Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Is Birth Family Contact in Danielle's Best Interest?

After more than a year of zero contact, with the exception of one letter that arrived a couple of weeks ago, some members of Danielle's birth family want to have contact with her again.  According to a half-sibling who has spoken to them, they want to give Danielle a scolding for "messing up."

Apparently, the half-sibling has been sharing some of our conversations with the rest of the birth family.

I'm of two minds on this.  On the one hand, if Danielle hears from yet another source that her behavior is unacceptable, maybe she'll change it up.  On the other hand, it seems that any contact from her birth family tends to make her behavior substantially worse.

Honestly, I'm not sure that yet another lecture about her behavior will do any good.  Plenty of people have talked to her about it.  We've talked to her, our extended family members have talked to her.  Teachers, therapists, school psychologists, social workers, behavioral aids, her half-sibling and her friends have all talked to her.

I think we are beyond the point that talking will fix anything.

I've never contemplated blocking contact from Danielle's birth family until now.  Whenever they have come, we've allowed the poorly-timed letters, and phone calls.  We allow regular visits, even though they are inconvenient and end up happening at our expense, with a family member who lives nearby.  We even allowed a visit, when out-of-state family members showed up in town, with no advance warning, and we had conflicting plans.

Each letter, phone call and visit has caused Danielle to spiral into a new level of ugliness, disrespect, and violence towards us.

But now, I wonder if perhaps it's time to put a stop to it.

I don't feel good about contemplating this.  I don't feel right in denying her contact with her birth family.  Still, when Danielle amps up the dreadful behavior for days, weeks and sometimes even months after contact, I have to ask, is this really good for her?

I know that it's not good for us, because we deal with the fallout.  We deal with the explosions, the disrespect, and the violence for long after the birth family has satisfied their desires.

Is birth family contact in Danielle's best interest?

I don't know. 

It sure seems like it isn't.  Obviously, this is something we'll take up with our therapist as well.


  1. Well, if you want to know whether it is in HER best interest, the easiest solution would be to ask HER what she thinks of it (Do you want a scolding form your xxxx?).

    If you want to know whether it is in YOUR best interest that she has contact is a wholly different question. If you want to find out about that, you might weight the pros and cons as you did in this post...

    I would leave the decision up to her, because she is only 2-3 years from adulthood, and she can go back anyway at that moment... So I do not think it is wise to keep her from that for 2 years, just for her to go back afterwards...

  2. I know you probably are not really interested in having a relationship with her once she is of age - but she is REALLY going to resent you if you deny her contact with her birth family, and she finds out about it later.

    It really is a catch 22. She may act out afterwards, butshe acts out anyways, so even though it may get more intense for a few hours after the visit, or she may throw her birth family at you for a month or two afterwards, is it really that much of a change from the usual?

    You said you allow regular visits, yet you also say there has been no contact for a year - which one is it?

    Also - of course the half sibling tells the birth family what you say! You have said they have little self control etc... What did you expect? It is like giving a 7 year old $100 in a toy store, then being shocked that they spent the money!

    Maybe you should let Danielle see her family, and schedule an appointment with her therapist or a coucillor right afterwards so she can process what happened with someone. You have to remember that it must be hard for her to see her birth family (to know that she is not allowed to be with them), but she probably feels LOVED and ACCEPTED by them, and resented etc by you. That is a HUGE contrast. And she probably idealises the way life would be if she COULD live with them, instead of with you. (Don't we all do that a bit? Don't we all think that life would be so much better if we could just win the lottery?).

    She may react - I mean it MUST be confusing for her to know that most of the world gets to live with their birth families, and she can't. She probably feels more loved by them then by you.. And that would be hard to process.

    And when she has to 'go home' to a place that she feels hurt and condemned... Well, it would be hard not for her...

    It is probably good to encourage the relationship between Danielle and her family, as that is where she will probably end up when she ages out. At least then she will have a place to go.

    I don't know if you are truly thinking about what is best for Danielle, or if you are just 'fronting'. I think you are just more conscious about what you put up on your blog, because you have had so many concerns about how you view Danielle.

