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5 Questions You Have About Biological Parent Visits in Foster Care

Life as a foster parent can be hectic. Communicating with your caseworker, parting ways with your foster child and navigating uncomfortable questions from friends and family can easily take its toll. But, there’s one more thing that you’ll have to think about: arranging biological parent visits in foster care. For most families, biological parent visits are the hardest parts of foster parenting. Handling last-minute changes and navigating the emotional ups and downs will be a lesson in patience. While they can be a fun and joyful experience, it may take some work to get there. If you’ve been wondering how to prepare your family, we’ve answered a few of the most common questions that foster parents have about biological parent visits. Don’t forget to reach out to your caseworker for personalized answers to these questions.

1. How Do I Schedule a Visit with My Foster Child’s Parents?

Visitation is one of the most important steps towards reunification with a foster child’s biological parents. These visits help maintain strong parent-child connections, and they’re the key to making foster children feel safe in their new home. There are two ways to schedule a visit with your child’s biological parents: through your caseworker or by reaching out personally. Your first family visits will usually begin as an hour-long weekly session. But, as the case continues, birth parents can earn more contact with their children. If you have any questions about scheduling visits with the biological parents, don’t forget that you can always reach out to your caseworker for help.

2. What Should I Do if My Child’s Biological Parents Can’t Make it?

It can be heartbreaking to watch your foster child realize that their birth parents won’t make it to their visit. While it can hurt you just as much, don’t take that frustration out on their parents. Remind your foster child that changing plans are a part of life. It doesn’t mean that their parents don’t love them or that they’re not a priority. No matter what happens or how busy their parents are, let your foster child know that their biological parents are always thinking of them. In the meantime, there are a few ways that you can comfort your foster child when their parent doesn’t make a scheduled visit:
  • Let them know that you can always reschedule their visit for another time.
  • Find an alternative activity or event that they’ve always wanted to do.
  • If plans are cancelled frequently, ask your social worker about introducing a confirmation procedure.
Sometimes, life gets in the way of even the best-made plans. Remember that we teach people how to treat us, so encourage forgiveness and flexibility in your foster child. If the biological parent continues to be late or cancel plans, don’t be afraid to advocate on behalf of your foster child. You can always talk to your caseworker for support if you’re feeling overwhelmed, or reach out to other foster parents for advice. Sometimes the best people to talk to are those who have already lived through it, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

3. What if We Can’t Nail Down a Time for Visits?

Frequent unavailability can be just as frustrating as cancelled plans. If it’s taken days or weeks to pin down a time with your foster child’s parents, you might feel like you’re grasping at straws. But, try to stay positive. Just because scheduling visits can be difficult doesn’t mean that they won’t happen. When it comes to scheduling drama, here are a few tips to remember:
  • Try to be understanding of the biological parent’s changing schedule. They could be having problems at work, home or both.
  • You can be flexible and firm at the same time. While it’s inevitable that plans will change, remind them how important it is to try and stick to a schedule. If you’re still having issues, you can always ask your caseworker to help mediate.
  • If they can’t meet you in-person, suggest other methods of maintaining contact (such as Skype or a phone call) in the meantime.

4. How Can I Keep My Foster Children Safe?

As a foster parent, you want to keep your foster child safe from any and all harm. But what if that harm potentially comes from the biological family? If your child’s biological parents are dealing with difficult issues (such as medical issues or substance abuse), you’re probably feeling queasy thinking about upcoming visits. Of course, you want your foster child to spend as much time as possible with their biological relatives. But is exposing them to a difficult circumstance really the best idea? And if so, how will you explain their situation to your foster child? If this sounds familiar, here are a few of our suggestions:
  • Be honest with your foster child, but don’t feel pressured to share all the details.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a break from the biological parents until they’re in a safer situation.
  • Plan ahead for any questions your foster child may have about their biological parent’s life.

5. How Can I Stay Positive During Biological Parent Visits?

Saying goodbye to a child you’ve come to love like one of your own is a foster parent’s hardest task. Logically, you know that they won’t be with you forever. But feelings aren’t like a light switch — you can’t just turn them off. When you know termination of parental rights is coming up, it can be hard to take a step back. We can understand what you’re going through, especially if you’ve thought about the possibility of adoption at some point. It’s important to remember why biological parent visits are pivotal to a foster child’s well-being. These are just a few things to keep in mind:
  • Visits with biological parents will ease your child’s separation fears.
  • The scheduled visits will motivate biological parents to work toward their reunification plans.
  • Biological parent visits will reinforce parent-child attachment.
We know that it’s hard, but supporting biological parent visits will make a huge difference. Doing so will make life much easier for you and for your foster child. The more you show how much you support their reunification goals, the easier the visit will go.

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Navigating biological parent visits in foster care can be complicated. But, there are many ways to cope with late-minute changes and disappointment. Remember that this is just as frustrating for your foster child as it is for you, so keep reassuring them that everything will turn out okay. If all else fails, don’t forget that you can always reach out to your social worker for support.

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