Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Contact

After a couple of recent posts and comments, and a few things on other people's blogs (and, to be fair, not on blogs but on scary message boards), I was interested to read these two posts:

Bumping into birth mum  

Gearing up for Father's Day

These present almost entirely opposing views of birth family contact - both families adopted their child from foster care, in both cases their child was removed against the birth parents' wishes, at around the same age, though neither have gone into detail about the issues that led to the removal (and I don't blame them, I won't be sharing that kind of detail here).  Thorn and her partner are both female, so their daughter has no dad in the house, but I am pretty sure if it had been their daughter's birth mother they had bumped into in similar circumstances the reaction would have been the same (i.e. it's not because he's the birth father and they don't have a father on the scene at all).

In both cases their child spent some time in foster care before the adoptive placement (so although it's much more common in the US, Thorn wasn't a foster carer immediately after birth family removal and therefore with ongoing contact with birth parents as part of that placement). Neither family has current direct contact with either birth parent, but it's really interesting (and you can read the followup on Thorn's blog) what the reaction in each case has been to an actual or potential chance encounter.

And yes, I do "know" (as in, speak to on the internet) US adopters from foster care who cut off all contact, or who are even more negative than Stix about contact (and please also see Emily's thoughtful comment on the previous post* on just this topic), but I just thought this was interesting, as the posts were about such similar things.

From our end, we've just printed out what may be our last monthly set of contact photos (I'm not too sure, we are not being monitored any more due to the issues with NLA and their SW, but we may be due another one) to send to Nella, but we still haven't any word whether the other SW has made any contact with Baby Spouse's BF.  The slight medical scare we had turned out to be nothing in particular, at least, nothing that needs treatment or that could be due to Nella's choices, just something to watch. 

We've just put up a photo tree in Baby Spouse's room (this kind of thing, just something we were given a while ago), and it has photos of us, him, his grandparents that he sees (i.e. my parents**), his grandmother that he met but doesn't see (Mr Spouse's mother) and Nella. Mr Spouse asked "what do we tell people when they ask who she is?" (thinking especially of the nosy cleaner) and I said "they are family members".  We will also probably put up nieces, godparents***, aunt, uncle, but haven't got them all printed out yet.


OK, that post is DEFINITELY long enough, and I'd love to hear from my original two bloggers and have them tell me what I've said wrong!


*Sorry about the use of the term "foster carer", by the way, it doesn't actually bother me, even at the moment Baby Spouse is technically in "private foster care" though we have a rather unusual status legally and we aren't sure if in the UK we are legally carers, guardians, or parents. But I don't think it would bother me even if we were doing foster care, I'm happy to say we are parentING a child even if we aren't their parents.


**Or not. Mother in strop, unable to accept any boundaries, and also in delusional state about everything I say, apparently, as she's just sent me a long email saying "you hate me because you won't let me do X, Y, Z" (no, we won't let her, some we can't, some we just don't want her to) but also "and you refuse to do A, B, C" which, erm, we haven't?


***Baptism/finalisation party booked for September!

9 comments:

motherissues said...

I actually like the term "foster carer" and wish we'd had it to use when Val and Alex were placed with us, because Val hated the suggestion that I was her mom and people trying to reassure her by saying "Yeah, but she's your FOSTER mom!" didn't help.

Mara was removed from her mom's care right around her second birthday and her dad was already inaccessible at that point, though we learned much later he'd been far more active as a parent early on than we'd been led to believe. She went to a family friend who's raising her little sibling, then to a foster home, and then to us right before her third birthday, after which her parents' rights were terminated and she was adopted.

She had basically no visits with her family during the time she was in foster care. We knew that she had siblings and we kept her unusual name, plus I knew from her social worker that her siblings looked very much like her and that all of them look like their mom. To me, the odds I'd be calling for her as she zipped around the corner at a grocery store only to have some child turn around and say, "Is that my baby sister?" were too high to assume we could keep the adoption closed. In fact, she was recognized by the brother of the family friend when she'd been with us only a few months, and that let us get in contact with more of her family and eventually start seeing them.

Our level of openness is extremely rare in our region. It's made easier by the fact that her parents are not monsters, just regular people with regular flaws and despite those flaws they do clearly love her and want her to be happy in life. Both of them have been positive about seeing how she's thrived with us, although I'm sure it's been emotionally difficult. We have a much easier and more intense relationship with the aunt and family friend who are raising her siblings and with the kids themselves. Mara was very clear about her grief for her parents and siblings (to your earlier post about attachment, because she remembered them, though none of her siblings were ever raised with her) and that made our decision easier, because her needs were guiding us.

I do think there are situations where contact between birth and foster/adoptive families is unsafe or not advisable, but I think those are far fewer than people generally think. It was unusual that she wasn't having visits while she was in foster care and it's not as though parents get less safe after TPR. I feel very strongly about this as a general practice, though I recognize why others would behave differently. And Mara has pictures of her birth parents and siblings and cousins in her room because, as you say, they're her family.

motherissues said...

Oh, while I'm blathering on, I'll add that the "letterbox" contact that seems to be standard in UK foster adoptions (at least from what I read on blogs) is almost unheard of in US foster adoptions unless the birth parents voluntarily surrender their rights. Contact or photos are often used as an encouragement for them to do so, though in most states open adoption agreements are not legally binding.

