Partnership Parenting in Foster Care


partnership handshakes

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


Who is Who in Foster Care


organization flow chart

With each child or youth placed in a home there comes a team of professionals all dedicated to working together to make sure that each child has their needs met, feelings heard, and long term goals driving their decisions. For many it can get confusing as to what role everyone is playing, and who is responsible for what.  Let’s take a look at these roles and responsibilities in foster care.

  • County Caseworkers: These individuals work directly with the county in which the custody of the child is held and work with all parts of the families. They meet with biological parents to help them with their treatment plans, they conduct searches for extended family members that could function as a kinship placement, and they report everything back to the court to make sure the judge is up to date on all things.
  • Guardian Ad Litem (GAL): This is the legal representation for the children and youth in care. They visit the foster homes, speak with the children, and advocate for their needs. For children old enough to make requests or share their preferences, the GAL can advocate for what they want or help them understand the realities of the case from a legal perspective. While the GAL’s work to represent what is best for the children in court, they also work with the attorneys assigned to the family members to make sure everyone is up to date with legal matters.
  • Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA): This is a role that is not necessarily guaranteed on every case, but a very beneficial one, if it is an option. The CASA can provide a variety of services from functioning as a mentor to youth, helping with transportation, or simply being an extra hand on deck if you need it.
  • Parents Legal Teams: Each parent will have their own lawyers assigned by the courts, and these legal teams are separate from the legal representation of the children to ensure that all needs can be considered and reported to the courts. The parent’s legal teams will always fight for a return home of the children, and will share updates on the parent’s progress in court.
  • Therapists: While in care children and youth will be in a variety of services and will have therapists that can keep the team up to date on progress and concerns. Therapists will often provide updates to be shared in court, and can also be available to help foster parents by offering suggestions and sharing methods that they are working on in therapy that the foster parents can try at home.
  • Foster Care Advocate: While working with Nightlight you will be assigned a Foster Care Advocate who works directly with you and advocates for your needs as the foster family. They can help connect you with resources, offer training suggestions to help with your case specific needs, and partner with you to serve the children in your home to the best of your ability.

All of these roles are important in ensuring that children and youth are in stable and secure homes while they wait for permanency.  Each individual will bring experience, wisdom, and ideas that will serve the children and family.

How COVID-19 Will Impact the Foster System


COVID 19 has quickly swept through the nation as an unparalleled crisis. There is hope that the preventative social distancing steps will continue to protect at-risk health communities. However, this comes at a cost for children who rely on protective adults to keep them safe.

Lengthy school shutdowns have been detrimental for many at-risk children. They rely on school as a haven, a place that provides meals and emotional resources. Having teachers, coaches and school counselors involved in a child’s life help provide touchpoints to identify abuse or neglect that may be going on in the home. School can also often be the safest place for children to be seen and distance themselves from abusive caregivers. With nationwide stay-at-home orders in effect, there are far fewer mandatory reporters who have access to children that may need assistance. This was proven by over the news that there has been over 50% drop in calls made to Child Protective Services (CPS) in Colorado since the beginning of school closures.

Most children coming into the foster system are coming from situations where their parents are struggling with extensive mental health histories, substance abuse or other crisis that are preventing them from having the necessary resources available to provide for their family. COVID-19 will bring an increased need for family support, as many are losing jobs and resources that normally help keep them afloat. When mental health issues and addiction are mixed with a crisis of this kind, it is reasonable to expect a larger than normal increase in the number of phone calls made to The Colorado hotline over the next year as children return to school.

Colorado was already facing a foster care crisis, with not enough foster parents available to provide safe homes and beds for children in need. Now more than ever we need families and individuals to consider foster care or support for those who are fostering. Here are four simple ways anyone can help children in need due to the COVID-19 crisis.


  • Adopt a foster family- Consider “adopting” a local foster family, Nightlight has over 50 families caring for children who would love the extra support! This can be as simple as mailing encouraging cards and making a meal once a month, to more involved options like helping with laundry or assisting with transportation for kids.


  • Support Homes for Home a local emergency foster care program- A local program designed to provide stability and a safe landing place for emergency foster placements could use your support. The biggest need is respite care, or childcare within the family’s home, as it provides them a much-deserved and needed break. Learn more about Homes for Hope and other ways to support the program here.


  • Consider becoming a certified foster home- Learn more about providing a safe space in your own home for children in the foster system. Children are needing families open to temporary, short and long-term foster homes, as well as families open to adopting children who cannot reunify with their families. Email to learn more about your options or check out our website at


  • Donate your stimulus check towards helping foster children in need- COVID-19 has impacted families in different ways. If you have been fortunate enough to not need the stimulus check to meet your needs, consider donating it to support your local community’s children. Your donation will help provide resources to local foster families as they take on the increased needs of the foster system.