Partnering with Youth
Family Connections Project
Family Connections ProjectPartnering within your agency
Adoptions Unlimited, Inc. Staff
Never underestimate the power of the group experience when training foster and adoptive parents. During a "Maintaining Connections" training with foster parents, trainer Virginia Sturgeon helped a couple parenting a 16-year-old foster daughter take an important step toward adoption. The couple had discussed adoption with this youth, but she had strong ties with several birth family members. The foster father was not comfortable with the teen's request to maintain these ties, and it had become a barrier to finalizing this adoption.
During the training, Virginia led a "yarn exercise" in which the foster father played the role of the youth and other volunteers played the roles of the youth's various connections. Yarn was used to connect the players one by one, and each attachment was accompanied by discussion about the importance of connections. The yarn was wrapped around the individuals so that cutting any one connection also impacted other connections. When the individual playing the adoptive parent "cut" the ties between the youth and birth family by cutting the yarn, the ties between the adoptive parent and youth also were loosened.
Everyone in the room saw the light bulb go off for the foster father. He realized that forcing his foster daughter to cut birth family ties would also prevent the girl from feeling close to her adoptive family. The training was the turning point for this family. After further discussion, the family decided to finalize the adoption, embracing their daughter's ongoing contact with her birth family.
This experience, which occurred during a training sponsored by the Family Connections Project of Adoptions Unlimited, Inc., demonstrates how a group experience had a life-changing impact for one youth and family.