Caterpillar's birth mom gave her phone number to the caseworker to give to me. After thinking about it for a little while, I wanted to extend some contact over phone. First, she made the first move, and second, I felt for her. I always feel pangs of sympathy imagining mothers lying awake at night, not knowing anything about the strangers their babies are with, not able to tell them anything. Wondering if they know that gas drops help him. Wondering if they will figure out that she likes her back rubbed to get to sleep. And this case in particular has had a bumpy start in ways that are not her fault.
There were two obstacles to this phone call. The first is that I get very anxious about phone calls. Even if I'm just calling the dentist's office, I get a little sweaty and flustered. When I've had to make calls in my second language, Spanish, I have to talk myself into calling, literally pep-talking myself out loud sometimes. I vastly prefer talking in person or by e-mail. Sometimes I avoid phone calls completely.
The second obstacle is privacy. Many birth parents would not abuse having information on foster parents, but some would. With landlines, there is the insecurity of knowing that your address is out there. I know it differs by areas, but here the address of the foster parents' home is kept confidential. Then with any kind of phone, you can invite more calls than you bargained for. Birth parents may have addictions or mental illness (or just desperation from missing their children) that inspire 2 am calls or constant texts, and most other foster parents have advised me against giving out a number.
Then I saw Google Voice suggested and found it to be a great solution. I'll try to explain it because I didn't get it at first. You can create a new number. For outgoing calls, you can type the number on the website and it calls any phone you have set up to be connected to your Google Voice number. When you answer your phone, it connects to the number you entered on the website. The person receiving the call sees only the Google Voice number, not your landline or cell number. Then for incoming calls, any phone you have connected to your Google Voice number rings. Here's a great feature: there is an option for calls during a certain time to go straight to voicemail. I set that up from 9 pm to 8 am, and ta-da, no after-hours calls.
So, with the privacy obstacle overcome, I said a few prayers to get past my phone fear, and called Caterpillar's mom. It was a really positive conversation, and I'm so glad I called her. I don't know at all where our relationship will go or how this case will go, but I am glad that it started off better than my rushed awkward conversation as I drop off her child for a visit. I introduced myself as the foster mom taking care of her son, and tried to learn as much as I could of how she has been taking care of him: products, soothing tips, etc. She was calm and thorough. Talking at visits and keeping a two-way journal have been mostly positive, but after today, I really want to attempt phone contact with future birth parents. I want to give my Google Voice number to the worker dropping off the child, because this conversation would have been even better if had happened sooner.
What communication methods have you had with birth parents? Your good stories, your bad stories?