What Pro-Family Preservation Is And Is Not

I would NEVER advocate for ANY child to remain in an abusive or neglectful environment. That’s NOT what being pro-family preservation is about.

A family is a fundamental institution that provides a sense of identity and feelings of belonging. However, conflicts can affect the functioning of the family, which endangers a child’s development. In homes where there is a high level of conflict between parents, the children are at a greater risk of developing issues with concentration and managing their emotions.

A surprising 70% to 80% of Americans consider their families dysfunctional. While violence, abuse, and neglect are common forms of dysfunction, many families reported feelings of estrangement, emotional disconnection, and non-traditional family structures as well.

This has led to the development of family preservation services to strengthen the community and ensure safe environments for children. The aim is to create good quality parenting that advocates for emotional support and positive reinforcement within families to reduce conflicts.

Family preservation is a movement by state and child welfare agencies aimed at helping families cope with whatever stressors are affecting their ability to nurture children. This movement grew due to the recognition that family separation leaves some lasting adverse effects on the children. It’s possible to protect children from unwarranted traumas by offering information, guidance, and support to parents.

Millions of children worldwide live in care institutions worldwide, but a shocking 80% of kids living in children’s homes have at least one living parent. The increased number of orphanage-style institutions—coupled with an increase in people wanting to adopt babies—has motivated families in vulnerable situations to willingly take their children to the orphanage. Most of the parents who would do this are simply hoping this will give their children a better life.

Although these institutions offer refuge to such children, even the best caregivers can never replace biological families. The separation from family can harm the child emotionally and affect their cognitive behavior. The effects are worse the younger the child is and an infant is as much at risk of separation trauma as an older child. Do not think because they are preverbal that they don’t have an instinct for the mother who gestated and birthed them.

Family preservation services can benefit any parent who needs a non-judgmental environment to learn parenting strategies and other beneficial skills for their families. Typically, all families will face financial, employment, parenting, substance abuse, or illness cycles that affect the bond between members. In such challenging times, rather than giving up on your family, you need the proper support to help you safely stay together.

Much of the above (with some minor modifications from me) came from the source of my image – Camelot Care Center. There is more about their services at the link. I am not recommending them or do I have any complaint against what they do. I simply wanted to address that wishing to see fewer children adopted and more vulnerable families supported does not mean that I do not recognize that some families are in difficult straits for whatever reason. Some of those children will end up being removed. Some of those will be placed into foster care. Others may be adopted. If there is any good quality to their parents, that is where they need to grow up.

Feel Good Stories

Every Monday morning, I watch Sunday’s Agape service as recorded and shared on their website. The messages from the Rev Michael Bernard Beckwith are empowering and positive. Today’s message left me wanting to share something more positive about adoption than I usually do. Don’t misunderstand. I’m am still more than less against most adoptions. A woman who regularly reads this blog, sometimes shares my essays on her blog. Our perspectives are not identical but I noticed that she had one today with the title – Why adoption can be a blessing. So I went there and found among several offerings this video and watched it.

As this video makes clear, sometimes adoption is the best answer and sometimes the coincidences (which spiritually I believe in strongly as signs) make an adoption simply feel “right” and in harmony. So in keeping with my desire today, I share this video with you, to spread a little joy about a topic that I normally do not feel all warm and fuzzy regarding.

Preventing Adoptee Suicides

I was already aware that the statistics are worrisome. I didn’t know there was a month dedicated to focusing on this particular issue. Suicide is a sad and desperate choice no matter who chooses it but it is an individual choice and yet affects everyone who ever knew the person.

Attempted suicide is more common among adolescents who live with adoptive parents than among adolescents who live with biological parents. The association persists after adjusting for depression and aggression and is not explained by impulsivity as measured by a self-reported tendency to make decisions quickly.

You may be fortunate enough to be an adoptee who does not struggle with suicidal thoughts. But some adoptees struggle in silence, feel shame or feel disenfranchised and marginalized. I am seeking to share what some adoptees know, and the broader public should know, that suicidal adoptees are not an abnormality.

