Iowa mom Tina has been a foster and adoptive parent since 2008 and in that time, her family has adopted two children and fostered 47. Over the years, Tina has supported every child in her care, but she has also prioritized building positive relationships with a child’s birth family.
She remembers one phone call from five years ago, when she was fostering a sibling group of three. The children’s birth mother called to connect with Tina.
“I answered the phone and she introduced herself and said, ‘I know what you must think of me, but I’m not a bad person,’” Tina recalls. “That gave me the opportunity to set the tone. So I said, ‘I don’t have any bad opinions. I’m just here to take care of your kids until you’re healthy enough for them to come home.’ How you respond in that instance can really set the tone for your relationship.”
After that night, there were regular phone calls and visits, and Tina made sure to send the mother photos whenever the kids were doing something fun. She also saved all the kids’ school papers so they could bring them with on their home visits.
Tina continued to keep lines of communication open until the three children were able to safely return home. But their relationship didn’t stop there. Their birth mother asked if Tina would continue to be a support for their family. Now, she keeps in touch, sees photos on Facebook, and gets to watch the children grow up.
While Tina knows it can be challenging for foster parents to regularly connect with a child’s birth family, she says it’s critical for them to keep trying, no matter what.
“Do it for the kids. They need to see you working with their parents and being respectful,” she says. “And in turn, you could continue to see them on Facebook or keep in touch. Foster parenting opens the window for you to maintain that relationship and watch them grow, and that’s very rewarding.”