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6 Tips To Build Relationship With Birth Parents


As a foster parent, many of us tend to join the journey to help children. Before getting licensed many parents tend to dream about spending holidays with foster kiddo or celebrating the child’s birthday. We think about all the fun traditions and ways we can give the child special moments.

One significant person and relationship we do not consider pre-foster care is our relationship with the birth parent during the foster care journey. Usually we begin to really try to hash the relationship out after we are already in the deep in the middle of the journey. It’s too late to prepare our minds and emotions when we are in the thick of the journey.

Even though it is obvious, it is significant enough to state here that the foster child and birth parent relationship is extremely important to maintain if at all possible. Thus, it should be important for, us, the foster parents to approach this relationship in the best manner possible.

6 Tips for Engaging Birth Parents

    It could be simple for a foster parent to get a “moral license” from the fostering situation – feeling as though they are superior for caring for a child when the birth parent cannot. However, as foster or adoptive parents, we must remember that WE, ourselves, are only a few bad decisions away from being in their situation. We should NEVER look upon parents with superiority but with a strong humility that soberingly realizes we could easily be where they are at in a few days….
    How do you want to be treated?
  2. Reassurance – You’re Not going to take kids
    You are there to help the FAMILY not the child. It might be very easy to get excited about our own agenda for helping foster children or simply welcoming a child into our home that we can forget that the goal for ALL foster children first and foremost is to return the child back home.
  3. Expect the Worst While Hoping For the Best
    Never forget that you are quite possibly seeing your foster kiddo’s parent at their worst. Many of us have moments that we are not proud of but they are not made public to various strangers and agency workers. This is quite frankly embarrassing and can cause a huge hit to one’s self-esteem to the point where you fight to feel that you are worthy of anything. Possibly the way some birth parents hope to find reclaimed worth is by making the foster parent appear to be horrible so they seem better.
    It’s a normal response that anyone would unconsciously make when we feel like we are cornered – we FIGHT for survival. However, among all of these feelings while we are expecting the worst, we should still approach any contact with a birth parent hoping for the best outcome.
  4. Be Secure With Yourself
    When you don’t see eye to eye with a birth parent (or maybe even your agency), you need to remember who you are and not focus on what people are saying about you. As foster parents, we may tend to get caught up in the performance of our care for the children in our care. However, we must remember that our performance doesn’t make us who we are. If you get caught in this mindset, you WILL take a things personally and let things affect you when people begin to criticize your parenting skills.
  5. Communication. Communication. Communication.
    Throughout the foster journey one thing that commonly frustrates foster parents is the feeling that they are not being included with all the information of a case while attempting to help a child through the whole situation. We must entertain the idea that the birth parent also must be equally frustrated with the same system.
    Providing a birth parent with as much information as possible can (with time) alleviate fears of the birth parent and help to eventually get both of you onto the same “team.” What should you share with the birth parent?

    • Medical Appointments
    • Photos/Videos of Milestones or successes in the Child’s Life
      First step, first haircut, loose teeth, graduations, a good grade on a test, first day of school, first time driving a car, and so on.
    • Struggles
      Is their child having trouble making friends? trouble in math? scared at night?
    • Child misses mom and/or dad
      It can be a good motivator and comforting to know that you’re not forgotten and missed by a loved one.Be sure to utilize services such as Facebook, E-mail, and Google Voice to easily help you keep the lines of communication open. All of these services allow to create accounts that are not your primary services with all of your personal information attached to them. Also, be sure to consult with your foster agency about the rules your state as about using social media and sharing various information or photos.
  6. Find A Tribe
    Every foster and adoptive parent should have a group of caregivers which they talk and/or meet with at regular intervals. There is something relaxing and therapeutic about talking about your life issues with other people that are on a similar life journey. Other foster/adoptive parents will simply be able to understand your situation better and will be able to listen better. The foster journey is difficult and you will need people to help you get back in the game when the waters of life get choppy.

Transfiguring Adoption offers a weekly online support group which meets on Facebook and YouTube every Monday at 8pm EST. [Learn More]

What tips would you add to the list?

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Life Work With Children Who Are Fostered or Adopted


From the Cover of Life Work with Children Who Are Fostered or Adopted by Joy Rees:

“This new book from life work expert Joy Rees explains the value of effective and meaningful life work with children who are fostered and adopted, and how best to carry it out.

