The realities of foster care visitation
There's really nothing that will prepare you for the moment you buckle your child into someone else's car and then watch the car drive away.
What I experience 2-3x/week with our little man's visits with his family is very common. Foster families-- and biological families-- across the country do this day in and day out.
Fact: The majority of biological parents/families in foster care have the right to see their child/children on a weekly basis. I'm sure visitation rights vary by state-- and certainly by case-- but I think the run-of-the-mill allowance is four hours a week.
In nearly all cases, a state-contracted case manager or parent aide picks up the child in foster care to transport them to a visit with his or her biological family/family member. In some cases, the contracted worker also coaches the family/parent during the visit. If the person providing transportation to and from the visit provides feedback and coaching for the parent, the individual is a parent aide. Other folks just observe and transports the child back to daycare/school/home; they're case managers or case aides.
As you can imagine, this part of foster care is quite the juggle for everyone. Those involved with an infant in foster care means visits are contending with nap times, caretakers (daycare, nannies, stay-at-home-parents), parents' job schedules (biological and foster), doctors appointments, and the child's sensitive attachment needs.
Juggling the needs and schedules of school-aged kids is even more brutal. Just think for a second... You're a 6-year-old kid just trying to figure out how to be a student and on top of your regular doctor appointments and maybe some therapy (as is so common in foster care), maybe some after-school activities, and getting used to a new family, you also have visitation with your family.
Visitation is a crucial part of foster care-- it's a valuable experience for everyone. Visitation between a biological family member and a child highlights the biological family's needs as the state considers services to help the family toward reunification. Visits also help preserve and grow attachment between the child and the biological family and give the parents a chance to see their child.
It can also just be plain hard for everyone.
I know this tension and the challenge of visits is not one-sided. After all, my man's family has to watch a case worker drive off with their child the same amount of times I do. This is a very real reality of foster care.
So every time the car drives away with my little man, I take a deep breath and pray. I pray for his safety, his family's growth, and the contractor's professionalism.
I pray for the system of foster care that is burdened with the brokenness of so many families and the limitations of a state run operation helping mend what so tragically fell apart.
Parent visits are one of many regular 'things' that foster parents manage. I think it's an important part of the journey that people are unaware of.
If you didn't know about parent visits, I hope this helped you get a sense of how it works. If you have any questions about this part of foster care, comment below or shoot me a message on Instagram (@pragmatic.maggie). I'd love to answer any questions you might have!