Call it co-parenting, shared parenting, or partnership parenting, the gist is the same: foster parents are expected to share the nurturing of a foster child with the birth parents to facilitate reunification whenever possible. Join us today to talk about shared parenting with Carrie Sgarlata, an educator, mom, foster mom, and foster parent trainer and recruiter; and Andrea Leaman, a social worker with the Foster Care Licensing and Placement Program with Children’s Wisconsin Community Services and trainer in partnership parenting.
In this episode, we covered:
1. Why is shared parenting best for the child? (less divided loyalty, foster parents can be a role model, less time in foster care, better behavior, majority of kids will return home and co-parenting makes that easier)
2. Building a relationship that begins when someone’s child is removed is not easy. What are some of the emotions the birth parents are likely feeling when they first meet the foster parent? (fear, confusion, denial, anger, embarrassment, feeling that the authorities over-reacted, shame, grief, betrayal, sadness, uncertainty, taking their child away, loss of control)
3. How to build a relationship of co-parenting?
4. Communication between birth and adoptive parents is key to success. Ideas for setting up good communication. How to communicate between visits?
5. How to handle visits to facilitate co-parenting?
6. How to overcome our own anger and judgement towards birth parents?
7. How to establish healthy boundaries?
8. Is it possible to do partnership parenting with incarcerated parents?
9. How to handle Social media
10. Becoming a parenting mentor to birth parents. What are some skills that birth parents may need help developing and how can foster parents help? (importance of routine, working with the school, discipline, normal child developmental stages, how to find community support)
11. How can we help birth parents shift their attitude towards the foster care system from existing to keep them from their children towards existing to help stabilize the family?
12. What if:
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Welcome, everyone to creating a family talk about adoption and foster care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am the host of this show as well as the director of the nonprofit creating a family. And you can access all of our resources at creating a family.org. Today we're going to be talking about partnering with birth parents in foster care. It's called different things at different states and dif by different agencies. You may hear it called co parenting or shared parenting, or partnership parenting, but the gist is the same. foster parents share the nurturing of the foster child with the birth parent and the child's caseworker. today to talk with us about partnering with birth. Parents are curious Carlotta, she is an educator, Mom, foster mom, and foster mom, parent, trainer and recruiter. And we're also very happy to say that she is on the board of creating a family where we get to benefit from her wisdom regularly. And also with her is Andrea Lehman. She is a social worker with the Foster Care Licensing and placement program with children's Wisconsin community services. And she's been there since 2008. And Carrie and Andrea are trainers in partnership parenting together. So we're gonna let them do a recall of their usual presentations that they do. We'll just, we'll just get to listen in. So thank you, Carrie and Andrea, for being here today. Let me start by asking what seems to be a pretty fundamental question. And Andrew, I'll start with you. Why is shared parenting best for the child I
think at the end of the day, every foster parent applicant comes to the child welfare system with this mindset and idea that they're going to help a child right, it's about coming and supporting the child. And you really can't do it the most effective job that you can if you're not willing to support the biological family as well. And so I think if you look at the child as a whole package, you have to consider it.
Okay, yeah, that makes that really makes good sense. Carrie, do you have some other benefits for kids that through when when we practice shared parenting,
I think a number one benefit is for the child. So when the child sees that there are multiple people that care about him or care about her, the child has a better chance of healing and feeling safe and feeling loved. And so to me, that's the greatest benefit. And ultimately, we're looking to reunify children. And if a foster parent becomes an important enough person in that child's life, if the connections to the bio family are really strong, there's a good chance that you can remain in that child's life and still keep loving that child and supporting that child, which is only good for that child.
You know, another benefit for the child is that they don't experience as much divided loyalty, they don't feel they have to choose between the foster parent and their biological parent when they're working together. And that's got to be nothing but good for a child.
Absolutely, they don't, they don't feel pulled in one direction or the other. They don't have feelings of guilt, about caring for both people. And understanding that there can be healthy relationships in their life. And so I couldn't agree with you more on that statement.
