To Separate Or Not

An interesting question from an adoptive parent showed up today – two children had to be removed from their natural parents. They have the same mother but different fathers. Each father has a sister willing to care for both kids until they can be returned to their parents. Is it better to keep the children together with one aunt ? In that case, one child will be related to the aunt caring for them but the other not – biologically. Or is it better to separate the children, in order to prioritize having each child be cared for by an aunt who they are biologically related to ?

Under these unfortunate and traumatic circumstances, is it better to be in the same home with your sibling, if you are being cared for by your sibling’s aunt (who is not biologically related to you) ? Or is it better to be in a separate home from your sibling, so that both of you are cared for by an aunt you are biologically related to, even if it means not living with your sibling ?

The originator of these question is one of the aunts. If placed with her, the toddlers will also be placed with their two older brothers. This she feels is an important aspect for all 4 of the kids. She does not want the kids separated but she does not know if being cared for by an only indirectly related adult matters, if that keeps the siblings together. She notes that their goal is reunification. The other aunt and this woman do not live near each other. If they are separated, their sibling contact will not be as often as might be desirable. Either aunt relocating is not an option. These kids are toddlers, so not old enough to establish their opinion. Their parents have not expressed a preference in this situation.

A response from a domestic infant adoptee – If the siblings get along, keep them together. Make sure they have opportunities to spend time with other family members as well. These siblings staying together should be your top priority.

Another adoptee shared – this actually happened to my nieces and they both ended up with the oldest one’s aunt and it worked well for them. I think it’s best to keep siblings together whenever possible UNLESS the relative would treat the non-biological child differently or keep them from seeing their family.

A former foster parent notes – in my experience it was best to keep siblings together. Sometimes the county would split up siblings and it was so hard for the kids to understand why they can’t be together. They missed each other. Are the toddlers more familiar with one of you, than the other ? They should go to the one they are most familiar with-in my opinion. (Response was that they are familiar with both aunts equally.) They are already being ripped from their home, their parents and everything they know (even if it wasn’t ideal, it was still what they know), so please don’t take them from each other.

A former foster care youth says – from experience, sibling separation is torture on top of trauma. Siblings are truly the only ones who are going through the same situation and having that support is invaluable. They can visit the other aunt.

Another adoptive parent to foster care siblings suggests – is it possible to do a shared custody – one aunt becomes primary home and the other aunt has lots of phone calls, takes care of the kids for long weekends, helps if there is an emergency, is a place that kids also know well as their extended family.

Another affirmed – I grew up in this exact situation, but it was my grandmothers. I am thankful for their supportive friendship that gave me stability. Always welcome at either house, open communication, always invited to things. At least once a week in Elementary School, my brother and I would get picked up by the grandma we didn’t live with, would have dinner at her house, she took me to dance class, I spent weekends and breaks with her. One took guardianship of me as a teen, so that she could make medical appointments for me since I lived with her. Absolutely a great solution.

The one who originally posed the questions confirmed – this is currently how we live. I’m one of the aunts and I have the toddlers’ two older siblings and what you describe is the relationship that we have with their immediate and extended family. The other aunt will be part of this village, without a doubt.

Lament and Repentance

From an adoptive parent’s perspective –

We became foster parents to “help the whole family” and adopted our son (met him at 5 weeks in the NICU, brought him home at 6 weeks, adopted him at 2 years). He was our 8th placement- some families we were able to be helpful towards more than others, I can see my failures or ignorance too.

We have kept a private Facebook page to keep biological parents updated with pictures and an ability to message. Some family members have a recent relationship with our son, and I feel like we have all gained family. BUT, the biological parents aren’t safe (actively using drugs).

I hear you adoptee’s. I hear how you hate adoption. I hear your lack of control, choice, autonomy. Hating that your name was changed, lost culture, lost history, lack of belonging, desire for real change in the system and legislation. I hear you. Your feelings are valid and real. Thank you for sharing with us and allowing us to learn and gain understanding and mourn with you.

As an adoptive parent, I sit in lament and repentance – over my ignorance (even after lots of books and trainings), my savior/rescuer habits and mentality, my selfishness and self centered ness. And I’m just sad with you, and sad with my child.

