What Should I Do If I Feel Afraid Of My Child’s Biological Family?

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

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When we used to do in-person events (hello COVID!) the topic of biological family relationships often came up. And in many of those conversations with conference attendees, we've been asked, "What should I do if I feel afraid of a biological family member?"

I’ll begin by posing a series of questions:

Why do you feel afraid? Is there a reason? Did something specific happen? Did a bio parent show up at your door and threaten your family? Or did they do something dangerous?

Or is your fear coming from….you?

I don’t mean to come across harshly here, but I have to be honest about something important: Over the past 2 decades, fostering more than 20 children, adopting 8, and interacting with more biological parents and family members than I  can recall, I have never had a legitimate reason to be afraid of them.

Quick story. Many years ago, Kristin and I were walking out of a courthouse after a permanency hearing for a child we were caring for through foster care, when the father of the child’s bio mom stopped us, looked us in the eye, and said bluntly, “Don’t allow [the baby’s] father anywhere near you, your house, or your family. He’s crazy. Don’t tell him where you live. He will come and kick your front door in, and take the baby from you.”

As I type these words, I can still remember the way I felt when he told us this. My body instantly filled with anxiety. There was a pounding sensation in my head, and my hands became cold and clammy. I had that out-of-control feeling the entire drive back to our house that afternoon. This continued for a month or so. Until I met the child’s father. He was respectful. He was kind. He was human. He told me his story….his hopes….his dreams…his own fears. Had he made mistakes? Yep. But then again, so had I. Every fear I had built up in my mind, based on the word’s of the child’s grandfather, were unfounded. I had nothing to fear but the fear I had bought into blindly.

On March 4, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke these iconic words during his inauguration as the thirty-second president of the United States: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” This quote has been recited during times of war. It has been repeated by politicians and government officials in times of world crisis or terror. We see it branded on signs during natural disasters and social unrest. These words have made their way into our homes and our hearts. But what was FDR really saying on that cold winter day in 1933? I believe he was warning us that if we give fear enough power, attention, or authority, it won’t hesitate to start controlling everything we think and do. It’ll even damage relationships (or would-be relationships)

We often allow ourselves to think the worst before we really know the facts. We instinctively allow fear to take up residence in us and fester. To break this unhelpful response, ask yourself a few key questions:

  1. What are the cold, hard facts? Find out what the facts are surrounding a case. It’s okay to read police reports or court documents. Take time to weed through opinions and sort out the facts. Meet with the bio parents if you can (more on that in a minute). Listen to their story. Get to know them as a fellow parent. Just like it did for me, it may give you a brand new perspective on a situation, and this person who gave your child life. This has been the case with nearly every bio family member I have met and have a relationship with. 
  2. Have we talked (and CAN we talk?) This question is two-fold. First, have you tried to connect human-to-human with a bio parent? Start there. Maybe you can, or maybe you can’t. This depends on your specific situation. Second, if you can, have a conversation with them, learn about them AND from them. And believe the best, unless or until you have reason otherwise. You will almost always discover that your fears are unfounded.
  3. Am I in danger? This is a very important question to ask. Not “Do I feel that I’m in danger?” but rather “Am I IN danger?” Feelings are important but not always based on reality. “Am I in danger?” is based on facts.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say this: 99.9% of the time, the fear you feel is unfounded. We are so prone as humans to buy into something someone said, something we read online, heard in a training, or a news report on a hot topic which, newsflash (pun intended) thrive on sensationalism. I think bio families, and bio parents have gotten a bad rap. I think far too often they’ve become the scapegoat for the apprehensions and insecurities we have as parents. We need to stop this. It’s not healthy for our children, and not healthy for us. And by the way, our children who were adopted, will ALWAYS have 2 sets of parents. Get used to sharing.

Are there dangerous cases out there? Sure. Are there times when you need to have strong, immovable boundaries around your family? Absolutely. You may even be reading this and you are in a dangerous situation and it’s legitimate. But these are rare. Putting up your defenses and safeguarding your family must be the response to legitimate concerns with actual facts, not the reaction to a feeling that’s unfounded, or a persisting insecurity you have. 

The most important thing to remember is this: Bio parents and family members are human beings just like you. They have made mistakes just like you and I have. Let’s not treat fellow human beings poorly, with contempt, or differently because they’ve walked a different life path than us, or made different choices than we have. Let’s celebrate the fact that we are fellow human beings who are living, breathing, and trying to figure out life to the best of our ability.

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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.