And an added benefit to is that we see that children can also be better behaved because the parents are working together. And in some ways they get permission to the hopefully, the biological parents are working in conjunction with the foster parents for the best interest of the child and encouraging and agreeing with the rules or whatever. And that because the foster parent and a biological parent are working together. So the child, we hope to say and we actually do see better behavior through the CO parenting model. All right, so building a relationship that begins when someone's child is removed is has got to be one of the hardest ways to begin a relationship. And yet, that's what we're asking of parents. So Carrie, let's talk a little about that. What are some of the emotions that birth parents are likely to be feeling when they first meet the foster parent, their child has been removed? They are usually within a couple of weeks meeting the foster parent, what are some of the emotions that would be common for a birth parent to feel at that point?
Often anger is that is a big one, uncertainty, sadness. I think they're confused. They're scared. They're they're thinking that potentially a foster parent is part of a ulterior motive to take their child away from them, which is not true. They feel like they've lost control, which is really, really a horrible feeling to have none of us like that feeling. And so, um, you know, I've had a lot of different encounters with birth parents, the first time that I meet them Some parents are usually can be very calm, they're very quiet and reserved, they don't really quite know what to say. And others just say it all with their body. You know, they're they're feeling very defeated. And so it takes a while to kind of break into that and form that relationship. Hmm.
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, think about, is there any more awkward beginning to any relationship than this one? I mean, would it be possible for us to construct a more tenuous and stressful first meeting?
No. And oftentimes, you're sitting around a table with all of the people involved in the case, listening to all the things that have happened. And of course, they're not all positive. So it is quite awkward.
It is, you know, I often say that, that as we as foster parents are meeting birth parents, we're meeting somebody at probably the worst moment of their life. It's humbling, or it should be humbling for those of us in that position. Because nobody, and it's easy to point the finger and say, well, they, they did the deed, you know, this is, yeah, but you know, we're humans, and each of us as humans make mistakes, and some bigger than others, but all right, so now let's move to how to build a relationship. Shared parenting, or partnership, parenting. Andrew, you start us off, what would you say, for foster parents, when you're training them for how to be a co parent, or how to share parenting responsibilities, I
think just like you said, that you have to meet them at just the humaneness. We're all one, one disaster, or one really, really bad day away from harming a child on parenting is stressful. And so if we just need, you know, bio parents, just that it's tough, life is difficult, and we all make those mistakes. And so I think really just coming with compassion, and forgiveness and openness. And I think most important is lower your expectations. Because if you walk in there with this mindset that it's going to go like this, you're already setting yourself up for failure. And so I think we tell our families lower your expectations, and just when you did that lower than one more time, because that's where you really should be starting at.
Can you give us an example of expectations that a foster parent might even subconsciously be having? Because I think that most of foster parents would say, Well, I'm not going with any expectations. And yet we do. So can you make a suggestion if you could just give us an example of some expectations that foster parents might have?
Yeah, I think one coming in, thinking that they're going to get a lot of information about the child. And oftentimes, that might not be because the interaction is just so awkward, that you, you don't really get to what your agenda was, I think, too, we we walk into every situation with our own personal bias. And so you might walk into the table and look around the room and go, Oh, that's not who I thought this was this person was going to be. And so you have to kind of move beyond those thoughts that you had originally.
great examples. Yes. Yeah, absolutely. And our expectations of what they may be, could be better or worse, you know, then then what we say? Yeah, exactly. carry any other. Let's not any other let's talk about Okay, so start with compassion, and, and low expectations. What are some other things that foster parents need to think about when building a relationship, that's going to be the basis for co parenting or partnership parenting,
I'm always really tried to be sure to reassure them that I am simply there to help. I don't have an agenda, I often will use the words I'm not here to adapt your child, I am just here to provide a safe and loving environment for your child while this family heals. And so I tried to provide them that reassurance because I think they're very worried about reunifying with their child, I also will try to if it's feeling right, and it's feeling safe enough to do so, I will maybe show them a couple pictures of where their child is staying or sleeping, to give them an idea of a picture in their head so they can visualize where their child is. And then as Andrea said, if if it's going, Okay, I will try to share some positive stories about their child that will allow the child and the parent to feel connected, or the parents feel connected to the child even though they're not together. And usually when I do that, the parent might open up a little bit and start talking. And so I really try to seek advice or insight from the parent like, Hey, could you help me out with this again, if it's going well, this might not happen at the first meeting, but maybe the second or third time we meet so just try To create a relationship that is full of patience, and understanding, and again, trying to allow the parent to still feel like they have control.
