Is Gotcha Day Offensive ?

Personally, I have always found this disturbing.  I really can’t believe an adoptive parent thinks like this but it does seem to be a common thing.  I wonder how the child might feel growing up knowing their own birthday wasn’t important.

“We celebrate our children’s Gotcha Day not birthday. The birthdate is the day they were born not when their life began. Gotcha day is what we celebrate and acknowledge as their new birthday. It’s when we became a family, their family. That’s when they were born into our family. Gotcha day is their birth into our family and as their parents. The moment all of our struggle was worth it and forgotten, similar to when a woman gives birth. All the pain washes away, when you finally meet your child”.

One adoptive parent said, “I understand that most people who have not adopted a child simply do not know that their questions may be rude or offensive or not the politically correct adoptive term.”

Families celebrate this day in many different ways and it can vary from a large party type celebration to a minor recognition to nothing at all.  Adoption comes from a place of loss and brokenness.  It also carries with it heavy emotions for everyone involved.

The term “gotcha” is too casual for the arrival of a child into the family. It can be insensitive to all parties involved in the adoption process.

One adoptive parent prefers to use the term Finalization Day but would be equally comfortable with Adoption Day.  Still, she prefers finalization as it’s more specific to what the day actually is.  She also admits that over time this may evolve and change.

As she explains her reasoning, she shares that she and her husband talked about it and put a lot of thought into it.  They arrived at the decision to mark “Finalization Day” on their calendar and to consider it a celebration of the day that their family became whole and complete.

As a somewhat enlightened adoptive parent (I would not say completely enlightened but adoption is going through a definite reform in perspective that is painfully slow for some of us but progress never-the-less) she acknowledges that it is very, very important to always honor her son’s birth family and his story.  However, it’s also not something she wishes to focus on all the time. It’s a PART of who he is and she sincerely hopes it does NOT define him.  Only time and maturity will prove whether that is true or not.

While he’s the original mother’s son and always will be, he’s also their son and their other children’s brother.  It is understandable that she would want him to never feel singled out or like he’s any less loved or less part of their family.

She goes on to admit that it is a very delicate balance. And every adoptive child and adult will feel differently about their adoption journey and story. Each adoptees’ story is special and unique and it’s not a “one size fits all” situation.  Adult adoptees go many directions in how they feel regarding their adoption. That’s honest.

It seems that her hope is that he’ll never, ever want to think or talk about adoption. Maybe he’ll just want to BE and not think deeper about how he came to be who he is. Not consider himself an “adoptee.”  That is probably wishful thinking but oh well.

She goes on to also explain that all of their children have adoption as part of their personal story. They have all been touched by it and are walking this path together.  She acknowledges that as they grow up, they all may have their own thoughts, feelings and questions.  To her credit, she always wants to be an open book with them and readily share anything – at ANY time of the year – that they might want to know.

Plan B

It may seem strange to write about this but unplanned pregnancies are a leading cause of adoption.  Adoption results in often unconscious and definitely life-long trauma for the adoptee and for their mother from whom they are removed.  Ridding one’s self of the possibility quickly, results in less guilt and shame than an abortion, even when done by 3 mos gestation.  If definitely prevents the surrender of a baby to some stranger.

An interesting fact about this method is that it often fails obese women.  Weight matters in this regard.  This is an important consideration in the United States, where over 35% of adults are obese because obese women (with a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or greater) became pregnant over 3 times more often than non-obese women when trying this method.

While the commercially marketed brand names are expensive and often kept in anti-theft cabinets, it is possible to obtain a generic.  I have read that with a coupon code from GoodRx the cost of a generic could be as low as $14.

Plan B is meant to delay or prevent ovulation. It does not “end the pregnancy”. Plan B is not an abortion pill.   It’s a heightened dose of birth control to prevent implantation. It’s not misoprostol or mifepristone.  So there is no danger of harming the fetus’s development, if a pregnancy develops after trying this.  Using this does slightly increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy.  If you’re already pregnant, it won’t work; but it will basically force you to have a period, if you’re not pregnant.

If you’re on Medicaid, they have an online site and will mail it and birth control to your home for free monthly.  And at pharmacies, it is often found on the shelf right next to the pregnancy tests and near the condoms! Don’t be in denial about unprotected sex.  Believing “Oh it won’t happen to me, I’m invincible” could prove to be wrong and then it is too late for the easy precautions.  Girls under 18, be aware that many states require a prescription to buy it at a pharmacy, making it much less accessible but you can actually buy it on Amazon, of course.

