One of the differences between creating your own family biologically and engaging in the areas of adoption and foster care, is that our little ones in foster care, and whom you have adopted, come with ties to their own biological family. Whether your children know them or not, their biological family will always be a part of who they are and make up their identity. Our role as foster parents is also to support our children’s relationship with their biological family. When children navigate the foster care system, they are forced to determine how to establish themselves with their foster or adoptive families and with their biological families. We, as their foster parents and/or adoptive parents can help them through this process. Below is some of what I have learned through my experience as a therapist working in the foster care system and as a foster parent myself.
The first thing I would like to note about this tricky relationship is that your children need to feel safe to have any and all of their feelings. Feelings are never wrong, but how we express them is how they can become unhealthy or unhelpful. Our little ones may still be very close to their biological families and we need to support them in their love for their families no matter what might happen. Our children need to work through their feelings and establish their own thoughts and opinions on their own along with your support, and with interventions such as therapy.
Outside of the verbal support, creating a relationship between the foster parents and the biological parents can also ease the transition of our children as well. Now, this can be quite tricky and will look different for each person and family. I urge you to create boundaries to protect yourself and your little ones. This has especially looked different for me with the various biological families we have connected with. In our family we have introduced ourselves via text or e-mail and provided a means for the parent to contact us. I have chosen to utilize a separate phone number outside of my personal phone number as a boundary for myself. I desire to let our biological families know we support them reunifying with their children and are here to support them along this journey, while we also support and care for their children. One easy way I have found to start the relationship is by sending photos of their children so they continue to feel connected. This is a neutral way to build the relationship and break down some of the initial tension and barriers that comes with the relationship.
Now there are times when it is unsafe or unhealthy for you to have contact with the biological family, and at that point, you can focus on providing love and safety for your children through this challenging transition. Safety and security are the ultimate goal for our children who have lost all control in a family life that has not supported them, sometimes this can include their biological families and sometimes this cannot. As I shared, hard work and flexibility is key. The expectation is not perfection, but working together to find the healthiest and most effective ways to support positive growth and development in our children.
This is an often overlooked aspect of foster parenting, but one that is extremely important for the kids! Please schedule a free consultation if you have further questions or want to schedule an individual session to further discuss what this could like for your family. Also, please reach out if you are interested in engaging in a foster parent group to connect with other foster parents and process the obstacles and celebrate the joys together.
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