Fostering the child and the family
How To Foster a Relationship With a Child's Bio-Parent
May is National Foster Care Awareness month in the United States. This year we are collecting stories from our Foster Parents and team to share with you for the month.
FosterVA, which is led by Extra Special Parents, hopes these stories might inspire you to get involved in your community as a support. Maybe you'll be inspired to become a foster parent in Virginia yourself! A contact link is at the bottom of this blog if you want to learn more.
Considering the Relationship
When a family starts considering the idea of fostering, a relationship with that child's biological family is typically the furthest thing from their mind. However, this relationship is critical because cultivating relationships with birth parents will help support the child and increase the likelihood of successful reunification.
These collaborative relationships also benefit the youth if they remain in out-of-home care and social services. It will promote 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. It may, at first, be met with some resistance by both the foster family and the birth family. However, taking those first steps toward open communication is essential.
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 and family members.
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 healing for all parties involved.
Starting the Relationship
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 between visitation and extended family communication.
Conversations like these can help reassure the birth parents that you are taking good care of their child and that you are not trying to replace their role in the child's life. You will be supporting those crucial connections and healthy relationships.
Through the visits, foster families can build 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 due to privacy concerns or issues. There may need to be private email accounts or for things to be sent through the caseworker or other child welfare professional.
Any method of communication should be reviewed and approved by the caseworker, who can also help with suggestions on how to make communication and relationship-building smoother.
"The foster family can partner with the birth family where both families are working in the child's best interest."
Maintaining the Relationship
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 shapes these into things that can transfer into their home.
Ask 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 control battles as you are encouraged to be on the same team.
Share things the child is experiencing or accomplishing, such as new friends at school, a new favorite show, information about a doctor's appointment, and everyday details that parents would want to know.
Please ensure 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. You should involve, encourage, and support them.
It's essential to understand that biological families are going through emotional upheaval no matter what led their child to enter foster care. 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?
National Foster Care Month is a great time to learn about children and youth in foster care, foster care and adoption, and the foster care system. Learn more about these topics by exploring the blogs on our page.
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 children in foster care, click the button below and fill out the form on our contact page.