Children need ongoing support, a connection to family, and a sense of belonging. Many children who have been removed from their families, whatever the reason, suffer from trauma, loss, and unresolved grief, all of which can negatively impact a child’s development. It is imperative that foster and adoptive parents and child welfare professionals be informed about how separation and loss impact the children they care for and how to help minimize the impact. Supporting children’s relationships with birth family members and other important connections may help to lessen and/or resolve the feelings of grief and loss and reduce the trauma of separation.
Maintaining children’s connections is especially important when permanency is achieved outside of the birth family. When children are first placed into foster care, professionals should emphasize the importance of openness and maintaining family, community, and cultural connections to mitigate losses and increase children's sense of belonging. Foster and adoptive parents should be prepared to develop open communication in addressing children’s questions and concerns about their past, their birth family, permanency, and other issues related to their identity. This type of communication and helping children strengthen new and fractured relationships will create a healing environment that promotes attachment and positive identity formation. When children are not given these opportunities, they may struggle to form new relationships; display behaviors based on anger, anxiety, or fear; and feel shame about what has happened. Children who are adopted greatly benefit from relationships with both their birth and adoptive families that allow them to integrate all pieces of their life experience into their identity, develop a sense of belonging, and improve their feelings of self-worth. The resources below provide additional information about the value of a sense of belonging as well as tips to facilitate connectedness.
3 Resources About Maintaining Connections
For more information, visit at www.childwelfare.gov.
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