“Relationships are what change people.”
Shrounda Selivanoff, a parent and kinship caregiver who also is the Director of Public Policy at the Children’s Home Society of Washington shared this important truth as a panelist at our Speaking of Change conversation on “How Parent and Caregiver Partnerships Can Help Children Thrive.”
Amara’s Speaking of Change webinars bring together expert panelists, including people with lived experience, to take a deep dive into particular aspects of the child welfare system. Our goal is to break down common assumptions and misconceptions about foster care, to elevate the voices and stories of people most impacted, and to share ideas that can bring about needed change to the system. We were so grateful to have parents and foster/kinship caregivers join us to discuss the importance of relationship building between parents and their child’s temporary caregivers.
When parents whose children are in the foster care system can build supportive relationships with their children’s temporary caregivers, everyone benefits from the reduced stress that results from connection. Kids see all their primary caregivers working together to ease transitions and help them feel safe and loved. Parents can stay connected to their children while they work to reunify their families. Foster and kinship caregivers don’t have to guess about things like food allergies, likes, and dislikes, and they have a chance to support family .
“Nobody loses when we build relationships. Everyone wins,” explained Amy Jacobsen, an Amara foster caregiver and adoptive parent who has partnered with parents navigating the complexities of the child welfare system.
Brian Weekman, a parent and Parent Ally, and Jeanie Johns, a parent, adoptive parent, and foster caregiver, shared their own journey of building a relationship with each other when Brian’s daughter entered foster care and was placed with Jeanie’s family. They emphasized how Brian’s daughter benefited from the supportive partnership her dad and Jeanie created. Today, Brian is reunified with his daughter and Jeanie remains part of their lives like extended family.
Our panelists acknowledged the fear that parents and caregivers often feel about meeting each other and shared that there are ways to overcome those feelings. Katie Biron, Amara’s Program Manager for The Family Connections Program, noted the resources and tools available to people interested in building supportive relationships. Visit the program on our website here: amarafamily.org/family-connections/.
Amara supports parents and caregivers in connecting and partnering to benefit everyone involved in the foster care system. Why? Because we are eternally dissatisfied with the status quo. We push ourselves – and the system, of which we are participants in – to invest in programs and approaches that help keep families together and to reduce the trauma that comes from being involved in foster care.
“Fear is natural. Fear is normal. It’s okay to feel fear. It’s not okay to stay there,” explained Shrounda. “Do you know what the antidote of fear is? It’s love.”