When I walked in, the paper on the fridge immediately caught my attention. You could tell it had been folded and unfolded numerous times. My wife had written that paper for the biological mom of the two girls we had fostered for almost two years. It contained a sample weekly menu and tips and tricks for how to deal with certain behaviors, along with what her girls now considered their normal routine. We learned what happens when you have foster parents working with birth parents.
As the girls were being reunified with their mom, this level of partnership ensured there would be consistency in major areas like appropriate discipline, healthy eating choices, and a daily routine. How powerful it is when foster parents and biological parents work together. Here are 5 ways to do that.
1. Ask good questions of each other.
Both the foster parents and the birth parents have much to learn from each other. Foster parents should be asking simple questions about what the foster kids like and dislike and about their bedtime routines. Even their favorite color, food, or movie is helpful information. Birth parents could be helped by asking questions about how their child is doing and how the foster parent is handling difficult behaviors. Those answers could aid the birth parent when the family is reunified.
Foster parents and birth parents are meant to be a team focused on the needs and health of the child even when it’s difficult. Sharing information and doing it more often than you may think is necessary could significantly impact the placement and birth parent’s case plans. Maybe it’s by confirming court dates several different times with each other, or sharing what the school or daycare is reporting about the child. All information is helpful and sharing that information repeatedly also builds trust between the foster and birth parents.
3. Interact with humility.
Every interaction between a foster parent and a birth parent has the potential for conflict. But humility—considering others before yourself—is a guaranteed way to prevent conflict. Since conflict requires two people, even if there is great difficulty, when one parent chooses humility, the difficulty stays one-sided and conflict is prevented.
4. Ask for help.
Who doesn’t need help raising a child? It doesn’t matter if you are the birth parent or the foster parent—all parents need help. Asking for help from one another is a great way to build a relationship, keep the kids and their needs as the primary focus, and prevent small issues from becoming larger ones. Some foster parents may need to ask for help even from the biological parent. For example, if the child has different hair or skin needs, the biological mom could communicate to the foster parent what she has used to care for the child’s hair and skin.
5. Advocate for the child.
Whether it’s within the foster care system, for an educational need, or regarding a medical diagnosis, the child’s best opportunity to have needs met is when both sets of parents are united in advocacy for that child.
Foster children can’t make the decision for their foster or birth parents to pursue these five ways to work together. These are choices only we as adults can make—and we should.
Sound off: When have you had to ask for help as a parent?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “When you need help with something, who’s the first person you ask and why?”