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
- APPROACH WITH HUMILITY
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- Medical Appointments
- 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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