Fostering the child and the family

Fostering the child and the family

How to foster a relationship with a child's bio-parent

May is National Foster Care Awareness month and this year we are collecting stories from our Foster Parents and team to share with you over the course of the month. FosterVA, which is led by Extra Special Parents hopes that these stories might inspire you to get involved in your community as a support or even become a foster parent in Virginia yourself! There is a contact link at the bottom of this blog if you’d like to learn more.

When a family starts considering the idea of fostering, typically, a relationship with that child's biological family is the furthest thing from their mind. However, this relationship is critical because cultivating relationships with birth parents will help support child, parent visitation, and contact and increase the likelihood of successful reunification. These collaborative relationships also benefit the youth if they remain in out-of-home care by promoting family engagement, sibling connections, and long-term relationship preservation.

Forming a positive connection with a biological parent isn't always easy; it takes work and time and may, at first, be met with some resistance by both the foster family and birth family. The importance of making those first steps toward open communication is vast. Foster parents hold the chance to help bring families together and help biological families become healthier caretakers and heal children. Foster parents can provide love and comfort to both children and families. They can be role models for the parents. Entering the biological family’s lives through foster care should be done respectfully. Recognizing the connections with the birth family will benefit the child and aid in the healing process for all parties involved.

The best way to start these relationships is to communicate with the child's caseworker, as the caseworker will likely dictate the visitation schedule and assist with expectations of ongoing communication between visitation. The caseworker will provide the appropriateness of contact with the parents in between visitation and extended family communication. Conversations like these can help reassure the birth parents that you are taking good care of their child; it can also reassure them that you are not trying to replace their role in the child's life but support those crucial connections and relationships. Through the visits, foster families can start building on that relationship by sharing funny stories, events that have happened during that day and week or bringing artwork the child has made. Going a step further, set up a way of communicating away from visits and receive pictures through a cell phone or email. Navigating these waters can be tricky at first due to privacy concerns or issues. There may need to be private email accounts or for things to be sent through the caseworker. Any method of communication should be reviewed and approved by the casework, who can also help with suggestions on how to make communication and relationship building run smoother.

"The foster family can partner with the birth family where both families are working in the child's best interest."

How does co-parenting communication look? It is supportive and inclusive; it allows biological parents to communicate their preferences and routines and the foster family shaping these into things that can transfer into their home. Asking questions such as: Are there songs or books that you like to sing or read together? How do you do their hair? What is your bedtime routine? Anything you'd like me to know about your parenting style? Conversations like this will help improve some control battles as you are encouraged to be on the same team. Share things that the child is experiencing or accomplishing, such as new friends at school, a new favorite show, information about a doctor’s appointment, everyday details that parents would want to know. Please make sure these things are about how the child is doing personally and not how they are based on your family unit. Each conversation should be conducted with respect, love, and compassion, involving them, encouraging, and supporting them.

It's essential to understand; biological families are going through emotional upheaval no matter what led their child to be placed with a foster family. Given this, the foster parent needs to take the lead in creating a healthy co-parenting relationship. The foster family can partner with the birth family where both families are working in the child's best interest. By fostering a child, you are also encouraging their family unit to provide a model for appropriate parenting and behavior skills, teach clear communication, and provide a positive support network to the family by advocating as a united front. This task is in no way easy or straightforward, but if done, it creates a more positive, healthy healing process for everyone involved.

...Are You Ready To Learn More?

FosterVA is always ready to meet new families interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent.  If this has inspired you to take the next step towards supporting Virginia's foster youth, click the button below and fill out the form on our contact page.

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