top of page

The Latest Word


THESE BIO PARENTS MAKE ME SO FRUSTRATED!! – Encouragement for foster parents dealing with your foster child’s biological parent(s) . . .

I hear it on an almost weekly basis as I provide Parent Coaching for foster parents—their frustrations with their child’s biological parent(s). It’s the bio Dad who promises his child the moon, but never follows through. It’s the bio Mom who just stays on her phone for the entire two hours of visitation with her child at a McDonald's. It’s the bio Dad who completely skips out on a visitation after the CPS transporter drove your child 90 minutes one-way for the visit. It’s the bio Mom who tells her child that it’s okay to lie to you, or not to listen to you because “I’m your real Mom, and they’re not.” And it goes on and on.

I know that most of foster parents reading this are shaking your head in affirmation—“Yep, it’s a real pain dealing with my child’s biological parent(s)!” You know that in most—but certainly not all cases--it’s important for your child to have a physical connection with his or her parent. But you are the one who has pick up the pieces and do the damage control when your child comes home from visitation emotionally unraveled. Realistically, for many foster children, this scenario will not change as long as they are in your care. It’s just part of the territory. Yes, the CPS/DFCS caseworker can sometimes put some positive pressure on the bio parent to shape up, but unfortunately that “shaping up” is all too often, just temporary.

So, what’s a frustrated foster parent to do? There’s no easy answer, but let me suggest a non-traditional response (that you have the freedom to disagree with). It’s called EMPATHY. Yes, empathy for the bio parent. “But Mark, you don’t understand, you’re not a foster parent, you don’t know what it’s like to deal with a deadbeat bio parent!” That’s true. But I do know what can help ease your frustration with a situation that may never get much better.

I believe—as do many foster parents I spoken to about this problem—that the large majority of bio parents are doing the best they can with the cards they’ve been dealt in life. Yes, there are malicious, abusive and intentionally neglectful bio parents out there, but there are many more who dearly love their children but don’t have adequate parenting skills. A common example is the young, early-twenty-something single Mom, whose’ three kids are all in foster care. She herself was very possibly raised in a neglectful, even abuse environment. Her children’s bio Dad is in prison. Her immediate and extended family have rejected her and the kids. She gets high on drugs or intoxicated on alcohol in order numb out her depression. She’s had little pre-natal care for all three children and no follow-up well baby checks for any of them. She is 24 years old, but like so many bio Moms (and Dads), she displays the emotional intelligence/maturity of someone only half her age.

Readers, part of the foster care problem is that we have adults who are children, emotionally. It’s children raising children. This is where your necessary EMPATHY comes in that can balance out your frustration and anger. EMPATHY for a bio parent who also has a lost childhood and who has very few emotional coping skills. EMPATHY for the bio parent whose frustrating behaviors are largely fueled by the guilt of knowing that some stranger in the “system” is parenting her children. EMPATHY is not sympathy, and it’s certainly not giving the bio parent a pass for her/his immature or disrespectful or neglectful attitude. Instead, it’s all about being mindful that as a foster parent, you will likely be dealing with many emotionally, and even mentally broken parents who were also deprived of healthy parenting as a child. EMPATHY for the challenging bio parent is one key to your longevity as a foster parent.


bottom of page