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June 2020Vol. 21, No. 5Tips on Foster Parent-Birth Parent Coparenting to Promote Reunifications

The article Co-Parenting Gets Children Home From Foster Care Safer and Faster discusses key elements of coparenting programs designed to promote reunification for children in foster care. The article shares tips for foster parents and emphasizes that successful coparenting can expedite family reunification and help children and families heal.

Foster parents can serve a pivotal role in promoting reunification by acting as mentors and relationship builders for the birth parents they are working with. The article explains how communication is the most important ingredient for success, and mutual respect is at the heart of successful communication. The article also emphasizes the importance of leaning on professional and personal support systems for outside help. Several recommendations for foster parents are shared related to building relationships with birth parents, including the following:

  • Sharing information about family background, traditions, etc.
  • Assuring birth parents they are not there to replace them
  • Facilitating visits and preparing children for them
  • Brainstorming with birth parents about ideas for visits
  • Encouraging communication between visits (video chats, etc.)
  • Talking positively about birth parents with children
  • Demonstrating compassion
  • Seeking input and opinions from birth parents on the child's likes and dislikes, outfits for school photos, etc.
  • Making birth parents an active part of the team by including them in doctor appointments and school and sporting events

The article also emphasizes the mentoring role that foster parents can assume to help birth parents feel supported and encouraged in their efforts to promote reunification; children benefit when birth parents trust that caregivers are there in a support role (rather than there to take their children). Several ways that foster parents can be mentors include the following:

  • Modeling positive parenting techniques and sharing successful discipline techniques
  • Helping to foster a greater understanding of key developmental tasks and how to help children achieve those milestones
  • Helping parents understand the importance of setting priorities and adhering to a routine
  • Collaborating with school officials and mental health professionals on meeting a child's needs
  • Helping parents learn how to access community supports and ask for help in times of crisis
  • Brainstorming ideas to help make visitations successful relationship-building sessions

Positive communication and relationships benefit children, birth parents, and foster parents—they help reduce child, family, and caregiver stress and support the achievement of positive outcomes.