Adoption Vows

In there never ending quest to make adopting a child a celebration, here is what one couple is doing –

With adoption day on the horizon, my husband and I plan to recite a modified version of (see image above) to our daughter at her court hearing. Changing “I” to “We” and making a few personalized adjustments for her. Adoption vows . . . loving it. What else did you do to make it a special day ?

The person in my all things adoption group who shared this writes – I want to compose a response that she will hear! Because this is complete bs! What about the kids who end up not fitting in and get ” rehomed” or sent away to group homes… they where made all the same ” promises” and now look where they are. How should I word it where she will hear me or do I even waste the time? She is clearly caught up in the unicorn and rainbow effects.

The first response is – The whole point of vows is that they’re made between consenting adults, who also have a right to break that consent. Adoptees can’t consent. Decisions are made for them. And they can’t easily dissolve the relationship, even as adults.

Another comment – The whole thing is yuck…but especially the “Til death do us part” which could be super triggering for any kiddo but especially those with loss. Not only that but often if an adopted parent dies, the adopted children are no longer seen or treated as family by the remaining family members.

This was confirmed by one adoptee’s experience – The only member of my adoptive family who still treats me like family is my dad. The rest of them turned their backs on me after my mom died.

Another also shares – all I have of my adoptive family is one cousin in California. She was my mom’s very best and favorite cousin. I love her guts but the rest literally told me I was not family and good as killed my mom with my “drama,” whatever that means.

So here was one suggestion –

If you want her to (maybe) hear you it’s important to try to prevent her becoming defensive, so I would keep it semi-validating. Like

Wow !! I can see how much you love her through your excitement! As an adopted person, I want to open up to you a little and be clear I do it to support – not upset. But I’m sure you’ll understand, you seem really open minded. Adoption represents a huge loss. Even if our biological parents are terribly troubled, dead, uninterested, in prison…this is the death of something every human wants – to be be loved by, raised by, and important to their own parents. At the same time, no child wants to hurt the feelings of the adults they now must count on, who they are often silently trying to prove their worth to. I say this to encourage you to remember that in your approach. These marriage vow style things make sense to you, since you are only gaining, not losing, and you get choices. I would suggest having a private, special day where you say to your daughter that you love her, are so happy to have her, but also to validate that it’s ok for her to feel a lot of conflicting emotions. That you accept and love her whole story. Take pictures but don’t share them anywhere and only with her when she’s old enough. Let her be the one to do it, if that is her choice. Adoption is more like a divorce than a marriage. I hope this makes sense. Best of luck.

It was also suggested that the couple modify these vows. Then go and make these vows with each other and their preacher. To make a commitment between themselves that these things are true. Lots of adopted kids hear these kinds of promises and yet, their adoptive relationship is later disrupted. This makes good sense to me.

Finally, this is celebrating the girl’s worst day. One adoptee felt this was unbelievably cruel. She also noted how common it is that marriage vows are broken. Adoption disruptions and dissolutions are estimated to occur at approximately 25% for all adoptions in the US.

Just noting, regarding those vows – Autism is not an illness or a tragedy.

Review – I Am Sam

I learned about this movie from my all things adoption group and I wrote an initial blog on July 19th titled I Am Sam. I promised to come back with a review and last night I actually watched the movie on dvd from Netflix. Sean Penn and Dakota Fanning are both remarkable in their performances for this movie.

It is easy to understand the attraction of this movie to the all things adoption and foster care group because the core story is the lived experience of many members of that group. Not so much having a mentally challenged (ie as the movie says explicitly more than once – retarded) parent but as in the Division of Family and Child Welfare taking a child or children from the parents. In fact, when my sons were young, I did worry that our parenting might be adversely challenged by so do-gooder. Thankfully, my sons are now almost grown (one is already 20 and the other one is 17) and beyond such concerns in our own family. It is also true to the lived experience of so many that foster parents often do eventually want to adopt a child placed in their care. However, the movie is enlightened to the trends now occurring in adoptionland that family reunification and in the case of this movie, an eventual recognition on the part of the parent that he is lacking something (a mother – the child’s mother abandoned the child to the father shortly after birth) brings into the resolution a kind of co-parenting solution that is satisfying to watch (I don’t think that saying this is a spoiler for this movie as the ending leaves as many questions as it answers).

