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CRITICAL CONVERSATIONS: Talking with your foster child about his or her birth parents. . .

Most foster parents know from experience that interacting with their foster children regarding the children’s birth parents can be a real balancing act. This is especially true when the birth parent (s) are a real thorn in the side of the foster parent. It is a pretty rare occurrence when you have a birthparent who totally supports you as the primary caregiver for her or his child. Here are some helpful suggestions for foster parents when you need to have sensitive conversations with your foster son or daughter about his or her birth parents. . .

  • For a younger child, take care of how you phrase your responses—structure your response in a way that is relatable to a younger child.

  • Remember that a younger child may be more likely to tell others what you’ve told her, including her birth parent(s). Younger children learn and repeat by “rote.”

  • Despite a birth parent’s negative actions and lifestyle, do not make him/her out to be a villain (even though they may well be!) Remember that even in the worst and most depraved of situations “blood is almost always thicker than water.”

  • Older children, particularly teens, tend to have a better overall understanding of why they have been placed into foster care. This will require you to be more detailed (providing you have the details) in response to their questions.

  • Teens can be either very shut down or very vocal about their frustrations with their biological parents. Don’t press them to express their feelings—but if they are vocal, allow them to vent. Be careful, however, that you don’t join in with them in their criticism and anger—this could quickly turn on you “180.”

  • Remind your child that he/she can always come and talk to you about anything. This is especially important for teens. Doing so creates a safe space for them to share their thoughts and feelings openly without judgment.

More on this topic in my next blog . . .


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