It's complicated. It's complex. And it--meaning foster care--centers around concurrent family planning.
As a social work intern, I spent one year training at a locked psychiatric unit for teenagers. The unit had only 18 beds. Some of the boys and girls had been separated then reunited, then again separated from their parents of birth many times. It was painful to understand, on a deep level, their loss.
What was harder was to witness the deep and searing hope these kids had--hope that their parent would return for them, would love them the way they longed for, would take them home forever and make life good. These were kids, after all--why wouldn't they hope?
Certainly not all, but some parents routinely missed scheduled meetings, counseling sessions and family visits with their child, after showing up for other visits. There was no pattern to their absence--sometimes they forgot, were sick, incarcerated, nervous, busy, had to work. But the times they showed--when the visit was good--served as a classic "intermittent reinforcement"--and we all know what kind of effect that has. Yes, it fueled the child's hope that their mom or dad would come back for good. It's a lot to hold in one's psyche--for the child, for the parent, too. And also for the foster parent.
At the same time, and in some cases, reunification can work.
This is what The County of Orange's Sharon Landis, MSW, an adoption specialist told me when I asked: "What must adoptive parents understand above all else before they decide to become a foster-to-adopt parent?"
Here is what she said: