Connecting the Circles

Dr. Vera Fahlberg provides us with some assistance to understand what happens when the state intervenes in a family’s life.  She divides parental tasks and responsibilities among the parties who are involved: birth parents, parenting parent, and the legal parent.

From the birth parent a child gets important characteristics that make her/him unique, such as, sex and physical appearance.  The parenting parents provide the child with love, discipline, education, life skills, etc.  The legal parent is responsible for such things as financial security, legal consent for school entrance or medical care, and physical safety and security.

For families where intervention has not occurred, these three parenting jobs are combined in one circle.  When the state intervenes, the circles are divided.  Birth parents have already provided many elements that can never be taken away, but day-to-day parenting becomes the foster parent’s job, and Family Court and the Department of Social Services become the legal parents.  As the case progresses, it is important to keep these circles as connected as possible. The eventual goal is to reconnect the circles and enable the family to suceed in all three roles.

The parenting provided by the birth parents, foster parents, and the agency helps determine the success of the plan for children in out-of-home care.  The partnership among the birth parents, foster parents, and agency results in “shared parenting.” Shared parenting occurs when two or more adults have joint responsibility for care, nurturing, and decision making for the same child.

Most of us in childhood and our own children have experienced shared parenting.  For example, spouses, babysitters, grandparents, day care providers, or step-parents may share parenting tasks. What makes the relationships work is good communication, cooperation, support of one another, good planning, joint decision-making, and role clarity.

Shared parenting requires an effort on everyone’s part. For children who are in foster care, shared parenting is a day-to-day reality. There must be planning, good communication and cooperation among all parties for shared parenting to work and to meet the child’s needs.

Source: Adapted from the National CASA Association Training Curriculum and the MAPPS / GPS Leaders Guide, 2ndEdition, Rev 10/16/91

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