My question…What were things said to you/done/moments of clarity or understanding that helped you bond and attach to your adoptive parents? I understand it’s a journey and a process, but I still want emotional health and intelligence for my teen.

PS – have been in therapy with an adoption specialist for 3 years.

From an adoptee in response –

Do you have any idea how hard it is to love yourself as an adoptee ? F*** your bonding. Kids will bond to others when their brain says it’s safe. And some don’t at all. At the end of the day, the child may never naturally attach to you but that isn’t saying they won’t naturally attach to others. Trying to have those children identify non-biologicals as being the traditional family roles, when they do not actually fit (mom, dad, etc) is not helping make the kids feel like part of your family. It’s an attempt to replace the family they already have. It’s easier for you but it’s harmful for them. Look into support groups for kids of addicts. Keep learning more about active addiction and what is a threat and what is not. Actively support and promote a bond with the original parents, while teaching your adoptee boundaries and healthy coping.

Religion While in Foster Care

Thoughts on foster parents incorporating religion into the kids lives. At what age should they be given the choice to attend religious service with the foster parents ? Asking because (not the blog writer but from the original post) – I have an acquaintance fostering who is heavily involved in their congregation and really wants to have the kids in their care also be involved at least to the extent of attending service on Sunday’s.

One response – If their families of origin are not religious, no. It’s wrong to impose religion on that child without their birth family’s consent. Sunday makes the perfect time for visitation with their family.

Another – it really depends on the situation. Both my husband and I are church goers. Our younger kids come with us, but part of that is because that is also their family’s preference. We made sure to talk to their family before we brought them with us. Our older kids do not have to come. We had one who suffered religious abuse and chose not to come. We try to be very respectful of their beliefs. The only thing we have refused is when they ask to be baptized because they want to be dipped in water but they don’t actually believe in God or go to church. We did say at that point baptism would not be appropriate. You have to work with a child and family. We do not hide our religion but we do not require participation. If we had younger kids who absolutely could not attend services – my husband and I would alternate.

Then, this advice – your friend needs to ask her caseworker about this because there actually might be legal guidelines around it. If the child is 0-9, then their parents should choose religious activity (or none at all) and 10-18 should make the choice for themselves (without coercion, which is easier said than done.)

In response –  if family of origin chooses something different/nothing at all, is there a respite or option so that the foster family can continue to worship? I know the point is that it’s about the kids and not the family, but I know that some individuals find strength from being able to worship. It might be worth considering that this could be a learning opportunity for foster parents, if their religion or denomination differs. Personally, I enjoy seeing how each service was a bit different.

(blogger’s note – as a child we were allowed, even encouraged to experience a variety of religions – therefore, when I need to go to a church (rarely) I am always comfortable there.)

Some options:

-If a 2 parent household, parents go to services at different times or switch off weeks so one is home with the child;

-Hire a babysitter during worship activities;

-Express to the caseworker that they only want to be placed with children / families who are open to their church attendance;

-If the church has a nursery that doesn’t teach about religion but just provides childcare (maybe the option for the 0-2 crowd?) that may be an option to ask caseworker. Note – I’m not sure if that type of childcare is allowed for foster children as I never fostered a child under 8 and I do not attend a church.

Another person writes – A child should be given a choice and not be made or coerced in participating in religious activities they are not comfortable with. Furthermore, if the child’s family religious beliefs differ from that of the foster parents, it is the foster parents responsibility to facilitate attendance for the child to the church of their choice and assist in helping the child follow various practices of their faith (such as no pork, kosher dishes – these are just examples). If a child says they don’t want to attend the foster family’s church, they should not be made to attend and other arrangements will need to be made for child care, so that they don’t have to go.

From a former foster care youth – I was made to attend church and sermons, and abide by religious rules: it’s abuse of their power plain and simple. That’s not the foster parents place and it should be clear that it’s not, but then, again proselytizing is a hell of a drug.