That's a good Yes. And I'm glad you said that it might not be going back to Andrea's lower expectations. It might not be the first meeting, Rome wasn't built in a day and no relationship is built in a day. Therefore, end relationships with our foster child's Earth parents aren't built in a day. So we may have to save some of this for another time. You know, one of the things that that I think is important, and maybe I'll speak for myself, is to go on with it with telling myself that I'm not going to take things personally. And that's a challenge sometimes, because it could be that if they're angry, and they're afraid, we've already gone through Kerry went through all the emotions, very few of those were positive emotions. In fact, I don't think any of them more. So we're seeing somebody at their worst moment, we're seeing somebody who is frightened, we see somebody who's out of control. And anger is not an unusual response to that. Sometimes it's it's pure anger in and of itself. And sometimes it's a cover up for all the other uncomfortable emotions that this person is feeling. And it's hard when somebody is angry. And it looks like it's directed at you not to take it personally. But I think it's important for me to remind myself or for parents to remind themselves going in that, that this is whatever is happening is really not directed at me. That's a good point. hard to do. But very true. Yeah. Yeah, I didn't say I didn't say I succeed. I just said that. That's a it's a thought. All right, coming back to you carry in your, I guess Andrew, back to you. Any other things that you recommend for foster parents, as they are trying to build a relationship, not necessarily the first meeting, but just as they're at the beginning stages, and are trying to build this relationship?
I think it's really on foster parents to go the extra mile, right? You are in essence, the better parent, it is why you are here, as a foster parent, you've gone through all of the assessment. So really, it is on you to do more and the harder work right. And so one of the things I think, and Carrie alluded to this, as she was talking earlier about being mindful of words, because they really do matter. So as you're talking to a bio parent, making sure you're referring to the child as their child, it's your child that's placed in my home, not saying my child or our foster child, it's really important to use that language because it helps in that sense. One of the other things that we tell our families right out the gate, make that step forward, because it's a it's a positive impact on that relationship. We call it a comfort call, in that when a child is physically delivered to your home to be placed there, pick up the phone, call the parent and say, Hey, this is who I am, and your child is safely in my home. Is there anything that you need to know about me, it's really opening your vulnerability up and turning the tables again, making it very clear, I'm not here to steal your child, or adapt to your child, I'm here to help your family helix like Carrie had said,
Andrea, how often do foster parents have the phone number of the biological parent of their foster child?
I would say that they have access to it, immediately, whoever is delivering the child would have that information. And if not, in the moment can certainly get it within the day. And so it's still it's still such a good step forward of laying the foundation and the groundwork to the futuristic and we tell our families to don't don't expect that it will go well, right? The bio parent just went through a very traumatic situation as well. And maybe they're not in an open place to to hear from the foster parent quite yet. But at least the attempt was there. Interesting, because I think that there are definitely times where foster parents are being encouraged just the opposite, do not contact the biological parent, work through us. So I'm glad to hear that
that is not that at least some places. In fact, they're actively discouraged in the sense of saying, you don't want them to have your phone number. You You know you if you have any questions, you can work through us or we'll set up a meeting. So apparently, that is not the usual case with you guys.
Now, when we also talk in our training about that use of Google Voice. And I'm not sure if anyone is familiar with that. But that was new to me. So you can set up a Google Voice number that actually is connected to your cell phone. But the bio parents don't have that number. So you only use that Google Voice number with them. And you can turn it on and off if it's becoming a problem. But it's a really safe way to communicate with them out without the bio parents having your personal information if you're not comfortable with that, so you can text that way and call that way. So that's something that Andrea and I talked about in our training. Just setting up a Google Voice number, it's very easy to do.
Excellent. And so the biological parent can use that number to reach you that you then have you know who this call is coming in, and you know whether or not to pick it up or whether you have time to pick it up. Is that how it works? Absolutely.
Yep. That's exactly how it works. So nobody else uses that number other than the bio parents that we give it to. But it still rings through on my cell phone. So I'm still accessible. But I can make the choice when to take that call or not take that call.