The movie was very progressive for its time in the portrayal of people with a variety of cognitive disabilities. In fact, I recognized that I do know one woman who has effectively lost her children due to just such a challenge. The take-away message for me was how incredibly hard it is parent a child regardless of the circumstances. This is clearly portrayed in the contrasting and yet similar parenting challenges of the main character and his lawyer. Every parent needs support of some kind at some time or other.

In an LA Times review, the writer shares this story – “I’m smart enough to know when I need help, I ask for it,” a 46-year-old mother with a learning disability told me recently. She receives support from a parents-with-special-needs program. If she needs help with parenting skills of any kind, a parent counselor is just a call away. If she feels frustrated, she attends the program’s parents support group.

Also from that LA Times review, In one critical scene of the movie, Sam is questioned by state agency officials about why he thinks he has the ability to be a father. He responds, “It’s about constancy and it’s about patience. And it’s about listening and it’s about pretending to listen when you can’t listen any more, and it’s about love.” In the case of parents with special needs, we must provide the kind of support services that will offer practical help and an ear to listen. Parents with special needs benefit from help with tutoring, after-school activities, transportation, budgeting money and, like every parent in the universe, a little baby-sitting now and then.

The movie helps everyone who watches it to understand “that persons with disabilities have needs and desires just like everyone else,” as the parent with a disability mentioned above explained. “They need to take care of someone and love someone else.”

Becoming An Ancestor

Wedding Photo – Raphael Vandervort Hempstead and Mary Elizabeth Gildersleeve on April 30 1906

I’m a family historian and a family storyteller. I believe I finally did arrive at my personal destiny – that of discovering and then sharing the true origins and cultures my family was created from. It is a feeling of wholeness that I never expected to have. It is also fascinating, I suppose, simply because it is our real identity constructs. Both of my parents were adopted – with falsified birth certificates giving them identities they were not born with.

A quiet revolution is taking place for adoptees today. More and more are finding their genetic biological families, just as I did. Only a few years ago, this would not be possible but the advent of inexpensive DNA testing and matching sites like Ancestry and 23 and Me as well as social media have made what once seemed like only a dream – possible.

My parents and my in-laws are now ancestors, meaning they have died and no longer walk this earth as physical presences. My husband and I both approach our 70s. We are way to becoming an ancestor. Just yesterday, my husband went into a hours long dialog about all the choices he has made in life to arrive at this place in time with our oldest son. Too often, after our parents have died, we wish we would have asked more questions. Asking questions is not always all that easy when they are alive however and we don’t always know what to ask.

I freely share so much about my life. Someone may want to know about me. Their life might be changed by knowing that I existed. They might be empowered by knowing that they once had the same dreams I do. We’re all future dead people, and 100 years from now, someone like me will come looking for you.

Certainly, this is what adoptees are doing today. This is what I have done regarding my true family of origin. My family origins journey began in cemeteries. The cemetery in Pine Bluff Arkansas to be precise. I sat by my maternal grandfather’s grave and talked to him. Then I discovered that my mom’s half-sister had only died a few months before. Darn, I missed that opportunity to know her. But I was able to get to know her daughter thanks to something her best friend posted about my cousin’s mother on Ancestry. During one wonderful afternoon, she shared with me photos and stories from the many photo albums her mom left her. We were both sad that our mothers never got the chance to meet. Certainly, her mother always hoped my mom would show up. The state of Tennessee was not helpful, when my mom inquired. Today, it has all changed for adoptees like my mom and dad.

The photo at the top is my dad’s grandparents, sent to me by a cousin (with whom I share my paternal grandmother) who lives in Mexico, thanks to Facebook messenger.

The Last Resort for Who ?

There is a contradiction in this statement – “adoption should be the last resort for the child” and yet adoption is the “last resort” for infertile people? It’s a selfish perspective that only serves the adoptive parent who couldn’t have children. They are only thinking about what is best for them and not what’s best for the child.

Think about how this would feel –  knowing you are someone’s “last resort.” How does that feel ?

Adoption is trauma regardless the loving intent of the people who adopt.

It’s not the responsibility of a child to heal infertility loss for anyone or be a last resort. Children are not blank slates or interchangeable. Parenting is not a right, it’s a privilege.

It’s like hoping for a bad thing to happen to the child and it’s mother so a good thing can happen for you.