I did send photos for Mara's mom to her family caseworker when we were Mara's foster parents because I wanted her to be able to see that her child was healthy and cared for.

Stix said...

I think it's unfair to suggest I'm negative about contact.

Overall, I think that contact is a good thing. I write letterbox contact as per our agreement (although rarely hear back - just twice in 4.5 years), we met Mini's birth mother, and tried to meet his birth father. We asked for direct contact with siblings, but it was refused.

I think there is a huge difference between planned contact, whether it be letterbox or direct, and a chance meeting.

What I write about is the fear of her finding us. In our case birth mother (not any other family member) has posed a risk to us and to Mini, and I think my fear is justified. We did/do a lot to protect his identity so she doesn't find us, because she is still considered a risk...and in the early days I had no doubt that she would have attempted to snatch him, and I still have no doubt that she would attempt to harm me and my husband.

It's great that other adopters are able to have more open relationships with their children's birth parents, and in situations where there is no risk then that's great. And in situations where the child was removed at an older age, perhaps it's vital - Mini was just a few weeks old when he was removed, and he doesn't even remember the foster carer he spent a year with, let alone his birth parents.
He does remember how awful he felt when he saw them regularly for contact sessions, and it is now thought those regular contact sessions played a huge part in him developing the attachment style and issues that he now has.

We have risk involved, we have the worry of how Mini will react given his attachment issues. Mini asked for the photos of his birth parents to be removed from his room because they were causing him upset.

Really, Mini should never have been placed so close to home when the risk was so high. Subsequent siblings have thankfully been placed out of county.

Stix said...

And I wanted to add that I happily (and with her blessing) refer to Mini's foster carer, as her foster carer.

She will be the first person to say that she is not a parent to any of the children that she cares for. She also feels that she cannot be considered a parent because all parenting decisions are made in conjunction with social services and birth parents.

She 'cares' for those children, and of course she comes to love some of them, but she has never considered herself a parent to them.

So I'm sorry if my posts offend, but I use the term with the blessing of the foster carer who is most important to me.

Bernardeena said...

Aside from all the contact stuff, which I do see as important, hurray for Christening booking!

DrSpouse said...

Although I haven't been a foster carer/parent, I wonder if there's also a difference between those who have really long term care, and those who know they are a stepping stone. Baby Spouse's foster carer knew she was a stepping stone, but she adopted one child who was in her care, and she's had other children for long long periods with no end (or indeed parents) in sight. So it may depend on the child too.

Anyway, back on the issue of contact. I've heard a few people say that they don't see the point of contact (especially direct contact) where children are removed or placed very young, like Baby Spouse and Mini. But I've also had people say to me "well you have no idea why we don't want contact because your child was removed/placed very young and therefore didn't suffer abuse or neglect in the birth home".

I'm not sure it actually has much to do with the prior relationship in the home post birth, therefore.

Emily said...

Hooray for the upcoming party! I don't mind that you personally use the term foster carer. It is just the term in general. It could very well have to do with my own hang ups and misconceptions of the English. My husband is English and during my extended visits I felt alienated because I thought the people were very cold. this combined with the fact that several of my english friends have expressed surprise when I have referred to my step mother as a parent, as if parents can only be biological.

I am pretty sure that what I have done for the children in my care is parenting. I had 3 special needs girls in my home for the better part of a year. Had my husband and I felt that we could have met their needs in the long term, we would have adopted them. During the time they spent in my home I arranged up to 20 appointments per month between the 3 of them. This included intensive therapy, speech therapy, medical appointments and procedures. Sure, if I arranged for an appendectomy or tubes in the ears then I would have to get a letter from social services, but the medical decisions both large and small were mine to make. Same went for procuring all the developmental assessments they required. Their needs were constantly shifting. I was the one that ran them to the ER in the night. I was the one to comfort them at all hours of the day and night. I did all the parent teacher meetings. I offered the best guidance that I could at every turn. I saw the caseworker once every 2-3 months. The birth parents did not participate in any way, except to make it to most of their weekly visits. I'm not saying I was their mother ( They called me Emily which I feel was appropriate) but I was surely parenting. Calling me a Carer feels like an easy way to diminish what I do. Perhaps it makes it easier for adoptive parents to think that the foster mother only cared for their children and never parented them , or mothered them for that matter.

Emily said...

Ohh, and I noticed you said you are parenting! good for you :) I will read the 2 blogs in the morning. With 2 infants in the house morning comes very quickly.

thefamilyof5 said...

I don't see the big deal 'foster carer/foster mother/foster parent' its just a name. What matters really is how the child veiws the relationship.
As for the 2 linked blogs above, I don't think they can or should be compared. Contact with one poses a threat, the other doesn't?! It seems obvious that they would be opposing views! I'm pro letterbox contact for my girls, but because of my own insecurites more than anything as well the confusion it might cause my girls about who's who and who's in charge etc, I'd be less enthusiastic about direct contact. My girls had direct contact whilst in fc right up until they were placed with us for adoption.
Either way, all of our views on contact are just opnions and personal choice, we're all entitled to them and neither choice is either right or wrong, we all do what's best for our own family.