Fostering a child during the child's birthday can offer special and unique opportunities for building a relationship with birth parents, and maybe even mentoring. Here are a few ideas on fostering a child and how to build a relationship or mentor the birth family during the foster child's birthday.
Before planning to heavily involve the birth family in the planning of the birthday, ask the case worker or consider mentioning an upcoming birthday during the case plan. Also ask if it would be appropriate to have a birthday party for the child with the birth family. This is something we have done in the past and it went extremely well. To make the event more comfortable for all involved, choose a location that is neutral such as a restaurant or a park.
There are a number of ways to include the birth family in celebrating birthdays.
- Encourage the birth family to choose the theme of the party with the child.
- Ask the case worker if you could go shopping with the birth parent for the party supplies.
- Encourage the birth family to bring the birthday cake.
- Ask the birth family what gifts they have planned for the child, and then do not upstage them with bigger or more expensive gift.
- Sometimes children are disappointed when birth parents don't bring the gifts they have promised the child. Be emotionally prepared for this to occur. Help the child to be thankful for what they have received and for the special time they get to spend with their parents.
Sometimes social workers prefer that birth family enjoy birthday parties with their children during visitation, and will not allow the parents to attend a birthday celebrating outside of the court ordered visits.
A few ideas to help the birth family feel a part when they can't be there to celebrate.
- Consider videoing the party to share with the birth family if they can not attend.
- Take several pictures and create a scrapbook for the family.
- Allow a phone call to occur during the party. A speaker phone would come in handy at this time.
- Skype would be another awesome option to employ during the party to help the birth family feel like they are a part of the event.
Sometimes, remembering to celebrate birthdays is not a priority to birth family. Here are a few things to keep in mind and ways to help your foster child cope when a birth parent seems to have forgotten a birthday.
Celebrating birthdays when birth family may have forgotten.
Do not make excuses for the parents missing or forgetting a birthday.
Listen to the child's feelings. Remember good communication skills; reflect by naming and acknowledging feelings underneath their statements. Also, paraphrase what the child has shared about their birth parents. Do not rescue the birth parents by making excuses, but also, don't share your feelings about them. It's not about you at this time.
To keep from extending the drama of birthday grief or developmental grieving, try to celebrate the birthday on the child's actual birth date or before the date, like the weekend before. We have made the mistake of celebrating the weekend after the birth date and it was very stressful in the home while the child continued to grieve and exhibit behaviors.
Ask the child to share some of their birth family birthday traditions. Are there any of their family traditions you can continue within the foster home or incorporate within your own birthday traditions?
Try to go all out or as big as you would with your own children or other family celebrations.
Even if the birthday was forgotten, take pictures of the event to share with the birth family.