As Foster Parents we have to remember that we are dealing with hurting, traumatized and grieving children that have experienced unmentionable trauma.
Their initial removal from their biological parents (even if it was a horrible situation), and then a subsequent movement within the care system equals immense trauma (comparable to that experienced by Vietnam war veterans). Therefore as their Guardians, we have to put their needs first, and keep in mind that it is not about us, or our needs and feelings.
In general, if children who have been moved in foster care are allowed contact with their previous foster carers, they often cease to need it. When such contact is prohibited, the child’s need for it is more likely to intensify and become disproportionate. He or she may have difficulty completing the grief process. This, in turn, may interfere with forming new attachments (bonding) with the new foster family.
Post-placement contacts provide a major avenue for minimising the trauma of parent separation and facilitating the resolution of the grief process. Although these visits are important to both parties after placement, when the transition has been a planned one the visits can be delayed with two weeks intervals. The well-prepared child will be able to use this period to focus on forming new relationships. However, a young child with a poor sense of time, and particularly one without adequate pre-placement preparation, may need earlier visits. Since the primary goals of the visits are to facilitate the grieving process, decrease loyalty conflicts, and continue the empowerment of the new carers, these are the areas that need special attention during the visits.
The first post-placement visit, especially for younger children, should take place on the child’s new home ground. This provides the child with an opportunity to focus more on the present than the past. Future visits can then be scheduled to meet the needs of everyone concerned. If the families live in the same community the child might be allowed to contact the previous foster family when he or she wishes, with one exception: when the child and his/her new foster parents are having a problem, the child should be discouraged from contacting them to seek solace or to ask them to take sides in the dispute. Once the difficulties have been resolved, the child may contact them again.