Do Foster Children See Their Families?
Two of the most common questions we are asked by any prospective foster parent is whether foster children see their birth families and, if they do, how often these visits take place.
The truth is that no one answer fits all. Every child has their own unique circumstances; however, unless parental rights have been completely terminated, the children you foster may sustain some kind of relationship with their birth parents.
That means they may have unsupervised, supervised, or other conditional visitation rights if it has been decided safe and beneficial towards the child’s permenancy by the custodial agency.
Should foster children see their birth parents?
As a therapeutic foster parent, you care for some of the most vulnerable children in society. You understandably feel protective of these children and want the very best for them.
With this in mind, you may wonder why birth parents are permitted visitation. From your perspective, it may seem counterintuitive for a foster child to continue a relationship with their birth parents—especially if they have been a source of their trauma.
It’s generally better to take a non-judgmental approach. Although the children fostered through Benchmark Family Services have suffered difficult home lives, many times their parents tried to care for them the best they could in the face of limitations and adversity.
We should remember that fostering is a temporary arrangement. The courts and custodial agencies are required to try to preserve the family unit as a first priority after a child is removed. That means if their home becomes a safe place, reunification of the family may be likely.
As a foster parent, you will be required to accept the child’s relationship with their parent—regardless of the reason for the child’s removal. You are agreeing to help the child experience a safe and nurturing home until their parent can meet the requirements to properly care for them.
Even after the course of visitations and other interventions designed to preserve the family reunification with the parent(s) is not always possible which could make the foster child available for adoption. Nearly 50% of foster children adopted are adopted by their foster parents.
But before the efforts of family reunification is abandoned, the parents must be given opportunity, with the help of custodial agencies, to correct course to bring their families back together.
As a foster parent, you are the safe haven for a child who may not only be traumatized by events in their home but traumatized by being removed from their parent as well–even if for their own safety. You are a part of the much-needed resource for the biological parent struggling to reverse the conditions that caused removal of their child. Visitation is your empathy in action that does not question why the parent should maintain contact with their child as allowed by the custodial agency.
Why do foster children see their birth parents?
Parental visitation is an important component in preserving the family unit and helps the child’s well-being while in foster care. It has the potential to address self-esteem issues because it mitigates feelings of loss, rejection, and self-blame frequently suffered by children in foster care. Without continued contact with birth parents, children can experience difficulties understanding their origins and family history: important information for identity formation.
Visitation is an evidence-base intervention that improves the mental health of the child while having to adapt to separation from their parent and helps reduce problem behaviors that are associated with past distress in the home. Many children worry about the wellbeing of their birth parents when they are removed from the home. Regular visitation can reduce this anxiety. Positive visitation experiences can play an important role in healing attachment wounds and rebuilding familial relationships.
Visitation also helps cultivate unity between the biological parent and foster parent as they work collaboratively in the best interest of the child. These efforts motivate the child to be more willing to accept their placement as a temporary necessity and with an outlook of being able to safely reunite.
What’s your role as a foster parent when it comes to visitation?
It’s crucial that you show respect for the relationship between your foster child and their birth parents.
Regardless of why they are in foster care, children naturally feel a strong identification with their family. Any expression of disdain or disapproval can create an emotionally-damaging loyalty crisis. A child’s good relationship with the foster parent while having no contact with the biological parent can cause the child to feel disloyal to their parent. Concurrently, good relationships with the foster parent as well as biological parent can create loyalty conflict but also helps the child feel they have a place in both families which creates better outcomes.
Your role is to support them through the potentially disruptive experience their efforts of preserving their family through visitation. Supporting the visitations impresses upon the child his/her place in both families.
Remember, foster caregivers can count on Benchmark Family Services for 24-hour support. Should you observe any concerning
behavior before or after the child’s visits, you should report this to the team before the next visit for further guidance.
Interested in becoming a therapeutic foster parent and making a difference in the lives of vulnerable children? Get in touch.