5 Keys To Building Successful Relationships With Birth Parents.

Author of 5 books, podcaster, parent trainer, husband and father.

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How do you build successful relationships with your kid's birth parents? There's rarely a week that goes by where this question doesn't appear in our email or direct message inbox. We believe healthy birth family relationships are crucial to success on the journey. And, if it's possible to do, you need to make it a priority.

We love our children’s birth parents. In all, our children account for 12 birth parents total, and many more extended family members. Even though some of our birth parents have made choices, over the years, that are unwise, we never judge or criticize them. Unfortunately, not every adoptive parent feels the same. We often see it on social media, in discussion forums, or on adoption or foster care websites- a rant, frustration, public lashing, or negative talk toward the very people who gave their children life.

We feel differently. We’ve never held grudges, or bitterness toward our children’s birth parents. We honor them. Sure, we’ve had our moments of frustration and irritations, but they quickly diminish out of one single commitment we made a long time ago. We committed to show respect to our birth parents, and treat them with dignity, in any and all circumstances, as far as it depended on us.

We live in a world that often misunderstands adoption. The default for most people is to assume that, because a child has been adopted (or is soon to be adopted), their birth parents must have really screwed up or made some horrible, dark mistake! We’ve even had people ask bluntly if they were on drugs, in jail, or abusive. I’m just going to say it….harsh! Judgmental! And nobody else’s business but ours!

Our goal has been, and will continue to be, to build solid relationships, as far as it depends on us, with our children’s birth parents. We simply believe this is the best and healthiest way to live life, and raise our children! When our children have asked honest questions, we’ve answered honestly. We never lie. But we work to hold our children’s birth parents in a positive light, even if the situation may be a bit negative.

Here are 5 steps we’ve taken, over the last 15 years, to form successful relationships with our children’s birth parents:

  1. Talk about them in honor. We committed in the very beginning, before our first adoption, to always speak honorably of our children’s birth parents. We believe in showing the utmost respect to each and every one of them. This was one of the biggest take-aways from our first pre-adoptive parent class nearly 13 years ago. The instructor impressed this on each parent. I whole-heartedly agreed. They are human beings, and thus, deserve honor and gratitude.
  2. Never vilify them. As far as it depends on you, do not tarnish your birth parent’s name or cause your children to think of them in a low light. This may be hard depending on the life circumstance of your birth parents, but it’s critical. I know how easy it is, at times, to allow your frustration to get the best of you. This is exponentially greater when you foster-to-adopt. But think of it this way- none of us are perfect either. We each have made poor choices, or have idiosyncrasies that may frustrate others. We wouldn’t want to be vilified either. Simply placing ourselves in someone else’s shoes will give us a different perspective.
  3. Celebrate their heroics. Over the years we have talked about our birth parent’s bravery, their courage, and their heroism. When our children have asked questions such as “Why couldn’t my birth mom keep me?” we’ve responded with, “Your birth mom was so brave and so courageous, and loved you so much, that she choose to place you in a situation that would be better for you.” Even in involuntary termination situations (foster care), we’ve kept our conversation positive and dignified toward a birth parent. There’s no reason to talk poorly about another human being.  
  4. Work to form a solid partnership. Remember, you are both parents to your children. Your birth parent played a vital role in creating your children. As your kids grow and mature, do everything in your power to form a healthy partnership with their birth parents. Consider them friends. I just met up with my youngest son’s birth father last night for dinner, and it was a great experience. Over the past 2 years we have worked hard to form a solid partnership (and friendship) with him. Every time I take my son to meet with him, I walk away encouraged and thankful we met.
  5. Consider them part of your family. This often catches people off-guard. It’s usually because some birth parents are not suitable or healthy, personally, to interact with their family. That’s understandable. If this is the case for you, make sure you protect your family. However, if your relationship with your children’s birth parent(s) is amicable, include them in your family. Consider them a friend. Spend intentional time with them at a park, or the zoo, or a mall, or a restaurant. Even include them in birthday parties, or holidays if you can. Don’t worry about confusing your children. It only becomes confusing when you make it confusing.

If you work hard to make your relationship with your children’s birth parents successful, if you go the extra mile and follow some of the same steps we’ve taken, you will find that it greatly benefits your children, and your entire family.

In some situations, the lack of personal health of a birth parent demands distance, or strong boundaries, and that’s understandable. We’ve been in this situation in the past. Remember, your first responsibility is to protect the children God has given you to raise. This is something you must do, for your children, but also for the protection of your family. You will know when this is the case. But, if this is not the case, remember- your children’s birth parents will always be part of their lives. Why not work to ensure your relationship with them is as healthy as it can be?

There’s a verse in the book of Romans, chapter 12, verse 18, that says, “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” I love these words because they basically put the power in your hands. As far as it depends on you. You have the power to build a peaceful, healthy relationship. But, these words also give you direction if you’ve exhausted every means to creating a positive relationship, and need to establish guidelines. If you’ve exhausted every means to be at peace (as far as it depends on you), and there’s no option of a positive, healthy relationship, the next step is distance.

As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

But your goal should first, be peace. Remember, they are human beings just like you and me. They deserve love and grace, just like you and me. If the tables were turned, you and I would want the same treatment.

Are you an adoptive parent working to achieve a good relationship with your children’s birth parents? What have you discovered? What else would you add to this list?

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.