There is a need to talk about this issue more openly and in the mainstream. This is so important because adoption is sold as a “win-win” scenario. Talking about suicide is hard and uncomfortable. Talking about it in connection with adoption – which often has much joy but is more complex than most people realize – is challenging.

Generally, people would not have any reason to know that some adoptees struggle. The issues are real, and should be discussed more openly. Dismissing adoptee related suicide or mental illness will not help anyone. It will however further disenfranchise vulnerable adoptees.

If you are an adoptee with suicidal thoughts, know that you are not alone, other adoptees have felt this way too. Please reach out for help and know that you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. If you know of an adoptee who is at risk, please do not be afraid to likewise reach out and help them to access appropriate support services. Do not be afraid to ask direct questions about suicide. You can’t put the idea of suicide in someone’s head by talking about it. Asking direct questions can help you to determine if they’re in immediate danger and in need of assistance.

So much of the messaging around adoption is invisibly supported by the interests with a financial stake in promoting it. However, the separation that precedes the placement of a baby or young child into adoption causes a trauma that may be subconscious and not consciously recognized by the adoptee or the people who have adopted them.

4.5 percent of adopted individuals have problems with drug abuse, compared with 2.9 percent of the general population. This is striking because it is a far higher a percentage than the 2% of the population who are adopted. Despite what adoptive parents are told and hope for, no matter how loving and nurturing an adoptive parent, no matter how deeply loved an adopted child may be, many adoptees will say, that “Love is not all we need.”

One adoptee describes their own experience this way –

“So what does it feel like to be adopted? A weird amalgamation of rejection and acceptance. Someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure… It’s been difficult for me to accept that my parents actually love me, and that they’re not just putting me on a shelf somewhere to gawk at and to call their own. I’m still figuring it out.”

Often, adoptees don’t want to upset their adoptive parents with concerns about depression or anything that could be seen as ingratitude, including normal, healthy curiosity about their own genetic, biological roots. This is very common among adoptees. No one mirrors you while growing up to assist you in forming a sense of identity and self-worth. Many adoptees describe intense feelings when they give birth to their own child. Finally seeing a human being who is biologically and genetically connected to them for the very first time. Adoptees lack a recognizable source for personality traits, temperament, and abilities. It’s difficult to feel connected without knowing where you inherited your love of playing music, or curly hair, or shyness, or why everyone in your family is athletic but you.

Another adoptee notes –

“There is a certain detachment to adoption. Being ‘chosen’ rather than ‘born to’ does it. Because we did not arrive by natural means, and so much mystery (or outright lies) are our baggage, we often feel not only that we do not fit in, but that we are disposable. That’s the thing about being chosen, you can be unchosen. And some adoptees aren’t going to wait for the dismissal; they are going to finally take control of their life by ending it.”

It is true that some adoptees (my dad was one of this kind) have the resilience and temperament to lead perfectly happy lives. He simply chose to accept that his adoptive family was the only family he needed and was quick to dismiss any curiosity my mom had as an adoptee as ill founded. I believe that he had a deep-seated fear of knowing the truth regarding why he was adopted.

If you love someone who is adopted, be aware of this risk factor. The best thing we can do for our adopted children, friends, siblings, and spouses is listen and validate their sadness as a normal and natural need to know why. I am grateful that my mom had me to share her feelings with. Someone who understood that these feelings in her were valid and reasonable.

Love What Matters

A friend wrote me yesterday after she saw my blog about her whole hearted love for her adopted grandchildren. I don’t doubt she does. I never doubted that my grandparents – all 4 of them – who adopted both of my parents, loved me as much as any grandparent ever could have. I can’t judge fairly my parents relationship with their adoptive parents. Certainly, it was our reality. And without a doubt I would not even exist had my parents not been adopted.

I will admit that at this point in my journey through life I don’t feel warm and fuzzy about adoptions – especially domestic infant adoptions from an unwed mother. I do understand that drug addiction results in children being removed from the parents and because I have experienced a spouse with a serious drug addiction, most likely accompanied by alcoholism, I do understand. I do believe that as a society, we could do a much better job of supporting people so that they might recover from addiction (not all will and that too is a reality) and to preserve their families intact but we don’t and that probably won’t dramatically improve in my lifetime.

