Tips For Keeping The Birth Parent(s) In Your Foster Child's Life

Birth parents will always play an important role in a child's life. Whether or not they are currently in a positive relationship with the child, they will always have a profound effect on who that kid becomes. I feel, as a foster parent, it's my duty to keep the birth parent involved in their kid's life. I feel that it helps motivate them to improve their situation. It gives them hope for a better future and constant reassurance that their child is still a part of their life. And there are a few really easy, simple ways to keep a birth parent involved.

Send pictures: Pictures are worth a thousand words. When they see an image of their kid well-bathed, well-dressed, well-fed, and happy- they're mind is going to be at ease. Many people assume that birth parents don't care what home their child is in, but in my experience that is absolutely not true. The birth parents do worry about their kids and want to know they're being cared for. That's why I share positive pictures with my birth parents regularly. Not only to ease their mind about their child's welfare, but also to keep them visually intune with their kid. They know what their child looks like with their new sun tan, or new clothes, or even those few new inches they grew into this summer.

Invite them to school events: With a social worker's permission I will always extend an open invitation for birth parents to attend school events with me. This includes extra curricular activities, parent/teacher conferences, school recitals, and class parties and programs. It's a very positive place for the parent to be involved. And it's also a positive place for their child to see them- in an open no-pressure public environment.

Send school work to them: Once or twice a month I will send a few school items to the birth parents of my foster children. Homework and tests that they've gotten good grades on, art projects they've done, papers they've written, report cards. These things not only reassure the parent that education is a priority in my household- it also shows them how they, as a parent, can make school work a priority as well. I've noticed with parents that I've included in the child's educational progress, that once the children are put back in the home the parents will continue the same school patterns and habits I've already enforced with the child.

Have kids make crafts and snacks for them: When my kids have a visitation with a parent we make it a big fun deal. We always make crafts or snacks to take. Sometimes the kids will decorate cookies, sometimes they will bead a bracelet, sometimes they'll go to the store and buy a small gift. We're attempting to create a positive experience between the birth parent and child. I want them to be actively engaged in each other's lives and excited about being together. Granted- we all have our bad experiences. But when the birth parent begins to expect a positive experience with their child I notice that they begin to work harder to make visitations a great experience for them both.

Make home videos: Home videos are so much fun, but they're also so important for birth parents. Birth parents miss a lot of things in their children's lives. First steps, first words, school recitals, birthdays, sports events. There are many things that they may not get the chance to be there for. So that's why I film it and share it with the birth parents. This helps keep them involved, and I hope it also helps motivate them to create a better lifestyle for their entire family.

Include them in holidays: Having your child's birth parent involved in holidays is not only important for the birth parent- it's important for the child as well. If visitation is allowed during birthdays and big holidays, make a point to offer a planned visit that day. If visitation isn't allowed, have your child pick out a gift for their birth parent (this works well for holidays like Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Halloween). For the child's birthday, have them save a slice of birthday cake so they can celebrate with their birth parent the next time they see them.

Ask if they need anything: Birth parents often don't have a strong outside support system. So offering your hand can mean a lot to them. Let them know that if they need help writing a work resume or picking out a child's birthday gift- that you would love to help them out. Offer to be involved in their life as well. It will go a long way in not only bettering their lives, but inspiring them to be a better parent to their child as well.

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