This book will help social work professionals, foster carers and adopters understand the many aspects of life work, and to consider the important contributions they can all  make to this task. Life work is about helping children know and understand their personal stories and the life experiences that have shaped them. Enabling children to reach their potential and achieve the best possible outcome is the common goal, and this is best achieved by using the collaborative approach to life work advocated in this book.”


5 hoots out of 5

Transfiguring Adoption awarded this book 5 Hoots out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a foster/adoptive family. [Learn more about our Hoot grading system here]

What Our Family Thought:

This book provides caregivers and professionals with information about life work (also known as life story books, life journey work, etc). The author breaks down the specifics of the definition of the term life work, as well as going into clearly understood purpose for the importance of a life story book. She states, “The fundamental purpose of life work with all children in care is to help them understand their history and to gain a sense of their identity.” Next, Rees explores theoretical framework, having “thorough knowledge of child development, including brain development, attachment theory, and developmental trauma.” Each stage of developmental age is explored in relation to how to tackle life work at the different developmental stages, what is developmentally appropriate. The next section in the book discusses the importance of the child’s team and their knowledge of their story/development/life details. These important people in the child’s life can help make sure every detail they know can be recorded and documented for the child’s life work. The information gathered can really help the child put the pieces together in the future, pieces of their story that they may not have any information about. This section of the book seems to have the most detailed examples of what can be used to create life work for a child: Preparation and processing, observation, listening, and play, memories, memory books, and boxes, photographs, life journey work, therapeutic stories, child appreciation days, life story books, later life letters, contact,  and finally, adoption and care records. The appendix in the book has sample questionaires for caregivers/case workers to fill out, sample later life letters, and suggested reading lists for adults and children.

This book has done a wonderful job of explaining the why’s as well as the how to’s to help professionals as well as caretakers help create life work for children in foster care or adoption. It stresses the importance of coming together as a coordinated team for the sake of the child’s story, helping the child have a more thorough documentation of their past, for them in the future.

A quick and easy read, this book is for sure worth sharing with others in the adoption and foster care community. It isn’t just perfect for the foster/adoptive family but also therapists, case workers, judges, teachers, etc.

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The Foster Care System Needs to be Healed, Not Fixed


Guest Blog by Felecia Kiser

The Back Story

After giving the matter some consideration I decided that before I really get deep into some blog topics I would introduce myself. I feel that it will be helpful to understand the perspective from which I am writing as it is rather multifaceted. 

To be direct, I am a former foster youth, as is my foster dad. I was never adopted and willingly aged out of the system (naive to what that entailed) as I came to be with my family 19 months shy of my 18th birthday and with plans for college in mind it was beneficial for my financial aid to let life play out that way; besides paperwork has no bearing on matters of the heart, at least not in our minds. For those out there who harbor such thoughts as “they are not really your kids unless it is in writing,” I assure that it is… inked onto my foster dad’s arm right along with the names of his other children, biological and adopted alike.

Part way through my freshmen year, my foster family had to relocate for work from Virginia to Iowa. My foster mom implored me to join them (14 years later still does) and I know it broke her heart as well to leave me behind when I chose to stay put. I already felt worlds away from my siblings, especially my twin, and just could not see myself so far from the east coast. This meant that I was homeless. I had my dorm room for the most part however, when campus was closed for holidays and summers I lived in my van. That is until midsummer between my sophomore and junior years when the Dean of Student Affairs was made aware of my plight by the Director of the Community Service Office and my Sociology Professor (my campus moms) and made me a deal that if I worked for the college then I could remain on campus when it was closed. Compared to most I had it easy and was thankful for such blessings.

During this time a friend connected me to employment as a Day Support Staff member for individuals with autism by giving me a reference and telling the employer that I had experience as my youngest brother is autistic. This act of kindness, that I was unaware of until I received a call offering me a job, lead to a decade of working in Residential Facilities with at risk and foster youth. Through this work I would find it heart breaking to see the children who would have to grow up within the confines of those bare white cinder block walls due to a lack of trauma informed and determined foster parents. Wonderful kids who just needed someone to LISTEN to their behaviors and not “deal” with them. After much earned stability, my husband and I decided to continue what I hope will become a family legacy of foster child turned foster parent and were certified as a therapeutic foster home. We have served around a dozen youth within the past four years.

