As a new foster parent, having knowledge of the details of a foster child’s past can be a challenge. These past experiences can be complex and there is a learning curve that comes with a foster parent figuring out how to approach their new child.
An effective solution can arise from foster parents reaching out to birth parents. According to an academic article Building Bridges: Linking Foster and Birth Parents for the Sake of the Child, “Reaching out to a biological parent can sometimes provide a window into the child’s past, as well as their future”.
This article explains that building this relationship with birth parents can become a necessity for a child’s overall well-being. When a child’s foster and birth parents have a positive relationship, the child becomes more at ease because a difficult situation has mended.
Donna Foster, author of Fostering Perspectives: Building a Positive Relationship with Birth Parents, explains that the key to fostering such a relationship is recognizing the common stages of the grieving process for birth parents, including shock, protest, adjustment, and reunification.
When the adjustment phase has been set, this is an appropriate time for the foster parents to begin asking the birth parents about their children, as well as foster parents welcoming any questions the birth parents may have . Questions such as: How do you want us to take care of your child? What allergies do they have? What do you want the children to call us?
Or questions that birth parents may ask: What do you tell them about why they are in foster care? How do you let them know we love them? When can I talk to them?
A key to creating and maintaining this relationship between parents is honesty. When both the birth and foster parents feel like they can ask questions and get answers, an action plan for parenting the children together can be developed.
With the practice of shared parenting, an ongoing and positive relationship with foster parents and vice versa is possible. Foster says, “The support from a foster family can help the family succeed in staying together. Staying involved after the children return home also helps foster families with their own emotions.”
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