At Amara, our foster caregivers and caseworkers go the extra mile for kids and families involved in the child welfare system. They not only navigate multiple foster journeys, they blaze new paths forward in connection and healing.
One of our foster families is on the road to reunification for a child in their care for the second time. They’ve cared for Lilianna* since she was a curious and active toddler. It wasn’t long before they figured out what made her laugh and what comforted her. Still, she was a little one who had recently been moved again as her placement with our Amara foster family was already her second foster placement. So, these loving foster caregivers did something very special to help Lilianna adjust to living in a new home and community. They adopted a puppy for her to love, nurture, and grow with. In time, the four of them had many fun adventures together.
As healthcare workers, the foster caregivers know the importance of mental as well as physical health. They know that yes, having a pet can help a child heal, but keeping kids in foster care connected to their parents whenever possible is key to knowing their full stories, and to maintaining their heritage and culture. It’s also key to helping kids eventually feel secure after being placed in a stranger’s home, and can help support a successful reunification. With the help of their Amara caseworker Jessica*, the caregivers built a strong partnership with Lilianna’s mom, each building trust over time.
Their relationship has made a huge, positive difference for everyone on this foster journey. Lilianna didn’t have to wonder where her mom was or would she ever see her again, and her mom felt incredibly reassured to not worry about how Lilianna was being cared for. She felt that she was on the same team with her caregivers, with everyone putting Lilianna’s needs first.
The relationship between Lilianna’s mom and caregivers was so strong they maintained it after she reunified and moved back home. Over the next couple of years, Lilianna thrived with so many loving adults in her life. Both families made memories together during holidays and special celebrations. They built relationships with extended family members and friends too. And Lilianna never had to say goodbye to any of the adults in her life, or to her special pup.
Unfortunately, a few years after returning home, Lilianna re-entered the foster care system. This alone can be hugely traumatic for kids and families, and for Lilianna, this was her third placement. If ever there’s an ideal next step when this happens, it’s for the child to go immediately to another caregiver who knows and loves them. Because of the strong connection they had already made, Lilianna’s mom requested she return to her Amara foster caregivers – where she’d sleep in a familiar bed, attend a school she knows, and play and snuggle with her favorite four-legged friend.
Today, Lilianna is a happy grade-schooler who loves animals and spending time outside. She, her foster caregivers, and her mom are hopeful for and working toward a second reunification. Jessica at Amara continues to help them build/rebuild trust while validating their feelings and experiences. When all the adults in a child’s life – as is the case for Lilianna – stay focused on her future, they’re able to chart a path toward healing.
* Names changed to protect privacy.