Maintaining Contact with Biological Family After Foster Adoption

May is National Foster Care Month. Throughout the month, we’ll be sharing articles and information highlighting foster care and foster adoption. Today, learn more about maintaining openness after an adoption from foster care.

Your child is in a new environment, and they finally have a permanent home — but now it’s possible that they’re ready to maintain a relationship with their biological parents or other family members. If so, you may be concerned about the best ways for doing so as a new parent in a foster adoption. If you’re on the fence about maintaining a relationship with your child’s biological relatives, here is what you should know about open adoption after adopting from foster care.

What to Know About Open and Semi‐Open Adoptions

While closed adoptions used to be the norm, most modern adoptions have some degree of openness. Although this is more common in a domestic infant adoption, it is still possible if you’re adopting a child from foster care. Open and semi‐open adoptions help children form a better sense of self and identity. If they’re able maintain a relationship with their birth parents or siblings and other relatives, they can ask any questions about their history that they might not have known otherwise.

Although you may be wary at first, and open adoption from foster care isn’t right in every situation, the most important thing to remember when it comes to an open adoption is that educating yourself goes a long way. Ask plenty of questions about what it’s like to have an open adoption from other foster parents, as well as your options for creating a healthy ongoing relationship. Because no two open adoptions are every the same, you can make a plan that fits your unique situation.

Tips for Maintaining a Relationship

Your relationship with your child’s biological family is important, and you might be worried about the best way to handle your future interactions. To give you a good starting point, here are some tips for opening up a relationship with your child’s biological parents, siblings or other relatives.

  • Establish clear boundaries: Every relationship is built on trust, so it’s important to outline the expectations of both parties. Communication and honesty will be so, so important throughout your entire relationship. You should discuss if the open adoption will include visits and how often, if you plan to exchange emails, and more. You can always start small and then add more contact later one once everyone feels comfortable.
  • Understand that you may need to maintain existing relationships: If you’re adopting an older child, and they have a healthy relationship with their biological parents, siblings, or other relatives, you’ll need to keep them involved. While it won’t always be easy, it will be a positive experience for your child.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help: Your social worker or an adoption professional is always available when you need someone to talk to. You can also reach out to other foster parents who may be contemplating an open adoption, or have already gone through the journey, for their personal opinions.
  • Don’t gossip about the birth parents: No matter what your true feelings are about your child’s biological parents, sharing your negative feelings is not only disrespectful, but it will hurt your child more than anyone else. Instead, put yourself in their shoes, and realize that no one is perfect. While this may be difficult depending on the circumstances, the way you talk about your child’s biological parents will impact your child for the rest of their lives.
  • Be flexible: One reason that open and semi‐open adoptions remain a popular choice is that you can always change how much contact you’re open to. Of course, this goes both ways. As your relationship with the biological parents evolves, you can ask for either more or less contact.
  • Be honest: If there’s something bothering you, don’t be afraid to speak up. While it can be great to have plenty of contact and communication, it’s not for everyone. Remember to always follow your gut if something doesn’t feel right.

When it Might Be Time to Take a Step Back

In some cases, maintaining a relationship with the biological parents after foster adoption just isn’t possible. Whether that’s due to abuse and neglect, or the biological parents aren’t able to follow established boundaries, not every relationship can be maintained — especially when it becomes toxic.

Your job as a parent is to use your best judgment in order to provide a healthy environment for your child to thrive in. If you feel as if you may need to take a step back before pursuing an open adoption, that’s okay. If you do need advice on establishing contact, you can always reach out to a social worker who understands your situation.

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