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Why it's important to keep foster, biological families connected

Why it's important to keep foster, biological families connected
Posted at 8:29 PM, May 26, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. -- Supporting children until they can be reunited with their biological family is a crucial goal of the foster care system.

May is National Foster Care month and this year’s theme is "Keeping Families Strong." CBS6 has partnered with JFS/Connecting Hearts to highlight ways to enrich these children's lives.

A local foster mother explains the positive impact keeping a child's birth family close can have on their life.

"I try not to be judgmental, and I know that everybody has a past,” said Margie Rosas. “So I really respect the parents' opinions and raising their children, be it haircuts, or if it's an infant what they would like me to do, what they'd like to have a pacifier."

The Prince George mother knows a lot about fostering children: she's taken in 14. Her desire to keep a foster child's biological family close is exactly what social workers, like Alexa Zafarana, who works for the Department of Social Services in Chesterfield, say a child needs.

“The ideal situation is to have a great foster family or a great placement,” said Zafarana. “And then working with the biological family to kind of build their village, that's how we call it. So then it's not just the foster families that do the supporting, but then you're building on to that with the biological family, and you're expanding their entire family."

While separating children from their birth families is difficult and painful, reunification whenever possible is the ultimate goal. Eric Reynolds, who directs Virginia’s Office of the Children's Ombudsman, says that's why foster parents are so important.

“They can be resources, supports for the families, for the parents, so the child can return home safely,” said Reynolds. “That could be facilitating meaningful visitations, or working with the families so the parents can attend doctors' appointments or meetings at school."

“If they're placed in a foster home, then our goal is to let them meet the biological parents and start building that relationship and create venues where that they can bond, “said Zafarana. “Sometimes it just happens organically. I've gotten to see lots of families just take it upon themselves to reach out for Mother's Day buy a Mother's Day plant, just to keep building that connection with each other."

While foster parents like Rosas provide a loving home for each child they take in, they know eventually, that child could go back to their first home.

“So that's always the first goal: to have that child come home and if the foster parents can be resources to the children's parents rather than replacements, that's really the ultimate goal that we want for our foster parents," said Reynolds.

This is why foster parents, for however long that child needs the support, are so important.

"There's always going to be a need, and so our hope is that we're building that community of foster parents,” Zafarana said. “Foster parents are true heroes and we need more."

Prospective parents should talk to Margie Rosas.

“I'll tell them it's the toughest job you'll ever love,” Rosas said. “But I love doing foster care, and it's so rewarding to see these children flourish. To know they have the support to continue their journey through life is incredible. Things they couldn't do or fears they overcome. It's incredible to see that growth.”

If you're interested in becoming a foster parent or learning more about the process, click here to be connected with JFS/Connecting Hearts.

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