Foster Care – Broken Machine or Living Organism

This brings me current in my synopsis of my journey and to the need to share a piece of my perspective on the foster care system from the multiple vantage points that I have experienced it. This mindset has recently evolved and will make the understanding of potential future blog posts easier.

I had become accustomed to viewing the foster care system as a poorly oiled and broken down machine with damaged parts haphazardly duct taped back together here and there, if they had been attended to at all. In the midst of painful placement loss, I realized this is the wrong perspective as the foster care system is different than other systems because it has heart and therefore needs to be looked upon as a living organism and not a machine. While parts of it are broken they don’t need to be fixed they need to be nurtured and given time and attention to heal. Like a body, very injury the system sustains and bears require specific treatment. It is wasteful to be stitching up papercuts and ineffective to put a Band-Aid on an avulsion.

I had this epiphany after a placement review when reflecting upon the words, attitudes, and reactions of the three individuals at the table who were part of three different departments of the LCPA that we fostered through at the time. Despite my disagreement with their collective stance on our situation, as it appeared to me that given the deed was done in their minds there was no turning back, I was able to see that two of those three were respectable in their best practice ideologies. The third was an accomplice to the removal of an adoption in process with differing (and dangerous) ideologies on how work with foster families and what constituted adequate support. In proceeding weeks, my bitterness toward the case management department, that stemmed from my disappointment with their unwillingness to engage in some form of repair addressing why they made a unilateral decision to re-home a child and how they had gone about doing so, had extended to the agency as a whole and further into the foster care system. However, my interactions with these two individuals restored some of my faith in humanity and hope for the system. Therefore to generalize that the foster care system is entirely a broken down machine is inaccurate as it is more akin to an injured body.

” Therefore to generalize that the foster care system is entirely a broken down machine is inaccurate as it is more akin to an injured body.”

Each individual involved makes up a cell within the body of the foster care system. Cells operating with misguided ideologies are most unhealthy as they can spread like a malignant cancer throughout the system, influencing every cell they come in contact with, whereas poor practice is confined to a local area and can be contained while it is treated. This treatment should be proactive and can be accomplished through training/support services, leading by example, and supervision/follow-up. The system cannot afford to lose a single one of its white blood cells who are comprised of foster families, CASA volunteers, Guardian Ad Litems, social workers, case managers, and any other individual willing to advocate for the betterment of the lives of foster children.

The foster care system should listen to the cells within its body and act accordingly when showing symptoms of an illness or injury. It is not superhuman or self regenerative and needs to cease acting invincible or, at times depending upon the cells involved, as if it’s nose (and subsequent blood loss) is expendable when slighted. Furthermore, it should probably conduct a mental health check up and develop some humility while exploring its arrogance issues or at least why it compensates at times with such behavior.

Criticism With Hope For The Future

Though I am critical of the foster care system, it is important to note that I am in no way bashing it. While it is unfortunate, it is true that society will forever be in need of a foster care system. We are human and humans perish or make mistakes requiring support and guidance. When those mistakes have consequences for children we need a healthy functioning system to connect vulnerable youth with compatible loving and supportive caregivers while corrections are being made. When those mistakes evolve into bad choices then those children will need to be connected with families who will choose to do right by them.

“While it is unfortunate, it is true that society will forever be in need of a foster care system.”

It is also important to note that nothing I share should be viewed discouragingly as every unfortunate circumstance should be motivation to get involved and make a difference. Yes, to be completely honest fostering is hard work and it is painfully beautiful. Those who encourage foster parenting by emphasizing all of the beautiful warm fuzzies contribute to the high foster parent turnover rate. I feel it is important to be aware of what is real and the reality is that this calling requires heart, trauma informed training, and commitment. We cannot all serve in the same capacities therefore, inability to foster or adopt that does not negate what you can do!

Each community’s DSS and LCPA’s should be aware of viruses in their milieu and not dismiss a sniffle as benign as that is how pneumonia begins. The deeper inflictions will take lengthy intensive treatment to heal but that does not make them futile. As long as there is hope there will be change.