Session 13/15Page 3/5 Topic A: What is typical for parents whose children are placed in foster care?
Topic A: What is typical for parents whose children are placed in foster care?
Please look through these characteristics of biological parents whose children are placed in foster care, and reflect on the characteristics of your foster child’s parents.
1) ORDINARY PARENTS FORCED BY CIRCUMSTANCES TO GIVE UP PARENTING
Parents who could have been good caregivers can be forced by external circumstances to realize that their child is better off in foster care. The typical reasons are:
A. Single mothers who have been expelled from their family because they became pregnant without being married, or because they were too young to take care of a baby.
B. If parents have been traumatized in one way or another, for example by rape, violence or illness. Also, if parents have been victims of natural disasters, victims of economic depression, or have lost their jobs or a spouse, they may fall into depression. If both parents die, naturally the child needs to be placed in alternative care.
C. If the child is born with a severe physical disability and/or is born prematurely or had very low birth weight and many birth complications.
D. If the mother of the family had no physical contact with her baby – for example, the baby may have been isolated at a neonatal birth department, or may have been in an incubator for a long time after birth. Physical separation after birth makes it difficult for some parents to feel attached to the baby, and often causes rejection of the child.
Your reflections about the parents:
Do you think the parents of your foster child fit with these descriptions in general?
In general, cooperating with parents who were forced by circumstances to give up, means that these parents have parenting skills and that they need your respect and understanding of their situation. These parents will often understand why their child needs to be in foster care and they will be able to support you like you can support them.
However, the more the above mentioned characteristics that fit with the parents, the more challenging cooperation can be. They might have problems in social relations, and they might have difficulties accepting that their child is placed away from them.
2) FRAGILE PARENTS
A. One or both parents may be more or less unable to take care of their own lives, and they may also be unable to care for their child in a secure and practical way (even though they still love the child). A child from such a family will often have severe problems attaching to you because it has been deprived of care (you can study this topic further in session 4 and 5).
B. Families where the father is frequently replaced by a stepfather (this may be a signal that the mother is unable to have long term relations with adults as well as with children). Families where the father is violent towards the wife and children. Families without a responsible father.
C. Families where the mother (or father) was very much deprived and received no parenting as a child. Emotionally, such parents can be very immature and act more like children than like parents: impulsive, unable to remember appointments, unable to plan and practice what is agreed upon, lack sense of how to behave in social situations.
D. Families where the primary caregiver (from the child was born until it was three) suffered from psychiatric problems: Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder (manic-depressive), Borderline Personality Disturbance, severe long term depression after birth (post partum depression), or birth psychosis. In short, the mother or father is troubled by psychiatric disease and has therefore been unable to care for her/his young child.
E. Families where one or both parents have major alcohol or drug abuse problems, and/or are engaged with criminal activities.
F. Parents who have grown up in very poor quality orphanages shortly after birth, and have received little care with many random caregivers. Some orphanages are short of staff and have problems with parenting the children in a secure way and caregivers may not have engaged in social and emotional relations with the children.
Your reflections about the parents:
Do you think the parents (or first caregivers) of your foster child fit with this description in general?
In general, cooperating with fragile parents is very challenging for foster parents. The more of the above mentioned characteristics that fit with the parents, the more challenging cooperation can be. Fragile parents might have major problems in social relations, not only with their children, but in all social relations, including relations with authorities, their own families and the foster family.