How about helping young mothers keep their babies instead of hoping they will lose their baby.   The majority of babies are given up by kind loving mothers who are too young and poor to care for them.

There should be more resources and programs for single mothers with little income, so that they can help keep the child. Why should we look at helping find the child a better home, rather than taking care of the immediate problem for the mother, and helping support that mother. It’s like putting a bandaid on a dirty wound. You’re only fixing the outer problem by hiding and ignoring the problem beneath. Thus the wound becomes infected. That infection is causing trauma to the child and the mother.

A very sad example – I placed my only child after trying to raise him for nearly two years. I was an excellent young mother until two men broke into my apartment and raped me. I had a nervous breakdown and no longer felt capable. I wish someone would have been there to help me. He also ended up being sexually abused for six years, so it’s not all rainbows and butterflies, and he is messed up from it.

The 100% percent pro-adoption industry narrative, brainwashes the culture’s general view and is a very harmful form of coercion. What is the implication ?

That you are not good enough to parent your own child. Yet by giving your child up, you receive the deepest respect because you have proven that you are a loving, selfless person who only wants what best for your child. You do that by allowing someone else who is much much much more more qualified, stable, etc etc than you are, to raise your child. In other words: it’s selfish to keep your child. Be a loving mother and make a loving adoption plan with glitter and rainbows to boot. This is a very dangerous and insidious narrative and coercion tactic. It is the dominant strategy within the adoption industry.

Instead, “let’s minimize trauma and support families in keeping kids safe.” This is the healthy way forward.

PS – in case you are wondering, though generally against adoption almost all the time, the group I belong to group has never advocated for children to stay in abusive situations. They may however, support family reunification after therapy and counseling for the parents and the affected children. If the family can make it through all of the hurdles, they will be better parents due to learning how to parent better and children always prefer their original parents, they are resilient and with time and therapy may yet overcome their early challenges.

A worker in a residential treatment center noted – It’s an ugly world for some kids and their symptoms are ugly from what they suffered. Most of the kids that we worked with did come from adoptive family and were adopted at birth. The children who were adopted later in life, did have less problems. It’s never a “better than” problem. In this person’s history was their adoption at 3 days old. Her biological mother lived in the same town as she did – yet she never knew it. From her perspective, her adoptive parents were pretty selfish. Not only for that reason but the feeling was that it was her job as an infant to solve the problem of their infertility. Of course, that wasn’t possible. Not every person has the same adoption experience. The fact remains, every infant adopted has trauma from having been separated from their mother. And that feels like a life-threatening situation to a child who has no words and no language.

Adoption is actually *never* the only option. Legal guardianship doesn’t sever all genetic ties and create a false birth certificate. Here is an example of some of the complications of being adopted. She applied for a “Real ID” (you know, the one we are all going to be required to have soon, if we want to travel even within the US). The online system REJECTED her birth certificate information, because it is a FALSIFIED LEGAL DOCUMENT. This is just one of the issues adoptees face for the rest of their lives, because somebody decided they couldn’t adopt a child without altering their true identity.

Genetic Mirroring

People often see what they expect to see. It is natural to expect to see some resemblance among family members. I remember comments flowing from my adoptive maternal grandmother to the staff of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society about how much alike the two children, one boy and one girl, she adopted from them looked like “real” brothers and sisters, ie had a family resemblance.

Today, someone in my all things adoption group wrote –

A frequent occurrence throughout my childhood was that someone would stop and tell my to my adoptive mother how much I look like her. Now, I’ve seen pictures of moms and daughters, who look like each other. But me?? I don’t look much like my mother, aside from dark hair and pale skin and glasses. I can’t see my features in anyone, or in my mind’s eye even. I may have connected with a biological uncle and I’m looking through his friend’s pictures and I can’t see me anywhere. I don’t know what I look like well enough to try to compare. I’m about to take a selfie to try to help myself out. I usually think about genetic mirroring more in the context of TransRacial Adoptees (which I am not), so this is really messing with me.

One response, totally mystified, writes – Why did this happen to me too??? My mom is white and I’m native with dark skin and dark hair.. she is white with light skin and blue eyes, like why did people say that….

