What goes behind the scenes to reunify children and youth who have been removed from their homes with their families? We highlight a real-life story of how the Safe and Strong Families – Reunification (SSF-R) programme come into play to bring one family together.
There are many factors to consider before the reunification process can proceed smoothly. Vulnerable families may battle with complex issues such as family violence, drug dependence and mental health issues amidst various social disadvantages. This is where SSF-R steps in to provide intensive case management services and home-based coaching and support, so that families can care for their children safely during the reunification journey.
This year, the SSF-R team had the opportunity to support a sibling group reunify with their blended family. The siblings have been residing in out of home care (OHC) such as foster care and children’s home for ten years due to their caregivers’ drug abuse issue and incarceration. The turning point arose when the father was released from prison and exhibited positive changes.
The path to reunification, however, had its hurdles. The father had to first rebuild trust with his children who had spent years in OHC. This was further complicated by the children’s behavioural needs that were rooted in adverse experiences of abuse and neglect.
The father had to show the children that they could feel safe, loved and cared for despite the past. Recognising that this journey could not be undertaken in isolation, SSF-R intervened strategically, focusing on building and sustaining various networks to support the father.
One crucial support network emerged from his partner’s extended family. They provided emotional support, believing in the positive changes the father had made. He was encouraged to live a crime-free lifestyle and was given practical parenting advice. The family also extended caregiving support during emergencies. This network enabled the father to make choices with his children in mind.
Simultaneously, the team also facilitated connections between the children’s foster parents and caregivers. This collaborative effort ensured shared parenting strategies, expectations, and routines to provide the children with stability and predictability, and ease their transition into the home environment. Open communication and collaboration among the caregivers not only supported the father but also streamlined the reunification process.
SSF-R focused on enhancing the father’s parenting abilities to meet his children’s emotional needs. From grappling with his children’s behavioural challenges to education on trauma-informed parenting and learning from mistakes allowed, the father was able to demonstrate progress in being calmer, more understanding and more empathetic in his parenting. His daughter shared that she felt surprised when her father apologised to her for shouting at her during an argument. Their relationship improved and helped instil hope in the child to continue working towards reunification.
Due to the family’s progress, one sibling was successfully discharged from the children’s home, marking a tangible milestone for the family. Embracing imperfections, the family acknowledges the growth they have achieved and continue to work on the reunification journey with a similar hope for their other child.
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