Beware though if you live in a conservative, religious right state like my state of Missouri – you may get a judgmental/religious pharmacist. There are tons of stories of women being blocked by pharmacists from getting it – either lied to or just told no.  And parents in these conservatively religious regions often don’t believe in sex education and tell their children to just say “no” with predictable results.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Opportunity To Affect Legislation

If you care about adoption law and foster care issues, you might be willing to add your voice to this pending legislation.  Ohio Representative Gayle Manning created House Bill 506 which is designed to prioritize the desire of foster parents hoping to adopt over that of relatives. If passed, it would create a new Ohio law that prohibits moving a child from a foster home to a relative that they do not know, or have never met, if they have resided in the foster home for more than 6 months. Clearly, this would be a huge roadblock to relatives seeking custody, and a court order would need to be obtained proving that the move is in the best interest of the child (which takes time and money and is reduced to a judgement call by the courts). If a law like this passes in Ohio, it is safe to assume that it would only be a matter of time before other states follow suit.

A few local advocacy organizations have been effective in educating Rep. Manning on the horrific implications of this bill, she feels compelled to carry it forward due to the backlash she would receive from foster parents if she withdrew the legislation.  Ohio families need your help! Please take a moment now to e-mail Ohio state Representative Gayle Manning at Rep55@ohiohouse.gov and “cc” her aide at Bryanna.Austin@ohiohouse.gov.

Here is a sample e-mail that you are welcome to copy:
Dear Representative Manning,
Thank you for seeking to promote what is in the best interest of our most vulnerable children. I applaud your desire to advocate for children, and that is why I must warn you that House Bill 506 (Prohibit placement of child with relative child does not know) will do more harm than good.
HB 506 is NOT in the best interest of children, and it will not protect them or ensure that they are placed in the care that best suits their needs. Rather, HB 506 will impose an unrealistic timeframe on relatives, and place the desires of foster parents hoping to adopt over the well documented lifelong benefit of keeping children within their natural families.
If passed, HB 506 would effectively prohibit relative placements, which is directly contrary to medical research, social justice, and federal guidelines.
Please withdraw HB 506 immediately. Thank you.

 

Defunding Foster Parents

If a biological parent can’t financially support their children, they are taken away. Yet the state funds foster parents to keep other people’s children. If you want to raise these children, you should be able to afford to do that first.

Case in point – a woman has NINE foster children and says that without funding from the state, she would only be able to care for THREE.  Needless to say that having 9 foster kids in one home would constitute that home as being a “group” home. Different standards should apply plus a lot more monitoring.

The requirements for providing foster care do vary by state.  I read that in Texas, you’re classified a group home if you house more than six kids. You are also required to have someone awake overnight on staff.

Defunding foster parents would cut down on abuse and neglect perpetrated by foster parents. However, given the current reality foster parents should not be allowed to have so many children in one home – unless they’re a sibling group. Three or four should be the maximum.

The state really should be funding parents instead of removing children in some cases. There are definitely cases where the children may need to be removed to allow the parent to get treatment/therapy/better parenting skills, etc but sometimes a parent just needs some utilities paid or other financial assistance, until they get back on their feet.

For more perspective, here is one former foster youth’s experience – group homes do have a bad reputation.  I do strongly believe that with on site treatment, reputable staff and good funding it is possible to create group homes with less risk of abuse. I’ve been in 36 foster homes, in which 33 were abusive or neglectful. I’ve been in 3 group homes that were amazing. All that said, I do believe the state should be funding parents before any stranger, if it will keep a family together.

 

A Willing Helper

I had not thought of Little Orphan Annie in a very long time.  I did know that there was a Broadway musical created around the character.  As a schoolgirl, I read the comic in our daily local newspaper.

Also growing up, I thought my parents were orphans because they were adopted.  I don’t know what they thought growing up about why they had been adopted.  But my parents were not orphans.  Unknown to me and maybe unknown to them (though my mom did know that she had some family once she was well into adulthood), there were people out there, living ordinary lives, as unaware of me as I was of them.  Only they were actually my true genetic relatives.

Many foster parents and some adoptive parents who adopt an older child come to think of them as the help.  Willing or not, they are put to work to ease the burdens of those providing for them.

Short on time today, so until tomorrow, these are just a few thoughts that came up as I was reminded of that cartoon I used to read long ago.  I’ve not seen the Broadway musical, only aware of it and mostly of the song Tomorrow.

 

 

Three Identical Strangers

In the 1960s, a research project into identical siblings, placing them separately for adoption into different classes (poor, middle and wealthy), was done for the purpose of determining the impact of financial resources on their outcomes.  Back in the 1930s to 1950, Georgia Tann had a similar thought – taking babies from poor families and placing them into wealthier homes would lead to better outcomes for the children.

