My plane trip to Texas was cancelled, leaving me standing in the terminal, alongside dozens of others, stranded without a flight. As I was scheduled to speak to a group of foster parents at a convention, I was anxious, and even a little stressed. Indeed, this was the second time in a month that I had encountered flight troubles. Just weeks before, I was stranded in Chicago, Illinois, snowed in and missing a flight to Iowa for a speaking engagement at their state conference. Certainly, there was not much fun in the conundrum facing me.
Refusing to miss the seminar I was presenting on the dangers of online technology and social networking that foster children face, I rented a car, driving the additional hours and miles. Not only had I been looking forward to working with the caseworkers and foster parents of that area of Texas, but I simply did not want to let people down, disappointing all involved. After all, I was scheduled to attend, made a commitment to do so, and it was my responsibility to see that I made it there. Fortunately, after some last minute changes in travel plans, I was able to make it, held some exciting seminars over the next few days, and met some wonderful people, all dedicated to helping children in foster care.
Unfortunately, there are those times when schedules do not go as planned, and individuals are let down. For children in foster care, this can be especially difficult when it comes to visitations with birth parents and biological family members. As one who has watched many of my own foster children come home from disappointing visitations, my own heart has broken, as these children struggle to figure out why their mother or father did not come to see them.
For children in foster care, visitations with family members are often an event that they look forward to with great eagerness. After all, they are seeing their parents or other family members, being reunited with them, if only for a very brief time. Often times, visitations are held at child welfare agencies, while other times they are held in neutral locations, such as restaurants, parks, and even faith based institutions. The time usually flies by quickly, and the child and biological family member are once again separated until the next meeting. Visitations are important for a number of reasons, and help to maintain the relationship between both child and adult.
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When the child arrives back home, it is important that the foster parent be understanding. To be sure, the child will be filled with emotions and feelings. The child may come home confused, angry, sad, depressed, listless, distressed, frustrated, or any combination. Indeed, this will be a difficult time for many homes, as the child tries grapples with his feelings of rejection. It is most essential for the well being of all involved that foster parents give the child space, time, patience, comfort, and of course understanding. While child may be difficult and perhaps even lash out or misbehave, the child will need the stability and reassurance from the foster parents. Do not miss out on this appointment, do not be late to meet the child’s emotional needs.
-Dr. John DeGarmo