Okay, excellent. That's a great idea. Any other practical tips like that, that's a that's an excellent idea. Any other practical tips that would make it easier for foster parents and biological parents to form a relationship, but still, we'll talk about this in a little bit, what about healthy boundaries, but still maintain healthy boundaries,
we run into situations with social media quite a bit, right, we all have the ability to search someone out. And so in honoring foster parents private life, obviously, as a foster parent, encouraging them to maybe create a Facebook page specific for the child that's in the home, and then inviting biological parents and extended family members to have access or friends to that account, specifically, so that that be a place where pictures are shared or just updates. You know, maybe it's a video of the you know, the first time crawling or whatever it might be, so that those people are still connected to that child. And that way, with social media,
what do you recommend? Or how do you talk with foster parents about the reality that their child's biological parent is likely googling them and finding out as much information as they can about them online? What do you suggest? Well, how do you how do you handle that? What do you suggest for foster parents?
Well, first, we know that foster parents are doing just the same Yeah, parents and taking as much information as they possibly can that way, but being a very interesting thing across the board, I think every every state is very different. Every county within the state is very different about you know, policies and procedures. But I would say here, we're pretty open about it. And then just reminding families, we give them some tips about being cautious about what you're posting on there, you know, making sure that you have all the security within your own social media pages that you that you can so that, if you don't want information out there, you know, yeah, to put those things in place prior to
Yes, but in the privacy understand what the privacy things are. Carry from, from your standpoint, how to as a foster mom, how do you handle social media? And also, have you been guilty of googling your foster children's?
Yes, Andrea is shaking her head about me. So yeah, um, you know, it's I, I'm pretty cautious about it. I, when we're training, I always kind of equated to the story of maybe when you like somebody in middle school or high school, okay, high school look beyond college, college or so in college? Yes, exactly. And you drove past their house and town just to check out where they live. And when I say that, in the training, almost everybody in our training, we'll shake their heads and chuckle. And so, you know, it's curious for all of us to want to know about each other, because we're really strangers, and then suddenly, our worlds collide in this most profound, important way. And so you want to tread lightly. And as an educator, when I'm teaching teachers, especially like classroom management, I always remind young teachers to start a little bit more strict. And as that relationship forms with your class and your students, you might be able to loosen the reins a little bit. But if you start too loose, it's gonna come back to probably haunt you. And so I say that to foster parents, I wouldn't recommend sharing your Facebook account with them at the beginning, because you just don't know what's going to happen with that. So starting with a little bit more, you know, control using that Google Voice number, sending pictures through Google Voice, it's like sending a text, it's a great way to do it. That's what I do with parents is I try to send pictures that way, send them updates through text messages. And I have with a couple parents that I know very well Now, a couple of bio parents have had my personal number. I never have used Google Voice with them. But we also will FaceTime each other through Facebook Messenger. And that's still a safe way to communicate sometimes if our phones don't aren't compatible for facetiming. So it really, I encourage foster parents to do what feels comfortable to them. There's no right or wrong answer. I always just try to remind parents foster parents not to be too controlling about limiting access of the child to the bio parents. So just making sure that there's some communication going on, that allows the bio parents to have access to their children in addition to visits.
So yeah, let's talk about some of that how to communicate, both with children and the parents in between visits. Because obviously, there are going to be or not, obviously, most often there are visits that are going to be scheduled. But it's the communication in between visits that are so crucial for the success and and well, how are we define success success in building a relationship, and successfully reunifying the family? So all of those things. So let's talk a little about we've already mentioned some of them. So Carrie, you're saying to make certain that we allow as not to try to be too controlling? So what are some ideas that you have used for communication between both between you and the, the birth parents, as well as the child and their parents?
