May 13, 2024

Building Respect for Biological Parents in Foster Care


It does not take long for new foster parents to learn that there are many complicated challenges to face when fostering. Along with the second-hand trauma and behavioral challenges, shared parenting is on the top of the list. How can you show respect and compassion for a parent when their actions are the reason your foster children have suffered? Will they hate you because you have placement of their children? Is it safe or helpful for you to interact with them? There are no simple answers to the challenges of interacting with the biological family of your foster children, but there are people who have gone before you and they willingly share their experience and wisdom.

Some of our current foster parents are navigating this unique challenge with so much grace and patience, and we wanted you to hear about this topic from someone who is already walking this difficult road. The following thoughts are from a current foster mom in our Healing Homes Foster Program:


A Godly Calling to Unite

     During my first placement, I had a newborn that had just been released from the NICU.  He was the little brother to the two young boys, who my friend had adopted.  I had known their history.  I knew about the absence of their mother in their lives.  I had, also, known all about the parenting classes and training we had been given, when dealing with biological parents.  But as I held this newborn, shaking from withdraws of alcohol and drugs, it hit different.  I was protective of him, and my heart ached for what he was experiencing.  And as God always does, he meets us in those difficult spaces and speaks to us.  My Heavenly Father reminded me that He creates each of us for a purpose in this life.  Some have been given the gift of creating life, and some of us have been called to love and nurture in those lives.  As MY instincts called me to protect that baby, GOD called me out to protect him in ALL ways possible.  Those would include the respect that his birth mother deserved.  I had been given a privilege and responsibility to show the childrens’ mother love and protection, too.  Now, that didn’t mean at the expense of the child in my care.  It meant that this child would have an instinct to wonder about his history, and his family.  In loving HIM well, I had to love THEM well.

     Now, in that particular placement, mom never appeared.  But I have had two more placements, of pre-teen girls, where mom was attempting to be present.  In each of those circumstances, I remembered what Heavenly Father called me to do.  As the girls’ moms made many efforts to stay connected to their kids, I made every effort to include them.  This only strengthened my relationship with the girls.  The girls didn’t have to feel guilty that they were thriving and doing well in my care.  They didn’t have to feel guilty that they loved both their mother and I.  My efforts to include mom in our activities and progress, showed that mom and I were a united front in their upbringing and that we were both invested in their healing.  These mothers didn’t have to feel jealous of the time that we had together because we shared our experiences with them.  Moms still have a place of authority in a child’s life, regardless of circumstances, which is powerful.  When I faced challenging times with each of the girls, the fact that mom was so grateful for including them, they supported me in my discipline and structure for their kids.  They wanted their children with me.  They knew that I was not a threat to their being able to re-unify with their child, and they were able to focus on their rehabilitation knowing that their girls were safe and cared for. 

      In both of those experiences, the birth moms were continuously thanking me for my efforts and promised that they would never keep me from the girls’ lives.  Funny enough, when the girls were going to be re-unified with mom, one didn’t want to leave.  She just wanted mom to come live WITH us.  And the other is preparing to possibly re-unify this summer.  On more than one occasion, mom has expressed that she wishes I could have her son, also, who had been placed in another home.  She, also, expressed that I will always be a member of the family because of my care for her child. 

 God speaks through Scripture, how He goes after the one lost sheep.  Isn’t that what we are doing for these children in our homes, who feel lost and maybe not valued?  I believe we recognize that calling, and why we stepped up for this Godly assignment.  But what if that means that their parent was a lost sheep?  For these biological parents were created by God, also.  They need to be reminded of their value.  Some of these parents won’t be healed enough to be re-unified with their children.  Some may not ever even try.  But even in that absence, when we respect them as God’s creation, and the ones who gave our little ones, LIFE, it is a living example of what Christ commanded of us in Scripture.  We are to love Him, and love others.  He instructs us to go out and make disciples of the nations.  Wouldn’t that be with the audience of children we have been given the responsibility of, that live within our home? 

    I truly believe that loving and honoring biological parents, in an appropriate way, during their foster experience is one of the best things that we can do for these children.  Does each parent deserve that kind of respect, after some of the unhealthy choices that they have made?  Maybe not.  But the kids deserve to have their parents treated kindly, so that they can learn to love and heal, also.  In this attempt, it doesn’t mean to ignore or immediately forgive the treatment experienced.  The traumas that our little ones have experienced are NOT okay.  But what we can do is:  show these kids, and maybe their parents, that through healing, things can still be truly “okay” in the end.  It means to not stand in a place of judgement, but of compassion and prayer, for their recovery.  It means that we can maybe offer the opportunity to someday be a presence in their child’s life.  Whether that be in the first row of their life, or just in the audience, is not for us to decide during the foster journey. 

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