Welcome Them Home: How Can Resource Parents Support their Biological Children Through the Journey of Foster Care

By Daniela Coats

When I was around 7 years old, my parents began the journey to become resource parents.
Though I had two younger biological brothers, my parents felt we could help children in foster
care by welcoming them into our family. In the days, weeks, months and years that followed, I
learned about trauma and began to truly understand our family’s reason for fostering. I caught
the vision. I knew the “why.”

Even though I was only 7 years old, my parents welcomed my input. We had conversations
about the ages and genders of kids we wanted to welcome into our home. We talked about
sleeping arrangements and other logistical changes that would happen. I had recently moved
into my own room, but now I’d share it once again — this time with strangers!

I specifically remember being a part of the home study interviews. Though I do not know why it
has stuck with me over the years, when asked by the home study interviewer how I felt about
kids joining our family, I told them I was “anxious for them to get here.” The irony is that I did not
really know what the word “anxious” meant.

I thought it was an effective way to say I was “ready” and “excited” for them to join our family.
The reality is, it ended up being somewhat a foreshadow of the things to come.

When the first group of kids joined our family, I was excited — we all were. We had dreams and
ideas of what it would be like when additional kids joined our family. We imagined doing all the
things we already loved doing together. We dreamt of fun family nights, playing games and
laughing together. Really, things ended up being much, much harder than any of us expected —
even my parents. My parents had not been equipped with the tools they needed to parent
children by both birth and foster care/adoption.

The excitement from friends and family on the outside, matched the original excitement we had
all felt collectively as a family. Everyone wanted to greet the new kids who joined our family.

They wanted to make sure they felt loved and welcome. This might sound like a wonderful thing
that our community wrapped around our family in this way, except as a birth kid in the family, it
felt anything but wonderful. I went from being loved and cared for in our community, to suddenly
feeling invisible.

Suddenly, it felt as though nothing about me mattered, and as though people were only
interested in the new kids who had joined our family. I felt… replaced.

I was not feeling that same initial joy and excitement. One time, and only one time, I voiced my
feelings to a close family friend. I was reprimanded, and they talked to my parents about it. One
time, I voiced these challenges to one of my parents and I was scolded. This parent later
acknowledged that this was a point of regret for them.

They were able to reflect on the fact that their reaction to my expression of emotions was due to
their having similar emotions they resented in themselves. They were unable to accept my
emotions at the time, because they could not accept the same emotions in themselves.

I learned at an early age that it was not safe to be honest about my experiences. People
seemed only interested in hearing the good, and were unwilling to consider that there may be
more to the situation.

Things were hard and I needed people who understood. I desperately needed a community of
people who “got it.” I needed people who understood what my life was like.

It’s been around 20 years since the situation I described above. I am now an adult and a
licensed master social worker (LMSW) in Texas. I am passionate about improving the
experiences of birth children in foster and adoptive families and currently work as a therapist
under supervision for birth children and teens in both individual and group therapy.

I am providing services that I so desperately needed as a child. I also founded an organization,
With Siblings, dedicated to equipping parents and professionals with training and resources to
support birth kids in foster and adoptive families. I am also a mother to six children — four by
adoption, and two by birth. My experiences as a child impacted my life in dramatic ways. The
first few years of fostering were especially challenging and painful. The road to healing was slow
and difficult.

Yet today, I am thankful. Though I wish things could have been different for me as a birth kid in a
foster family, I cannot wish away something that so significantly contributed to the person I am


It is so important that parents explain to kids the “why” behind their family’s reason for fostering
or adopting. Understanding and being on-board with fostering or adopting can help birth kids
cope with the changes and challenges ahead.

If your family hasn’t yet begun the journey of foster care, now is the time to have those
conversations with your birth children. Help them to catch the vision for your family’s heart to
foster or adopt.

Though this conversation is ideally started at the beginning of a family’s foster care journey, it is
vital that parents continue communicating with their birth children. It is never too late to improve
communication with our children.

There will be many decisions to be made along the journey of foster care. As much as possible,
birth kids should be given a voice in those decisions. Questions parents may consider with their
birth kids include:
. “Should we accept another child into our home?”
. “What boundaries or rules might need to change?”
. “Should we welcome only older/younger children this time?”
. “Do we need to take a longer break?”

There is a great gap in services provided to parents in anticipating the additional, unique
challenges that may come with parenting what is essentially a blended family.

Now a professional in the field of social work, I have developed multiple trainings to help parents
and professionals to better understand the experiences of birth kids, as well as support their
children throughout the journey.

I have essentially created resources that I wish my parents had had access to. Parents crave
information on navigating foster care with birth kids too.

I recognize that my parents were navigating a challenging situation. Resource parents
experience all the same emotions as other humans — anger, disappointment, joy, grief,
resentment, excitement and shock.

It can be hard, as parents, to accept certain emotions within ourselves. If we are not doing the
hard work of accepting and addressing our own feelings, it may eventually get in the way of us
being able to meet the emotional needs of our children.

Your birth kids need to know that their true, honest feelings are safe with you. There is no
relationship more important to your child than their relationship with you. They need you to be
able and willing to hear their true, honest feelings, without judgment.

Not only do birth kids need to know that their feelings are safe with their parents, but also with
peers. Birth kids are not often connected to a community of people who “get it.” Though
resource parents sometimes have support groups available to them, birth kids rarely do.

As a birth kid, I would have greatly benefitted from knowing others who truly understood my
experiences. I would have benefitted from knowing that I wasn’t alone and relating to someone
who understood and could hear me without judging me.

It can be challenging to find a ready-made group of peers for your birth kids. There are very few
support groups designed with birth kids in mind.

The easiest way to provide this community for your birth kids is by intentionally getting to know
other foster families who also have kids by birth. Creating a community of people who “get it” for
your birth kids may take significant effort, but it also has the potential to greatly improve their

You are your birth child’s greatest advocate. If you feel your birth child needs further support,
reach out to a professional near you. •

Daniela Coats has spent most of her career working in foster care and adoption. She is
currently a therapist at Be Still Counseling and Consulting in Texas. She has developed
trainings and resources for parents and professionals through With Siblings
(www.withsiblings.org). Coats is a licensed master social worker (LMSW) in Texas, and is
currently under the supervision of Suisan Walker, LCSW-S. She is passionate about serving the
entire foster family, including birth children. She is a self-identified “birth kid.” Her parents
fostered when she was a child, and eventually adopted her youngest sibling. Now, Coats and
her husband have six children by both birth and adoption.