Yeah, it's a great question. And it's something that really is dependent on the age of the child. So of course, when it's a baby, there's not much that can be done except pictures and then communicating with the with the bio parents. So I often try to text updates, let them know when there's doctor's appointments, so they can join us, things like that, I tend to be overly supportive of my file, parents by saying there's a visit tomorrow, you know, I'm happy to supply the the formula and the diapers, hope you're planning to come because oftentimes, that will be canceled. So I try to really get, I tried to get parents to confirm their visits through text and things like that. The older kids, again, you know, we've only taken children up to about age 10. And like four or five year olds don't really like to talk on the phone very much. So sometimes that can be a little awkward if mom and dad call and want to talk and the child is like I don't want to. So sometimes I'll put the phone on speaker, so I can help facilitate that conversation. It's not because I think that the parent isn't saying something correct to the child, but just helps it be a more productive conversation. And I try to remind parents not to take that personally, that that's very age appropriate. Again, sometimes as Andrea said, we're helping the bio parent become a better parent. So what's developmentally appropriate for a four year old or a five year old on the phone is not the same as a 12 year old who's gonna want to talk to mom or dad. So I just tried to really make it positive. And if parents, you know, say they're gonna call, we'll say, okay, between six and seven is good, because we're going to bed at seven o'clock. So setting up so those boundaries that you were talking about before, and, and making sure that we have some of those guidelines in place so that we don't have a conflict later, where bio parent might say, well, you're keeping me from my child, or you're not allowing me to talk to my child. So those things help control and defuse those negative potential situations that could happen to harm the relationship.
Yeah, and for younger children to FaceTime is often not doesn't work. And you think it would, because a child is actually going to be able to look at that. But children as young children don't really connect to that well over FaceTime. So allowing the setting it up so that the parent can watch the child color a picture, or build something out of Legos or whatever. Or if the birth family is receptive to this, having them read a book to the child or play a game having their games that you can play just Google and there's tons of them that you can play between. So you as a parent, as the foster parent can come up with these ideas. It allows for interaction, as opposed to the stilted putting your child in front of a camera and expecting them to sit there and talk.
Yeah, we've done that story time where I've just been called a mom or a dad, and then I've read the book and had the camera on so they can see their child enjoying that story. And that's a really fun thing to do. It's a nice, nice moment.
Oh, that's a good point that you could be reading the book as opposed to the we've done it with the birth parent reading the book, but this way, I like that idea though. That's a good idea tool. Yeah, you have to have a birth parent that both has a book and wants to do it. But yes, yeah, which can happen or you could also lend them a book for them to do. Have you enjoyed what you've heard so far. today. We are excited to offer you more expert based content just like today's podcast thanks to our partners at the jockey being Family Foundation. You can access these free courses at the website Bitly slash jbf support and that's bi T dot L y slash jbf. Support. And you can find free courses that are being offered there free because of the generous support that the jacobin Family Foundation. There are a great variety of topics to choose from, like disciplining while maintaining attachment. That course will give you tools to build a connection with your foster child while they are in your home. Each course is free when you use the coupon, J b f strong at checkout. So check it out today. And again, the coupon code is JB f strong, but it's on the website. Okay, Andrea, other ideas for how to set up communication to begin with, and then how to facilitate it in between visits.
Yeah, I think Carrie already mentioned the Google Voice, we tell our families that obviously boundaries, putting putting in place, you have to have your own, you know, respected family time in your own household to So hey, we're available from this time to this time, we would love to hear from you. If you call outside of that time, please leave a message. And we will call you back, you know, the next day making that very clear, so that there isn't an argument later down the road, I think, like Carrie had said to maybe having a little bit more strict boundaries in the beginning, and then as your relationship evolves, loosening up on those things, we tell our families that as long as caseworkers approve of allowing some type of supervised visitation to occur, maybe Carrie and her family are going to go to the zoo on Saturday, and why not just invite mom to the zoo, it's kind of outside of the organized structured time that's already scheduled for those visits. But the likelihood of something happening for two hours at the zoo in a public setting is really, really minimal. And it's actually a really good environment for the child to see the parents together, interacting, you know, and it's a joyful time, it's not typically that secluded office with, you know, someone else's toys to play with, it's the zoo, it's, you know, a park maybe. And so it's a really a great opportunity to have that continuous communication. You know, we also have incarcerated parents in which can be an extra additional struggle to maintain contact due to, you know, their their own system of communicating within, I've seen and suggested to families to play like Tic Tac Toe via via mail, right snail mail actually sending, so a child take a turn, and then put it in the mail, you know, the parent gets excited to take their turn and send it back. So just little things like that. I think otherwise, too. Obviously, we all have our cell phones, and we snap a lot more pictures nowadays. And we can send those off pretty quickly via text message or whatever. But for some families, you don't have access to that. And so one thing we encourage families to do is maybe send like a Polaroid camera to one of the visits, let the worker or the child and the parent take many visits of each other and then having that camera come back in the foster parent actually, you know, pay for those get doubles, and send them to the next visit, or send it through the mail or make some you know, personalized artwork within those pictures that you've captured during that time.
