Introduction: Why Parents?
Resources for Parents
Reunifying After Foster Care? Therapy Can Help

Yes, this website is for teens in care and aging out of care. So what do birth parents have to do with it?

In years of working with teens in foster care, we’ve found that birth parents continue to play a big role in the lives of their children, even if their rights are terminated. Although the system may not officially “reunify” them, many teens remain close to their parents while in care, and many return to them when they age out. So it’s best for teens if their parents are getting the help they need to get their own lives back on track.

In this section, we’ve included some resources to help parents who have children in foster care, as well as stories that show how complicated the reconnection process can be, and how therapy can help. Whether you’re a teen trying to negotiate a relationship with your birth parent, or a parent trying to reconnect with your children, these stories and resources can help you find a place to start.

Resources for Parents

Center for Family Life
345 43rd Street
Brooklyn, NY 11232

Offers individual and group counseling to families in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, as well as employment help and other services.

Center for Family Representation
40 Worth Street #605
New York, NY 10013

Provides free legal services for parents in crisis.

Child Welfare Organizing Project (CWOP)
80 E. 110th Street, #1E 
New York, NY 10029 

Offers weekly support group for parents with children in foster care. On their website, you can also download a parent “survival guide” that explains your rights and how to navigate the system.

Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT)
32 Court Street, Suite 1208  
Brooklyn, NY 11201 

LIFT provides free family law and Family Court information and guidance. Call to schedule an appointment in your borough. We also have help sites in the Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten Island Family Courthouses
(find locations here:

Rise Magazine

Rise publishes stories by and for parents involved in the child welfare system. On their website you can find information and stories from other parents on topics like dealing with an investigation, overcoming addiction, and working with your child’s foster parent.

Click here to download a pdf of their new booklet for birth parents and their advocates, From Rights to Reality. It outlines 15 rights that parents involved in the child welfare system should know that they have.

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Reunifying After Foster Care? Therapy Can Help

Adrienne Williams-Myers, program director of Project Safe at the Northside Center for Child Development, explains how therapy can support reunifying families:

Q: How can therapy help families reconnect?

A: When parents and kids are involved in the system, their world has been full of other people telling them what to do. Therapy is a time for them to focus on themselves and their goals. I help families identify their strengths, resilience and love for each other, and to really work on enhancing those strengths so they can stay together.

By learning how they overcame the troubles that led to their separation, families can use their strengths to get through the confusing emotions and tensions that come with reunification.

Q: What do parents and kids often feel when they’ve been separated?

Click here to read how family therapy helped one mother and daughter to readjust after foster care.  

A: The parent usually comes in feeling a tremendous amount of guilt because she didn’t do what she needed to do to prevent children from being removed. Mothers may also blame the system or the school system for making the call, or blame the other parent or relatives that didn’t support her.

Sometimes mothers still feel angry that the way they punished their children was considered abuse. Many times they will tell us, “My mom hit me, my teachers hit me. What’s the problem? I’m fine.”

For the children, there’s a lot of anger and anxiety about ending up back in care again. The little ones, especially, feel a lot of separation anxiety. They’re anxious and fearful that the system will take them away again, and they’ve lost trust in their parents’ ability to protect them.

Older children tend to be angry and to blame the parent. They need a period of time to get to know the parent again and to feel comfortable trusting the parent. If substance abuse issues led to the child going into foster care, they need to be sure that mom is not picking up again.

Q: What are some techniques that help parents and kids get to know each other?

A: In family therapy, I help them get to know and trust each other, mostly by allowing them simply to talk and hear each other. Sometimes I ask them to write feelings or experiences down in journals, or to talk into a tape recorder and then listen to themselves. I ask them to watch each other communicate, including all forms of communication: words, body language, hugging and kissing.

I’ll ask them things like, “How do you see yourself positively? How do you think mom or teacher sees you positively? Or how do you think your child sees you positively? Tell me six great things about yourself.” I’ll ask them to write it down and share it with each other. Sometimes they’re kind of shocked to find out that mom sees them in a positive light, or that the other people in their family notice the same positive things.

At some point, I’ll also ask the kids to say what they went through in foster care to help their parents understand that painful time. If it’s too upsetting, they can write it down and hold it for a while before sharing it, or even mail it.

Therapy can help make a safe place for everyone in the family to express themselves, especially to express the anger in a healthy way. It’s better if children and parents don’t hold that anger inside or express it in blowups.

Therapy can also help moms work on the behaviors that will help their children trust them again. A parent who was using drugs or drinking usually was in the habit of making false promises and not following through. Moms can learn how to be there for their kids by making only the promises they can follow through on. Becoming a trusting family again really happens one day at a time.

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