One with experiences writes – So our oldest was placed with us at age 16. She wasn’t allowed to have any alone time (per Child and Family Services – CFS) for the first few months after she was placed with us. At the time, my husband was a youth pastor and I was heavily involved in youth group. Our daughter didn’t have a choice of whether to attend, but always had the choice of whether to participate. If we were both at the church building, then she was as well, but was allowed to hang out in one of the back youth rooms on her own during service/youth group if she wanted, or she could come be in service/youth group with us. As soon as CFS said she was allowed to have time at home alone, she was given the option of being there. She opted out of Sundays but kept up with youth group for a while, until she stopped attending that as well. We never pushed, though had lots of conversations at home about where we were spiritually, just to make sure we understood our daughter. Our younger foster son (age 3) has participated in various fun things, but we’ve since left the church we were at and don’t have any real intention of finding another one any time soon.

That experience shared – you should be honoring the faith of your child’s origin family, always. If you are a Christian and have a Muslim child placed with you, you should be giving them everything they need to practice. If the foster child wasn’t practicing anything, any and all religious activities should be cleared with the family of origin beforehand.

ALSO: if your pastor or religious leader is not supportive of your foster child practicing their own religion – or no religion – and pressures you go involve the foster child despite what the child/family wishes, find a new place to worship that is supportive of you supporting the biological family.

Another writes simply – You should continue whatever their family has established. Otherwise, its not your place to convert them. If that means you give up your church going, then that’s what you do.

From the wisdom of experience – As a parent who indoctrinated my children into Christianity gently and thoroughly from a young age (they are now teens) I recommend *not* doing it, even to your biological kids – unless it’s a matter of the child’s heritage. Consider this – 1) people should be allowed to choose their own belief system, 2) children are people, 3) all children are vulnerable to indoctrination, and 4) these are not your children.

In one foster care case, she notes – We had one placement that the mom attended church with us as well most Sundays.

Thinking About Adopting ?

A woman writes in my all things adoption group –

I’m not sure anyone cares about validation but I guess the administrators can decide. I just wanted to say thank you. I joined the group like many do, I was interested in adoption and really just putting a toe in the water. I waited my read only period. I went through the “wtf are these people talking about, anyone who adopts is a Saint”. Then I went through the “uh oh, is everything I know about the world even right?” Then I went through trying to explain this to my husband which didn’t go well. I’m getting ready to leave the group. Adoption is completely off the table and I’ve set up time to volunteer at my local teen pregnancy center.

Being a human is a wild thing. Thanks for being vulnerable and doing emotional labor. You really are impacting the world.

Edited to Add: I’ll gladly stay! I hadn’t thought about it but would be happy to stay and help where I can.

She was not the only one, soon others were chiming in. The one below was NOT the only one to express similar sentiments. This is also why I write this blog because I can reach others not in such a group or with such aspirations but who are uninformed about adoption trauma.

I was a Former Hopeful Foster-Adoptive Parent because of white saviorism. This group opened my eyes on so many fronts – I honestly feel like I see the whole world differently. I’ve learned so much about racism, classism, and ableism. The adoptees and former foster youth who share their stories are the smartest wisest people I’ve had the privilege of listening to. I am immensely thankful you allow people not in the triad to be transformed by this group. I have completely changed my behavior in the real world. I will never again speak about adoption as anything other than trauma. I talk to my friends also interested in foster care about why the child welfare system needs to be abolished and rebuilt, not changed from the inside bullshit. I can’t believe at one time I was willing to provide my home to a child in need but not the resources to their family so they could stay together. I find that incredibly effed up now. I am working on my CASA training so I can help get kids back home and prevent unnecessary adoption from foster care.

The Rev Keith C Griffiths (deceased adoption scholar and activist) quote exploded my brain: “Adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful.”

And Paul Sunderland’s theory about developmental trauma caused by a newborn being separated from their birth mother. The trauma of not growing up with genetic mirrors, not knowing one’s medical history or having legally falsified identity documents. I had no idea about these things because I had never centered adoptees’ experiences in my perspectives. This group has truly transformed my outlook on the world !

Adoption Is NOT Needed

Today’s story –

I’m tired of having to explain this to prospective adopters. Adoption is NOT needed to give a child a “good” life.

I am Latina, and in my culture, aunts and uncles as well as grandparents step up to help raise each other’s children. Even in cases where there is no poverty nor struggle. My parents were middle-class average Joe’s, yet my aunt and grandma still raised me. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I am not an adoptee nor mother but I am a foster parent. My job is to help reunite infants, toddlers, and grade schoolers with their natural families. I get a lot of hate from other foster parents and adoptive parents for saying this, but adoption simply isn’t necessary.

