 

Family Connection is a really important way for families to be together through all of the hard times. The visits provide a safe, judgement free space for the bonding, growth, and support needed for eventual reunification. Families who come to these visits are able to play, create, and grow together to work toward the eventual goal of reunification. This quality time and support from volunteers is extremely important and beneficial for both the parents and kids to grow and learn together.