7 Tips for Nurturing Family Relationships in Foster Care

Adopting a foster child is an incredible commitment for a married couple and their family. Together with my spouse, I am a registered art therapist and a qualified therapist. I also have foster and adoptive children. We have had the chance to foster sibling groups with equally varied outcomes who have experienced abuse or neglect to varying degrees. Every foster family has something special to offer their foster kids. Our expertise in kid grieving, reducing child losses, ensuring their safety, and advocating for their needs are what make us strong.

Taking care of relationships

Beyond childrearing, there are other aspects that are only briefly covered in the foster parent education. In an effort to lessen the foster child’s or children’s experiences with loss and grief, the foster parent might assist in managing relationships. In order to satisfy the needs of the children, certain relationships—such as those with social workers, therapists, lawyers, and court advocates—are essential. Other connections, such as those with birth parents, siblings, and grandparents, are also fraught with conflicting emotions for both the foster parents and the children. Each of these relationships is significant in and of itself, and the foster parents are essential to preserving the bonds within the family.

What takes on in the foster care system

Every foster placement involves a different circumstance of abuse or neglect. Foster placements can be short-term or long-term because the main objective of foster care is to reunite the birth family. The purpose of providing parenting skills and improving the life circumstances that led to the foster placement for the birth parents is to increase safety and create a conducive atmosphere for raising children. Regarding that neglect or abuse, everyone involved—including the foster parents, children, birth parents, and experts in foster care—will have different opinions.

“Family visits” are set periods when the children and birth parents spend time together while the parents are undergoing the necessary rehabilitation. Depending on the objective condition and progress of the birth parents, these visits might range from a few hours of supervised time to an overnight stay without supervision. It is still the case that foster parents spend the most of the week raising the children. For the birth parents, this may cause them to feel bereaved. Different regulations and numerous caregivers can cause confusion in children.

In his book Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy, William Worden discusses grieving activities that are easily applicable to children, biological families, and foster parents. Worden’s grieving chores include accepting that the loss has truly happened, going through strong emotions, creating a new relationship with the person who has passed away, and devoting time and energy to these new endeavors. We can identify these responsibilities as foster or adoptive parents and provide these kids with situation-appropriate assistance.

In order to encourage transparency with each of our foster placements, my spouse and I used a variety of strategies, and we discovered many advantages. The birth families were accommodating and took part at their comfort level. Our goals continue to be to recognize the loss experienced by children in foster care, assist kids in managing strong emotions, promote information sharing about the kids to strengthen bonds, and figure out safe and healthy methods to involve the biological family.

Ideas to help facilitate healthy relationships

1. Share books with the kids.

Children benefit from emotional education as they grow to trust their foster family. They start to learn how to cope with the difficult feelings that come with being in foster care. Books like How are you Peeling by S. Freymann and J. Elffers and My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss can help children understand and relate to a variety of emotions they may encounter in their days and weeks. Further conversation can cover topics like when the child may have had an emotion or what can be helpful, depending on their age. P. Karst and G. Stevenson’s The Invisible String can help kids deal with being apart from relatives.

G. and P. Blomquist’s book Zachary’s New Home: A Story for Foster and Adopted Children discusses the challenges of relocating to a new home with parents who are significantly different from the youngster. J. Wilgocki and M. Kahn Wright’s Maybe Days: A Book for Children in Foster Care encourages kids to consider the unpredictability of the future. Foster parents are urged to freely discuss that they are also going through the “Maybe Days,” as foster families are given little to no information regarding the circumstances and development of the birth family.

2. Make an effort to communicate

Open communication achieves three objectives. Initially, the birth parents may better care for and engage with their children if they have notes about milestones, food preferences or dislikes, the child’s health, and any new knowledge about interests or new activities. Second, by including their family history and culture, the kids might have more regular, healthy relationships with their birth family.

If the foster family is able to learn about the birth family by asking appropriate questions, such as about the parents’ favorite color, food, family customs, and children’s previous behaviors, little anecdotes about how the child may be similar to their parents can also be shared. Remember the particulars of previous abuse or neglect, and steer clear of subjects that seem unimportant but could bring back unpleasant memories. Finally, as foster children acclimate to their new foster family, the team approach lessens the allegiance problems they frequently encounter.

3. Include drinks and snacks.

Every family’s financial circumstances and capacity for planning are unique. Granola/cereal bars, goldfish, pretzels, and other foods that are portable and/or can be stored for a later time are recommended snack ideas. More so than if the food is consumed, the goal is for the youngster to always feel they are loved. It is hoped that the biological parents would start playing this part. Foster parents may choose to keep feeding snacks, though, because birth parents’ progress varies.

4. Exchange photos

Provide images of the kids’ experiences and activities. As time goes by, the birth parents might want to keep these photos. Provide a disposable camera so the birth parents can snap family photos and send the extras when you think they’re amenable to the idea. You can frame the images you get and hang them in your home’s particular spot or in the kids’ rooms.

5. Assist kids in managing stress

Every youngster will require a different approach to handling difficult emotions. Find out how the kids respond to visitors and note any behavioral shifts. Try to set up after-visit activities like karate or taekwondo that permit that kind of release if your youngster enjoys hitting or kicking. When a kid is transitioning and the foster parent is still around to provide comfort, make time for peaceful activities like crafts, reading, or cuddling with a beloved stuffed animal or blanket.

6. Keep a life journal for every youngster.

This is crucial for the foster child and is typically included in foster parent education. They lived in your family for a while, and this is part of their past. These could be extremely basic books containing illustrations of notable occasions, figures, or developmental milestones that the youngster has reached. It is advised that you also preserve a copy for your family history.

7. Assistance with goal or positioning adjustments

Foster parents can be of great assistance to a youngster going through a home transition. The birth family or the family of the child’s future placement can benefit from knowing routine details, preferences for bedtime, and even recipes for the child’s favorite foods or meals. The adoptive parents have a variety of choices to think about when it comes to openness in preserving the relationship if the objective has shifted to permanent placement through adoption.

Building relationships in the foster care system is a difficult task. For both birth families and foster children, the losses are profound. Foster parents can reduce potential losses that may mount over the course of the placement by showing compassion and love. Make use of these recommendations as a springboard for creative solutions that can be used in particular circumstances to strengthen family ties. You should anticipate varying degrees of cooperation from birth families. Your good intentions will pay off in spades. Hopefully, children who dedicate themselves to this process will grow up with a positive outlook on life, a strong sense of self, and a unique personality.