I became a close family friend to some of the families that I have helped to be reunited, and they are all doing so well. All they needed was a little bit of help. I will go as far as to hire a lawyer to fight family separation. I love these kids, and what’s best for them is to be with their own families. Imagine if we had a mentorship-type program where women helped struggling mothers parent their own child, instead of taking their child away from them. Friends don’t let friends give away their babies.

Also, that $30,000-60,0000 that is spent to adopt an infant would go a long way to helping these parents to keep and raise their own children. I have yet to see a mother who genuinely did not want her child, just a mother who is struggling or has low self-esteem. If that is the case, then build her up. No excuses why you cannot do this. In lots of cultures, like mine, everyone helps to raise each other’s kids without anyone taking them away their own parents and erasing their identity.

Trust – Easy to Break, Hard to Recover

Today’s Story –

We have kinship placement for our nephews. Their previous foster caregiver is court ordered (at her request to the social worker) that she receive a visit once a month and weekend visits are okay. The judge agreed to her request. I didn’t argue simply because they did live with her for 18 months, while the parents were trying to to complete their case plan for reunification. That did not happen and the case is in the midst of a termination of parental rights process.

We are now only in the third month after the placement. She texted me her 3 available weekends. After our monthly team meeting, I message her back that the second option would work best for us. She counters back that the fourth would work better for her, which coincidentally or not is also Thanksgiving weekend. Her reason is that this is the weekend her daughter comes home and I quote, she’d “really like to see them”.

I take some time to think about it. Although I sympathize, I say no. Then I’m met with hostility – like I’m being unreasonable. Not that she has said this directly. It is just my own feeling but regardless. My own reason is that I believe she wanted to keep the kids from us. I also believe that she lied to our faces about it. There is definitely mistrust between us.

I’m trying to be reasonable but frankly I’m over it. She isn’t family, we are. Her feelings of entitlement are boiling my blood. I’m considering filing to remove her weekend visit allowance. Do I have to wait until the termination of parental rights are final ? I have written an email to the social worker but have not sent it. I am struggling because although this current issue has been resolved and she agreed to my second option, I am concerned about her general behavior.

Comment from a foster parent – I would NEVER get a court order for visitation. That is up TO THEIR MOM. No one ripped the kids away from the foster family. They were placed with RELATIVES. Where they belong, if they can not be with their mom and dad.

Some questions – So she’s not family ? How is she still getting court ordered visits ? I’ve never heard of that. I sometimes see a transitional period, but never continued visits. If it was me, I would email the caseworker and just ask, how long will the visits continue ? If the plan is for them to end soon, I wouldn’t rock the boat. If they are going to continue long term, definitely hire an attorney.

In a similar case – The mom got her child back and the court gave the foster parent visits. Mind blowing. Like wtf is the point ? The children are back home. If the mom wants to keep the foster parent in the child’s life, then by all means, the mom can make that happen. But for this to be court ordered ? And for the foster parent to be demanding visits ?

Someone else complemented her restraint – I think you handled it well. I think something needs to be done, but I would be careful how you approach it. For whatever reason they still have some power in the situation and until tpr or reunification happens, they could retaliate. 

How To Open Communication

Life happens and then you scramble to make the best of the situation. Today’s story.

We were foster parents advocating for reunification with each placement. Knowing what we know now, we would find other ways to support family reunification. With our last placement, relatives were contacted weekly for months according to the social worker, but did not want to take placement of the child nor have any communication with us. Then, mom tragically passed away while fighting hard to regain custody of her child. We were told that if we didn’t want to pursue adoption, the child would be placed in additional foster homes until a permanent placement was found. We loved him so much and ultimately decided to adopt as we couldn’t imagine him bouncing from home to home until he found permanency. We know he clearly has living relatives including a half-sibling who he has never met at the aunt and uncle’s choosing. This half-sibling lives with them. We know our son would value these irreplaceable connections with family, but we as adoptive parents don’t know if it is our place to initiate them – especially since the aunt and uncle don’t seem to be interested in contact at this point. The social worker did provide us with their phone number and our contact information was given to them months ago. Do we reach out? Give the aunt and uncle space to come to us? Wait until our son is older and let him decide? Adoptees, what would you have wanted adoptive parents to do?