My mom was one of those babies.  She was adopted in 1937.  Both of her parents were very poor and struggling to survive the Great Depression but they were exploited by threats from Georgia Tann that her close relationship with the Juvenile Court judge in Memphis would support any removal of children she suggested.  Sadly.

So, in the 1980s, when these young men were 19 years old and began attending college, they discovered that they had been separated after birth into different adoptive families.  Even the adoptive parents didn’t know there were other genetically identical siblings.  The triplets accidentally found each other when two of them enrolled at the same college and found the third when he saw the story on the news. After the three siblings reunited, they became media darlings for awhile and even met their original biological parents.

It is not entirely a happy story and a suicide trigger warning is justified.  The two surviving triplets carry the DNA, the history, the pain, and the heart of their deceased brother. As the three boys entered adulthood each of them dealt with mental illness and psychiatric care.

The carelessness of the adoption agency that gave the boys away turns out to be something far crueler and more deviously deliberate than possibly imaginable. It is a shockingly true story but not unlike other psychological research from that era. Ethics were just not on the radar yet. People were treated like lab rats.

One woman, now much older, who was involved with the research study is blasé about the whole thing saying it was exciting to mess with people’s lives and noting what’s done is done.

The children who were the study subjects involved will not have access to the findings until 2065, by which time they will likely not be still alive.  This is because our own government funded this study.

This program does show how strong genetics truly are.  Being separated at birth results in life long trauma. All adoption agencies exist to make money. The program suggests that some of the adoptive parents would have happily taken all three boys, if they had known the truth, at the time.

One of the scientists involved in the study interviewed for the program kept laughing, saying inappropriate things, none of what happened was funny.  He said there’s probably at least four people (probably many more) who have no idea they are twins or that they were part of a study.

Currently one of the brothers practices law, the other sells insurance and investments. One of the two is (or soon will be) divorced.  These kinds of mental health and relationship impacts are quite common among adoptees.

Which leaves me with two questions (I have not seen, only have read about this program) – Is science worth keeping secrets and being immoral to accomplish unbiased research ? And how much of who we are is Nature and how much Nurture ? (That second one I’ve been looking at for 20 years.)

Taking Off Rose Colored Glasses

Today’s story –

Four years ago, my husband and I became foster parents. Our first “placement” (geeeze I hate that term), turned into an adoption. Our son, now 4 1/2, will be meeting his biological mom for the first time in December when she is released from prison. We have constant contact with her via phone calls and emails, as well as visits with grandparents every few months. My question is, what can we be doing to make her transition home easier-for her, and for him? He calls her by name, and knows that she is his tummy momma who grew him and gave him life and love, but he really hasn’t asked many questions beyond that. I’d love to have some feedback, so we can do our very best to navigate this the best way possible. I am far from a perfect parent, but this is obviously something that I don’t want to mess up.

PS – until recently, I viewed foster care and adoption through rose colored glasses, but that is no longer the case. My eyes and my heart are now open to the hard parts of adoption. 

Immediately was this response – as a birth mom. Drop the tummy momma crap. We are humans, we weren’t incubators.

The woman understood immediately and said – Thank you all so much for your honesty. “Tummy mommy” will stop immediately. You’re so right, that’s an awful way to refer to her.   I am doing my best to dig deep, not for me, for them. I don’t want to mess this up with any of my own bullshit feelings. They’ve been through enough.

A compassionate response came next – Offer her acceptance for any and all emotions she may experience. Work your way from there. Allow him to be around her as much as she and him are comfortable. Encourage playtime/movie time whatever he likes. Be understanding above all else. These are extremely difficult emotions for his mom just as much for him so offer as much kindness as possible.   This is never easy and remember she is in pain and your son IS traumatized at some level because of losing her. That is a fact and you as an adoptive mother HAVE to make peace with it.

One suggested way to deal with this is – be mom (your 1st name) and mom (her 1st name).. that will better help him associate who she really is to him – his mom. He will know her, he will sense something familiar about her and she will feel like home to him because they already have that birth connection. She is his mother in a biological way that will never change. Kids aren’t as confused about the duality of multiple moms as we are as adults. You’re going to have to do a lot of hard uncomfortable (for you) things to actually support this relationship.  He’ll get to know her over time and much easier if there aren’t adult issues and expectations on it.

