May is National Foster Care Month. There will always be a need for some type of placement for children outside their homes. However, recent policies on rethinking the entire system of foster care, reducing the number of children placed in foster care, increasing kinship placements, and promoting foster parents helping birth parents are shedding new light on the role of foster care.
This post will take a closer look at how foster parents can partner with birth parents to promote reunification. The information is drawn from fact sheets published by the Child Welfare Information Gateway. Each of the following principles is further explained by a foster or birth parent:
Communicate early and often. More is better. Keep it real.
“There should be an initial meeting to introduce the foster and the birth parents so they can ask the little questions. What is your child like? What are their sleeping hours? What are their dislikes? This can be a great opportunity for [birth parents] to see that the foster caregiver is really concerned about their child and doesn’t want to replace them. It lets them know right off the bat that you are on their side.” —Keely, foster parent, BFPP
Leaning on Your Caseworker and Agency
“When I had a supervisor or social worker where partnership was the goal, the case went really well. We were able to really connect and be together and the children were obviously much better. The chances of going home happened more often. Whoever is responsible for that relationship from the very first minute can make a difference with reunification.” —Roberta, foster parent, BFPP
Children in the child welfare system already have family members who love them.
“The most dangerous thing I see is that black and white thinking of foster and adoptive parents ‘saving’ kids. These children are not orphans. They have families.” —Amy, foster parent, BFPP
Help, trust, and empathy make all the difference.
“[Birth parents] are already so ashamed of themselves. They already feel like the most awful parent in the world. Just by saying ‘You’ve done a great job’ or ‘Your kids have a really great bond with you’ is really groundbreaking! Be the bigger person and take the first step. Be a part of family healing, and reach out in a very human way.” —Julie, birth parent, BFPP
Maintaining Contact After Reunification or Other Permanency
“We see a lot of kids that have lived with us at different times and their families. [With one] child we had at one point, his grandmother still calls us, and we do all the babysitting whenever she needs help. We have another young adult who went back to her family, and she calls us almost every weekend. She had a baby, and we’re the godparents.” —Ellen, foster parent, BFPP
To view the full document visit: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets-families-partnerships/?hasBeenRedirected=1
Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director