Okay, and I'm glad you brought up visits. Because that's an opportunity with the assuming at this point that the foster parent is staying at the visit, which is some visits they do and some visits they don't. But the foster parent is staying. How can we utilize the visit time or even if it's just a drop off? And the pickup time? How can we use that to foster the relationship which is ultimately what we're trying to do, and carry out direct that question to you.
It's a fantastic opportunity to connect once you get past those first awkward times. But this has happened to me quite often, especially with children that are very unifying, I can specifically think of two instances with dads. And when we were going to overnight visits that were unsupervised, we would meet the dad kind of at a halfway point between us. And then you know, I would be able to drop the child off, have their backpack, talk to dad about how the day went for that particular child, and then be on my way dad with his way I went my way. And then we connected maybe the next day, or maybe it was a two day overnight. And so it was a really nice opportunity to see each other face to face and for the child to see their parent and myself talking to each other in a appropriate, positive, healthy way. And so it, it's a fabulous way to do it. Honestly, when you get to that point, as long as it's safe for everybody. I encourage that to happen. And I remember one case to where dad one of these dads I'm talking about the very first time we met it was at a supervised visit. And the caseworker suggested that I come to that visit. And it was just very awkward because the child stayed by me the entire time. And here I was really a stranger just had received this child, maybe five days before. Even though this was the dad he really hadn't been that actively involved in the child's life. And so I just kept trying to go play, you know, oh, come over here and try to encourage that relationship to happen and eventually, clearly it did because they reunified.
Interesting. Okay. Excellent. Any other suggestions on visits Andrea.
One of the things we tell our foster parents often is that the child will welfare system sadly becomes a cycle for some of our families. And so I think it's good to recognize that the child you're excited about fostering today was oftentimes the biological parent that you're working with now. And so recognizing that, oftentimes, our bio parents that we serve, have never been taught positive parenting have never been shown what a good parent looks like. And so our foster parents really have a unique position to be a mentor to our biological parents, because right, the hope is that this child is going to go back home safely. And if you can help build their toolbox, their skill sets, you just know, then that the child is going to be more successful on that situation with the reunification because you've, you've helped. So examples, like in the middle of the visit, child's having a temper tantrum, well, you've now experienced 10 of these, and you've found something that works really, really well specific to this child's temper tantrums, and really modeling that and, you know, showing and guiding through those behaviors to help that family recognize, oh, okay, I can do that. And they're going to try it the next time. I think Carrie had mentioned to having parents at like a doctor's visit. A lot of times our bio parents don't know what questions to ask, or if they're even allowed to ask questions at the doctor's office. So in being that mentor, that that facilitator of these are the things that you can or you should be asking your pediatrician about. It's just another good example of showing them showing them by by your actions.
That's such a good point. And I would throw in parent teacher meetings, or any meeting with the school showing how to advocate for your child in a reasonable and productive way.
Yeah, that makes me think of Donna time when a child we just had recently that left us last June, we had an evaluation done on him for an IEP. And I had reminded both parents the day before the IEP, and then the morning up, I said, I hope you're on your way. And the mother said, I don't know if I can get there, I said you really. And so she got there and dad came about 20 minutes late. But sitting around the table, I felt again, with my education experience, I felt like I was gonna do anything possible to help this child and help these parents help their child. And I thought was so good for them to see 12 people sitting around the table there for their child to help their child. And again, I think sometimes foster parents can get into that trap of thinking, Oh, well, if they don't show up at the IEP meeting, that makes me look better. And now I'll have a better chance of adopting this child because eventually you fall in love with this child, you don't want to say goodbye to this child. And sometimes sight is lost of what our purposes. And yet I am always going to facilitate that. Come on, let's get there. This is what parents do. We need to show up, you need to show up.
