We all know birth family visits can bring out lots of big feelings for our kids. For some, there is happiness and anticipation. But for most, the experience is more conflicting. As foster parents, we most often see this in our kids’ behaviors in the hours leading up to a visit or in the days following. These visits often trigger our kids and bring up memories of experiences that cause them to be anxious. Birth family members may say things that confuse them. In addition, foster care agencies generally do not provide therapeutic environments for these visits and often these visits aren’t even supervised by an agency employee. This leaves our kids at risk for experiencing things they can’t make sense of and causing them unnecessary harm.
I recognize that some of what is written in this resource guide relies entirely on your agency and how they are handling visits. And sometimes there isn’t much we can do as foster parents to influence this. But for the sake of this resource guide, let’s set aside our agency’s involvement for a moment and just focus on what we can control. We can’t make the visits stop, we can’t force agencies to make the visits more healing, and we can’t remove the triggers for our kids.
But there are actually lots of things we CAN do. And that is what this resource guide is about.
Because here is the good news! Regardless of how great your agency is at facilitating visits, the truth is that we foster parents actually make more of a difference in how our children interpret their visits than the case work team. Coming home to a safe and nurturing adult can calm your child’s fear response and help them make sense of all that they’re experiencing.
That being said, there will be times when you need to speak up and advocate for your child in regards to visits. Restore families have had success: stopping visits that were harmful, changing the location of visits, requesting permission to transport to visits, changing visits from unsupervised to supervised, requesting biological family confirm visit attendance in advance so children don’t have to travel unnecessarily, etc. Regarding any concerns you have, speak first with your case worker. If you don’t get a helpful response, go up the chain of command and speak with a supervisor. Engage the CASA or GAL if necessary. And as always, reach out to your Restore Network County Director for help as well!
Thank you for caring for your children as they navigate the complexities of birth family interactions!
Check out our Visit Days Resource Guide here.