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6 Tips To Build Relationship With Birth Parents

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As a foster parent, many of us tend to join the journey to help children. Before getting licensed many parents tend to dream about spending holidays with foster kiddo or celebrating the child’s birthday. We think about all the fun traditions and ways we can give the child special moments.

One significant person and relationship we do not consider pre-foster care is our relationship with the birth parent during the foster care journey. Usually we begin to really try to hash the relationship out after we are already in the deep in the middle of the journey. It’s too late to prepare our minds and emotions when we are in the thick of the journey.

Even though it is obvious, it is significant enough to state here that the foster child and birth parent relationship is extremely important to maintain if at all possible. Thus, it should be important for, us, the foster parents to approach this relationship in the best manner possible.


6 Tips for Engaging Birth Parents

  1. APPROACH WITH HUMILITY
    It could be simple for a foster parent to get a “moral license” from the fostering situation – feeling as though they are superior for caring for a child when the birth parent cannot. However, as foster or adoptive parents, we must remember that WE, ourselves, are only a few bad decisions away from being in their situation. We should NEVER look upon parents with superiority but with a strong humility that soberingly realizes we could easily be where they are at in a few days….
    How do you want to be treated?
  2. Reassurance – You’re Not going to take kids
    You are there to help the FAMILY not the child. It might be very easy to get excited about our own agenda for helping foster children or simply welcoming a child into our home that we can forget that the goal for ALL foster children first and foremost is to return the child back home.
  3. Expect the Worst While Hoping For the Best
    Never forget that you are quite possibly seeing your foster kiddo’s parent at their worst. Many of us have moments that we are not proud of but they are not made public to various strangers and agency workers. This is quite frankly embarrassing and can cause a huge hit to one’s self-esteem to the point where you fight to feel that you are worthy of anything. Possibly the way some birth parents hope to find reclaimed worth is by making the foster parent appear to be horrible so they seem better.
    It’s a normal response that anyone would unconsciously make when we feel like we are cornered – we FIGHT for survival. However, among all of these feelings while we are expecting the worst, we should still approach any contact with a birth parent hoping for the best outcome.
  4. Be Secure With Yourself
    When you don’t see eye to eye with a birth parent (or maybe even your agency), you need to remember who you are and not focus on what people are saying about you. As foster parents, we may tend to get caught up in the performance of our care for the children in our care. However, we must remember that our performance doesn’t make us who we are. If you get caught in this mindset, you WILL take a things personally and let things affect you when people begin to criticize your parenting skills.
  5. Communication. Communication. Communication.
    Throughout the foster journey one thing that commonly frustrates foster parents is the feeling that they are not being included with all the information of a case while attempting to help a child through the whole situation. We must entertain the idea that the birth parent also must be equally frustrated with the same system.
    Providing a birth parent with as much information as possible can (with time) alleviate fears of the birth parent and help to eventually get both of you onto the same “team.” What should you share with the birth parent?

    • Medical Appointments
    • Photos/Videos of Milestones or successes in the Child’s Life
      First step, first haircut, loose teeth, graduations, a good grade on a test, first day of school, first time driving a car, and so on.
    • Struggles
      Is their child having trouble making friends? trouble in math? scared at night?
    • Child misses mom and/or dad
      It can be a good motivator and comforting to know that you’re not forgotten and missed by a loved one.Be sure to utilize services such as Facebook, E-mail, and Google Voice to easily help you keep the lines of communication open. All of these services allow to create accounts that are not your primary services with all of your personal information attached to them. Also, be sure to consult with your foster agency about the rules your state as about using social media and sharing various information or photos.
  6. Find A Tribe
    Every foster and adoptive parent should have a group of caregivers which they talk and/or meet with at regular intervals. There is something relaxing and therapeutic about talking about your life issues with other people that are on a similar life journey. Other foster/adoptive parents will simply be able to understand your situation better and will be able to listen better. The foster journey is difficult and you will need people to help you get back in the game when the waters of life get choppy.

Transfiguring Adoption offers a weekly online support group which meets on Facebook and YouTube every Monday at 8pm EST. [Learn More]


What tips would you add to the list?