I accept that adoption is unlikely to go away in my lifetime. I can continue to highlight those issues that I believe need reform, as I continue to learn more about the situation overall. I will admit I don’t KNOW all either. I do know that EVERY adoptee, whether they are aware of it or not, has some degree of separation wound. A feeling of abandonment and/or rejection. It is unavoidable. Sadly, some children are harmed and/or wounded by the parents who conceived them and/or the mother who gestated and birthed them. I won’t argue about that with anyone.

So this is simply an effort to clarify where I stand on the related issues.

Bottom Line – It Is About The Child

Foster care and adoption is not about YOU as a foster/adoptive parent. It’s about the child, always was, always will be. That said, defining “wellbeing” gets very tricky.

“Neglect” is the official reason given when children are removed from their parents. Defining that turns out to be biased and difficult. First the question, then some of the answers.

1) What type of neglect gets children removed from parents?

Cleanliness, Lack of Nourishment, Irresponsibility

Depression, Addiction, Domestic Violence, Illness, Lack of Basic Child Care

Perceived neglect, whether the behavior is truly neglectful or appearances just don’t meet the ‘standard’.

Concerns regarding a parent’s mental health.

2) Why do you think that neglect occurs?

Poverty

Lack of resources, predominantly. Occasionally, lack of concern, and sometimes, inability (due to substance abuse, mental health, mental capacity- all tied into lack of resources).

Poor mental health may contribute to poor housekeeping. One woman admitted reaching a point where she questioned – “why am I keeping my house as neat as a pin, always on top of the kids, stressing them out to be clean, when the only people in the house are us?”

3) Is there anything that could help avoid neglect happening?

Financial Resource Support, Increasing the Parental Skill Set

Young women with kids need options for jobs that are compatible with being parents.

Family needs to go back to being family, actually bothering and being there for each other. If you have friends with kids, visit them and offer to help them out, if they are struggling – you can either help tidy or you could play with their children, so that they are occupied allowing the parent time to clean.

When poverty is not the source of neglect, children are rarely taken out of the home. One woman shared – my parents were negligent hoarders who didn’t meet a lot of my fundamental needs. But they had good jobs and to be honest, I turned out fine. I would NOT have fared better by being taken away from them. That is true for most kids who are placed in foster care.

Every so often you hear of cases where a small child was left home alone, or wandered off while a parent was sleeping. I think sometimes these instances of neglect happen in desperation for parents who have no options for childcare or can’t afford it. I remember a case of a toddler who was missing 3 days. He decided to try to go through the forest to his grandma’s house. He had been playing outside and his mother had fallen asleep. They did NOT take that child away from his parents.

Umm, It Wasn’t God

God told me I didn’t want one of those effed up older kids that are available for adoption that will age out of foster care with nothing. He told me I want a $50,000 healthy, white newborn.

So I’m going to most likely wait years for one. Unless I spend a shit ton of money and sign on with numerous agencies and a consultant. Because there really isn’t a “need” parents to adopt newborns. They are highly in demand and sought after. I really *dgaf* about the 100,000 kids legally free for adoption in foster care because I want a baby. No wonder the older kids are free to adopt, they are messed up. I want a womb wet baby I can play pretend with. It sucks there are over 40 Hopeful Adoptive Parents for every ONE expectant mama.

The mama? Oh, I *dgaf* about her. Who cares if she wants to parent but needs some help? Not my problem because I want her baby. People tell me the mom who doesn’t want her newborn is rare. It’s a decision made out of desperation but I don’t care. Because I want a baby and it’s about me and what I want.

So yeah, God spoke to me. He called me to adopt a white $50,000 baby and I’m just following “his plan.”

If we don’t “match” in a year I’ll open my “preferences” to include biracial but not full black.

