How to Help Children in Foster Care Navigate Birth Family Relationships
For foster care families, maintaining, creating, or facilitating relationships with their child and their birth family can be challenging but can be an important part of integrating the child into their new home. While no families are the same and circumstances vary from situation to situation, allowing your foster child to continue building relationships with their birth family can be a wonderful healing and guidance opportunity for all parties.
Foster parents should do their due diligence before embarking on a journey of connecting their foster child with their birth family, especially if those connections are currently frayed or don’t exist in the first place. If continued connections seem like an option for your family, keep reading to get tips on helping the child in your family navigate their relationships with their birth family.Check out the recent blog from @NEChildrensHome to get tips on helping your #FosterChild navigate their relationships with their birth family:Click To Tweet
Facilitating Your Relationship With Their Birth Family
Something that can help your foster child feel more comfortable and at home with you is a visible effort from you to connect with the birth family. After you and your family have established this continued relationship will be best for everyone involved, to reach out to the birth family and parents to outline your desire to maintain contact.
At times, birth families can feel threatened by the current foster caregiver, feeling like they aren’t good enough to care for their birth child at the moment, or feeling that foster caregivers are stepping on their toes as birth parents. These feelings are to be expected and are completely understandable. As a foster care provider, it is your obligation to provide the best possible care for the children you’re fostering. Often, this includes keeping in touch with the birth family, knowing these emotions may be present.
Casey Family Programs’ emphasizes the importance of connecting families for continued support in foster care. How their organization sees it, modeling appropriate behavior and parenting techniques informally and naturally can help change foster caregivers and birth families from “adversaries to allies.”
The key approaches they recommend in their study include:
- Working in partnership with the birth family
- Acting as a united front
- Providing a support network
- Modeling appropriate behavior
- Clear and open communication
Try to emphasize that you are here to help their family in the long run and have reunification at the top of your priorities while providing care. The more you can position yourself as an advocate for reunification and the health of the entire family base, the more you can really emphasize your stance as an added support.#FosterParents: the more you can position yourself as an advocate for reunification and the health of the entire family base, the better. Learn more in @NEChildrensHome’s blog:Click To Tweet
The National Foster Parent Association’s Guiding Principles:
- Reunification with the children’s family is the primary focus.
- Relationships, collaboration, and partnerships are the foundation of positive outcomes for children and their families.
- Provide foster care by ensuring a safe, nurturing, supportive environment for all children in your home.
- Meet children’s wide array of developmental needs.
- Be informed about and follow trauma-informed practices.
- Continue to learn and grow.
- Advocate for the child, their family, yourself, and your family.
Helpful Tactics To Engage With The Birth Family
Whether or not the birth family is willing to connect with you on the level you desire, the largest piece of this puzzle is the connection between the birth family and the foster child. Since you can’t control much of that relationship, there are a lot of outside factors that are actually under your control to help build or encourage these relationships.
Talk with your foster child about their family and traditions. Learn what you can by showing genuine interest in their birth family’s home life and keep them in the daily conversations you have with your foster child. Ask questions about what their mom likes to do for fun or if either of their parents were really big into sports.
Make it a point to keep the birth family engaged and up to date with the latest happenings in your foster child’s life. Consider making a monthly “newsletter” featuring some of the wins of the month, what the child is up to, what they’re having fun doing, and even a little message from them if that’s something they want to contribute.
Speak Positively and Encouragingly
Words matter. Be extremely mindful of how you speak about your foster child’s birth family, and always frame these conversations around positivity. Talk about great attributes you see in your foster child that may mirror some traits you’ve noticed in their birth parents. Brag on the birth family’s successes and progress being made.
Your perspective is very important, and foster children are likely to pick up on it whether you mean them to or not. Be extra vigilant that any mention of their birth family is in a positive light. Make it clear to your foster child that you value their relationship with their birth family and will do what you can to ensure this connection remains intact and strong.
Emphasize You Can’t Replace Their Birth Family
Foster children can grapple with feeling like they’re replacing their birth parents with their foster parents. This feeling can be very confusing and disheartening; sometimes, all they may need to work through this is to have you acknowledge it. Tell them your hopes for them and reunification if that’s on the table.
Make it clear that you are here to help them get from Step A to Step B; you’re not here to interfere with their family and those relationships. You are a foster parent and vow to give the best possible care to the children in your care. Let the children in your life know that you love them, care for them, and want to see them succeed in all areas of their lives - including relationships with their birth family.
Our foster care team is well-equipped with the information and strategies you need to explore options for becoming a foster care parent. Together, we can ensure you have access to the resources and support you need to provide safe and loving care for every child and their family. Give us a call: 402.659.9996
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