Tricky Situations

I get it.  Sometimes family isn’t really safe.  What’s a foster parent to do, in order to keep lines of communication with original family open ?  And do it safely ?

First of all it may take time to build trust and allow the original family members an opportunity to get to know you as a real and caring human being.  When the original family can see clearly that you are caring for their children in a manner a loving parent would want their child cared for that can go a long way towards developing that trust.  It is about having rapport with one another in common cause.

As a foster parent you may have to put aside your thoughts of worry and/or fears.  Begin by just engaging with these kids’ parent(s) from a perspective of one human being to another human being.  In other words, common courtesy and good manners. Don’t bring up conditions like – “you need to be safe for contact to begin or continue.”  Wow, is that ever a sure way to get anyone’s heckles up. Of course, if something dangerous actually happens, then as the responsible party you will have to make the appropriate call, but don’t anticipate it.

No finger pointing, looking down your nose at the original parent or assuming the worst about them.  Try to put yourself in their shoes.  Think about how hurt you’d feel if some stranger put conditions on seeing your baby.  If this parent does get violent, well of course, you are going have to end that visit.  Logic would dictate that you don’t need to tell a parent in this situation.  In child protective situations, they already know the issues.  As the foster parent that will just need to be the move you make IF the time comes.

Don’t  listen only to or form an opinion solely based on other people’s opinions.  Depend first on your own personal knowledge of the original parent(s).  Your direct experience.  Give this parent who has already suffered the worst possible loss a chance to redeem themselves.  People change.  People learn from mistakes.  It is terrible to be stuck into a permanent box over temporary behavior that was so very wrong – admittedly.  This is not to be in denial of danger or to reject out of hand what you’ve been told but balance that with what you experience for yourself.  Forewarned but NOT pre-judgmental.

Get away from the governmental system as much as possible.  Try navigating the first family relationships organically and as naturally as possible.  If possible, make contact with other extended first family members.  Extended family – aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents – can be absolute gold in a foster child’s life.

Realize that child protective services and social workers may not be motivated to assist you.  You may have to find the extended family yourself.  You can try searching on Facebook and reaching out to them privately and directly.  It would be a rare case that someone in the child’s genetic extended family didn’t want anything to do with these kids.  There would likely be someone who would love to be in their life and has been prevented with obstacles put in the way.

I want to be clear that I have never been a foster child or adopted, I have never been a foster parent or an adoptive parent and I have never been a biological/genetic parent who had my rights terminated.  I have been intensely educating my own self for 2-1/2 years (even since I began to learn the stories behind all of the adoptions in my own biological/genetic family).  I work very hard to gain an accurate understanding by considering and listening to ALL of the related voices and perspectives.  My desire is to be as balanced as possible, when I write blogs here.

You Can Start Over

There is not much a child can do about the circumstances of having been adopted.  When a adoptee matures into adulthood, there is a chance to reframe the experience, to find ways to make the unique experiences that an adoptee goes through – a strength.

There is not a universal agreement that adoption harms the self-esteem of adoptees.  Studies seem to indicate it does not but adoptees will often highlight the ways that it did harm their own self-esteem.  I trust the adoptee’s perception over that of a researcher.

Without a doubt, an adoptee suffers the loss of their natural family connection.  This impacts the development of their identity.  Often, as an adoptee matures they have an understandable interest in their true genetic information.

Compared to a true orphan who cannot regain the physical presence of their original parents, an adoptee will have a sense that out there somewhere are the people who are related to them genetically.  It is like missing a limb that one knows should be there.  There will always be an uncertainty and often a level of grief or anger over a situation the adoptee did not create.  There is often a fear that if the adoptee does not live up to the expectations of the adoptive parents they could be rejected, abandoned or sent back to some place that is not a home.

In every person’s life there are emotionally charged milestones – marriage, the birth of a child, or the death of a parent – when the unique issues of having been adopted are more keenly felt.  In fact, it is often in giving birth to their own children, that an adoptee begins to really want to seek their origin information and if possible, experience a reunion with the people they were taken away from.

It is not possible to undo a life that has always been informed by having been an adopted person.  It is possible to seek a perspective that empowers rather than victimizes the adoptee.  An adoptee can seek to take control over their life and it’s further direction, something most of them lacked (control) in their childhoods.