Fostering Relationships

About This Program

Target Population: Birth and foster parents with young children (between 6 months and 6 years) in foster care who are beginning visitation

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 0 – 6

Program Overview

Fostering Relationships is designed to support families with young children in the foster care system. Birth parents work with a mentor and their child's foster parent with the aim of decreasing child distress, improving birth parent expectations and play behaviors, and improving the birth and foster parent relationship. For the first 5 visits that a birth parent has with their child, foster parents transport children to visitation and stay in the visitation. Having both caregivers present in initial visitations can help decrease distress in children. Prior to each visitation, birth parents meet with a mentor that teaches them how to anticipate child distress or reticence and follow their children's lead during play. Lastly, the program teaches foster parents to make comments in-the-moment that support birth parents following their children's lead. Foster parents are encouraged to support birth parents and help birth parents play with their young children in a way that promotes regulatory skills.

Program Goals

The goals of Fostering Relationships are:

For birth parent:

  • Strengthen the relationship with the foster parent
  • Have a successful visit with their child
  • Feel less rejected by their child
  • Feel encouraged to repeat visitation with their child
  • Increase use of play behaviors that promote self-regulation in young children; referred to as "following the lead"

For foster parent:

  • Strengthen the relationship with the birth parent
  • Increase use of play behaviors that promote self-regulation in young children; referred to as "following the lead"

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for Fostering Relationships.

Essential Components

The essential components of Fostering Relationships include:

  • Supports visitation between children and their birth parents.
  • Provides an individual mentor who is typically a staff member of the Fostering Relationships program for the birth parent in order to support the birth parent's feelings during the visitation with their child and promote positive play skills.
  • Provides a mentor session which occurs 20 minutes prior to visitation and includes example videos of children's reactions to visitation.
  • Introduces the concept of "following the lead" during the mentor session which encourages birth parents to follow their children's lead in play:
    • Parents play in a responsive manner in which the child is leading the interaction.
    • Examples include imitating words, sounds, or behaviors, or commenting on what they see the child doing.
  • Requires the foster parent to be present during the visit in the role of the primary caregiver of the child, which is designed to decrease child distress, and as a support to the birth parent.
  • Trains the foster parent to recognize "following the lead" and make supportive comments to the birth parent:
    • Trains the foster parent to say specific comments to encourage and reinforce the birth parent in following the lead.
    • Promotes a positive foster and birth parent relationship.

Program Delivery

Parent/Caregiver Services

Fostering Relationships directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Birth parents who experience distress surrounding the visitation process may have challenges interacting sensitively with their child during visitation and/or have a potentially problematic relationship with the foster parent; foster parents/caregivers of children who feel distress during visitations with birth parents or would like to improve their foster child's experience of visitation
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:

This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: Children (between 6 months and 6 years of age) of the birth parents are present at the visits. The birth parents are supported in their initial visitations with their children and their children's foster parent.

Recommended Intensity:

At least 5 visitation sessions, which typically vary with individual needs or agency standards. These 5 visitation sessions should be consecutive. They are often twice per week and one hour each, though individual agency standards are respected.

Recommended Duration:

At least 2 to 3 weeks (or however long it takes to complete 5 sessions).

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Foster / Kinship Care
  • Outpatient Clinic
  • Community-based Agency / Organization / Provider


This program does not include a homework component.

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

Staff for the "mentor" role and visitation space

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

There is no minimal education requirement for a staff person or foster parent to obtain before being able to be trained on Fostering Relationships.

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training Type/Location:

Mix of onsite at foster care agency and through video and remote contact with the developers.

Number of days/hours:

4 hours of training.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Currently, there are no published, peer-reviewed research studies for Fostering Relationships.

Additional References

McPhate, C. (2017, November 14). New foster care initiative seeks to help broken system. Dallas Observer,

Contact Information

Mary Dozier, PhD
Agency/Affiliation: University of Delaware

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: June 2018

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: February 2024

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: June 2018