Monday, October 05, 2009

Should I write?

The state worker told me that after the agency worker and he had both written to Gary's parents, I could write them letters too.

I have no idea what to say or even if it is appropriate to say anything.

I think it would be inappropriate to say anything that might sound like I was trying to encourage them to relinquish their parental rights, and just about everything I can think of seems to fit that.

So maybe it just isn't appropriate for me to write to them. I feel comfortable with the idea of answering any questions they might have for me, but I just can't think of anything that I might say that wouldn't amount to "reasons why you should give up your kid and let us adopt him." Everything I can think of just makes me feel icky.

But I thought I would throw it out there. Is there something that it would be appropriate for me to say -- with out them having asked me a thing?


  1. Is there anything you'd want to know if you were them?

  2. What about the standard "Hi. My name is ... this is our family ... we are like this and that ... we enjoy Gary immensely ... please feel free to contact us anytime ... etc." kind of like the family bio you have to write up for an adoption of younger kids. Has Gary written to his parents yet?

  3. Take the foster care situation out of it completely. Pretend you are the host parents for a foreign exchange student and write the letter accordingly. Treat them as though they are "friends of friends" for instance:

    Dear Joe and/or Sue,

    Although we haven't met, I feel as though I know you through your wonderful son, Gary. I thought I'd write to let you know a little bit about who we are and how he's adjusting, but please feel free to write back with any questions if I don't answer them here.

    Gary has been with us for x months, and during that time, we have seen him mature into a handsome young man. We love his sense of humor and his ability to see the good in most situations. His enthusiasm for life is contagious- as we have seen in his pursuit of martial arts, where our own son has even gotten involved since Gary came to stay with us.

    Gary is such a joy to have around the house- out of all the teen boys that have stayed with us, including our two biological sons and our foster sons, Gary is by far the neatest and most cooperative in the household chores department. It is a credit to his upbringing, because I have certainly seen most teen boys to be absolute slobs ha ha!

    While we attend such-and-such church on occasion/frequently, Gary does/does not prefer to attend with us. Socially, Gary is doing well. He has many friends of both genders, and is well-liked by the friends' parents. He has recently ended a brief relationship with a pleasant young lady, and is always in great demand as a partner by the girls for social events.

    Our family enjoys such and such hobbies, and although Gary does not care for them, we have found that we share common interests in such and such...

    Well, I suppose that is enough for now. I'm enclosing a few pictures so you can see how he's grown since you last saw him. Please feel free to send some in return, as I know he would love to know how you all are doing. I'm so glad we were finally able to get in touch with you all, and hope this will be the first of many wonderful opportunities to communicate!

    Yondalla and Roland Doe

    And then I would stick a post-it note on the letter and say "while I didn't want to include it in the letter, I do want you to know that we want whats best for Gary and your family. We don't claim to know what that is right now, but we would welcome any questions or discussion you would like to engage in to help make the best plan for Gary. He truly misses you all, and while we love him very much, we recognize your very special place in his life. Please feel free to call/write anytime"

    But that's just me. Its an awkward situation, isn't it? The true liklihood is that they won't respond no matter what you do, but at least you'll have the gut satisfaction of knowing you tried, and Gary will be able to read from the letter that you both loved him and wanted him to be loved by them.

    Good luck.

  4. Dear Gary's Parents,

    If you don't fight the TPR I will lose respect for you. You don't have to fight hard.

    (also, is there a reason you switched to a weird comment ID thing?)

  5. These type of letters are so difficult to write without implying you are a better person, fit, family, etc., or sounding like you are making a case for taking the kid, so I would probably make it very short...explain we all want the best for Gary and should they have any questions you'll be glad to answer them and then give them whatever contacting information you are comfortable divulging.

  6. Cassie,
    All changes are Google's fault.

    Except I do think I stopped accepting anonymous comments. I could go back, but I do like knowing who people are.

  7. We are relatively new foster parents, but our contact with birth parents was a bit closer (phone calls, face-to-face visits).

    I think another way of thinking about it might be, while agency and state workers HAVE to contact parents, for you, it is an option. So while "the system" has mandates on notices and communications, any message from you is because you want to. Of course, G's parents may or may not perceive it that way.

    In our experience, the birth parents seemed to appreciate the contacts. Yes, there was the awkwardness, and our concern about being perceived as acting like we were "better" than them. Some of that was mitigated by being to ask them questions that we genuinely wanted to know (and that only they would know)--e.g., "what green vegetable will the kid eat?" I realize that might not apply here! Or by providing photos (of just the kid, school reports, or other things that showed the kid in everyday life or in activities they valued. And inviting them to ask questions of us and get updates, as well.

    Stacie's letter idea, in general, seems appropriate.

    But you're right, about having the icky feelings. Those can come up in other contexts, too, for instance, if expectations or demands are made about post-TPR contact--and any conditions, real or imagined, for a TPR, are of course to be avoided.

    Also, wanted to say I've enjoyed reading your blog for about a year now. I had thought of blogging but confidentiality rules has prevented that and limited my commenting as well. Your solution to that with the "names" & appropriate omissions etc. is very nice, although I would have to reread everything to make sure I hadn't made a slip.

  8. dross,
    regarding the blogging, my readers tend to be very good about pointing when I have slipped and apparently used a real name. At one point I also used the search function to pull up all posts with certain names. It happens.

  9. Everyone:
    Thanks for the ideas, and keep 'em coming! This is really helpful.

    I do know that I am going to ask Gary if there is anything he wants them to be told about his life and anything he might want to know.

  10. Its interesting- I think I have a much more laidback attitude towards birth families- probably because of our past experiences.

    We only do (or have only done) shared parenting foster care, meaning that it is like open adoption (or semi-open depending on CPS orders). We have face to face contact with bio families, and visits include us all, at least for part of each visit. We often supervise visits. We know their business and they know our business AS IT RELATES to the placement children. (not personal details).

    And growing up, having foster sibs, we were all fairly open. They were all teens, so the lives overlapped a lot more than little ones would have.

    So I've had a unique chance to see that most of the time, the bio fam just appreciates the chance to be a part, in whatever limited way is possible, of their child's life. It seems to help them cope too, and it definitely benefits the child not to feel abandoned or left behind.

    But I'd love to hear from some of you guys that foster but keep the bio fam doors close at the same time. From what I've heard, that seems to be the more traditional route- DHS acts as the intermediary, etc. In those situations, a letter may be complete inappropriate.

    Out of curiousity, Yondalla, does Gary know you can write them? If so, what does he think about you contacting them? Is there anything he wants to say/find out?

    If nothing else, if it looks like its going to TPR, I would try to contact the bio fam to find out the basics of his early childhood- things he doesn't ermember, but will one day want to know to compare with his own kids- 1st tooth, how old when crawled, rolled over, walked, first word, etc.

    And our agency advocates (and we always do this, and have had a great time doing it) putting together a lifebook of the child.

    We told our bio fams that we were putting together a scrapbook of the child's life- (which would be especially appropriate as Gary is nearing 18) and wanted pics infancy through as old as they had. We have even been given newborn nursery pics, etc. It makes a nice tribute for the child- something to look back at. If you know important info to add to it (school names, etc), then do so. Offer to send the bio fam a copy (I scan my stuff at Staples and print color copies that can be cheaply bound- costs about $10 total for 25 or so pages).

    Sometimes they would love to be involved, even in a small way, but just don't know how to get the ball rolling. Sometimes they don't care at all, but some part of the conscience pricks them and they help with pics/data.

    Anyway, I encourage you to do it while you can. Especially since Gary has so much to gain from possible contact, and so much to lose if they just are TPR'd out of his life.


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