The month of June recognizes the efforts made year round to help keep families together. Foster care is not meant to be forever. Because of the significance and integrity of the family unit along with the importance of maintaining lifelong connections, the primary goal for children when they enter foster care is to be reunified with their biological family. In fact, this is also the most common outcome. The connection with family not only provides children contact with their household unit but also the cultural, social, community, and religious networks and settings with which they are familiar.
When a child is in foster care, a multifaceted approach is taken to provide services and support to strengthen the whole family and to address the concerns of what brought the children into care. These services could include regular and frequent visits among family members, parent education courses, and family therapy, among others. Reunification is a process rather than an event and demonstrates parent’s commitment to caring for and providing for their children.
Challenges certainly do not end when children are reunified. The is a time of adjustment for the parents and child as much has transpired for them both during the time the child(ren) was in care. Expectations do not always match with reality – bonds must be restored and trust rebuilt.
CASA volunteers, along with the rest of the family support team, play a critical role in helping move toward reunification. CASAs conduct an independent investigation examining the whole situation including relevant history, environment, and relationships to determine the needs of the child. They identify and advocate for resources and services for the parent and child that will contribute to a success reunification. Furthermore, CASAs work collaboratively with the family support team with a strengths-based approach that highlights the qualities and skills of the family. Last year, CASA of St. Louis contributed to the efforts of nearly 90 children being reunified with their family!