Reach With Them: One Foster Mom’s Story of Open Adoption
November is National Adoption Month. To kick off this year’s campaign of awareness, we are delighted to share one foster mom’s personal perspective on open adoption with her children’s birth family.
Through learning how to co-parent as a foster mom and going on to craft an open adoption after finalization, she’s learning how to reach out with her children to their birth parents. We are thankful for B’s willingness to share her experiences in today’s guest post.
My Dream. Her Nightmare.
In her own girlhood dreams, she never hoped to have children only to lose them to a system or a stranger. After hours of painful labor and delivery, my child’s mama didn’t hold her son only to choose to abandon him. She was there when he took his first breath, and she carries him in her heart. She is even now, loving him from afar. I know this to be true. My heart breaks as I know she silently screams the cries of her heart that are too deep for words, hoping someone… anyone hears her.
Since my teenage years, I have known deep down that I would adopt one day. Even when I birthed my first 3 children, I knew that somewhere out there, little ones already born would capture my heart and gain my last name. My desire to be a mama was stronger than any other passion in life. Every part of me knew that I was to lead a life of love, putting aside other endeavors to parent. It was who I was created to be.
I was in court the day that her rights were terminated. I heard the heaving sobs that came as the judge smacked the gavel. My heart was twisted as I learned in her loss, I was gaining 2 beautiful children. One of my biggest dreams was achieved. Her worst nightmare was coming true. How could I reconcile this tug of war going on in my mind?
Remember this guest post? It was written by the husband of today's guest poster.
Putting Aside Our Fears.
One day after finalization, I texted to ask her out to lunch. Just the two of us. When we met, we hugged. We were both nervous. She was scared of my judgment for all the “terrible” things she had done. I was afraid of what she may say or do. Yet, somehow, we both laid aside preconceived ideas of one another, and we listened instead. She shared some of her life. I told her about mine. She fondly told her birth stories. I gave an update on what her daughter had been up to lately. A few hours flew by. When we parted, it was with a promise to see each other again.
A month later, over a plate of fries, we talked about her possible jail sentence and fight with substance abuse. I brought pictures and tales of her son and his endless obsession with bugs. We cried together — worried about the unknowns. We giggled with lingering tears in our eyes over our 3-year-old’s sassiness.
Building Our Open Adoption Slowly.
Text messages came more frequently. I responded with pictures and notes about what the kids were doing. There were more visits, just her and I. Until finally, one day, I asked her, “are you ready to see the kids again?”
By now, we referred to the kids as “ours.” She knew she couldn’t raise them, and yet she was and will always be “Mom” to them. I knew that I was to parent them – to be there, morning, noon, and night. We found comfort in one another – believing and hoping we could both be the mothers they need.
If she could rewrite history, I am sure she would make a slew of different choices. I can’t say the same for myself. I have found that as I continue on the journey of working with vulnerable children, my heart has only grown. My heart’s desires don’t stop at just reaching the children in our home now. Instead, I now want to reach with them to their families of origin.
How Do I Get Started?
Not sure about open adoption? Wondering how to reach out to your child’s biological families? Are you a foster parent, just learning how to co-parent? Here are a few suggestions from my own experiences on this journey:
- Be honest about your concerns, pre-conceived notions, and perceived obstacles with yourself and your spouse.
- Write to your child’s bio family first. Briefly introduce yourself and your family dynamics. Ask how you can help in this situation. Above all else, be respectful and honor them with your words and actions.
- Get to know the bio family without the kids. This can happen via text, email, phone calls, and eventually meeting for coffee, etc. If you meet with them – choose a public place, during the day. Designate a beginning and an ending time. If you are unsure of the safety issues of meeting in person, be sure someone knows where you are going.
- Have a healthy balance of believing their stories and knowing that they very well may lie. Try hard to not take it personally. Remember that most biological families are struggling with their situations. They may also be afraid of the power you hold in this relationship.
- Consider waiting until you both feel secure enough in the relationship between you as parents before you begin the process of reintroducing the kids.
- Set reasonable parameters. Again, if you meet, choose a public venue. Have a beginning and end time. Talk with the bio family about boundaries beforehand, without the kids around to distract the conversation. Topics you can consider including would be: limits for gifts, speak kindly of others in the relationship, bathroom or other similar safety issues, and so on.
- Establish some regular times for your get-togethers, like birthday breakfasts, summer park and ice cream visits, and Christmas lunches.
- Continually work on building relationships with each other and with the children one slow step at a time. Keep the focus that healthy relationships ebb and flow and take time to grow well.
Thank you, B, for sharing your experiences to help de-mystify both co-parenting and open adoption.
Every November, we link arms with adoption advocacy organizations like the Child Welfare Information Gateway and Adopt US Kids to raise awareness of the many children across the United States waiting for a forever family. These children need, no — they deserve, permanency. Head to their sites to see what you can do to get started!
Image Credit: McBeth