I have seen this said of husbands and wives, who obviously are not genetically related, that they grow to be more alike in appearance the longer they are married. So one comment noted – Children will take on the facial expressions of their caretakers, which can make them appear more like adoptive parents than they would otherwise. I believe that this is possible. Genetically, often mannerisms and personality traits are more similar among biological family members.

So, I do agree with this person’s perspective and experience – People will see things, if they think they have to. I remember my adoptive father telling someone I was his son, when they asked who I was. I couldn’t be more different than him and this guy squinted his eyes and looked at me for a while before saying, yeah I see the resemblance.

I do look like my brother who is a biological child of my adoptive dad and stepmom. I’m the adoptee. We are 17 years apart. I helped raise him and he also mimics me a lot. I’ve heard everything from jokes that my adoptive dad had an affair and adopted me so my adoptive mom wouldn’t suspect, people laughing their asses off when they say we look alike and I reply I’m adopted, then finding out – it’s true – and of course, that’s awkward… or adoptive mom getting jealous and trying to find traits to pretend we look alike and “it’s just the same”. To me it is messed up because they fail to acknowledge my difference. They’re trying to fit the square peg into the round hole with all they have, instead of celebrating my differences.

Celebrating our individuality and differences. Isn’t that what we all should always be trying to do ?

Contemplating Death

Yesterday, I was stung on my little finger by a Red Wasp. Whether we simply collided or it came after me as I passed by the wooden post that has become nest – through a knot-hole opening into a large hollow space, I do not know. It happened so fast, I never saw it. I only felt the hot iron pain. All I could do was put a couple of ice cubes on it at the time where I was.

It brought back memories of the time when my adoptive maternal grandmother gifted me with a trip to England with her. We were going to attend a 4 week long summer session at the University of Cambridge and it was a lifetime experience that I do not regret. That morning I was stung on my middle finger also by a wasp I never saw. There was no time to do anything about it, even if we would have had some remedy.

My hand became painfully swollen over the time it took to make the transatlantic journey. My grandmother pretended not to notice my suffering and I knew better than to make a issue of it. In my dorm, not even having washcloths and towels yet, I used my socks to make compresses and by dinner time it was bearable. Last night I reflected on how it must have been for my mother growing up with such an emotionally cold woman. I do know that when she died, lots of appreciative comments about her mother came my mom’s way and simple reminders of her perfume on her clothing were bittersweet for my mother. My mom yearned for a reunion with her birth mother but she had died several years before my mom’s effort, which came months before the state of Tennessee changed its own perspectives to allow the adoptees or their descendants to have the adoption files related to the scandalous Georgia Tann. I now have that file that would have brought my mom so much peace. In my own spiritual perspective, I believe she was reunited with her birth mother after death and now knows even more than I do.

In my all things adoption group this morning I read –

I was surprised at how many adoptees truly loved their adoptive moms and were devastated when they died. Is it strange to not seem to feel much of anything? Some days I think I might be sad and then I realize it might just be residual feelings from long ago. I’m so confused and feel so cold.

A soothing comment followed – Know that your feelings, whatever they are, are valid.

The next comment was this – My adoptive mother and I were not close. I loved her, but didn’t much like her.

One honest adoptee admitted – My adoptive mom was an awful person. I only felt relief when she died. Yet another wrote – I won’t grieve, I have no relationship with my adoptive mom or adoptive dad, as cold as it sounds ill feel like a weight will be lifted from my shoulders when they pass. They still think they haven’t done anything wrong and blame me for everything

I could appreciate this perspective – I think how people grieve and process loss depends on their relationship with that person, whether it’s adoptive family, biological family, friend, coworker. If you’re close to someone and love them, you might feel sadness, a sense of loss, emotional pain. If you weren’t close to them, you might not feel much at all. None of these feelings are bad, they’re just a reflection of your relationship to that person. Not missing or grieving someone doesn’t make you any less of a person with emotions.

The original commenter went on to share – It’s sad because I could never connect with her. She had bipolar disorder and always asked me why couldn’t I just love her. She tried to live her life over through me and it seemed to suck the very soul out of me. It’s hard to love someone when it’s only one sided. It’s like we are baby dolls meant to fulfill all their dreams instead of human beings with our own destiny, personality, and dreams to explore.

Another wise perspective was this – I think every relationship is unique and one should always honor whatever they feel, or don’t feel when dealing with death. Try not to compare your experience with loss to others. This also, grieving is different for everyone, and the way you grieve (or seemingly don’t) is valid.

