Someone asked recently if it bothered me when our adopted son calls his birth mother “mom.” I confidently answered that it does not bother me. However, this was not always the case.
When we started our journey to becoming foster parents, we were scared of our foster son’s birth family. Shay, our little guy, was placed with us when he was 2 days old. We were lucky enough to adopt him shortly after his second birthday. What exactly we were scared of, I don’t know. Maybe we were scared of losing Shay, whom we loved so deeply, being taken advantage of, being hated or not being good enough. I will always remember the first time I met his birth mother; I so desperately wanted her to know we could take care of him and would love and cherish him.
In hindsight, we were thinking about ourselves and not Shay or his birth family.
Communicating with Shay’s birth family
Working with Shay’s birth family was really bumpy for a couple of years. We did not agree on much of anything. After we adopted Shay, we did not see his birth family for several years. Our communication was poor and hurtful, not healthy for anyone. When we were going through the termination of parental rights (TPR) process, we stated we would be open to communication with his birth family if it was positive for all parties. Since it was harmful, we made the tough decision to stop all visits and communication.
Two years ago, we started talking with Shay’s birth mother again. We would send pictures and give her updates about him. During the first year, we all learned how to talk to each other and eventually developed mutual respect. About a year ago, we started seeing her in the community for visits, something we swore we would never do.
Now we have a strong relationship with his birth mother. Shay sees his mom about once a month in the community. He enjoys spending time with her and we love the connection he is developing with her. His birth mother still gets to see him and be a part of his life. As adoptive parents, this relationship gives us many things, including access to Shay’s family history. When Shay was 3, he was diagnosed with a heart murmur and we were asked a lot of questions about family cardiac history that we couldn’t answer. Now we can answer those questions — this is a gift of foster care. Shay gets to know he is loved by both his birth family and his forever family.
This relationship did not happen overnight. Working with Shay’s birth family has been a roller coaster. There have been times where it goes really well and other times it is much more challenging, but we’ve all worked really hard. We have learned how to keep his needs in the forefront of our relationship. After all, we share our love for Shay, who is the center of our worlds.
– Abigail Collier, licensed foster parent
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Community Services recruits, trains and provides support services for foster families. The need for foster parents in Wisconsin is great. Contact us to receive information about becoming a foster or adoptive parent, or visit our website to learn more.