Why One Woman Chooses To Foster A Child

Here’s an insight into just one woman’s reasons and situation –

Hi! I’m a kinship adoptive mom, domestic infant adoption mom, foster teen adoption mom, and current foster parent. I also went through 30 years of trauma with an abusive parent and should have been removed – but it was never reported… It’s a journey, but I am healing. I truly believe the trauma/pain I have gone through has helped me be a better parent and be able to better relate to our kids.

This was in answer to a suggestion that the standards for being a foster parents should include a college degree. This woman did not feel that would necessarily lead to better outcomes. So, she said – Maybe instead of a college degree, it could be specifically initial and ongoing intensive trauma training? I don’t feel that we got nearly enough training – even though it was a lot. I’ve had to read many books and listen to a ton of podcasts to help me understand/help with trauma in our kids. I love the emphasis on doing whatever we can to help with family preservation – I do that now and have in the past with each of our kids as well. I think the drug tests/psych tests make sense. Sad to think it may be needed.

I work full time (I have my own company) and that pays for all of our bills as well as extra things like vacations etc. (note I do not have a college degree). I really enjoy working outside the home, and feel I am a better mom (just speaking for myself) not being there 24/7. We do pay for childcare for our youngest, and the other kids are old enough to be home alone when needed. I will say I have a very supportive and domestic spouse – which helps everything run semi-smooth. 

We use the reimbursement we receive (we get monthly payments for 2 out of our 4 kids) towards strictly expenses for the kids (not our utility bills/mortgage etc).

That said, I realize some kids need extra care (young, or high needs) and caregivers getting paid for the job (and not having another career) might make better sense. Just depends.

I’ve been learning a lot from hearing the different perspectives in a group that looks at the realities of adoption and foster care. May each one of you find healing, love and purpose for the pain you’ve been through.

The Grandfathers I Never Knew

My mom’s father with her half-sisters

And I never will know my grandfathers, or my grandmothers either, because they have all died. But I’ve seen photos and heard some stories which is more than I had for over 60 years of my life.

My mom wasn’t much inclined towards this man and showed no interest in these half-siblings. She only yearned for her mother who was already dead when she pushed the state of Tennessee to give her details as an adoptee (which they still denied her). I think my mom had a pre-birth and infant sense that her own mother felt abandoned by this man with good reason. The true reasons for their separation and why he didn’t come to her aid in Memphis, I’ll never know. I have this picture thanks to my cousin, the daughter of the younger girl in this photo.

An article in Severance magazine where the aftermath of separation is often detailed by those who have experienced it is shared caught my attention for it’s headline – The Grandfather I May Never Know. I still need to actually read it (and will before I finish this blog) but I would suspect from the headline, it is still possible for the author.

In her article, Bianca Butler writes – “As a young child, I didn’t know that my mother and her twin sister (now deceased) had been adopted in 1960. I found out in 2000, when, after nearly 40 years of silence, their biological mother wrote to the twins asking to reunite.”

She describes one outcome of their reunion – “By meeting her biological mother, my mother learned her biological father’s identity and that she and her twin are of mixed-race ancestry: African American and white. Their biological mother had been a young African American college student at the University of California, Berkeley when she relinquished her twin daughters for adoption. They were born in a time in the United States when interracial unions were not only taboo but also illegal (Loving V Virginia) and when young unwed women were shamed and stigmatized—a time known as the Baby Scoop Era, from 1945 to 1973, before Roe V Wade in 1973.”

Since the suspected father of the twins denied paternity, the author decided to get her DNA tested. She goes on to share that “The Ancestry DNA test confirmed that I’m 31% Norwegian and, through the DNA matches, that I’m related to his cousins. I sent him the DNA results, but he’s still in denial and, sadly, not open to a relationship.” She admits that – “Finding biological family and taking a DNA test can bring great joy and excitement, but it can also bring rejection and disappointment. . . . It can be very emotional opening up old generational wounds that still haven’t been healed. . . . some people don’t want to be found, especially when race and adoption are factors, and I’ve had to accept that reality. “

She adds a happier note – “On a positive note, through Ancestry DNA I was amazed to connect with a cousin on my mom’s paternal side who is close to my age and open to connecting. She moved to Sacramento from Minnesota last year for graduate school, and we plan to meet. From her own ancestry research, she was able to give me more information about our shared heritage and ancestral homeland in Fresvik, Norway, which, in addition to Oslo, I hope to visit.”

