As a foster parent, you provide a temporary home for children and teens because their parents need time to learn new skills to become the parents their children need them to be. The primary goal of foster care is to reunify children with their parents.
Foster parents are critical to support reunification. As part of its work to support reunification, the American Bar Association interviewed foster families across the nation and asked them how they’ve supported reunification.
Respect the birth parents and be compassionate
“Often times in foster care, parents are villainized and judged. Foster parents need to love them and never make them feel like they are being judged. We need to encourage them and become cheerleaders for them.” - Oregon foster parent
From the start, emphasize respect for parents and understand that child abuse and neglect may impact generations within a family.
Encourage visitation and regular contact
“We never say no to visitation if there isn’t a time conflict. I’m trying to get children back where they belong, with their families.” - Osage Nation/Oklahoma foster parent.
Visitations are an opportunity for parents and their children to maintain contact while a child lives with a foster family. However, visitations can also improve the relationships between a foster family and birth family.
Communicate with the family regularly
“Any time the child sees the birth parents and foster parents work as a team, it is better for the child.” - Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community foster parent
Birth parents need to know what is going on with their children and foster parents need to know the children and family’s background. When it’s safe to do so, and depending on your comfort level, encourage phone calls with family members, save art projects and take photos so bio parents can share in the joy of the child’s life.
Remember that safe reunification is best for the children
“Adoption always needs to be secondary to reunification. Foster parents need to be on board with reunification from the beginning.” – foster parent
Understand from the beginning, the foster care is about reunification and keeping families together. Focus on the child’s need to be with family. This will help the children in your care understand that you value their family and want them to return home when it is safe.