How to Help Children Transition from Parent to Guardian Care

November 8, 2019

By Jill Whitmyer

How to Help Children Transition from Parent to Guardian Care
By Haven Evans 

As a mom, I know that raising children is the toughest job that you can have. Children are fully dependent on parents for clothing, food, shelter, healthcare, education, and toys—and those are just a few of the physical needs they require. Children also need their emotional, psychological, mental, and spiritual needs met—they really need love and to grow up in a safe environment.

As parents, we are called to be our children’s protectors and providers. I know that parenting is hard enough in the best of times, but when life’s tough challenges – incarceration, substance abuse disorder, separation/divorce, domestic violence, mental health needs – add to the stress, parenting can seem overwhelming.

So, what happens when the parent(s) isn’t the best person to raise their children? If a situation is deemed unsafe—whether due to abuse, neglect, or other reason—and children are removed from the home, how can foster parents, grandparents, kinship caregivers, and care providers help children transition from living with their parent(s) to being cared for by someone else?

Below are a few tips that our organization has put together to help you navigate the unique challenges of caring for a child that is now in your care:

• First, let the child know that they were removed from their parent(s) care by no fault of their own. Don’t speak negatively about the child’s parent(s), however explain that at this time, your home is the safest place for them to stay.
• Second, let the child know that they are safe and will be protected in your care. Stability and protection are incredibly important for children, so keep reassuring the child you are caring for. Consistency, nurturing, and acceptance will go a long way in helping the child feel secure and loved.
• Third, know that while children are resilient, they need time to process what has happened to them, especially if they were removed from their parent’s home and placed in your care. Children are born loving their parents, and regardless of what their parents may or may not have done, the child-parent relationship is complicated and nuanced. If the children you are now caring for are old enough to talk and carry on a conversation, give them time and the space they need to open up to you. Every child is unique and while some children may want to talk about what happened or what is happening right away, others may need weeks, months or even years. Don’t pressure them but reassure them that you are always willing and able to listen.
• And finally, cooperate with any professionals who may be involved with your situation (caseworkers, county child welfare agencies, and similar entities). Ask what kinds of resources are available for yourself and the children you are caring for. It’s crucial that everyone involved has the resources that they need. Neither books, brochures, instruction manuals can solve all of the issues you are now dealing with as a new caregiver. I’d encourage you to seek professional help whenever it’s warranted. Remember, that no websites or support from friends, family, and coworkers can take the place of a doctor, therapist, attorney, or other professional. There is nothing wrong with asking for help.

Haven Evans has served as the Director of Training at the Pa Family Support Alliance since 2016. She has more than eight years of experience in the child welfare field, as a caseworker, ChildLine supervisor and most recently, ChildLine Manager. She was responsible for managing the state’s 24/7 intake unit that responds to a large volume and variety of calls regarding the care of children, particularly reports of suspected child abuse or neglect. Haven also supervised Background Checks Units responsible for child abuse history clearances. She brings to PFSA an extensive knowledge of Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law and has conducted many training sessions and written procedural manuals to ensure that legal requirements are met.