Written by Christina Hite, Foster Village Austin
Foster care can be an isolating experience for everyone involved – biological families, foster families, and of course, for the kids entering the foster care system.
At Foster Village, we know that children need more than a system; they need a village.
And as we’ve walked alongside hundreds of foster, kinship, adoptive, and biological families in the last six years, we’ve seen time and time again that there is a community beyond the system that will step up to support kids and caregivers who are intersecting with the child welfare system.
So we began to dream… What could happen if foster parents and biological parents became partners as they navigate the child welfare system? Is it possible for children in foster care to maintain relationships with all of the safe adults they love? How could relational support, access to resources, and holistic, wrap-around services change the course for families working hard to break cycles of adversity and reunify with their children?
These are the questions that we’re answering, one family at a time, through Foster Village’s Partners in Permanency program (PIP).
I met Libby on a cool November morning. She came into our resource center alongside Nicole, the foster parent caring for Libby’s almost one year old son.
Nicole and I had spoken nearly six months prior, as she welcomed baby C into her home and was getting to know baby C’s mom, Libby.
“She’s a great mom,” Nicole shared about Libby. “She’s just got so little support. Her family life was tough growing up, and she’s new to the area so she doesn’t really have any friendships here either. How early can we get involved in Partners in Permanency? I know I’ve only known her a little while, but we really connected and I want to do everything I can for baby C to get back home where he belongs. I’m not exactly sure how to handle boundaries and communication with her, but it just seems to make sense to support her as she works hard to reunify.”
A few months later, Nicole called me to let me know reunification was getting closer. So here we were on that November morning, meeting together to explore the possibilities of a deep-dive partnership.
I explained the program, and Libby opened up pretty quickly about her goals so we could make a plan. She hoped to finish up her college classes, advance to a supervisor at her job, and find an affordable apartment. And her main goal, of course, was to finish all that CPS was requiring so she could bring baby C home.
Over the last several months, Libby has made lots of progress on her goals. She found and maintained her new apartment, and our village put together a Welcome Home pack full of cleaning supplies and household items for Libby’s new place. Nicole and her husband delivered a truck full of furnishings they found through their connections in the community.
Then Libby dealt with illness and surgery, which unfortunately put her behind on rent when she lost a few weeks of hourly pay. With our guided financial support and partnership, we were able to help her pay rent during that time and she continued moving forward with her goals.
She’s now a supervisor at her job and just weeks away from welcoming her son back home.
Libby and Nicole’s relationship isn’t currently the most common story for biological and foster parents, but what if it could be?
Every single family needs relational support and resources. Every parent needs someone they can call for advice, last minute child care, or just to vent about the tough day they’ve had. Every caregiver needs to know they aren’t alone as they bring up the next generation.
Through partnerships like Nicole and Libby’s, we’re seeing children have safe and stable permanency. Parents are no longer alone, wondering who they can list as their emergency contact. They’ve now got a foster parent in their corner and a village of support available to encourage and walk alongside them.