Comment below or E-mail us at: info@transfiguringadoption.com


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When Children Are Property

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When birth parents experience the removal of their children by child protective services, they tend to have a few different reactions:

  • Work the Plan – Work Hard
    They do everything in their power to reach the goals the agency has given them in order to be reunited with their children. They come to all scheduled visits and court dates. They work really hard and show a great deal of care towards their children.
  • The Dangling Carrot Feeling 
    Some birth parents work their parenting plans and always show up but seem to not be able to meet the agencie’s demands. They may feel helpless, as if the agency keeps dangling their children as a carrot out in front of them, but they cannot ever do enough, and though they care endlessly for their children and desire them to be back at home, they may eventually give up.
  • Not Present
    Some birth parents, due to addiction or other reasons, do not show much interest in parenting. They do not show up to visits or court dates. They do not work toward their case goals.
  • Competitive Winner
    There is a very small group of birth parents who appear to have a different attitude. These parents fight hard to retain their parental rights, but they seem not to care about how their children are cared for but solely about winning the case. They seem to view the child as property and simply appear to want their “property” back, but they do not act in the child’s best interest or meet the child’s needs.

All parents whose children are removed are being faced with such an invasive and stressful situation, which many people have difficulty understanding. These responses are all valid and have reasons, but the one that seems to be most troublesome is the response that a parent cares only about the child as a piece of property. It is very concerning for all those involved.

BUT, this blog is not really about birth parents. I want to challenge foster and adoptive parents to question whether they are exhibiting a similar response and to consider the potential consequences.


A Challenge to Foster/Adoptive Parents

Foster and adoptive parents can be just as possessive. As with birth parents, their reasons are often valid, BUT the results can be equally harmful. Adoptive parents have often fought so hard to help the children in their home. They may have been directly involved with birth family members during the foster care or adoption process, and it may not have been a pleasant experience. There is often a tendency for foster and adoptive parents to say the child is theirs and theirs alone once the birth parents’ rights have been terminated or adoption has been finalized. As a result, they often do not acknowledge that the child had beginnings apart from them. They may not acknowledge the child’s loss or the loss of the birth family (immediate and extended). They may cut others who love the child (or who would like to know and love the child) out from the child’s life.

These thoughts and actions have the potential to hurt the child by:

  • keeping them from information about their identity which they may need to develop in a healthy way, and
  • keeping them from developing or maintaining healthy relationships with birth family members.

The reality is that research and story after story tell us that openness in adoption is the best for all involved. There are different levels, which is necessitated by each situation and by what is beneficial for everyone involved. It is not always comfortable, and sometimes there has to be a time of healing and little contact after termination of parental rights or adoption finalization for everyone to heal, process, and gain perspective.

There is a beauty that comes from sharing our children with everyone who loves them. There is a quote that occasionally floats around Pinterest and Facebook:

“He is mine in a way that he will never be hers, yet he is hers in a way that he will never be mine, and so together, WE are motherhood.”

I did a little surfing around and found that this quote was made by birth mother and adoption advocate, Desha Wood. When we can acknowledge that a child belongs fully (in different ways) to their birth and adoptive families, we can develop relationships that only serve to make our children happier and healthier. On one of our recent Monday Caregiver Check-Ins, Allison Douglas (foster/adoptive parent of 4 children and professional at Harmony Family Center, Knoxville, TN) shared about a birthday party they recently had for one of their children. There were several birth and adoptive family members there celebrating the child. She shared how natural it was for her child to introduce all these people to friends and introducing both his moms as “Mom” and all other family members simply by relationship, and not necessarily differentiating between birth or adoptive relationships. I loved a similar moment at a party where one of my kids had one arm around me and one around their first mom and leaned over to kiss each of our cheeks and say, “I love you, Mom” to each of us. My kids belong as much to their birth families as they do to our families.

On the other hand, I have seen enormous hurt when an adoptive family claims a child as theirs and theirs alone and needlessly cuts out siblings, or birth parents, or other extended family members. Adoptees and foster children are done a great injustice when the foster or adoptive family acts as if the child’s life began with them and leaves out any part of their personal history before placement.


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