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When foster children "remember" their biological parent.
Q: We want to adopt our 3- and 5-year-old foster boys; they have been with us 18 months now and are up for adoption. They have lived only with their mother and us. The 3-year-old calls me mummy and Grandma/mummy; he did not bond with his mother. The 5-year-old did bond with his mother and keeps "reminding" the 3-year-old of past events. By court order he has not seen her in six months, but he mentions her every day! We just say, "Oh, that's nice" and go on with the conversation. How do we get him to stop talking about her all the time and stop trying to get his brother to "remember" things that did not happen?
A: It is wonderful that you want to adopt them. Life in foster care, even in a supportive home such as you obviously provide, is no bed of roses. I wouldn’t try to stop the older boy from talking about his biological mother. My guess would be that he makes past events sound much rosier than they actually were. In doing so, he is trying to handle his own pain. The way you are handling this sounds exemplary to me (“Oh, that’s nice”). Actually I would encourage him to talk about the events of his life that he remembers, even with the distortion that always occurs with time—and occurs doubly when the talk represents, in part, an attempt to deal with anxiety and hurt. Take him off by himself and talk with him, perhaps even show some pictures to help jog his memory. And, whenever possible, make excuses for her. Try to do this when the little one is not around. I will venture the guess that, if you give him more of an opportunity to talk to you about his mother, he will not need to talk to his brother as much.

Finally, may I thank you for what you are doing. Many people deplore the rise in so-called “dysfunctional families,” where children are neglected, abused, or abandoned. In contrast, you are doing something truly noble to try to give two little boys a chance in life. Adoption is rarely easy even when the identity and whereabouts of the biological mother are not known to the adoptive parents. In situations such as yours, it is even more challenging. Good luck, and blessings on you.