It turns out, your foster children have biological families. Who knew? It’s important to keep open lines of communication and not leave people out. But as a foster parent balancing their everyday care on top of this it can become stressful. It often falls to the bottom of your To-Do List or you don’t know how to keep everyone updated appropriately. The below tips can help but make sure to verify with your caseworker if anything feels uneasy.
1. How to Maintain Privacy
It’s okay to want to keep some distance with your foster children’s biological family. You might not be very close with them, it could be a shorter-term placement, or you just might be a more private person. You don’t need to connect with them on Facebook or provide them your address and personal contact information.
Receiving Packages: If they want to send presents you can have them coordinate with the caseworker; the department should be able to receive packages on behalf of the children in their care and then you can pick up from them.
Holding Phone Calls: If they want to reach you or communicate with the kids through you, you can use alternative phone numbers such as setting up a Google Voice account. This is free, separate from your personal phone lines, allows you to not have to worry about late calls (Google Voice has customizable “Do Not Disturb” settings), and unnecessary direct communication that should be going through the caseworker.
Other Digital Communication: Email accounts are free to make and managing multiple email addresses from the same domain (ie: Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc.) is pretty straightforward with today’s technology. Having a separate account also allows you to check it less frequently than your personal or work emails this can help you feel less overwhelmed when you don’t see the daily messages and replies start to pile up.
2. Best Apps for Connecting
There are tons of free options to do call or video messaging but it can get confusing trying to remember which person is using which system. Stick with a platform that works for most devices and have the family migrate to that application. FaceTime might be great for Apple users but anyone with an Android and PC is out of luck. Try Google Duo or WhatsApp if you have a separate phone number (see Google Voice above) you can use for that app. If your contact is done through scheduled calls then an app like Zoom or Skype can come in handy as it can be accessed easily through a cell phone, tablet, or computer and does not require giving anyone your phone number.
For young kids, Facebook Messenger for Kids can be a good tool to increase engagement as there are face filters that can be fun to play around with. If adding the bio family as friends on Facebook sounds scary, look into custom privacy settings so you can decide what you want to share.
3) Consolidate your Communications
The biological family members can add up quickly depending on who is involved. With older kids there might be aunts, uncles, and cousins that have established relationships and want to stay connected and parents or grandparents could be remarried further expanding your circle. Before you know it, there are 40 people reaching out requesting photos and updates.
Don’t freak out; just simplify. You can keep everyone updated with pictures, videos, and quick highlights through a weekly or monthly email message. Get everyone’s email and make sure to include their emails as “BCC” and not in the “To” or “CC” fields so you don’t unintentionally share their contact info with others. You can add your own family to the distribution if they are interested in getting updates.
Have you found ways to effectively manage communication with bio family? Share your tips below!