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Co-Parenting with Birth Family Navigating the waters of foster parenting relationships


always seem to have a lot of questions for my caseworker each time a new child from foster care is placed into my home.

To be sure, upon meeting the birth parents for the first time, there are bound to be questions from both you and the birth parents also — a lot of questions — and this is quite normal. Your foster child’s family members, in truth, will want to know what kind of family their child is living with, what his or her home life will be like, if he or she is being taken care of, and many other concerns. After all, their child has been taken away from them, against their wishes, and placed in a strange home. They will have many concerns, and may not be as courteous to you as you might like.

There have been those occasions where my wife and I have been verbally assaulted, if you will, by some of the birth parents of our foster children. Indeed, there was even one time when my wife was followed in a car by a birth family member. Along with that, there was one occasion where a birth parent spat in my face, after cursing me up and down, left and right,

and all over. Granted, these negative occasions are few and far between during my own 13 years of fostering. As a foster parent, you will most likely work with birth parents who are grateful for you taking care of their child, and pleasant to work with.

On the other hand, you should be prepared for a biological parent of your foster child to be hostile, rude, angry or even distant. Remember, they are hurting, and have had a traumatic experience with the removal of their child. Respectfully encourage them to ask you as many questions as they would like. It is important that you answer their questions as honestly and openly as possible, treating them with the utmost integrity, kindness and politeness. After all, you are modeling good adult behavior to them, as well as to your foster child.

I have found that the more information I have about my foster children, the better prepared I am to help them. Indeed, knowledge is power, as we both know. Often times, the

Part II

best place to find those answers and to seek that knowledge is from the parents and family members of the foster child living in your home. After all, it is likely that your foster child’s biological parents and family members will know the child better than anyone, even the caseworker. You might just have an opportunity to find out some of the answers you are seeking about your foster child, as well as discover more about him than from his family. Face to face meetings and phone conversations with the birth parents and biological family members can help both you and the child. Your meetings with them will offer you the opportunity to learn a great deal about the child in your home — likes and dislikes, hobbies and interests, fears and concerns, favorite foods and much more.

Along with this, you can also acquire important information you might need. This information might include how he performs in school, struggles he faces in the classroom, allergies, medical history and more. Along with this, when you ask questions about


feature BY JOHN DeGARMO, ED.D.

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