Finally, some important advice – You need to find a genuine love for her beyond her being the person that is the reason you have your child.  Just going through the motions you think you should in terms of open adoptions isn’t enough. It should not be what you think you should do. It should be naturally what you want to do. Coming out of prison is difficult. You are treated like a pariah. Getting a job with a record is hard, getting any help from anyone or any government funded programs is difficult to impossible. Some programs you cannot even apply for if you have a record. Welcome her. Make sure she knows she has an important place in his life. Do NOT talk about boundaries and make her time with your son a top priority.

Regrets When Things Change

So today’s story goes like this – I had a baby June 30 was going to place her for adoption with a relative in Texas. Decided I’m no longer going to place for adoption and told her I was coming to get her. (Cause according to our agreement I can request the return of my child at any time) It was a agreement for non parent adult caregiver. Well she basically sent me a text saying no and wasn’t going to give her to me didn’t think it’s in the best interest. And was going to file a restraining order And somehow I was lying to her and she feels like I used her. I had originally asked her to take baby cause I wanted her to stay in the family. I hired attorney but I’m just scared and worried cause I’ve never been to court for anything and I don’t know what to expect and some how they have “I’m not able to properly care for her” but I take care of my other kids every day. So I just don’t understand and didn’t it expect it to be like now a custody battle. (She has a lot more support and money then me as she knows I’m a single mom.)

She adds – Everything was fine till I told her I wanted to parent. Actually at first everything was fine with me coming to get her, my relative was mad/hurt but wasn’t putting up a fight. Then come last Wednesday, I got a text saying NO and I wasn’t in the best interest of my own baby and some how I lied to her this whole time and had other people tell her I can’t care for her etc.

I actually believe she just doesn’t want to give her back and she trying to scare me to back off, thinking something going to happen to my other kids, if I don’t win my baby back or something. She blocked me from everything she trying to let the time frame past to where I can’t do anything and my rights can be taken away.

One woman in the group replied – I wish we could start a list of people who would take a baby temporarily, no paperwork to help moms out. I’ve done it before, had a baby for 90 days while mama got the help she needed and handed her the baby back. No Department of Children and Families involvement and when people asked – I would say I’m helping a mom keep her baby. I’m learning that sometimes moms feel they cannot parent at that moment and just need some time and can parent once help is given etc.

Another woman chimed in – I would love to be a fictive kin “grandma” to help young women get on there feet. My kids are young adults and helping families connect with resources is what I do for employment. Occasional baby snuggles or getting to see happy families would be an extra bonus (my work is done over phone/internet).

Someone added – If you only signed a temporary guardianship the law is on your side.

If you are unfamiliar with a Texas Authorization Agreement for Nonparent Relative or Voluntary Caregiver, this law allows any adult caregiver to be authorized to provide TEMPORARY CARE for a child.

Failure by the voluntary adult caregiver to return the child to the parent immediately on request may have criminal and civil consequences.

So further advice is this – Copy your signed agreement and show up at the local police department the lady lives in and tell them she’s refusing to give you your kid and based on what you signed you have every right to get your child back. They may say it’s a civil matter BUT this document should show them regardless you have the rights to get your baby.

The woman replies –  I called her police, they won’t help.

The other woman providing advice (and I agree, it is VERY IMPORTANT to make a STRONG CASE of demand at this point !!) – Honey – SHOW UP. Physical presence means a little more. Print this document. Type a paper or hand write it if necessary saying you hear by REVOKE all authorization previously given. Show the police. Ask them to make a copy and open a file. Dress appropriately and speak respectfully and calmly to the officers and chances are – if they see this document – they should aid in getting her back.

Someone else added – Did you try to file a kidnapping report using your document ?

She was told this situation is not considered a kidnapping.

She counters –  My copy of the agreement is not signed by a judge.  She was supposed to file her copy.

Yet another person notes – If she didn’t file it in her county, she has even less legally to stand on in this situation.

The distraught mother adds – I called her county clerk or court and they said they didn’t see anything but that the lady didn’t know much about this form. The woman in possession of her daughter said it has to be revoked by a judge.  The mother wants to know – how do you get something revoked, if it was never filed ?

Supportive responses come – The court clerk would most likely be looking this up by the person’s name. If there’s nothing filed, there’s nothing for them to find under their name.

I think there is a very high likelihood they’re lying to you about it having to be revoked by a judge in order to make it feel too difficult and insurmountable to have kiddo returned to you.

Frankly, I think they’re lying to you about all sorts of stuff. I’m so sorry. This is entirely bullshit.

Be very careful about who you trust to help you care for your children.  Even with the best intentions and “protections” too much is at stake to take chances with someone so precious.

