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 has several components used to meet the objectives of decreasing child distress, improving birth parent expectations and play behaviors, and improving the birth and foster parent relationship. First, foster parents transport children to visitation and stay with them throughout the visitation. Although this could seem to interfere with birth parents and children’s visits, it is designed to support children such that they are not distressed. Second, birth parents meet with a mentor before each of the five initial visits. The mentor teaches the birth parents how to anticipate child distress or reticence and follow their children’s lead during play. Lastly, the program helps foster parents understand what is meant by following a child’s lead, and helps them make comments in-the-moment that will support birth parents following their children’s lead. The point of this is to place foster parents in a supportive role to 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:

  • Strengthen the relationship between the foster parent and birth parent
  • Help the birth parent to have a successful visit, feel less rejected by their child, and so encourage repeated visitation
  • Increase foster and birth parent use of play behaviors that promote self-regulation in young children; referred to as “following the lead” within 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, lack play skills and sensitivity to the 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 and the 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. 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):

  • Community Agency
  • Foster/Kinship Care
  • Outpatient Clinic


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

Education 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.

Education and Training Resources

There is a manual that describes how to implement this program , and there is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training is obtained:

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, Nov. 14). New foster care initiative seeks to help broken system. GroundFloor. Retrieved from

Quality Parenting Initiative. (n.d.). Fostering Relationships in Visitation (FRV): Parent/caregiver visitation model overview. Retrieved from

Contact Information

Caroline Roben, PhD
Agency/Affiliation: University of Delaware
Phone: (302) 319-1220

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: June 2018

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: June 2018

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: June 2018