Yes. Hi, everyone. Sorry to interrupt the show. But I wanted to ask you to follow or subscribe to the creating a family podcast wherever you are catching and listening to this podcast. That way, you will never miss a week of great content, like today's show. You can also listen on your phone or in your car. And you can scroll through our archives for even more topics related to working with birth parents, co parenting and supporting reunification, then you can listen whenever and wherever it's convenient for you. So thanks, go out and subscribe. Alright, so one of the things that that we were not supposed to feel, but we're humans, and we do feel and that is anger and judgment. We have a child that we see whether they had been physically abused, whether they had been verbally abused, sexually abused, or neglected, or there are they have seen things that children shouldn't have to see. It's it's hard, it's hard for parents, and it's hard for foster parents, it's hard for any of us. And as humans. I mean, we got our own anger, you know, and judgment. So Andrea, share some of your wisdom about how we're supposed to to this person has hurt this child. And and we may have come to love the child, we may have just gotten to meet this child, but it is a child, the child did not deserve the doesn't deserve this life. And it's hard for us to deal with that. So what would you suggest for parents to think about at that point?
Yeah, I think, again, going back to that we're all we're all human and recognizing and starting there. And knowing that we as a human race can heal from a lot of things. So knowing that whether it's a bruise or you know, an insult, children are resilient and they can heal, but as foster parents role to help them process through those injuries. And I think to look at that, I think oftentimes about our personal bias, right? We all have them coming into the The same way to treat a family as we need to like break down that wall so that we get to know that individual and that assign them to what we assume them to be. And it's tough. But I The other thing I have to say that I think is really imperative is that foster parents have other foster parents to lean on. It's it's really easy for foster parents to have your your personal family and friends circle, and go back and say, Oh, this is so frustrating. And oh, my gosh, what these people did to this child is so devastating, you're going to have people really quickly look at you and say, Yep, I told you, so you never should have gotten into this in the first place. But if the foster parent connects with another foster parent and understands, you know, what, what was really signed up to do? I think it helps you process through those difficult days.
Yeah, I am such a believer as soon as you know, and support groups for that very reason. Because I think that it, it helps to be around people who understand and also understand your natural venting and just complaining and don't take it for more than what it is worth. carry in your life. Have you experienced having to deal with your own anger towards somebody who would neglect a child hurt a child expose your child to potential danger? Or have in how have you dealt with that internally? For you?
That's a great question. And I don't know, if I have felt all that much anger, as much as just dumbfounded this, like, I just don't understand how some of these things could possibly happen. And that just goes to show how safe my world has been. And so our eyes as a family have really been opened to some really unfortunate situations. I have experienced anger regarding parents canceling visits, that makes me mad, because it's not fair to the child. And then I am the one that's left holding the bag on that one. And as a foster mom, not saying anything bad about the parent for not showing up. And I do it very well. But it's really hard to see a little person who was excited to see their parents. And if it keeps happening, then what starts to happen is the child doesn't want to go to visits anymore. And then as the great foster mom, I have to say, but it's important that you got to see your mom or dad. And that's a really fine line to walk because you want to acknowledge the child's feelings. And yet you still want to be supportive, and really have that perception that mom and dad are doing what they're supposed to be doing. And sometimes they aren't. And that's just the reality of foster care sometimes. So those are, that's probably when I get the most angry, shall we say, I don't know, if I hold a lot of anger around why the child came into care, because most of the stories, it just, you know, a lot of them are very impulsive actions built around anger themselves, usually, or tragedy. And so I don't really put my energy in that I put my energy more on what can we do to help this child right now?
Yeah, yeah. And that's a really good attitude, and a far more productive attitude. You know, I'm sure you have done this too. But one tip with the visits is to not it's awful, also totally depends on the age of the child. But you could not tell the child per se, and schedule the visit in a place that would be fun for the child regardless. And even if it's at a place that's got to play fits, it's one of the Children's Center or whatever that set up for this. So that they're not necessarily disappointed if their parents don't show because they haven't built up a lot of expectation. But that doesn't take care of your own frustration. And quite frankly, they own the the disruption to your schedule, because now you have you scheduled around this as well. So, yeah, alright, so Andrea, how can we help birth parents shift their attitude from the foster care system existing to keep them from their children towards it existing to help stabilize the family? Or is that really just a pipe dream?
