Many prospective foster families worry about how to work with the biological parents of children they might foster. It’s important to overcome this fear and recognize that working with the biological parents is a crucial aspect of being successful foster care providers.
If you are considering foster parenting or are a foster parent, here are a few ideas to consider on building a strong relationship with your foster child’s parents.
1. Communication is key.
Make sure to talk with your foster child’s parent(s) as often as you can. There may be parameters set forth by the family support team, but most agree that frequent and considerate communication is vital. Let them know about how the child is doing in your home. Tell them about school progress, upcoming doctor’s appointments and extracurricular activities. Ask them specific questions about the child’s likes, dislikes, bedtime routine, or food issues. Don’t be scared to ask!
2. Give them pictures.
A simple way of showing that you care about the child and his/her parents is to provide current pictures of the child. Some foster families prepare small photo albums that the biological parents can add to as time goes along. Others have had professional portraits made and given as gifts for Christmas, Mother’s Day, birthdays, and other meaningful times.
3. Ask your case worker if you can supervise a few parent/child visits.
Again, this is something that would need family support team approval. Supervising visits is a good way to build rapport with biological parents and for you to see the interaction between parent and child. However, you must keep in mind any potential bias or strong feelings you have. These visits are about the parent and the child. Don’t forget that.
4. Invite the parent(s) to dinner or special occasions/parties.
Once again, this will depend on what is happening with the case and per any recommendations. One of the most loving things a foster parent can do is include the biological parents in activities, meals, and other things that involve the family. Foster families have been known to invite the biological parents over to their homes for dinner. This can give the biological parents a first-hand look at where their child is living. (Please keep in mind safety and always speak to the case worker before doing this.)
5. Speak positively to and about the biological parents in front of your foster child.
Kids are keen on picking up both verbal and non-verbal cues. If you speak encouraging words, the team members, parents, and kids will notice this. On the contrary, if you speak negatively, this will be noticed as well.
Building a strong relationship with your foster child’s biological parents does not have to include giant acts of generosity or going well over what is expected. In many ways, the small and subtle things you do can be extremely meaningful and poignant.
Striving to create a good relationship is something you will not regret. Your foster children will witness that you not only care about them, you care about their parents. There is something awfully powerful about that.