Supporting Relationships with Birth Parents in Foster Care

Supporting relationships with birth parents is one integral part of parenting a foster child well. We offer these practical tips from experienced foster parents to help you think about how to build a supportive relationship with your foster child’s birth parents.

Ten Tips for Supporting Relationships with Birth Parents in Foster Care

  1. Take advantage of the technology at your disposal, particularly that which you know the birth parents have easy access to. Encourage communication by texting, sending pictures or short videos, and fun anecdotes of the child’s days.
  2. Similarly, use technology to help the child to create his own photo books, share his art work, and send school updates to the birth family. Think about what “hand-made” gifts the children are doing at school or camp and share them often with the parents.
  3. Use social media to encourage interaction. Some families schedule regular video chats. Others use private social media accounts that only the foster family and the birth parents can access. Be creative and find what works for both parties. Teach your foster child good social media safety and etiquette while you are at it.
  4. Share your cell number to encourage both the parents and the child to participate in regular interaction. Some families have found that a designated phone works best for this, others give their regular cell out freely. Figure out what works for your needs and theirs but keep the lines open, figuratively and literally.
  5. Choose an attitude of openness, respect, and inclusion. Add healthy doses of kindness and compassion to the mix. Supporting a relationship with the birth parents is not just your job as a foster parent. It’s good for your foster kids. (The obvious exception is when there is a risk of safety and you should discuss this at length with your caseworker.)
  6. When you find resources that help your family grow and learn, share them with the birth parents. Offer to share other resources that might be specific to their needs and learn with them on the way.
  7. Cultivate an atmosphere of cooperation and openness when you communicate. This includes practical things like asking how they are doing, listening carefully when they share, and squashing the temptation to compete for the child’s affections or time. Building a supportive relationship with the birth parents will often feel like co-parenting and that’s a good thing!
  8. Attend team meetings, court appointments, and visits as often as you can. Encourage the birth parents to ask questions; help them by modeling that if they don’t seem to know how.  Model clear communication with the caseworkers too.
  9. Speaking of the caseworkers, be supportive of them as they work to support the birth parents and your foster child. Ask what you can do to make things easier or more accessible for everyone. Supporting them is an in-direct way of supporting relationship with the birth parents.
  10. Consider joining a support group (in-person or on-line) specifically for foster parents in which a wide variety of ideas and creative relationship-building by other experienced peers is occurring. Creating a Family has a very active on-line support group where many of these tips and ideas originated.

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