The first response came from an adoptee – Call them. Talk with them, verify the information you’ve been told, set up times to talk or see each other. Keep trying, even if they aren’t responsive. This child has already lost so much, he needs his family connections honored.

Some further information on this situation – we had been told by a third party not to contact them as they were very hurt by the situation with his mom and that they were not ready to have a relationship or contact. However, I have never personally spoken to the family, and agree that the foster care agency could have said one thing when the family actually said another. I would love for nothing more than my for my son to have these family connections and family mirrors. My biggest fear is that I don’t want to cause more pain or sever the relationship further if they indeed were not ready and I seem disrespectful for not following their wishes. I know they are on social media Maybe being honest and saying all that might be the best approach when initiating contact?

Another adoptee responds to this with – A third party told my biological dad’s family the same thing (biological dad died when I was a baby). They stayed away based on the fact that they knew they had no power and the information said third party had given them. My adoptive parents never reached out to them because the same third party had told them that my biological family didn’t care about me. I didn’t have them as family as a child (and honestly I STILL don’t have a real family relationship with them) as a result. Suffice to say, it has literally ruined that part of my life.

An adoptive parent shares – I had a very similar situation with my son. Child Protective Services case worker told me they contacted his siblings adoptive parent twice and that they wanted no contact. After my son’s adoption finalized, I just decided I had to reach out anyway – the adoptive parent on the other end started to cry when I told her who I am. She said she is so glad I found her number, and that all Child Protective Services had asked was whether they would be a placement resource! She had never told Child Protective Services that they didn’t want contact. The result? These two brothers have a close relationship and see each other several times a month, sometimes multiple times a week. Definitely call.

Bottom line – Until you hear it with your own ears (or see it with your eyes, etc), I would not trust what the system says someone else says.

Bridging A Detour

Still raising awareness about Foster Care issues.

A request for guidance or advice – my wife and I have 4 foster kids. We get along great with the biological mom and they’re actually going to be reunified in the next month which is a huge win.

The biological mother has come to us and told us she is pregnant again, this time with twins who are due in December. At 25 years old, she is doubting he can handle 6 kids. She is asking us to adopt the twins.

We said “yes” of course but are wondering now what ?

Differences of opinion – focusing on the biological mother’s motivation to reunify with her children. Being pregnant with twins and faced with a total of 6 children, could feel overwhelming. This coming from an adoption reform and family preservation perspective.

This person wanted to know what the barriers were for this biological mother to keep and raise ALL of her children.

Yet, the group where this occurred, is made up of hopeful adoptive parents who offered the usual pro-adoption narrative line – “She is making a loving choice.” They were more focused on offering advice related to pursuing the adoption.

I really liked this response –

Of course, she is overwhelmed. I’ve been there. At 28 years old, I have 6 kids. Yes, it was hard but we’ve made it work.

Another person reflected on why this story is disappointing.

The foster parents have been doing everything correctly with the biological mother and have been supporting the reunification of the foster care children with their original family.

One can understand the foster care parents believing that this person they care about, needs their help – by adopting these twins she hasn’t met yet.

And I agree with the suggesting that this expectant mother needs counseling before she choses a permanent solution which in the moment is a temporary situation because change truly is constant.

And here’s the suggested response to be truly supportive of this young mother – “It’s going to be hard but you can do this. How about we help with babysitting, meals, grocery pick up, we can watch them overnight a couple times a week so you can sleep.”

Increasingly Frequent

This is not the first story that I have read where a man didn’t know he was the father of a child until the court contacted him prior to allowing his biological/genetically related child to be adopted by strangers. And in fact, there are two instances of such fathers who didn’t know in my own family – my nephew who my sister lied about the responsible man and my dad, whose father was married not to my grandmother and since she simply handled it quietly herself, the man never knew.

However, in modern times now, there is a new push to make sure a father doesn’t want his child – even if the mother wants to relinquish. Hence, today’s story (comments in parentheses are my own) –

My foster daughter is 17 months old and we’ve had her since birth. Her biological mom signed away her rights. She said she’ll never be the mother our little one needs. She doesn’t want our daughter growing up in foster care.

