Send anyone this way to read along, but for permission to reprint, please contact Gail.
© Gail Underwood Parker

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Focus on Fostering: Divided Loyalties revisited

Children in foster care miss their parents.  Adoptees may miss their birth parents. Whether children being raised by others miss the parents they had or the parents they wish they had, they miss their parents.  Even when a parent has abused or neglected or traumatized their child, that child will still miss them when separated.  They are still their parents. As hard as it is for new foster parents to understand, all children want to be loved by their birth parents.  Yes, their birth parent may have abandoned them, have given them up for adoption, or even have been taken away for their own safety.  But they still want to be loved by them. 

This desire is almost like a primal drive, a primitive need, that all children have. When you stop and think about it, how wonderful it is that the drive to love and be loved can survive so much.  But as foster or adoptive parents, we must remember that these children still want birth parents to love and have loved them. 

Imagine how this interferes with attachment and bonding for adoptive children, long term foster children, or even temporary placements!  The more they begin to connect and attach to a new set of parents, the more they may feel torn. They may feel guilty for loving or attaching to new caregivers, thinking it is disloyal to their birth parents. This may result in anger, resentment, detachment, and more.  If there is still an ongoing connection with the birth parents it is more in your face perhaps, but don't think that if there is not an ongoing connection that the feelings aren't still there.  Even children who were adopted basically at birth often experience some of these feelings when they become aware of birth parents somewhere "out there." 

Remember... No matter how much you love you give your foster or adoptive child, no matter how attached you become, no matter how much they love you or attach to you, you cannot expect to erase the place in their heart or mind that still wants to be loved or have been loved by their birth parents.  

The good news... Just as any parent of more than one child will tell you, love is expandable. Just because you love your first child, doesn't mean you love your second child less.  Each child is loved for his or herself. There is no more or less, just different.  Why should it not be true for caregivers and parents as well?  Your adoptive child may always have a part that wishes and wonders what it would have been like if the birth parents had kept him/her and may hold a fantasy of it. But that does not have to take away an iota of the love they hold for the people who did raise them, did care for them, did hold a long term place in their heart. True, it will be reality based, rather than fantasy. They will remember the arguments in adolescence, the toy you didn't buy them as a child, etc.  Few fantasies include such details. But the love and connection between you is also more real and [even when they may fight it] will be remembered. You worked to keep that heart intact. 

Image credits:,

No comments:

Post a Comment