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How do I give a name to a birth mom that a foster child does not know as their mom?

post #1 of 72
Thread Starter 

Our 21 month old foster child has been with us for almost a year and calls me mama and mommie.  He does not like being told his birth mom is mama and gets upset when we say mama gave you this toy or any time we call her mama.  I think he needs a name to open up to her.  Anyone been through this?  What can we name her that he won't get upset about but give a name to her face?        

post #2 of 72

Why don't you call her by her first name?  Or mama Sue( her name)- that way he is not confused. 

post #3 of 72

my kids had a hard time excepting there step mom so we made a name that sounded funny however still respectful . smummy we called her , my kids are all older now and they still laugh with her about the nicname.

I know itis not the exact same thing but same concept .

post #4 of 72

Yeah I would say a different name... he knows your his mama and when you say his mama gave him a toy he probably gets mad because in his little mind he's like "NO YOU DIDNT!" We always called the kids birthmom mommy to them, and one day my son was like "Her not my mommy. You my mommy. Her ____(real name)" so after that we called her mommy (real name). Now thats she out of the picture we just call her by her real name when we talk about her. Sometimes I'll say "Your birth mother, (name)" just so my little one knows who I'm talking about since she doesn't remember her birth mother.

post #5 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mom31 View Post

Why don't you call her by her first name?  Or mama Sue( her name)- that way he is not confused. 



That's what I do with my son. He knows me as Mama or Mommy. And she is Mama FirstName. He's not angry or confused by it. That's just her name.

 

post #6 of 72

This is a really hard topic.  Is the goal reunification?  If it is, I would suggest the mommy first name plan.  If not, I would just go with the birthmother's first name.

 

I had a REALLY hard time with this.  I cried while signing the open adoption agreement that barred my daughter's birthmother from referring to herself as mom.  But a really sweet social worker helped me to see that this was the best thing for my daughter.  I had always thought I would be mommy and the birthmother would be "mommy L".   Now I completely think the social worker was right, this was the best thing for my daughter.

post #7 of 72

I would just use her first name.

post #8 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mom31 View Post

Why don't you call her by her first name?  Or mama Sue( her name)- that way he is not confused. 



I would go with this too.  That's actually how what we use to clarify the children's grandparents with same last names..... Grandma Karen rather than grandma and great grandma...and I've seen a lot of people to this type of thing....

post #9 of 72

I agree, if the goal is reunification, I agree--I would use "Mama Firstname".  If you have an adoptive agreement in place, I would just use her first name.  At this point, he's already calling you mama.  We've never had that situation.  We've always been "Aunt" & "Uncle" or just "Firstname".

post #10 of 72

 

Your foster son has already made this decision for you. You are his mother, the woman who gave birth to him is not. Call her by her name. 

 

If the plan is reunification, then maybe someday he'll transition to thinking of his birthmother as Mom. Kids who come into care older, having some experience of being parented by them women who gave birth to them, obviously have a very different set of needs around this issue. But since your little guy can't remember being parented by any of his his biological relatives, he really is not going to be able to make the cognitive leap that some women he sees at visitation is "Mom." Cross that bridge when/if you come to it, and meanwhile, keep up a dialogue about biological parenthood and what it entails. 

post #11 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smithie View Post

 

Your foster son has already made this decision for you. You are his mother, the woman who gave birth to him is not. Call her by her name. 

 

If the plan is reunification, then maybe someday he'll transition to thinking of his birthmother as Mom. Kids who come into care older, having some experience of being parented by them women who gave birth to them, obviously have a very different set of needs around this issue. But since your little guy can't remember being parented by any of his his biological relatives, he really is not going to be able to make the cognitive leap that some women he sees at visitation is "Mom." Cross that bridge when/if you come to it, and meanwhile, keep up a dialogue about biological parenthood and what it entails. 



"Cross that bridge when/if you come to it" is not exactly something that applies when foster parenting a child that's going to be reunified who is completely unfamiliar with their birthmother.  In fact, that's truly setting that child up for potential trauma when they leave to a person they now have no concept of in their little world.  I don't see where the needs differ by age:  no matter how old, and regardless of foster or adopt--these children HAVE birthparents.

 

We have fostered infants whose goal is RU.  They get visitation.  They KNOW their birthparents--by sound, smell, sight...  You can usually get a photograph (especially if the goal is RU and there are bonding issues with bioparent).  There's no need to tell him NOT to call you "mama" but you do need to work on helping him know his birthmother if the case goal is still RU--no matter what it looks like to you.

