Topic this Week: Birth Parent Visitation & Strategies to Prevent/Cope with Associated Behaviours
Visitations can be challenging for everyone involved. When a visit occurs it may be accompanied by feelings of uncertainty, dysregulation, and other emotional upheaval causing behavioural issues. Here are some suggestions to help make these visits easier for yourself and the children/youth in your care. This week I have not separated the ages (toddler/child/youth) as you can choose which ones are applicable to your situation.
Positive Parenting Strategies re: Visitation
* Keep visitation schedule consistent.
* Have a plan with your social worker prior to the visit.
* Have on-going, open discussions regarding changes (youth).
* Remind yourself that the purpose of visitations are to help child/parent attachment should the child return to their birth parents. These visits can make a positive difference in a child’s life (every situation is unique)…
* Try to develop a positive and respectful relationship with birth families.
* Try to make sure child/youth is well-slept, not hungry, has participated in anxiety relieving activities, e.g.: physical activity (this goes for you too!)
* Accept the child/youth after-visit behaviours; help them work through these emotions.
* Have before and after visit rituals. Special things you do to let them know what is about to happen, especially if they are not yet at a developmental age to understand language. * Communicate who will and will not be at the visit, and where the visit will take place.
* Involve the child/youth in planning what they would like to do during the visit, negotiate until you can agree on realistic activities.
* Send applicable games/toys/supplies etc…
* Model appropriate parenting during the visit.
* Talk to the child about how they think the visit went and what they would want to do differently next time.
* Give extra attention and care if the child is dysregulated (quiet environment, favourite activity, cuddles).
* Try not to blame the birth parents for cancellations; explain that the parent made certain choices and the visit had to be rescheduled.
* Assure the child/youth that they did nothing wrong, and that they are not to blame for their parent rescheduling. If there was a certain activity planned, try to do that activity.
* Seek professional help if the child’s behaviours are severe.
* Create a social story geared to your specific child covering before, during, and after a visit.
* Ask the Social Worker to ask the birth parents about their expectations regarding visits.
* Keep a journal for the parents to be read during visits, e.g.: new favourite food, behaviours, school work, achievements etc…
* Have a special backpack for visits that hold everything the child needs for the visit.
* Be aware of your own behaviour and emotions; how you act will influence the child and their family.
Perhaps if everyone understands one another’s perspectives, expectations, and intentions, visits could be more productive and respectful. This is an on-going and evolving process. Let the birth parents know that you are there to keep their child safe, to provide temporary care, and you are not replacing them.
Thank you for all that you do as foster caregivers! You are supporting children and families to ideally reunite! There is no bigger gift :).