This happened for me as well (thanks to DNA testing). I have contact with a cousin in Denmark now. I have learned details about my paternal grandfather’s early life. I would love to travel to Denmark and visit the family there (who never knew my grandfather ever had any children, and he probably never knew either as he was a married man and my grandmother simply handled it quietly).

I do share this perspective with the article’s author – “As an adult, I’m doing the healing work to educate myself on intergenerational trauma, loss, and abandonment that happen through adoption.”

Vagabond, I think the man with the pipe in his mouth is my paternal grandfather.

Poverty Is Not A Good Reason

The question was asked – Should poverty be a reason to remove children from their families?

Let’s be clear – the stipends the families get to care for children that are not their own biological offspring are more than large enough to help take the child’s original, natural family get out of poverty. This is misplaced societal priorities. It is actually less expensive to help the child’s family than to pay for foster care, not to mention the trauma to the child involved.

Poverty is seen by our society as a moral failure when it is in fact most often a sign that someone is being exploited by employers who don’t want to pay a livable wage. So, poverty is NOT a moral failing or a sign of unfit parents. That is a sign of a family who needs resources and support. No one should be having their family ripped apart because of poverty. Poverty is not a crime but not helping people who need support is. We shouldn’t punish families due to a system that refuses to help them, despite having the means to do so.

One woman shares her personal experience – When I had my case it was simply due to poverty. My husband lost his job and we lost our home, so they took my son for 6 months. I’ve met other people who didn’t get as lucky as we did and never got their kids back. The stipend they paid his caretakers would have easily gotten us a cheap 1 bedroom apartment and saved us all 6 months of trauma.

The saddest part is that many Americans still believe that cash welfare exists (almost without exception, it does NOT), and they rail against the imagined “Welfare Queen” fabricated by Ronald Reagan 30+ years ago. It’s every family for their own selves here, and the most insidious part is that many people don’t even know it. If you make any upward progress in your income, the system disproportionately takes support away from you. It makes it very hard to get anywhere, because getting ahead can actually put you behind. 

The thing about systems is there is no humanity in them. Take a part time job and earn $500/month, and you would lose $800/month in food stamps. It’s a system that punishes people for working hard and then, turns around and calls the same people lazy.

It’s been proven that all a woman needs is $800 and access to the right support agencies in order to keep her baby. So how is it necessary that some couples to pay upwards of $40,000 to adopt another woman’s baby ? Sadly, it’s capitalism – the adoption industry makes billions of dollars in revenue.

Follow the money. The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 is how states receive federal monies that they then give to foster carers and adoptive families. This is where the push to remove children comes from. The federal government gives states big money for every child in foster care. This money is simply not available for family preservation or reunification.

There is some good news on the horizon. Some states are trying new ideas. Hopefully, their results will be positive and lead to better programs for families. Change is challenging. Kudos to any state that is open to new and better options for struggling families. The government does need to put more importance on family preservation than it does for paying adoption incentives.

Please Be Mindful

Please be mindful of what you say about an adoptee’s birth parents and extended birth family – regardless the circumstances or how you personally feel. Remember that this person shares genes and inheritable aspects with that family of origin.

From an adoptee – As a child I internalized the messages about how I was so much better off adopted, that I was convinced my mother must have been a very evil person. I thought perhaps a witch or a prostitute and would tell everyone this. I was secretly petrified I would be just like her. (Note: she’s not, she was a vulnerable woman who was not supported to keep me.)

Of course, it is known that children have no filters or sense of decorum and will often repeat the perspectives of adults around them – thus comes this sad recollection. One of my earliest memories is from when I was 5 years old and a classmate told me I was adopted because my biological mom didn’t love me. It was so hurtful and it took me a long time to get past it.

The same advice applies to one parent or family bashing the other parent or family. Regardless of whether these are biological, foster families, adoptive family. All of these are part of a child’s history and life experience and when you do this, you are saying in effect that a part of the child is equally bad.