Foster Care 101: Birth Parents and Foster Parents

foster father holding a young child in his arms in a field

There's still a significant need for foster parents in Virginia and the United States, especially for those willing to take teens and sibling groups. Suppose you're interested in entering foster care to fill this need. In that case, you likely have questions about the terminology and how to become a successful foster parent.

Understanding the interactions between birth parents and foster parents is the first step. We'll review everything you need in our Foster Care 101: Birth Parents and Foster Parents guide.

Ways to Partner With Your Foster Child's Biological Family

As a foster parent, you may want to consider co-parenting. Co-parenting is when foster parents care for a child with their natural parents.

Of course, the ideal situation for a foster child depends on several factors, such as why they ended up in the foster care system in the first place. However, this method has many benefits, which we'll cover next.

First, we'll review a few ways to connect with the biological family.

Ask Good Questions and Share Information

Ask what the child likes or dislikes, including food, routines, hobbies, etc. The more you learn about the foster child in your care, the better you can ensure their well-being.

Be sure to discuss challenging behaviors and share tips on what worked or what still needs to. Take time to learn; you'll become a better caregiver and parent.

Share information with the birth parents about how the child is doing in school, how they're adjusting, recent activities, and plans you've made with them. It's also crucial to communicate clearly and often about visits, court appearances, etc.

Share pictures. You can show the birth parents the room you've prepared, the yard where they play, and photos of the kids playing.

Ask for Help

Undoubtedly, foster parents' work is challenging and requires constant learning. Learning flexibility is one of the best strategies for becoming a better parent.

Adjust your parenting style based on your learning and whether specific tactics work. Try another if a child doesn't react well to a particular disciplinary method.

The best way to learn what works is to ask for help from the birth parents. The birth parents can use your support as well. By communicating and working with one another and creating a professional partnership, you can reduce some of the stress and learn routines and methods that benefit the child most.

Keep It Professional

Avoid letting emotions get in the way of co-parenting with the birth parents. Both foster and biological parents can benefit from remembering that it should remain a professional and mutually beneficial partnership.

Avoid conflict by thinking of the children first and what's best for them. Don't let emotions negatively impact your decisions.

Treat the birth parents with dignity and respect. They're likely going through the worst time and may feel guilty, humiliated, or hurt.

Assure the parents that you're there to support them and their child. If the case plan goal is reunification, let them know you're not there as a replacement.

You may get attached, and learning to say goodbye is always hard. However, it's crucial to remember that many foster care placements are temporary, and reunification is often the primary goal.

Don't Forget About Birthdays and Holidays

Birthdays, holidays, and other special events can be difficult for kids in the child welfare system. They may feel abandoned or lonely when apart from their parents or family.

Allow the child to communicate and stay connected. For instance, they might send and receive cards or gifts or even join a video chat with the birth parents.

Be sure to learn about their religion, if any, and what holidays they celebrate. Maintain any traditions, such as going to church. Taking an active interest in their life will make kids feel unique and loved.

Working With a Social Worker

An essential part of partnering with the birth parents is communicating with a social worker and learning what's appropriate. Ask about the best communication method, including visits, and what's expected/allowed.

Talk about sharing pictures or letting the child talk to their birth parents.

Why It's Important to Keep Foster and Biological Families Connected

One of the primary goals of the foster care system is to find support for children until they can be reunited with their birth parents or biological family.

Home studies show staying in touch with the extended family during the process positively impacts the child, easing some of the troubles and trauma they face.

You create a support system, learn more about the best ways to raise the children temporarily in your care, and have someone to turn to if you need help. It's easier on you and can make the children happier too. In many cases, they can communicate and visit with their birth parents, positively impacting their mental health.

Kids in the foster system may develop health conditions such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, separation anxiety disorder, and more. They may feel abandoned or have a lack of self-worth. Communicating and visiting their biological families can ease some of their stress.

For instance, they may not feel as if they've been abandoned. That connection is still there, and they may be able to share important life events even during the temporary separation.

Foster Care 101: Birth Parents and Foster Parents

Our guide, Foster Care 101: Birth Parents and Foster Parents, has helped you learn how to form partnerships and work with the biological family. Doing so has many advantages for you, the birth parents, and the foster children in your care.

Forming a partnership and co-parenting might seem awkward or difficult at first. Still, there are many instances in which it's best for the kids, and that's your primary concern.

Are you interested in finding out more about fostering and adoption? Please fill out our online form here at FosterVA to start your journey.

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