The reality of foster care is that many professionals and families focus on the children and forget about the parents of these children. The Department of Family and Children Services (2009) describes partnership parenting in foster care as a family-centered approach that merges the dual roles of placement and rehabilitation into one path. It emphasizes the foster parent's need to care for the child while establishing a co-parenting relationship. Partnership parenting is one of the most frightening and challenging topics for foster parents. Families enter the world of foster care to support children and families in need but are often hesitant to reach out to biological parents. Often this fear comes from handling the unknown, feeling the need to protect the child placed in their home, and not wanting to hurt the biological parents given that they are caring for their child. For parents with a criminal history, this can also present fear for foster parents when partnership parenting.
Although many unknowns exist within foster care, one truth continues to reign: Children need their families. Removing a child from their home is one of the most traumatic experiences a child can endure. It is a day of grief, loss, sorrow, and confusion for most children. Even if their environment were abusive, unsafe, or unfit, the child would return home to be with their parents most of the time. In addition, it is also a day of loss for the parents. The dynamics of a family can change within several days or hours when a child is removed and brought into foster care. The questions remain through all of the hurt, pain, and unknowns. Why is this important to partnership parents, and how do we do it well?
The North American Council on Adoptable Children provides an extensive list detailing the importance of partnership or co-parenting. Some of the benefits include:
- Relationships between the birth parents and the child can be maintained.
- Birth parents can be reassured their child is in a safe and loving home by forming this relationship with the foster parents.
- Foster families can be viewed as a resource, not a threat.
- Visitation planning can become more simplified.
- Support and relationship with the foster family can continue once a child returns home (Stevens, 2018)
Partnership parenting is for the benefit of the child, the birth parents, and the foster parents. Below are several suggestions for beginning a partnership parenting relationship with the child's biological parents in your home.
- Facilitate phone calls (when allowed by the courts)
- Keep a journal of the child's achievements to share with the biological parents.
- Include birth parents in birthdays and holiday celebrations.
- Provide the biological parents with school pictures and other work from the child while at school (art projects, good test scores)
- Keep a photo book of the child for the biological parents to see their growth and achievements. (Stevens, 2018)
Georgia Department of Human Services. (2009). Partnership Parenting Guide: Good for the Community. Better for Families. Best for Children. Partnership Parenting Guide: 1–8.
Stevens, P. J. (2018, July 11). Co-parenting or shared parenting. The North American Council on Adoptable Children. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://nacac.org/resource/co-parenting-or-shared-parenting/