Building a relationship with your kids’ biological families

Learn how Alecia and Ryan practice intentional openness.

by Alecia and Ryan, adoptive parents

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Alecia and Ryan adopted four of their children through Michigan’s foster care system, including a sibling group of three. They hold a strong commitment to building relationships with their children’s biological families.

Alecia: Kaleb is the older brother to three of our kids, and he and his wife, Ashley, have a 3-year-old son. We all see each other several times a month and communicate by phone and text more than that.

The kids get so excited when we tell them they get to spend the weekend with Kaleb and Ashley. The kids love spending time with them and come home telling us all the things they did together.

It means a lot that connections that were part of their lives before our adoption still remain.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in busy family schedules, but we prioritize our time together, even if we can only meet for an hour or two.

Those times put together—at soccer practice, trick-or-treating, birthday parties, and just hanging out—are what have built our relationship. Sometimes it’s hard, and we have to reschedule something else to make it happen, but that time is so important.

Last summer, Ashley planned a family picnic with aunts, uncles, grandmas, and grandpas who the kids hadn’t seen in two years. Spending that time together was good for the kids, it was good for us, and it was good for those extended family members to see where the kids are today.

Ryan: The more openness and answers the kids can have now, the fewer questions they’ll have in the future. They went through a huge transition from foster care to adoption but maintaining their relationship with Kaleb and Ashley provides one constant—one thing in their lives stayed “normal.”

We realize that the kids had a life and a family before they came here. Why would we want to take that away from them?

Kaleb was part of his sisters’ lives from the time they were born. Should foster care mean he loses all contact with them?

If it was me in that situation, I would constantly be wondering, What’s going on? Are my sisters safe? Will I ever see them again? So many unanswered questions.

I understand there are situations where contact may be unsafe, but that isn’t our situation. So we try to integrate as much of the kids’ story into our lives as possible.

Our families have a lot in common. Kaleb and Ashley’s son is the same age as Kaleb’s youngest brother. Alecia and Ashley enjoy sewing and crafting. Kaleb and I follow mixed martial arts. The “effort” we make to stay connected isn’t even an effort because of the bonds we share. But we only discovered these shared interests after we started building this relationship.

There’s a person behind every story. There’s always more below the surface than what you assume.

I’m sure when we had the picnic last summer, it answered a lot of questions and put a lot of people at ease. I can’t imagine not knowing where my grandchild was, or my niece or nephew, and wondering what kind of people they were with.

If a relationship is possible, put in the time. Make the effort. You won’t know what’s possible until you take the first step.

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