 

FWIW, I had a child leave my care at 10mo and at 4-1/2 years old, after not seeing or hearing from me personally for almost 2 years, she still says "that's my mama" although she also considers her birthmother and current female guardian "mama"s, too--she still identifies me as being a major role in her life.  I saw her intermittently during her second year of life (and by "intermittent", I mean once every few months).  Her guardian has a photo of us that this one sees sometimes and I am referred to by my first name.  So yeah--some kids will just attach.  She never called me "mama"--she is identifying a role in her life.  Kids will do that.  It doesn't mean that you don't try to make him comfortable with the concept that there is another woman out there that gave birth to him and is a part of his life.  She had visitation with her mother every two weeks (mom missed many of these early on) and she definitely knew her mother.  I've had this argument plenty of times with workers that don't transition infants because they think that conceptually/cognitively, the kids aren't old enough to understand.  What they understand is what they feel, smell, see and hear when they're with someone--no matter who it is.  This child is old enough to label these things.  Just label them appropriately.  Get a picture and ask him who that is?  Go with his answer.

 

If you adopted him, you would still have to deal with this concept.  I deal with it with my adopted daughter--who is 3.  She knows that she came out of FirstName's belly and then came home from the hospital to our house (and she knows that her older brother came out of my belly).  We don't have a problem talking about the existence of her birthmother.  But we made it a point to make it a simple fact of her life.  Because it is.

post #12 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smithie View Post

 

Your foster son has already made this decision for you. You are his mother, the woman who gave birth to him is not. Call her by her name. 

 

If the plan is reunification, then maybe someday he'll transition to thinking of his birthmother as Mom. Kids who come into care older, having some experience of being parented by them women who gave birth to them, obviously have a very different set of needs around this issue. But since your little guy can't remember being parented by any of his his biological relatives, he really is not going to be able to make the cognitive leap that some women he sees at visitation is "Mom." Cross that bridge when/if you come to it, and meanwhile, keep up a dialogue about biological parenthood and what it entails. 


Hmm. Where to start. We've had this same discussion multiple times on this board, but i still fail to understand why you seem to think a child cannot have two mothers? Yes, to this child the OP is "Mommy" (that is, the woman who is mothering him on a daily basis) but to actually write "the woman who gave birth to him is not " his mother...its not even factually true, let alone being an ethical thing to write. Plus, if you are a FOSTER PARENT if you do believe such a thing, you'd better never let a worker hear you SAY it. Its part of your JOB as a foster parent to help your foster child have a bond (if possible) with their bparent esp if RU is the goal.

 

Please dont get hung up on this idea that "well an older child, sure they may view that person as mother but a baby, nope she's not a mother" I have one son, age 4, who spent the first nine months living with his birthmother (and possibly his birthfather, im unclear on that) and then some time in a foster home (a few weeks or a month) then the next six months living with his father with visitation with bmom. Moved to my home at 16 months and had weekly visits with both bparents until he was 2. So this was a child who def. knew bmom as "mommy" for the first two years of his life and only started calling me "mommy" (his choice) when we approached TPR (interestingly enough) and probably then only because the other same-age child in the home called me "Mommy." Once he stopped visits he no longer referred to his bmom as mommy, in fact he never mentioned her at all. He will talk all day long about his father, but seems really uncomfortable even talking about his "black mommy." Its like it brings up a negative time in his life or something.

 

On the other hand, my other adopted son, age 4, never knew his bmom. he was taken at birth, spent two weeks in the hospital, another week with a foster home, then moved to me. I'm the "only mother he knows"...i was not even sure he'd be able to understand adoption. Lo and behold, after having a few conversations with him how he came from another mother's belly, he has another uncle, blah blah....i showed him a pic of his great-uncle on FB , he looked super curious and said, "hey is there a picture of my other Mommy on here??" omg. i would NEVER have expected him to say that. He seems to absolutely get that he has this other mommy that he doesnt know. He seems to view that as a kind of loss, not necessarily a grieving type loss but more like "hey there are these people who are supposed to be in my life and they arent, where are they? let me see their pic, tell me about them, they are part of me. " At FOUR. No visits, no pictures, no real mention of "birthfamily" until a few months ago, and he GETS IT. I'm super shocked about it but there ya go.

 

To the OP....where was this child for the first several months/year of his life? Was he with the birthmom? Is he currently having visits with the bmom? is RU a goal? If he's not having visits and the plan is for you to adopt him, then i would just call her by her first name and let things lie for a bit. He might not be ready to incorporate the knowledge of her in his life right now. (By that i mean, dont always point out "oh bmom gave you this toy!" or "you got that shirt from bmom!" as an effort to keep her in your life if he's not seeming to want that right now.) But if he's having visits and/or RU is the goal...then i do think you need to try to help him see that she IS his mother too. I wouldnt force him to call her "mommy" of course. But maybe trying to get pics of when they were together (if any exist) or creating a history for him if you know it ("when you were still a baby you were with your first mommy, Susie. Susie liked to hold you sooo much when you were just a tiny baby!" i dunno...im just winging it!) because if he is going to go back to her he needs to have some kind of framework for who this person is, not a stranger, but his mother.