Her biological mom wants her to be adopted by us. Her mom is 19 years old and is a former foster care youth who aged out of foster care. She knows we’re the best parents for our daughter (according to this foster mom who hopes to adopt). She made the selfless decision to put her child’s needs before her own.

Everything was going well until the courts said our little one’s biological dad showed up. The courts had to find the biological father. I don’t think this should be allowed. We were so close to adopting our daughter. I may be a little selfish here but I want him to sign away his rights so we can adopt.

(Note the possessiveness) This child is very much our child and we’re the only parents she knows. Losing her would be traumatic. Her biological dad didn’t know he had child until he was contacted. If you don’t know you have a child, then you shouldn’t get custody of the child. (What kind of argument is that ? Self-serving ?)

The only dad our daughter knows is my husband. She calls him daddy. He IS her daddy. We might lose our daughter to a man who is being selfish. Just because he shares DNA with our girl. Why can’t her biological dad see our daughter is settled and better off with us ?

Her dad works at Burger King. That’s not a real job to raise a child. Her biological dad can’t even take care of himself. Who will help him raise our daughter ? It’s selfish for her dad to fight for our child, instead of doing the right thing and signing away his rights (from this foster mother’s perspective of course). He’s putting his needs above hers.

How can we get her biological dad to see our daughter is bonded to us ? How can we get him to see the trauma of removing our daughter from the only home she knows ? How can we get him to see being a father isn’t in DNA ? DNA is overrated. (Of course, the genetics are over-rated to people who don’t share them with the child they want to possess.) Our daughter could care less about DNA. (Of course, she is ONLY 17 months old !!)

She knows who her daddy is. It’s not the man who’s biologically related to her. We hired a lawyer but the lawyer said he can’t do anything for us. I’m heartbroken. I’ll never recover losing my daughter to a man she has never met and didn’t know she existed.

Laws need to change to put the child first. If the biological dad doesn’t know he has a child, then he shouldn’t be contacted. DNA is overrated and isn’t the child’s best interests. Our daughter is bonded to us. Our daughter calls us mommy and daddy. We are mommy and daddy. Her biological dad will never be the daddy she needs (in the foster mother’s opinion of course). I don’t believe her biological dad understands what our daughter needs.

If we lose our daughter she’ll lose me as her mommy. She’s very bonded to us. We are her family. Every child needs a mommy and daddy to love them.

Please pray her biological dad backs off and signs away his rights. Please pray for the best interests of our child. Please pray reunification isn’t successful with her biological dad. Please pray for us. Pray for our daughter. We can’t lose our daughter. Our girl was born to be with us. God placed her with us for a reason. God knew she was our daughter. We were meant to be her mommy and daddy. Now the devil is trying to work his way in. Please pray hard for our family (and for reunification to fail ?)

(Note – it is common for God and religion to be used as a justification for tearing the natural family apart. This girl is young and she can make the adjustment. Also note the superiority and entitlement this woman expresses.  The dad will probably NOT work at Burger King all his life but there probably are dads raising their own kids who do.)

Using Bio in Reference to Family

When one spends time within the larger adoption community (this includes original family, adoptees and former foster youth as well as adoptive and foster parents) the precise use of language sometimes becomes an issue. For my own self, I am entirely willing to learn to use the most appropriate language while giving a large tolerance to the words anyone else uses because we are all doing our best to improve and reform circumstances that have historically not been in the best interests of the child who ends up adopted or in foster care. That is really the most important issue – the well-being of our children overall.

Some of the adoptees or former foster youth have had reunions with their original family that have not gone well at all, only heaping more heartbreak and rejection on already wounded souls. Some had really crappy experiences with their adoptive or foster care families. Life can be incredibly hard at times for a lot of people. I try to always remember that and I too fail to be compassionate and sympathetic enough at times. We all do. Rather than beat ourselves up over our mistakes in judgement and actions, we really can only try to do better in the next instant – every instant after every instant. Life is for evolving ourselves and through our efforts to make ourselves a better human being overall, we evolve our families, our communities, our countries and our planet. It is an on-going process that never ends.

