Foster Parents’ First-Hand Experience Working With Biological Family

Last updated: March 22, 2023, at 2:05 p.m. PT

Originally published: March 20, 2023, at 10:29 a.m. PT

Two women walking with a toddler in a stroller

Ally and her partner, George, had the resources to support youth but were not looking to build a biological family of their own yet. Additionally, Ally’s brother’s children had spent some time in foster care. For these reasons and more, Ally and George made the decision to become licensed foster parents themselves. Initially, they had a few short-term placements. Then came 11-month-old Jemma.

Ally quickly grew to love Jemma as they shared their first experiences together. When asked about her favorite memory with Jemma, Ally replied, “it’s...watching her just become her own little confident self. And ...through the stability of our home, even though we didn’t know what the hell we were doing, we watched her gain confidence. That’s been the best experience in memory for me. I can’t say it was a trip to the park or like Christmas. It was just watching her become a cool little kid.”

As Ally took care of Jemma in her home, she knew it was important for Jemma to stay connected with her biological family. Ally did not want to be a barrier.

Foster parents’ role includes ensuring that kids in their care have every opportunity to meet and spend time with biological family members. The mama bear in Ally wanted to let Jemma’s biological mom know that she was okay while also protecting her. As a tool to aid communication, her Y placement coordinator suggested Ally create a placement journal that highlighted Jemma’s progress and activities along with photos. Jemma brought this journal along to visitations with her mom. Sometimes Ally would pose questions for Jemma’s mom in the journal. In the beginning, she did not respond to the questions, and this was difficult for Ally. She started to wonder if all the energy she was putting into the journal was worth the effort. But Ally persisted, and as Jemma’s mom became stronger, her persistence was rewarded with a response. This allowed Ally and Jemma’s mom to build a connection without meeting in person. Eventually, their communication progressed to texting through a google phone number.

Jemma has since reunited with her biological mom, and Ally and George have been able to stay connected with her. This past holiday, Ally, George, Jemma, and Jemma’s biological parents celebrated the season together by taking photos with Santa. Ally told us, “No matter what happens in the long term with Jemma, cool is it that all her mommies and daddies are together in one spot ...the more we can try and do that for her, I think it will be helpful. So that’s why I’m just so thankful that her mom allowed us to stay in her life.” Ally believes this connection with the biological family has benefited everyone, themselves included.

Ally’s advice to future and current foster parents is to always remember what motivated them to become foster parents. Ally also noted that she is grateful to her placement coordinator Jessica, who helped her with everything no matter what time of day, and to the Y for the training and support through what can be, at times, an emotionally taxing but extremely rewarding journey.

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