There is this sad story – The last few months of my moms life were difficult. She was difficult (in general). Our relationship was difficult. I had to step in and took over care the last 4 days of moms life. She had a rapid health decline. I didn’t know for sure I was adopted at that point. And I never got that moment. My adoptive mom was a broken person. The Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents book helped me see that this year. I’ve been able to see her different and with a kindness that wasn’t there before. We had a hard relationship. And it’s helped me reach some of the grief that I’ve had shoved down inside.

And yet another sad story – My adoptive mom is still alive but I feel absolutely numb towards her. I think it’s the abuse and bullying and constant threat of sending me away as a child. I had one moment once where I felt for her, it was some random moment by myself that made me realize that perhaps underneath the hurt, I did care for her, but I am unable to feel it because of how much she has hurt me.

Another perspective – As adoptees, we have *all* lost our mother, during our formative years. So when my adoptive mother died, I felt that pain of losing a mother again. My adoptive siblings don’t quite understand why I reacted so strongly (and they also don’t realize how deeply her death impacted me, because I never really showed my grief in front of them). They are all her biological children, and also much older than me. So while we all lost our mother, I was losing *another* mother. As adoptees, we have difficult relationships with our adoptive parents, and however you felt is completely understandable.

Always An Adoptee

Advice from an adoptee – If/when your adopted child says anything that you deem “negative” about their adoption, instead of just throwing around frequently used adoption phrases – please please please consider the long term affect of hearing some of these phrases

1. “Would you have rather stayed in the orphanage/on the streets, been aborted, would you rather have died?”

Yes, sometimes. Adoption is complex and complicated. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t here instead of enduring nights of sadness, depression, suicidal ideation, intrusive questions, all the unknowns, the mental health problems .. I will never stop being an adoptee. It affects EVERYTHING in my life

2. “God/We saved you from your biological family.”

Let us decide that. What was I saved from? I do not know. There are many things adoption has NOT protected me from. So please let me decide in what ways I was saved. It may shift and change. Also, please don’t say negative things about our biological families. Give us the FACTS that you know and allow us to decide where to place them in our hearts and lives. Y’all don’t get to decide if our biological families are good or bad. Many things I was told about my biological family ended up being racist, unkind, untrue, and problematic.

3. “You were chosen”

Maybe. Kinda. But often, not exactly. My adoptive parents chose me between 2 babies. I was laying beside another baby and they chose me. But if they had decided “no, she’s not for us” they would have found another baby – easily. Adoptees often feel like replacements. We know a lot of our parents wanted A BABY – not necessarily “us” specifically. We have to process that – please allow us the space and time to do so

4. “They loved you so much they decided to give you up.”

No. What about desperation? Survival? Poverty? Lack of resources? Addiction? Death? Would you give up your child because you loved them? I was not given up out of love but I was raised to believe so. It made me feel awful about myself and my biological sister (she was not “given up”). Does loving someone mean sending them away forever? Would my adoptive parents do the same because they loved me?

5. “Be grateful for what you have. Be grateful you are not dead/alone/orphaned/poor/etc. You are so lucky to have a loving, stable family.”

STOP telling us how to feel and what aspects of our lives to feel good about. Especially in response to something we have said, please don’t.

Please Imagine losing your mom at a young age and when you tell someone, they say “Wow but you should be so grateful that you still have…” or “You are so lucky that you have a family that loves you!”

How about “I am sorry for your losses and pain. How can I help without overstepping?”

There are days I would rather be dead than adopted. Days when I miss my biological family. Days that I want to return to a place I barely remember. Those are not the times to dismiss an adoptee’s feelings. Imagine how you’d feel hearing these responses.

Making Friends

Today’s adoption related story –

My 10 yr old daughter (adopted last year from foster care, who has been with us for 2 years) just came home from her first time at church camp today and has been very emotional about all of the “best friends” she made that she will “never see again” (they’re from all over about a 300 mile radius and there’s a chance they’ll see each other at camp again next year but no guarantees). She tends to deem kids her “best friends” VERY quickly and then gets very upset when/if something goes wrong in the relationship or they move away or something. As I was reflecting on the situation tonight it struck me that this could very well be related to her trauma from being removed from her birth mom and being in multiple foster homes—anytime someone “leaves” her, she is devastated…which makes sense given her history.

