Shared Parenting: Connecting Foster Families and Birth Families

This is the fifth entry in a 6-part series on foster parenting.  To view a list of all the videos and blogs available in this series, please click here.

“Shared parenting” is a term that often shocks many prospective foster parents when they first hear it.  Essentially, shared parenting is the building of a positive alliance between foster parents and birth parents on behalf of children in foster care.  This can include simple acts such as passing along report cards, printing photos, or sharing updates.  It can also be more relational and include meeting for meals or play dates at the park.  It is important to note that foster parents will never be expected to put themselves in an unsafe or inappropriate situation.  Each case is unique and will be approached with an individualized plan.  Though it might seem daunting at first, shared parenting is a very important part of the foster care process.

Shared parenting helps birth parents do what they need to do to reunify with their children and allows children to remain connected to their birth families while they are in foster care.  It is a common belief, and misconception, that most foster children do not return home to their families.  Consider the following statistics from the latest available 6 month period:

Number of foster children leaving DCS custody by reunifying with their parents: 3,102
Number of foster children leaving DCS custody by being adopted: 1,576
Percentage of foster children with a case plan of reunifying with their parents: 55%
Percentage of foster children with a case plan of adoption: 20%

A majority of foster children actually return home to live with their biological families.  This means that foster parents do their best to help support and teach biological families while their child (or children) live with them.

How does it work?

Shared parenting will look different based on the specifics of each case, and will be determined by an assessment of safety issues.  At a minimum, foster parents are expected to support the positive aspects of the biological parents, and will be expected to refrain from berating the birth parents in front of the child.  This level of shared parenting could be as simple as telling a child that they have beautiful eyes like their mother, or sending a note to the birth parents to let them know how their child is doing.  In a best case scenario, you could build a strong relationship with the birth family and include them in holiday celebrations or even a weekly family dinner.

Is this really a good thing?

YES!  Absolutely.  Foster children will come into your home with strong attachments to their birth families, and it is important for foster children to retain appropriate contact with their relatives (unless their case plan requires no contact of any kind).  Children in care are comforted, and more easily attach, when they see biological and foster families working together.

As Christians, this is a very special opportunity.  Foster parenting is not only a ministry to children but also to families as a whole.  Developing relationships with birth families provides the opportunity to share the gospel, model healthy parenting, and effect change in the lives of a child’s family.  We would do best to take advantage of this special opportunity.

“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity” (Col 4:5).

To find out more about becoming a licensed foster parent, visit our licensing page today.

Source: http://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/99/docs/SemiAnnual-Child-Welfare-Reporting-Requirements-4-15-9-15_FINAL-Revised.pdf

Next part

Click here to view the next part of this series which will explore the types of children that are in foster care and how we need to approach parenting a foster child.

This blog entry is part of a 6-part series on foster parenting.  To view a list of all the videos and blogs available in this series, please click here.

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