    I wonder if you will publish this.


    1. Danielle has had regular contact, including in-person visits, with some members of her birth family. The people who are asking for contact now haven't been heard from in more than a year.

      My struggle is that these people are great at making grandiose promises to Danielle, but they simply do not follow through. Sure, they say they love her without measure, but when it comes to actually picking up the phone or writing a letter, they do it only at their convenience. It doesn't seem to matter to them that they routinely disappoint her, or that they can't remember to even send her a greeting card on her birthday.

      As for them "being there" once she becomes an adult, I think it is unlikely. One of Danielle's older siblings, who aged out of the foster care system a few years ago, tried to return home and discovered that there was no real support there. The sibling found out that the family is very troubled and dysfunctional, and that substance abuse, criminal conduct, and emotional and intellectual problems still rule the day.

      I have no doubt in my mind that Danielle will attempt to return to her birth family once she becomes a legal adult. Unfortunately, I think she will discover the same circumstances that her sibling discovered. Unfortunately, Danielle will learn that her birth family is more important to her, than she is to them.

  3. I would just be very honest with the counselor about your concerns and let her explain to Danielle why you have those concerns. Ultimately, none of us like to see our kids hurt and disappointed by anyone - it is doubly hard when it's the birth family that have already proven they cannot be relied on to put the childs' best interests first. I don't see anything wrong with having very specific boundaries with people (different ones with different people) and being very specific about your expectations of those people. If you set something up using those boundaries and expectations, one of two things will happen. Either it will just be too much effort to manage for them and Danielle will see even less of the family or they will rise to the occasion and your whole family will benefit. Either way, this isn't about what you can or cannot control, it's about making the effort and then letting what happens - happen.

    BTW - her bio family wanting to straighten her out for her recent behavior is a joke. She isn't going to listen to them, they've lost their credibility. She can love them and create some fantasy version of her life with them before or her future life with them, but she is obviously not going to let you tell her how it is. She needs to learn from experience. That doesn't mean you let her or them have their way no matter what. It means that she will eventually be hurt by them and at that time you can rest assured you did everything you could to minimize the damage by being honest and straightforward about your concerns.

    For what it's worth, I would just put them off until her 18th b-day - but that's just me :)

  4. I understand the situation better now.

    But in the end, if you decide to hide from Danielle that vanished family member X reappeared in order to spare her the disappointment, what you really do is cover up for the negligence of said family member.

    I do completely hear you about the emotional suffering and disappointment unkept promises will provoke in Danielle. But how can you protect her from something that is part of her life, that you are not responsible for when the act of protection in itself will cause her to resent you?

    It is really a no-win situation. But given her advanced age, I would really lay the cards on the table and let her decide...

  5. I agree, "Danielle will learn that her birth family is more important to her, than she is to them.".

    A lot of parents with children in care have periodic "needs" to see their children and pretend that they are good parents (which is not at all reality).

    The part that is hard is that Danielle truly has no one (except maybe the half sibling?) that she is going to be able to turn to when she turns 18. It is little wonder if she tries to reach out to her birth family.


  6. If she gets a bollocking over her behaviour from this family member (and others?), would that go some way to stopping her idealising them? She could easily be thinking in black and white - you're the ones who tell her off, restrict her freedoms and whatever, they're the ones who love her and who you tend to keep her from. (not saying that's how it is, just how it may seem to her) If they start having limits to how much of her behaviour they'll tolerate that view might get more blurred. (nb am not adopted so maybe there's parts of the situation I don't 'get' - on the other hand my family managed to generate these situations internally without help from anyone else...)

  7. I sympathize with your quandary. You have evidence that Danielle's birth family probably can't/won't be there for her in the future, but you don't have a crystal ball.

    We're in a similar situation with Toots. For years, she has asked us to try finding her birth mom. The woman dropped out of sight almost 10 years ago, and various mental health professionals advised us that finding her might not be a positive things for Toots. Now that she will be 18 in eight months, we are considering it again. I did a search and came up with a person with the right name and age, with addresses that made sense according to the last one we know about. Lew and I are casting it about in our minds. It's difficult.


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