Some thoughts –

My 14 year old went to a 3 day day camp and it took her two days to get out of the funk of never seeing these kids again.

From what I have been reading regarding trauma and it’s effects on future relationships, that sounds exactly what it is. To which someone else affirmed – Yep. Trauma response. Someone else suggested “family therapy.” Also an adoption competent therapist and/or trauma informed. Trauma impacts brain development and in many ways she might still be developing some skills that other 10 year olds are expected to have. Speech therapy is actually super helpful for working on these skills.

Another person noted – It is very common for kids to say this after an intense camp experience and for her it is tied up with her trauma too. It isn’t either/or. This is yes/and.

And this thought – Being sad you may not see your new friends again is normal. Strongly attaching in a short period of time and being completely devastated when the time ends, is not. This behavior may escalate once she reaches her teens and starts dating. Feeling like you have to do anything possible to keep from losing someone puts one in some pretty terrible situations.

Another adds – the dating part sounds so close to what I did as a teen. I had the hardest time leaving relationships, even if they were abusive. I was so afraid to be alone.

Yet another example – this can happen with changing grades/saying goodbye to teachers and friends as well. We talk a lot about how just because someone’s gone, it doesn’t mean they’re not connected to you; same with when someone dies.

There was also this wise perspective – The children we are parenting have always had bigger and more intense responses to these types of situations than their peers, which we recognize as a response to their big grief and loss. And yes, we’ve had amazing therapists and their responses are more typical now, much of the time, but not always and the trauma will always be with them. And we know to validate this sadness, grief, loss, etc. and validate all the people/situations they may be missing and sad about. 

My Unorthodox Life

This program is being discussed in my all things adoption group this morning. It is said that “The whole storyline was so upsetting. The adoptive family is awful.” And also this, “One of the characters is looking for his “birth person” and is scared to hurt his adoptive mom by calling her his birth mother. Adoptive mom says stuff like “I thought I’d be dead when you start looking” or “Can’t you ask your private investigator to ask questions to her rather than make contact?”. So much insecurity, jealousy and emotional blackmail.

One adoptee notes – My adoptive mom did the exact same thing . As if it’s about HER “trauma“ (which honestly is self inflicted).

And there is this about the show – The adoptive mom also got pregnant shortly after adopting, and begs him to not change his name, even though she falsified his birth certificate! She’s like “I want you to stay happy,” when he is obviously depressed, tormented, hasn’t dated anyone in years, etc. The biological son (his brother by adoption) is calling him an idiot for doing it because “we have the best parents in the world” and “you’re the one who started this problem.” Then hangs up the phone on him. They are doing all they can to sabotage any reunion. His poor birth mom. He doesn’t even pick up on the fact she wanted to keep him.

I haven’t see this one but last night we suffered through A Serious Man – written, produced, edited and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. All we could figure out by the end of the movie was that it was the Coen’s revenge on their Jewish upbringing. I kept thinking – if I was Jewish, it might make sense. There is no adoption thread in that movie.

In my mom’s group, there are more than the usual number of Jewish people. So, I have been exposed to some of their experience. The one that stands out large for me is the mom who had famously large breasts and then developed breast cancer. She had boy/girl twins the same age as my youngest son. Though she had a great attitude going into the experience, she died rather quickly. I was somewhat impressed by the way her Jewish community was there for the whole family throughout that ordeal.

My paternal grandmother died of a heart attack the day she was to be released from the hospital following breast cancer surgery. She was originally from Long Island NY and my understanding is that there are a lot of Jewish people there. I have a smidgeon of Ashkenazi Jew. I suspect I may have gotten that from her. Another mom in my mom’s group lives in the town on Long Island with the same name as the surname of my paternal grandmother – Hempstead. The family goes way back with historically significant sites in New London, Connecticut (a diary covering a period of 47 years from Sept 1711 to November 1758 by an ancestor, Joshua Hempstead, is still in print).

Fostering A Pregnant Teen

The girl in the photo is NOT known to me or who this blog is about today. It comes up from time to time how much a teen in foster care who finds herself pregnant can use support. The main thought is enough support to break the cycle she grew up within and parent her baby.

