From Placement Through Adoption: Attachment Bonds, Loyalty Binds, and Questions of Identity

Professionals working within foster care frequently speak of the “crazy-making” structure of the “broken” system.  Workers are asked daily to resolve family problems that are a direct result of system-created problems: children are removed from their biological homes because of poverty; siblings are separated after placement because a foster home doesn’t have enough space; children linger in foster care developing their attachments with foster parents as their parents struggle to reach the moving finish line that is their service plan.   The typically long and drawn out process of family reunification or termination of parental rights leaves children, foster parents, and biological parents living with multiple questions: Who should I love? Who can I love? Who is my family? Where do I belong?

In this workshop, members of Ackerman’s Foster Care and Adoption Project (FCAP) will present an approach to working with families involved in various stages of the foster care system and adoption, highlighting strategies to help foster parents, adoptive parents, birth parents, and caseworkers relieve children of relational dilemmas and the behavior problems that result from such binds.  An overview of the paradoxes of the foster care system will provide the context for sequencing conversations that help children and adults move out of emotional chaos. Video will be used to demonstrate conversations that help all family members talk about and name the complexity of their lives including understanding that children can love more than one adult, children can have multiple families, and adults can communicate with other caregivers even when they do not like one another.

In this workshop participants will:

  • Develop an understanding of the structure and timeline of foster care and permanency planning
  • Learn strategies to help children out of common loyalty binds and relational dilemmas
  • Develop an understanding of how to sequence therapy sessions with different members of the family system to help children thrive whether family reunification or adoption is the permanency outcome
  • Develop interviewing skills to help children develop a positive sense of self with particular focus on their racial identity

Presented by Catherine Lewis, LCSW, MS, Andrea Blumenthal, LCSW, Kacy Ames, LCSW, and Paige Hamilton-O’Connor, LMHC

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