Think of the last hard day you had—at work or at home. One of those times when you didn’t want to talk about your day, but your partner asked anyway. Or the opposite—you really needed someone to listen, but your support person or partner was unengaged or absent.
At times, kids in care will experience those same feelings you have—especially after they return to your home after spending time with their family. It can seem like no matter what you do, it’s the wrong thing.
So what can you do to help make the transitions to and from families run more smoothly? It may seem somewhat obvious in hindsight, but one thing you may want to do is make sure you’ve prepared before children spend time with their family.
Preparing for Family Interactions
If you and the birth family don’t already have some guidelines in place for shared parenting, preparing for visits is a great place to start. This can include ideas such as maintaining similar schedules, rules, and discipline as much as possible, as well as information about food and medications and any health concerns. (Also see our tip sheet on Shared Parenting.)
You’re not always going to agree on everything and that’s okay too.
Other suggestions include:
Names. Talk with your child’s birth parents about what name you are called. Some children in foster care call their foster parents “Mom” and “Dad,” which can come as a surprise to birth parents. This is an important topic of discussion that foster parents and the child’s birth parents should have in order to avoid hurt feelings or confusion for everyone.
Family Interaction Form. The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families has a helpful resource you can use regarding family visits called The Family Interaction Plan. (Your social worker might have a form that he or she uses from his or her agency.) The DCF plan is a short, simple form that helps everyone stay on the same page in regards to transportation, times, places, who can have contact, proposed activities, what each party’s responsibility is, and a section for comments.
Well Stocked Homes. Having clothes, toys and toothbrushes at both houses greatly reduces the stress of packing and potential complaints if something isn’t sent to one home or brought back to another. Pharmacies will also put meds in separate containers so that both sets of caregivers can have medication on hand.