When a child is removed from his or her parent due to abuse or neglect, it can be the beginning of a dark and uncertain time for both the child and his or her parents. The primary goal of the foster care process is for children to be returned to biological family. During this time, however, the bond between a foster parent and foster child will undoubtedly grow into a strong attachment. The idea of working alongside the child’s birthparents for reunification can be intimidating and uncomfortable for a foster parent, but for the child, that interaction can be essential.
Here are three of foster parents’ biggest misconceptions about co-parenting with birth parents:
The birth parents will be resistant. After dealing with the shock and anger of a child’s removal, most biological parents are eager to take the steps necessary for reunification. The desire to see their children often results in a great willingness to participate in supervised visits, phone calls, and letter writing. Try not to assume that birth parents will not want to take an active role in recovering their children. Like any other mother or father, these parents want nothing more than to be with their sons and daughters again.
The bio parents dislike you. Should a foster parent feel that a bio parent is being cold, curt, or distant, he or she must understand that the frustration is more about the situation than personal hostility. Once bio parents observe genuine concern from the foster parent, trust and respect may develop soon afterwards. Birth parents may feel embarrassed about their situation, and may need to be reassured by foster parents that they are there is no judgment and that they are rooting for reunification. Like any relationship, this mutual trust may take time.
Visits will disrupt and confuse the kids. Several studies show that children do better during this time when they do not feel completely removed from all they know. The opportunity to see and speak with family members (should the judge deem communication safe and appropriate) can help a child maintain stability and feel loved during an uncertain time. Communication between bio and foster parents can be helpful for all parties involved as bio parents can provide information to foster parents, and vice versa. This level of openness works to help the child feel less anxious and frightened, expedite permanency, and protect the child’s overall development. It is also a great example of collaboration and teamwork.
Remember, all parties involved in the foster care process— case managers, foster parents, and birth parents—want the same thing: for the children to be happy and feel loved. If everyone is willing to press forward with patience and an open mind, it will result in the child’s ultimate success.
If you are a foster parent or birthparent in need of support during this time, visit Eckerd.org/Foster.