Yeah, whenever we offer our partnership parenting training to our foster parents, they typically ask afterwards so is this same training offered to biological family is also the you know, the value of the training and the information and see it that again, it's it's in the best interest of the child all around. And so, unfortunately, we don't have that training available. But I do feel like we we push really hard to educate the families. You know, it helps with communication, it helps you get information faster, it helps you, you know, just just be involved a little bit more, but also you're just you're that much closer directly to your child and Instead of going to a caseworker who's then going to the foster parents. And so really just just trying to get their, their mindset around it. Again, I mentioned earlier that a lot of our biological families, were also involved in the child welfare system as kids. And so recognizing, as a foster parent, what that biological parent is bringing to the table and what their own personal experience has been. So if they were in care, and they felt like they were abused or neglected by a foster parent, that's what their assumption is that you were going to do to their child. And so again, foster parents doing that extra work above and beyond to really show that that's not what I'm here to do. I'm here to help you heal. And there's a lot of actions that foster parents can take, like some of the ones we've said, that can show families, you know, I'm not against you, I'm really for you. I'm your cheerleader here
on this show, as well as all the resources that we create here at creating a family could not and would not happen unless we had our partners. And these are agencies who believe in our mission of providing expert based trauma informed support, and resources for adoptive Foster and kinship families. One such partner is children's connection. They are an adoption agency providing services for domestic infant adoption, and embryo donation and adoption throughout the US. And they also do home studies and post adoption support to families in Texas. And we sincerely thank them for their ongoing support of this show and of creating a family in general. All right, Carrie, I'm going to give you some what ifs, these when we talk to parents about partnership, or partnering with their child's birth parents, we get some of the following. What if the birth parent abused the child? So Carrie, what would you say? How would you respond to that?
I would, again say that's really not my focus, my focus is what can happen now. So again, that was a mistake, not acceptable. But I am going to do what I can to love that child up and help that child heal and feel safe. And I'm still going to show compassion to that parent. Again, I think Andrea's point of recognizing that, unfortunately, what we're starting to see more and more is generational foster care, generational trauma. And for those of us that really haven't had to live with that, it's very complicated and very hard to understand. And so a lot of times children are abused out of a place of frustration, a place of desperation, a place of lack of resources, mental health issues. And so I really would want to support the parent and getting the help that he or she needs to heal. And I'm also still going to be an advocate for that child, though. I'm not gonna you know, sugarcoat it, if it's not safe for that child to go back, I'm going to stand up and say that, but if there seems to be remorse and healing, then I think we've got to move forward from that mistake and do the best that we can for that child.
All right, Andrew, I'm gonna give you the next what if? What if the birth parents don't accept responsibility for what they did? Did that cause the child to be removed?
So I think kind of what Carrie said, as a foster parent, what's your focus, your focus isn't necessarily the case. And what's happening in regards to the biological parents, obviously, it impacts you, because you're providing care to the child, but your focus is the child and so really, really hone in on that. And I kind of sounding again, what Kerry said about there's probably something far, far deeper, underlining why they're not taking responsibility. But for you as a foster parent, that's that's not your
that's not your focus. All right, I'm going to give the last one and it's a similar one, but we got it as a separate question. So I will, I will give it to you carry, what is the birth parent lies about what happened that resulted in child being removed?
Well, that happens, because they do deny what has what has transpired. Often times the truth never really comes out. Just specially if there's a child that is not old enough to share what really happened. A lion is a part of this system. I've learned that and again, coming from a background that doesn't happen very much in my life. You you tread lightly with that. And to reiterate what Andrew said, I can't fix that. I can't change what that parent is doing or not doing. Some of those things come out in court, actually. And a judge is the one that often deals with that or a case manager. But I've had bio parents that have lied for sure. And again, focuses on the on the child and I cannot be responsible for the parents behavior.
Okay, that's a that is a healthy, a healthy approach. not always easy, but a healthier approach. I think I agree. Well, thank you so much, Andrea Lehman and Carrie scarlatti, for being with us today to talk about partnering with birth parents in foster care, and an important topic and certainly, there's more and more pushed in almost every jurisdiction that I know of. And so for foster parents who are going into training, this is going to be part of it and very experienced foster parents. You will be experiencing Morgan additional training on this topic. I think Carrie and Andrea for being here and and to our audience. Thanks for joining us, and I will see you next week.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai