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Fostering & Biological Families

Jessica Berry, Encourage Director, shares the importance of fostering relationships with biological families.

Although it can be difficult emotionally, a top priority as a foster parent should be attempting to establish a relationship with a youth’s biological family.

A positive relationship between foster parents and biological parents has many benefits for all who are involved in the case. It maintains a foster youth’s connection with his or her biological family and helps preserve his or her sense of identity and family history. The relationship also increases a foster youth’s self-esteem and resilience, and helps the foster youth build healthy relationships. When a child’s foster parents positively interact with his or her biological family, it assists the child in realizing he or she does not have to choose between families. Foster families can be one of the biological family’s biggest supports, and this can assist in the biological family being able to successfully complete the case plan. Biological parents who feel supported by foster parents are more likely to want to maintain contact with them post-reunification, allowing foster parents to receive updates on how the youth is doing.

Foster parents may not always know where to start to build a relationship. The initial contact foster parents will have with biological parents is typically at one of the first visits the foster youth has with his or her biological family shortly after placement. Foster parents generally have a brief interaction with biological parents while dropping off and/or picking up the youth from visits. These brief interactions are a great place to start getting to know the biological family and establishing their trust in you caring for their child. This can vary by county, and if foster parents are not able to have contact with biological families due to safety concerns, they can communicate with the biological family via a notebook. Foster families can write down updates and questions in a notebook and add it to the youth’s visit bag. It is also important for foster families to have grace and remember that the biological family’s world has been turned upside down. When appropriate and safe, foster parents can invite the biological family to any birthday parties, school events, or sporting events that the youth has. Foster families can try to find out about the families’ traditions and implement those traditions in their households. Additionally, they can encourage the foster youth to talk about his or her biological family as he or she desires to do so. The foster youth should not feel embarrassed or shamed when talking about them.

As an agency, Encourage normalizes and encourages the relationship between a foster youth’s biological parents and foster parents. Encourage does this by beginning these conversations with foster parents in pre-service trainings and setting realistic expectations. Our agency helps navigate the relationship and advocates for the best interest of the foster youth and the foster family. Having relationships with biological parents can be difficult emotionally at times, and Encourage is here to support foster parents through this, letting them vent and process challenging situations as they come up. Even though it can be overwhelming, taking the leap of faith and attempting to connect with biological parents can be one of the most rewarding aspects of the foster care journey.


About the Author

Jessica Berry

Director of Encompass

As Director, I look forward to working to grow our program and expanding the services and support we are able to provide to our incredible foster parents. I also provide some therapy services and enjoy meeting kiddos where they are at, assisting them in the healing process, and showing them their worth in Christ. Before this position, I was the Clinical Supervisor of Encourage and a residential therapist at Christian Children’s Home of Ohio (CCHO). When I am not at work, I enjoy spending time with my husband and our four children. My husband and I have been foster/adoptive parents for the past six years.


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