Our daughter Angel-Leah was four years old when we adopted her from foster care. She had lived with her birthmother until she was removed and place our foster care at two years, seven months old, and she continued to see her extended birth family in supervised visits at the CPS office until she was three and a half. After that came an eight month period of time where she was basically in limbo, her birth parents rights had been terminated and all visits ceased, but we were unable to adopt her for a while because her caseworker had gone on emergency leave.
This time was very hard on Angel-Leah, who was grieving for her lost birth family. Two weeks after her adoption was final, we received a call asking us to take her five month old baby brother, Tommy, who we have now adopted, too.
I had thought very much about whether to have an open adoption for Angel-Leah, and since Tommy’s coming to live with us brought the family back into our lives anyway, I got permission from Tommy’s caseworker, gave the maternal grandmother a call, and after we had emailed a few weeks and gotten to know each other again, we arranged to meet at the park. Our open adoption has gone on with the extended families on both sides for just over a year now, and it has worked out so well for both the children and the birth family. At this time, we don’t see the parents, who have not been able to stabilize their lives, but we do write and send pictures back and forth with the birth mother.
One thing I was not expecting, however, was one day at the park, when Angel-Leah’s five year old cousin began to quiz her about why she didn’t live with her birth mother anymore. Didn’t she love her anymore, the cousin wanted to know? As Angel-Leah heatedly assured her cousin she did still love her birth mother, I tried to help explain, but I realized this was a hard thing for a little child to grasp.
My tendency is to always look towards books to help me, and I very soon found a really nice child’s book to give the cousin. The name of the book is Families Change: a Book for Children Experiencing Termination of Parental Rights by Julie Nelson. I’ve read this book to my own adopted children, and plan to give copies to the cousins for their mother to read to them.
This book gently explains the different ways a family can change, from the simple birth of a new child, to someone leaving for college or getting married, on to change from a birth family to a foster or adoptive family. It acknowledges that this change is scary and difficult. It assures that these new families are real families. It assures the child that these changes are not the child’s fault. It tells the child its okay to love their old family and their new family.
This is a wonderful, well written book for a child going through foster care or adoption, or for a child who has a family member that this is happening too. I would highly recommend it.