 

 

post #13 of 72

Good post queenjane...

post #14 of 72

 This child is old enough to label these things.  Just label them appropriately.  Get a picture and ask him who that is?  Go with his answer."

 

 

You take a different road, Heather, but we wind up in the same place.

 

 

Jane: For me, "mother" is a job description, not a statement about biology. My biokids don't call me "Mom" because I gestated them - they call me "mom" because I am female and I have parented them for years. I'm sorry that you think my stance in unethical - but frankly, I think your stance is delusional. Not all women who give birth get the chance to be mothers - some, through their own choice or society's choice or a combination of the two, never even hold their babies, or never hold them outside of a visitation room in a government facility. What they did for those kids is important. But it's not parenting. 

 

I agree with everything you say about visitation for babies in care who might be RUed. The sight, smell, voice experience of the biological parents is very important, to minimize the trauma of losing the foster parents. It's not a perfect approach, but it helps. If I were fostering a baby I would secure as much visitation as possible with the biological parents, put up pictures of them, talk about them, etc. But it does NOT help, IMHO, for the foster parents to pretend that the biologcial parents are important to the child because of some ineffable blood-bond, or to seek to make them more important to the child through the "she's your REAL mother" rhetoric. The OP's 21-month-old knows darn good and well who his real mother is. When she tries to put that title on another woman, he (understandably!) gets upset and tells her to stop. 

 

Older kids in foster care have always been parented by somebody - or they'd be dead. Often it's their biological mother who (however imperfectly) filled the primary parental role. It's just a different situation altogether - the foster parents have to find a way to parent that does not harm the bond that already exists between the child and the primary caregivers he/she had before coming into care.  

 

 

 

post #15 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smithie View Post

 But it does NOT help, IMHO, for the foster parents to pretend that the biologcial parents are important to the child because of some ineffable blood-bond, or to seek to make them more important to the child through the "she's your REAL mother" rhetoric. The OP's 21-month-old knows darn good and well who his real mother is. When she tries to put that title on another woman, he (understandably!) gets upset and tells her to stop. 

 

jaw.gif

post #16 of 72

...


Edited by Mom31 - 2/14/12 at 2:06pm
post #17 of 72

I guess this is where it is hard to draw a line, and I think it is harmful to even try.  My daughter was parented by her birthmother for four months.  What my little girl faced n those four months was truly awful greensad.gif  But her birth mother is still VERY important to her.  And at 7, she still doesn't have the language skills to express how she feels about L.  She needs me to give her the language.  I think the language about a foster parent 'seeking to make the bio parent more important" shows a bias.  And to say REAL mother also.  My daughter has two very real mothers. Obviously I am the mom who does all of the parenting work, but L isn't imaginary.  Why place a judgement call like that if it doesn't come from a place of insecurity?

 

But it does NOT help, IMHO, for the foster parents to pretend that the biologcial parents are important to the child because of some ineffable blood-bond, or to seek to make them more important to the child through the "she's your REAL mother" rhetoric. The OP's 21-month-old knows darn good and well who his real mother is. When she tries to put that title on another woman, he (understandably!) gets upset and tells her to stop.  

 

post #18 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by pumpkingirl71 View Post

I guess this is where it is hard to draw a line, and I think it is harmful to even try.  My daughter was parented by her birthmother for four months.  What my little girl faced n those four months was truly awful greensad.gif  But her birth mother is still VERY important to her.  And at 7, she still doesn't have the language skills to express how she feels about L.  She needs me to give her the language.  I think the language about a foster parent 'seeking to make the bio parent more important" shows a bias.  And to say REAL mother also.  My daughter has two very real mothers. Obviously I am the mom who does all of the parenting work, but L isn't imaginary.  Why place a judgement call like that if it doesn't come from a place of insecurity?



Well, Smithie inserted a lot of language that would never come out of my mouth--"real mother" being some of it.

 

But I agree with you: what our children have endured doesn't change the reality that there is a birthparent and those birthparents are part of who that child is--forever.  Whether adoptive or foster. Nobody's (other than Smithie) is telling the OP to insist on who the "real" parent is.  But in this child's case, the birthparent is present and involved in some way in his life--the struggle is what to call her so that he's able to identify the people in his life appropriately.  Sorry, but when you foster, you take on the responsibility to parent without the full rights of being one.  It's just the nature of the beast.  I parented, mothered, consoled, cared for--all of it--for every one of my foster kids.  But I was NOT their mother.  I was absolutely in that role, but I respected that their goal was to go home and while they had that goal, I respected the case plan and their parents role so as not to undermine their bond.  I didn't need to.  I HAD a bond with my foster kids.  It wasn't about who their "real mother" was.