A Different Story

Maybe you are here to be uncomfortable and dig deeper. When you find yourself uncomfortable, that is a sign you need to consider what I share here more realistically.  Triggers tell us where our issues are.

The fact that society has crafted adoption as this great, positive, wonderful thing for everyone adopted as well as those who adopt is the very core of my concern with adoption. It’s the very reason adoptees can’t speak freely in general society without being dubbed ungrateful or hateful or negative. It’s the very reason expecting moms feel unworthy to parent their own child.

Adoption isn’t negative or positive. It’s complex. It’s not simple at all. How someone feels at 5 may not be how they feel at 13 or 30. It is not wrong to fight to change the narrative as I seek to do here everyday

It is not wrong to want those that cannot be raised by their parents to have the tools and the right to understand how adoption works, what it means for them now and in the future.

There is no shortage of places you can go to hear how great adoption is.  I am here to be as real about adoption as I have developed the ability to understand something that is rampant in my family’s life even though not as directly my own experience as others in my family.  Even so, I wasn’t able to raise my own daughter and she grew into an adult guided by others and with no small amount of shame and guilt in my own self to deal with for not being a “better” mother to her.

If you want a space where adoptees will tell you how wonderful their adoption was and how grateful they are because that feels really validating to you – then there are other places that will do that for you.  Don’t expect to find much of that here.

Adoptees can have a loving and caring adoptive family and still not believe adoption is the answer. No one’s story is identical to another’s. I try not to say that here.  I certainly don’t expect a one size fits all explanation of all things adoption.  In fact, that is why I can always find something new to write about this  topic every day.  Each adoptee and/or former foster care youth will have a different viewpoint about their own story.  This is as it should be. I certainly know this. There are a variety of “stories” and a variety of “outcomes” among my own family members who have been impacted by adoption.  Bottom line – there is no single story.

With my own blog I seek to educate my readers on the harder parts of adoption, not the rainbow and unicorn fantasy parts (even if those are actually mostly true for the one experiencing it as such).  You can find plenty of happily ever after stories related to adoption if you only go looking for them.  My own daughter said to me once – you seem to be on a mission – and I didn’t deny that.  After over 6 decades in the dark about something so immediate and personal as adoption is in my own family, I came out of what is often referred to as the fog.  It is the concepts and beliefs that society puts out there about adoption.

Being uncomfortable isn’t bad thing. That includes adoptees too. If you never allow yourself to be uncomfortable, you miss learning about a larger reality.  Pushing through discomfort and emotional reactions can yield any one of us so much personal growth and character development.

Is It Really Necessary ?

So is adoption really necessary ?

One could conclude that an orphan should ideally be adopted by the guardians assigned before the parent‘s demise. For foster kids, who would like to be adopted, after parental rights were terminated. Guardianship or temporary fostering could suffice to serve the needs of children in most cases.

It may be that the only time adoption is “necessary” (and one could always argue that word) would be for an older child or teen, whose parents have already signed termination of parental rights.  But only if the child has asked for that without prompting. And the child’s name should never be changed unless the child wants their name changed to feel more in harmony with the rest of the family.  And go slowly on that one because it could be only a temporary phase that won’t be as lasting as changing the child’s name.  The child does need to be empowered in a situation in which they don’t have a lot of control otherwise.

There are very sad and difficult cases.  For example, cases of extreme abuse and neglect where the mother refuses all offers of assistance. Where there is no other family able or willing to help.  There could be no way that this child could ever be safe with their original family. Counseling will be required for every person involved.  Some contact with the original family should be maintained if at all possible, if nothing more than knowing how to reach them.  In the best cases, monitoring for a changed status.  There is always the possibility of change because change is a constant.

Regarding guardianship, some judges and courts may have concerns that the guardianship could too easily be terminated and the child would lose a sense of permanency.  However, a child’s sense of attachment was destroyed the minute their family of origin was severed from them.

Still the question remains – to fully love, protect and be a family is adoption necessary ? Full custody as an alternative to adoption can accomplish the same legal requirements. The system has been an enabler for white saviorism and has made adoption like a free for all.  It’s unethical that so often the natural family is not allowed to give any input and the lack of effort put into connecting these kids to their kin just is mind boggling.

The best adoptive families, upon becoming more enlightened about the impacts of adoption, will make attempts to mitigate the inevitable difficulties for the child (some of these can include not changing the child’s name, learning about the child’s original mother and if possible opening up contact with her and with any other related siblings).  Though most adoptive parents genuinely feel they are doing the right thing . . . when we know better, we do better.