Whatever we call our parents, it can only be whatever feels right to each of us personally. I think every one of my own children has called me by my familiar first name of Debbie at some time or other and it has never truly bothered me. It does get complicated when adoption is in one’s family history. I called my mom’s adoptive parents – Grandmother D and Grandfather D – they were very formal people. I called my dad’s adoptive parents – Granny and Granddaddy. They were very humble, salt of the earth kinds of people.

When I learned who my parents actual original parents were – in my heart, they did take the place of my adoptive grandparents because they are truly the genetic, biological ones. However, I never use a “grandparent” identifier with them. It is their names that I use – Lizzie Lou, JC, Delores and Rasmus (though he preferred Martin, I like the more Danish version personally). So though, when I think of grandparents now (having only learned of them after the age of 60, after they were long deceased and I will never know them but second hand through other descendants of theirs), I think of the original ones but I never use the childhood identifiers for them.

There has long been a raging controversy over the use of the word “birth” to denote the parents who conceived and birthed children who were later surrendered either voluntarily or involuntarily (forcefully taken). Here is one perspective on that issue –

I personally loathe the term ‘birth mother’ and prefer ‘bio’ to differentiate between adoptive parents and family I’m related to by biology. I don’t understand why Lee Campbell (founder of Concerned United Birthparents) insists that ‘birth’ is not offensive but ‘bio’ is. Biology denotes DNA; genetically unrelated surrogates can give birth, so it’s not an inclusive term, as far as I can see. Anyway, as an adoptee—the only person among ANY of my family who had NO CHOICE—I’ll use whatever term I please. I adore my maternal biological family, including my late momma, whom I didn’t get to know past infancy. I feel far more connected to her than I ever did to my adoptive mother. I have three living maternal uncles and we are CRAZY about each other. We don’t use qualifiers referring to each other, but in cases when clarification is needed, I specify with ‘bio’.

Some of the push related to language was actually influenced by the adoptive parents when the whole industry was going through radical change in the 1970s. Social workers started to push positive adoption language. You had adoptive families complaining about the previous terms: they didn’t like natural mother because then they were unnatural. They didn’t like real because that made them unreal.

Many original mothers and their offspring do dislike the term “birth” because a woman who has given birth to a child is much more than just a woman who gave birth. There is a bond formed in the womb and all the conditions and circumstances that occur during gestation that will forever be a part of any human being and of course, there is the genetics as well.

Here is another perspective from a former foster youth who has adopted a child out of foster care – I always refer to my own parents as my biological parents. I honestly don’t have much relationship with either of my parents. I have learned through the years they are truly incapable of having a safe parent/child relationship. And honestly they are simply my biology. Nothing more. As an adoptive parent, I have learned and respect my daughter’s mom and family and refer to her mom when speaking to her as simply – her mom. In posts on the internet I try to always use first family. I will add that I only use first family in areas of the internet when needing to differentiate. In real life, it is simply family, mom, dad, grandmother, etc and no one has ever been confused over whether I was talking about adoptive or her first family.

Another one added – I call my son’s Mom, his Mom. His first family, his family. I can’t handle the terms that make the moms less than.

I totally agree.

And many of these women really don’t like “tummy mom.”

There is also another kind of family where the adoptive parent is actually “kin” related to the adoptee. I know one of these kinds of situations rather well. So one who is a former foster youth wrote –

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I will call my bio parents whatever I want. They are not my “real” parents, because neither of them raised me. It is incredibly offensive when people ask “your adoptive (kinship) mom, or your real mom?” No. My kinship mom IS my
“real” mom. Our relationship is far from perfect. My raising was far from perfect. But she’s the only person who I’ve ever felt comfortable enough regarding our relationship to call “mom”, and I’ll continue to do so.  I hate the phrase “real mom.” My mom is my mom.  Period.

In my own case, my biological, genetically related daughter was not raised by me after the age of 3. She ended up being raised by her dad and step-mother.  My daughter considers my ex-husband’s wife her mom. I accept that. I carry enough conflicted emotions for not raising her – regardless of the reasons that came to pass. But I do acknowledge that her step-mother was the one that was there when my daughter was sick, in trouble or needed a compassionate heart to listen to whatever. I do have a decently good adult relationship with my daughter. I am grateful for that much.