 

In the OP's situation, it's foster care and if the goal is RU, then all the more necessary to recognize the birthmother and be sure that he is able to attach some kind of appropriate title to her for when he goes home.  If he's been getting visitation, they're obviously calling her something.  And at 21mo and not in foster care fully a year, then that child recognizes his birthmother (assuming he was with her for the first almost-year of his life.  Maybe he wasn't).

post #19 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smithie View Post

 This child is old enough to label these things.  Just label them appropriately.  Get a picture and ask him who that is?  Go with his answer."

 

 

You take a different road, Heather, but we wind up in the same place.

 

 

Jane: For me, "mother" is a job description, not a statement about biology. My biokids don't call me "Mom" because I gestated them - they call me "mom" because I am female and I have parented them for years. I'm sorry that you think my stance in unethical - but frankly, I think your stance is delusional. Not all women who give birth get the chance to be mothers - some, through their own choice or society's choice or a combination of the two, never even hold their babies, or never hold them outside of a visitation room in a government facility. What they did for those kids is important. But it's not parenting. 

 

I agree with everything you say about visitation for babies in care who might be RUed. The sight, smell, voice experience of the biological parents is very important, to minimize the trauma of losing the foster parents. It's not a perfect approach, but it helps. If I were fostering a baby I would secure as much visitation as possible with the biological parents, put up pictures of them, talk about them, etc. But it does NOT help, IMHO, for the foster parents to pretend that the biologcial parents are important to the child because of some ineffable blood-bond, or to seek to make them more important to the child through the "she's your REAL mother" rhetoric. The OP's 21-month-old knows darn good and well who his real mother is. When she tries to put that title on another woman, he (understandably!) gets upset and tells her to stop. 

 

Older kids in foster care have always been parented by somebody - or they'd be dead. Often it's their biological mother who (however imperfectly) filled the primary parental role. It's just a different situation altogether - the foster parents have to find a way to parent that does not harm the bond that already exists between the child and the primary caregivers he/she had before coming into care.  

 

 

 


 

 

I *just* had a conversation about bfamily with my boys tonight. They are four. K's bmom NEVER "mothered" him. Probably held him for a bit but never left the hospital with him. He has been with me nearly his whole life. He remembers NO other mother. and i am telling you she is important to him BECAUSE OF THE BLOOD BOND. Why is that so hard to believe?? why WOULDNT she be important to him!?! she gave BIRTH to him!!!  i am really not getting your stance at all. Why is it so so hard for you to recognize that a child can have two mothers? That he can have a "mommy" who mothers him on a daily basis and a mother (regardless of what he chooses to call her) who can be just as important but in a different way.

 

I'm sitting here trying to wrap my mind around me (parent of three adopted kids, and also fostered a fourth) being called delusional by someone who has NOT adopted, seems to know little about triad-issues, and has fostered for a nanosecond. dizzy.gif (one might think a foster parent is delusional who thinks she can "secure as much visitation as possible for a birthparent" as if the fp is the one steering the boat. just sayin'. )

post #20 of 72

I am wondering if this little boy from the OP gets upset for other reasons other then the "name" mama- if he feels a sense of loss or confusion even at this young age- I can remember from a very very young age- feeling that loss and the confusion of WHY.

Wait- you mean this is my mother.... but you are my mother too- so WHY am I not with this other mother?  Did she not love me , want me, care about me?  What happened?  Maybe him getting upset has to do with his pain of being relinquished. Who knows he is two... but to say that she is not his mother is not even a true statement- she is his mother- and so is the OP

 

 

I of course do not agree with Smithies post- and am glad to see the replies from you thoughtful mothers.  I am not going to jump all over it tho- cause it's one persons thought- sad to say it goes against what current research in adoption and the adoptee experience thinks is the correct way to handle things.

I feel if you can not wrap your head and your heart around the fact that your child has TWO very important mothers then you are not probably ready to be an adoptive mother.... I can't imagine the feelings that go around this....

 

On a side note- I found a birth grandmothers obituary last night- I posted it to facebook and my amom called me this morning to talk about it- very openly and was excited for me. I am 11 years in reunion with my birthmother and my amom is finally able to accept the fact that I have two families- and talk about it with me.  How great is that!  How great is it that you can discuss this and feel this with your child at such young ages!!!  GOOD FOR YOU MAMA'S!!!  It can only help your child to know that they can come to you with these feelings and issues.  She looks alot like my bmom- and my bmom does not even know she is adopted so this is a can of worms I have put off looking into.... but alas I could not wait any longer.  I am hoping to find her siblings and gently break it to her...I have told her I know she is adopted but she is in denial- I am treading gently and going to speak to some professionals before I take any further steps.  It was just so easy to do this- I can't believe I did not do it years ago- ANCESTRY.com

 

Em

 

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