The Importance of Reunification
June is National Reunification Month, which celebrates the importance of helping families stay together and maintain caring connections. Whenever possible, Wellpoint Care Network seeks to reunite children in foster care with their family of origin.
Caring connections are the kinds of relationships that consistently show up when things don’t go as planned and help create success in life.
We know that maintaining caring connections with their birth parents can be essential for kids in foster care to thrive. That’s why we support foster-biological shared parenting and help birth parents work towards reunification.
Keeping Families Together
When birth parents can change habits, create a safe home environment, and parent more effectively, we see positive long-term outcomes for children. Our Child Welfare services help parents make these changes in a supportive, trauma informed way. As one of our Child Welfare Supervisors put it, “We all want to help people do what they need to do to live the life they want to live.”
We try to get kids in permanent homes quickly, and times in foster care have shortened in recent years. In 2015 the average time spent in foster care was 20 months, and the current average is 12-18 months. This year, Wellpoint aims to increase how many children in our care are reunified with their parents within 12 months by at least 10%. And as much as possible, we support birth parents in making needed changes without using foster care at all.
It All Starts with Stability
There are some external barriers to contend with. When a child is placed in foster care, parents are typically required by court order to do things like get mental health and substance abuse treatment, find safer housing, and meet regularly with child welfare case managers.
Unfortunately, even the most dedicated parents can struggle to find fast, affordable treatment, locate safe and affordable housing, or manage complex schedules (often while relying on inconsistent public transportation).
Our staff often see that parents who have to worry about making ends meet have a difficult time giving proper attention to therapy, recovery, and learning new parenting strategies. Struggling with any of the Five Pillars of Stability is not conducive to healing or making significant behavioral changes. On the other hand, the more support parents have in these key areas, the better equipped they are to reunify and help their children thrive.
By strengthening social supports like affordable housing, mental health care, and ensuring everyone has a living income, we can create the conditions families need to thrive.