Children in foster care often have the goal of reunification with their biological parents. For this goal to be achieved, their parents must demonstrate an ability to safely parent, which is determined by a family court judge. Parent-child visits will likely be scheduled to continue to support the family bond. Visits can vary in location. They can be in a public space, take place within the foster care agency or in the biological parents’ homes. Depending on the progress of the reunification goal, the visits may be supervised or unsupervised. Some foster children may not have visits with their biological parents but may visit with siblings if they do not live in the same home. Regardless of the type of family visit, preparation can promote a smoother transition.
Before the Visit
Being observant of your foster child’s response to family visits will guide your preparation and planning. If the foster child is excited, don’t take it personally as a slight to your foster parenting skills, but rather support and acknowledge how they are feeling. Let them know if it is okay to discuss any feelings they may have about the family visit.
If your foster child is anxious or not looking forward to the visit, also listen and provide emotional support and avoid making any derogatory statements about your foster child’s biological family. If there are concerns about your foster child’s physical or emotional safety during the visit, share the concerns with their case manager.
Regardless of how your foster child responds to the pending family visits, it may be beneficial to let them know they will be missed as a valued member of the home and their return is welcome.
Returning From the Visit
Creating a routine for their return can help with your foster child’s transition back into the home. Allow them to be part of creating the routine. Some children may be full of energy and will need to engage in something physical after visits, while others may need quiet time to process the visits. Aim to create a routine that speaks to their needs.
Continue to encourage open communication, allow them to talk about their visits, but do not push them if they don’t want to discuss visits with you.
Don’t be afraid to take advantage of your resources. Their case manager or therapist can help you prepare for family visits.