If you are a foster parent, you are well aware of how many different people and organizations have been assigned to your child(ren)’s case . . . Children & Youth, CASA, Guardian Ad Litems, Foster Care Workers, Therapists, Psychiatrists and on an on…. These various individuals and agencies make up a team, dedicated to supporting the foster child(ren) that are in your care. It is essential that your relationship with that team is healthy and positive. If you have ever had (or currently do have) a negative relationship with a member of your foster child(ren)’s team, you know how difficult it can be to work together in the best interest of the child(ren). With that in mind, here are six practical tips you can implement now, to begin fostering a positive and healthy relationship with the team.
01. BE PROACTIVE (Actively keep them apprised).
Proactivity is key and is very appreciated by team members. Provide them with information before they know they need it. Inform them about everything that has happened before they find out from someone else. Answer their questions before they even know they had that question. Being openly proactive in all your communication is a great way to show that you are not hiding anything from them. It will help to build trust between you and the members of your child(ren)’s team. Don’t wait for them to ask — don’t wait for them to find out — just regularly provide them with anything you think might be relevant for them to know.
02. BE PLEASANT (Show kindness to them).
What does your foster child(ren)’s treatment team think of you as a person? Hopefully they have a very high opinion of you. It’s important to be intentional about fostering that opinion. You want them to think highly of you. One of the best ways you can do that is to simply be pleasant. Be more pleasant than all the other foster parents they deal with everyday. Stick out in their mind because of your kindness. This will help develop the relationship you have with them. And that’s really important.
03. BE PROMPT (Respond quickly to them).
Every day we are inundated with people vying for our attention — emails, voice mails, social media content etc . . . It can be hard to prioritize who or what to respond to. But with that in mind, might I suggest that the members of your foster child(ren)’s team be one of your highest priorities when it comes to choosing who you will respond to first. If they send you an email — respond promptly. If they call you — pick up the phone. If they reach out to you in any way, be quick to get back to them. As you do this consistently, you will develop a healthy reputation among the team — and that can’t hurt.
04. BE PERMISSIVE (Encourage them to speak privately with your foster child(ren)).
This can be tough, but regularly invite and encourage members of the team to speak privately with your foster child(ren). Let’s face it, in most cases, they already have the legal right to do that anyway, but it doesn’t hurt to frequently extend that invitation. If you have nothing to hide (and hopefully you don’t), it can only be helpful for your child(ren) to be able to speak with them in private. This will also build trust between you and the team members as they recognize that you are fine with these private discussions occurring.
05. BE POSITIVE (Speak kind words about them to your foster child(ren)).
This is a big one . . . Please don’t ever speak negatively to your foster child(ren) about any member of their team. You will regret it when you hear your exact words being spoken back to you by a team member. Children and teenagers are not always good about keeping comments they hear “on the down low.” But I would also take it a step further and encourage you to be overly positive when you are talking to your foster child(ren) about their team. It’s not only important that we have a good relationship with the team, but that the children do to.
06. BE PRACTICED (Seek out training opportunities and let them know what you attend).
As foster parents we are required to log a certain amount of yearly training hours. In most states, they are pretty flexible on how you go about achieving those hours. Seek out training opportunities that are specifically relevant to what you are going through with your foster child(ren). Don’t look at these as merely training hours that you are mandated to complete, but rather truly embrace the content in a way that is helpful to your circumstances. In addition, proactively report to your entire team all the education you are receiving. Let them view you as someone who is constantly looking to better themselves as a foster parent. They will appreciate and respect that level of genuine effort.
For those who acknowledge a higher power
07. BE PRAYERFUL (Seek God’s wisdom)
If you believe in a divine power, it can be very helpful to pray for the members of your child(ren)’s team. When we pray for people, it positively affects how we think of that person — it can change our perspective — our attitude — our behavior. If you are struggling with negative thoughts or feelings about team members, consider praying for them. You might just be surprised how it can change your entire outlook.
At the end of the day, everyone wants what is best for the child(ren). You may not always agree with the team, and that is totally ok, but it is crucial that you are intentional about building healthy, positive relationships with each member of your foster child(ren)’ team, whether you are in agreement with them or not. The better the relationship you have with them, the more likely they will be to more heavily weigh your opinions into their decisions.
by Arthur C Woods
Article originally appeared in the the January 2020 issue of Foster Focus Magazine