Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

May 2018Vol. 19, No. 4The Relationship Between Foster Families and Birth Families

A good relationship between foster and birth families is important to the overall well-being and sense of emotional security of children in foster care. A recent article in Child & Family Social Work highlights a study that looks at these relationships in terms of how the two families "got along" in the child welfare placement context and the factors affecting the nature and quality of these relationships.

Data presented in this article came from semistructured interviews conducted with 30 foster families and 15 kinship foster families. An analysis of the interview responses revealed that the following were all important in determining how the families got along in this joint family space :

  • Presence and quality of contact between children and their birth families
  • Tensions encountered between foster and birth families
  • Presence or absence of respect and trust
  • Value foster families placed on maintaining contact with birth families

The article presents the following findings:

  • About half of the foster families reported they had a positive relationship with the birth parents.
  • More than two-thirds (11) of the kinship foster families reported they had a conflicted, difficult, or mediocre relationship with the birth parents as a result of the more informal nature of this placement and the inherent relationship difficulties within extended families.
  • Foster families mostly supported the children's relationship with their birth families and the importance of maintaining contact.
  • Foster parents were aware that their attitude affected the quality of the relationship between children and their birth families.
  • Socioeconomic and cultural differences between foster and birth families may lead to disagreements and confrontations about values, lifestyle, and educational methods.
  • Issues such as substance use, mental health problems, and incarceration had an impact on the foster-birth family relationship.

The article also includes implications for practice that suggest providing more information about available services to kinship foster families that is more in line with the context of these familial relationships; conducting well-supervised visits that include both foster and birth families and that can be used to facilitate useful exchanges and discussions about the children; and promoting a relationship between families that revolves around tolerance, empathy, and mutual respect.

"The Relationship Between Foster Care Families and Birth Families in a Child Welfare Context: The Determining Factors," by D. Chateauneuf, D. Turcotte, and S. Drapeau (Child & Family Social Work, 23), is available at