Shared Parenting in Foster Care

The need for foster parents is immense. Motivation for potential foster parents can range from a desire to help traumatized children, to a more specific goal of helping children reunify with their biological families. Here in Arizona the goal for children in foster care is permanency. This often means reunification with biological family whenever safe for the child, and deemed appropriate by the court. In order to support a successful reunification foster parents are expected to actively participate and cooperate in shared parenting.  Shared parenting is a supportive, positive relationship between birth parents and foster parents so the birth parents and child can maintain a healthy relationship.

Many times, there are assumptions about the birth parents of foster children and people wonder, “how could they do that to their own child?”  As a foster parent, it can be very easy to judge the birth parent, yet our judgments and assumptions do not help heal the child or their family.  As an alternative, we can try to learn the conditions that led to their child being removed and try to understand.  We can get to know the child’s family and do our best to keep them involved.

Shared Parenting Tips:

  • Communicating your intentions for fostering; let the parents know you are here to help, not replace them as a parent. Respect their role as a parent and how they still are playing a part in their child’s life.
  • Set clear boundaries and expectations of your relationship with the birth parents: you are the current parent making choices for their child but will keep their wishes in mind and make the best decision based on the child’s development.
  • Ask the birth parents about their child. What do they want you to know about their child and what would they like you to continue to do with them?  Bedtime routines, special hygiene routines?
  • Let them know more about you. They are scared and unsure who is caring for their children.
  • Model positive parenting. This may be the hardest part of shared parenting.  Help them try new methods of engaging with their child.
  • Encourage them to attend appointments with you. This can help them see what has happened to their child.
  • Allow them to celebrate holidays or special occasions with their child.

Simple gestures go along way to show birth parents that you are on the same side, the child’s side. Being a foster parent is hard, but it’s worth it when you’ve helped heal a child and can see them safely back to their family.