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We talk about shared or “co-parenting” all the time here at the Coalition. We know how impactful it is for children in care to see their foster parents respecting, engaging, and partnering with their parents. But, to hear a specific couple, Dave and Jessie, discuss their own experience with and philosophy around this really brings it to life. Even they admit they initially thought of foster care as centered on the children. And, of course, children are at the heart of why most people want to foster. Yet caring for the entire family is just as critical for success as caring for the kids.
Children who have trauma can heal with the connection, emotional regulation, and felt safety that foster parents can provide. Our goal, of course, is to send them home to a situation that will continue to promote their healing. But that can’t happen unless we address the trauma and challenges the birth parents face. Without that piece, reunification is bound to fail.
The foster parents are in the best position to support the healing of birth parents. Why? For a few reasons:
- They are parents, so they automatically hold credibility and relevance
- They aren’t “working for” the child placing agency, which can create felt-safety for the birth parents
- They are living with the child and have learned some things about the dynamics and culture of the overall family
I like that Dave and Jessie talk about how typical, i.e., non-child-welfare, parents have a support network they can lean on for advice, emotional propping up, and practical support such as childcare, transportation, etc. They recognize and understand how isolated and unsupported birth parents often feel. That’s a point worth highlighting.
Finally, I think it’s so impactful how Dave talks about making promises to the birth parents. He states that he tells the parents they will do everything in their power to help them return their kids home. He says that the birth parents can be on that train or not, but that it will be much easier if they can all partner with each other. My sense is that is exactly what makes Dave and Jessie exceptional foster parents.
- Shared Parenting: Putting the Needs of Children First
- Setting Healthy Boundaries Between Birth and Foster Families
From the Lending Library
- Another Mother: Co-Parenting With The Foster Care System, by Sarah Gerstenzang
From Champion Classrooms
Inspiration & Hope from No Matter What Families