The Spruce – April 4, 2017

by Michael Robison

Your foster child has moved in, is settled into his room, and learning your home rules. Now comes the time that many foster parents worry the most about – meeting the child’s birth parents. For the sake of all concerned, it is very important for the foster parents and the child’s birth parents to form a working relationship. This relationship will help everyone involved on the team to work the family back together.

The team is usually made up of you (the foster parent), the birth parents, the social workers, the therapists, and other workers. The reunification of the family is almost always the primary goal.

First Steps

  • Be on time.
    Always have the children at their visits or planning/case meetings on time. Do not short the parent’s visit time with your lateness.
  • Ask questions.
    That child’s parents know them better than anyone, and almost everyone likes to talk about their kids. Learning to ask the right questions will be important.
    Questions to ask could include:

    • Health Questions: Is the child allergic to anything? Has he had the Chicken Pox?
    • What are some of the child’s favorite foods?
    • What are some of the child’s favorite things?
    • What are some of the child’s fears?

    By asking them about their child, you will begin to form an important relationship between the parents and yourself.

  • Remember to trust your instincts.
    If the parents don’t seem open to communication with you at this time, don’t push it. They are dealing with a lot of stress and worry. Over time, you and the parents will have many more opportunities to meet and to hopefully form a working relationship. I’m not advocating that your first meeting with the parents should be a quiz either! The questions listed here are conversation starters, and a helpful way to get to know the child and his parents better.
  • Tell them about you and your family.
    Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. Allow them time to ask you questions. But, be prepared for rudeness, anger, and distance. Remember that they have just been through a traumatic time in their lives with the removal of their children. Communicating through a crisis can be difficult do not forget that!
  • Ask About Educational Needs.
    If you have any school forms that need to be signed by the parents (or the social worker), be sure to have them with you. Any questions that you may have regarding school should be prepared in advance.Once the child starts bringing home school papers, take a few to show the parents. I know I love to see my children’s school work. If the school isn’t sending grade cards to the parents, be sure to bring them to meetings or visits.

    • Ask which schools the child went to in the past, so that the current school can retrieve the child’s information.
    • Ask what range of grades the child usually brings home, and in which subjects.
  • Prepare the Children
    Have the child prepared for the visit. Some points to consider:

    • Will the visit take place during dinner? If so, is it your responsibility or the parent’s to make sure that the child is fed? Sometimes the case workers like for the parents to provide dinner, so check on this. Nothing would be worse than a child that is grumpy due to hunger. This is not fair to the parents or the child.
    • Gently pre-teach the child about how the visits will happen. Detail where you are meeting her parents, how long the visit will last, and that there will be a time to say “good-bye” until next time.
    • Consider buying a calendar and placing stickers or circling days of future visits. But each child is different. Some children will thrive with this information, while others will stew and worry.
  • If you need information ask someone else.
    If the birth parents are not open to speaking with you, then check with the social workers for any answers you are lacking regarding educational needs, visit concerns, or other matters.
  • Be kind and professional.
    Above all, the best bet in forming a connection with the child’s parents is through the use of kindness and understanding. Leave judging to the courts.