Asked & Answered: Navigating Relationships with Biological Family

All responses taken from our Facebook groups: Foster Parenting Toolbox and Kinship Parenting Group.

Many foster, adoptive and kinship caregivers struggle with developing and maintaining healthy relationships with a child’s biological parents. We asked current foster, adoptive and kinship caregivers how they approach these relationships. Here’s what they had to say: 

“I remind myself over and over, that it’s not my relationship, it’s theirs. Before adoption, I followed what the CW said, and held the boundaries. I never lied to my kids, just chose my words appropriately for their age. After our adoption, I have more leeway, so when the bio family reaches out, I always reply, and send pictures at my convenience. I let the kids know when I hear from them, and then follow their lead.”

“Try to keep yourself out of them as much as possible. Allow the parent to contact the child directly. Don’t be a go between. If you put yourself in the middle you can’t win, you’ll be the bad guy to both. If the parent calls you, redirect it, give the phone to the child.”

“It’s not about healthy relationships as that needs to be a two-way street, however I believe it’s about having solid boundaries in place and understanding your own emotional responses and triggers.”

“We pushed for one-on-one counseling with mom while mom is in a long-term rehab. There are so many angry feelings it’ll be good for them to get those feelings out with a professional to help navigate them. Right now the relationship is very damaged. I hope in time it’ll be OK again.”

“Both our bios relinquished rights so we could adopt. So it’s been a much ‘happier’ situation since they made that hard decision. But we do holidays together and I babysit their other child occasionally so siblings can spend time together. It’s a tricky situation, but we are taking it day by day.”

“This is my opinion… is the relationship safe for the child? There’s many instances that are not. If it is safe for the child and you’re looking for the bio parent(s) to be involved please remember you can not push them to want a relationship, therefore there can be heartache for the child. For example the bio parent(s) continue to cancel the visit, the child again depending on age will wait for them to show up, and they don’t. That takes a mental toll on a child because they don’t understand why the bios are not showing up. If the bios want a relationship with the child but don’t know how to do that… Again, depending on the child’s age – have family games which involve the bios and the child together – invite bios to the park for a stroll – find activities that both the child and bios like to do. This might help break that ice.”

“I have emails specifically for each child. Parents can write, child answers if they choose to. I send pictures etc. We have recently just started video chats.”

“We allow open contact with grandparents and visit regularly. When safety is not a concern parents can visit regularly and we go to where they are most comfortable. When safety is an issue we have a P.O. Box setup for the parent and child to write. With agency permission we allow visits with family and supervise visits outside of the agency. Older children can video a chat and call parents also.”

Want to be part of the next discussion? Join one of our groups.

Watch the recording from our recent webinar, Tough Conversations: Navigating Relationships with Biological Family.