The discussion was in response to a video about someone who was doing that – creating a supportive environment for a pregnant teen still in foster care. I won’t be sharing that video here but the thoughts related to it.

The first comment was related to food – both foster kids and adoptees often have food issues. My adoptee mom had food issues and she passed those on to me. My dad (also an adoptee) had food insecurity issues, so we always had more food on the table than could be eaten at a meal. At 67 years old, I’m still trying to overcome my own food issues. That said, I remember being ravenous and able to eat stuff I wouldn’t dare to eat now, while I was pregnant with my sons.

Here is the comment – What bothered me was the amount of junk food offered as items of comfort. I have food issues and am working to reprogram my brain from emotional eating and using food to soothe emotional needs. While I understand she mostly has teenage girls placed with her, and teenagers generally prefer these kinds of snacks, I just don’t think think this is ok. Give them other outlets for comfort. But again, I’m an adoptee working on my own food issues; I understand and appreciate that this is a different situation than what I experienced.

A comment in response was this – I didn’t love the way she was like “of course I have healthier food but this is like a piece of home.” It rubbed me wrong. Like we’re better than this but you know how poor people eat.” However, someone else noted – “I am mixed about this. Honestly, it seems better than the crazy perspective of many foster parents that repress foster children’s food intake and then post complaints about how much they eat. Food security is important.”

Another issue had to do with TV. I do like the part about suggesting a TV in their room. I see a lot of foster parents angry about screen time and cracking down with their rules, especially if they also have biological children. If a kid is used to sleeping on a floor in front of a TV, you can’t just say “oh we don’t do TV at night here!” and expect them to sleep. Sure, you can phase it out over time if it matters that much to you, but foster parents need to calm down when a kid is going through serious trauma. The teen may just need to be comforted to sleep!

Actually, when I was single and living in the city, until I met my husband (who lives in a very quiet rural location), the white noise of the TV was always on in my home – waking or sleeping – but I was not usually actually watching it. When I was in New Mexico settling my parents estate – it was the same – always on in the motel room.

There were also a few appreciative comments too. “It seems like a foster home I would’ve been thankful for but it’s still a foster home. What I don’t like is how she goes about posting it. It seems like she is looking for praise from former foster care youth.” And this, “I wish one of my foster parents was as welcoming as this?” And another one – “I think it’s absolutely wonderful, she’s doing everything in her power to make them feel as comfy as possible.”

I think a realistic comment was this one – my first thought on it is, she goes to great lengths to “get to know them.” I’m pretty cool with most of this, but the part where she wants to spend time with them to get to know them sits strange with me. Putting myself in their shoes, I’d think that I wouldn’t want to talk to some stranger about *anything* and I’d just want to be left alone to deal with whatever feelings I was having, instead of having to bear all to her. That might just be me, because I’m a quiet, lonely griever, but I can’t imagine that every child she brings into her home feels comfortable with the “getting to know one another” part.

Yet that was just one perspective. It seems that the woman in the video is an emergency or short term placement foster home. In some of the other videos she has made, it seems more like the teen can play games and watch movies and not so much getting to know each other. That makes more sense. There are other videos by her, where she talks about letting them do whatever they want to do, so that they can process their situation.

Yet another one said – I don’t like to be around anyone or talk to anyone while I’m going through things. I also like to cry quietly in my room and not talk to people. I’m kind of antisocial to begin with. I am pulled in different directions though, because if left alone too long, especially as a teen, I would let myself feel bad and dissociate as long as I could get away with. I feel like she should leave them to grieve and process (with therapy, of course) and maybe after some time passed, then make an effort to take them out and get to know them? Just let them grieve their situation first and give them some space.

Given my own maternal grandmother’s experience of pregnancy with my mom, this one really spoke to my heart.

My mom was shunned back in the 60’s for being an unwed Mom. She was basically kicked out of town and told not to come back with the ‘bastard’ (me). She was very kindly taken in by a Home for Unwed Mothers. She was able to continue working, given counseling and advice on adoption etc. Long story short, that home was my first home. You could stay for 6 months after birth. All Moms helped and supported each other when moms had to go back to work. Essentially first time Moms were getting some hands on experience and moms and babies were safe, happy and content. Today I run a place of safety for abandoned babies and often think if there were still places like that, perhaps we wouldn’t have such a high rate of abortion and abandonments.