Resource parents and birth parents have something in common – a child they care about.
Resource parents take care of children during the time the children live in their home. They provide a family setting and make sure all of the child’s needs – physical, emotional and educational – are met while the child’s parents work on resolving the issues that resulted in the child being placed.
Some things to remember about families with children in placement:
Most children return to their parents after foster care; in most cases, foster care is temporary, while parents work to reunify their family. Whether or not a child returns to the parents, the bond between parents and children is very important; anything that preserves a healthy attachment between parents and children helps to pave the way for a successful adjustment.
Until parental rights are terminated, parents have a legal right to visit their children. Parents also have a legal responsibility to be involved with their children, to advocate for their family and to work to reunify their family.
Children closely observe the interactions of adults. If they see that the resource parents and birth parents don’t like each other, they may feel pressured to monitor what they say. When children see biological and resource parents treating each other with respect and cooperation, they may be able to relax a little, knowing that everyone is working toward the same goal.
When everyone focuses on the whole family, rather than just the child, it’s more likely that the focus will be on strengthening the family, rather than on “rescuing” the child or “fixing” the family.
There are many things resource parents can do to strengthen the birth family.
You may have no contact, some contact, or lots of contact with the parents of children in your home. The child will always have a birth family (whether he or she has contact with them or not) and the birth family will always be important.
Here are some ways you can help the child build a bond with his or her birth parents:
Treat birth parents with respect. When you speak to, or about, the birth parents make sure to be as positive as possible and be complimentary of the changes the parents are making. Don’t criticize or speak negatively about the parents, especially around the child.
Be honest and direct in your communication. Don’t hide problems that can be addressed by parents. Be matter-of-fact but let them know when they have disappointed their child. For example, tell them how upset the child was when they missed scheduled visits.
Understand that almost all children love their parents and want to be with their birth family. Children may be conflicted in their feelings, but they are usually loyal to their parents. This loyalty may be hard for you to accept, and it’s normal to feel protective of a child who has been hurt, but the children usually have a deep attachment to their parents.
Let the parents be the parents. Ask the parents’ opinion and consult them on decisions whenever possible. Don’t jump in to “correct” them and avoid giving “instructions” to them in front of the children. Abide by the parent’s wishes whenever you can.
Pay attention to the little things. Be careful about things like changing the child’s hairstyle, clothing preferences, and family traditions. Help the child get a photo of the birth family, if he or she doesn’t have one. If you can, involve the parents in plans for birthdays and holidays.
Actively work to support reunification with the family. Be as flexible as you can with visitation schedules; remain open-minded and non-judgmental about the child’s birth family.
Let the parents know what the child’s daily life is like. Share school experiences, anecdotes about friends, interests, hobbies or activities with the parents. But be careful not to make your comments seem like criticism of how the parents had previously cared for the child.
Help the child understand that finances vary greatly in families. Some children will be returning to homes with less material benefits than yours; let them know that not having “stuff” doesn’t mean their parents don’t love them.
Birth parents can do a lot to cooperate with foster parents.
You can help your child adjust to their foster home and maintain their bond with you:
Be consistent and keep your promises. Attend your scheduled visits and everything you can to meet your goals. Don’t promise things you can’t deliver, and let your child know you are working to be with him or her as soon as possible.
Realize that children can become attached to their resource family. They are not doing this to get back at you, or because they love you less.
See the resource family’s point of view. Your child is entering their home with intense feelings; your child may misbehave, lie or “act out” in the resource home. Remember that the resource parents have a difficult job too, and they care about your child.
Compliment the resource parents in front of the child. Compliment them for things they do especially well or thank them for things you appreciate about their care of your child.
Stay involved with your child’s daily life. Show your interest in your child’s school, friends and activities. Ask if you are allowed to write letters or call your child, and send photos or drawings with your letters.
Include the child’s brothers and sisters in visits whenever possible. Most children want to have a relationship with their siblings as well as their parents.
Be flexible and understanding when scheduling visits and phone calls to your child. If you treat the resource parents with respect, they are likely to do the same for you.
* “resource parents” refers to foster families, kinship caregivers and adoptive families.
For more information, contact:
Pennsylvania State Resource Family Association
(800) 951-5151 or (717) 671-0102 www.psfpa.com