When a child’s case moves to termination of parental rights, or TPR, it can have both positive and negative feelings associated with it – for the foster family, pre-adoptive family, child, caseworkers, and birth parents all alike. It is a time of big transition. A TPR will legally sever the relationship between birth parent and child, an alteration that is permanent and holds a lot of strong emotion.
Many feelings and/or behaviors may emerge while a child is trying to process this transition. He may be feeling a lot of grief and loss, all the while being excited about the upcoming adoption and his new family. These types of conflicting feelings can be difficult for a child to understand, and he will need the support of his caregivers.
Working together, you and the child can prepare for the change coming; you can help him understand what is happening, and help him begin to grieve or continue to work through grief, ultimately coming to a place of healing. A “goodbye visit” or “transition visit” is a common practice during this time. But this is much more than a regularly scheduled meeting or visitation. It is a time for the birth parents, child, foster parents, and/or pre-adoptive parents to start the transition. It is an opportunity for birth parents to give their blessing to their child to be happy and loved in his new family. It can be an emotional event for all involved and preparation is key. If a therapist is involved, that person may be helpful in guiding a goodbye visit.
Talking with the child ahead of time about what a goodbye visit is, in a way he can understand, may help him better know what to expect. The child may have a lot of questions such as:
- Is it OK to still love and miss my mom and dad?
- How long is adoption for?
- Will I live with my siblings?
- Will I see or talk to my mom and dad again?
If connections are to be maintained, having a plan in place can help put all parties at ease. If that is not the plan, life books, keepsakes, photographs, and cards are all ways to help a child feel connected to his birth parents, even when he won’t be seeing them. Even though contact may continue in a more informal manner, regular visitation will likely cease and a new routine–a “new normal”– will begin.
The Coalition for Children, Youth and Families is here to support all families touched by foster care and adoption. If you need more support or additional resources or information, you can always call us for help . . . we’d love to hear from you! Call our toll-free number 1-800-947-8074 or send us an email, email@example.com.
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