Preparing Adopted/Foster Kids for Possible Birth Parent Rejection

Having your adopted or foster child run away someday to stay forever with birth relatives has to be the #1 fear of most parents.

But, what is the next fear?

The number two fear is that your child will find long-lost birth relatives and ultimately suffer rejection from them.

Am I not right, parents?

My adoptee heart goes out to you.

Don’t despair…let’s talk.

Let’s begin by defining “rejection.” Webster’s defines it:

  • as refusing to have, take or act upon
  • to refuse to accept a person
  • to rebuff
  • to throw away or discard as useless or unsatisfactory
  • to cast out or eject

How about ways your child, no matter his/her age, may experience rejection?

  • Teen waits for birth parent to pick up for movie date but parent doesn’t show.
  • Child fantasizes on birthday that first mom will come to party but she doesn’t show up.
  • Adult reunites with birth siblings who only want to meet once and then ignore any desires to meet again.
  • Birth parent can’t deal with own loss and grief and outwardly disses her child, telling that she wants no more contact.

There are things you can do to help your child “do rejection well.”


Yes, siree! We can smell it. Just ask us.

Why do we have this “talent”?

Because we perceive we’ve been rejected by our first parents, either at birth, through CPS removal, or through death.

Yes, others say we weren’t rejected, but it certainly doesn’t compute that way to us.

As parents, you probably weren’t prepared for this reality by social workers or adoption professionals. The majority of placements don’t begin with such honesty.

Beginning the parent/child relationship with this foundation will take you and your child miles in growing deeper together.


Here are some examples that should help you hone this ability:

  • Infant arches back, refusing comfort. In cries: waaah! I am sad I lost my mom. Affirming words: “I understand…you miss your first mom…and that you feel sad, mad, scared or angry. (Denial=Parent takes arching personally as if it is a rejection of him/her).
  • Child withdrawn and sullen. “I feel sad that my first mommy gave me away.” Emotional reality=grief, loss, abandonment. Affirmation=”I understand that you feel sad, to feel given away. Can you tell me more about that?” (Denial=”She really didn’t give you away. She loved you and wanted the best for you.” Child…”if that is love, I don’t want anything to do with it.”
  • Child clings to adoptive mother. “Me sad I didn’t grow in your tummy, mommy.” Emotional reality=grief, abandonment. Affirmation=”I understand how you’d feel that way. I wish we could have been together then.”
  • Child lays on bed first day of kindergarten. “I don’t want to go to school, mommy. I feel sick.” Emotional reality=fear of abandonment. Affirmation: “You must feel sad about going to a new place today. Saying goodbyes are hard, aren’t they?”(Denial: “What’s wrong with you, Suzie? Quit moping’s time for school.”)
  • Teenager withdrawn on birthday. “I wonder if my birth mother is thinking about me today. I bet more than any day, she’s thinking about me.” Emotional reality=curiosity and sadness. Affirmation=”I can certainly understand why you’d be thinking of her today. Sometimes birth mothers remember and sometimes they don’t. Are you thinking about meeting her someday?”


There was a case years ago when a baby was fried in an iron skillet. The baby was taken to the hospital and when the mother visited, baby reached up in glee with she saw her mom.

There is a strong tie! A DNA tie.

Your child will manifest this tie in the form of fantasies about the lost mom.

With young children, discover the fantasies through play. A doll house with all the characters involved in the wooden people. Or, lego people and possible people and circumstances that may happen.

For example:

-play adoption. Use stick people to represent first mom, first dad, your child. I predict the child will verbalize fantasies about first parent. You could then reverse the play by asking what would happen if the first mom didn’t want child…at birth…at foster care placement…at reunion. What would you say to the child?

These are a few thoughts on how you can begin introducing and accepting the fact that rejection is part of the tapestry of adoption.

Just as the dark threads of a tapestry add depth, so do the themes of rejection and loss.

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