Foster and biological parents united to help child custody cases
Virginia and several other states are beginning to approach the foster care system differently. Child welfare administrators are working to make child custody disputes more positive, ultimately hoping to increase the chances that a child can return to his or her biological parents.
State foster care systems have paired with the courts to help place biological parents who lose custody of their children in communication with the foster families with whom their children are placed. Previously, children placed in the foster care system could not have contact with their biological parents. Similarly, foster parents often shared no relationship with the biological parents. Such arrangements often led to unhappy children, who attempted to run away, and discouraged biological parents from working toward maintaining a relationship with their children.
Many states, including Virginia, are attempting to transform this perspective of the possible relationship between biological parents and the foster care system. Child welfare administrators and agencies are now re-examining what is in the best interests of the child and the biological parent. They realize that providing biological parents with visitation rights and allowing them to participate in the parenting plan of their children are beneficial to both the children and the parents.
For instance, one foster care story in Northern Virginia resulted in the biological parent being awarded custody of his son after a positive experience with the foster care system. Now, the biological father still communicates with his son's ex-foster parents and even considers them part of the family.
Child custody disputes that involve the foster care system can become complex and seem like they are driving a wedge between biological parents and their children. In Virginia, there is a new approach to the foster care system that provides biological parents with significant rights during the foster care period as well as the potential for custody at the end of such care.
Source: The Huffington Post, "Agencies work to unite foster, biological parents," Kelli Kennedy, Oct. 25, 2012.