Adoption Is A Loss

You Don’t Just Lose Someone Once

You lose them over and over,

sometimes many times a day.

When the loss, momentarily forgotten,

creeps up, and attacks you from behind.

Fresh waves of grief as the realisation hits home,

they are gone.

Again.

You don’t just lose someone once,

you lose them every time you open your eyes to a new dawn,

and as you awaken,

so does your memory,

so does the jolting bolt of lightning that rips into your heart,

they are gone.

Again.

Losing someone is a journey,

not a one-off.

There is no end to the loss,

there is only a learned skill on how to stay afloat,

when it washes over.

Be kind to those who are sailing this stormy sea,

they have a journey ahead of them,

and a daily shock to the system each time they realise,

they are gone,

Again.

You don’t just lose someone once,

you lose them every day,

for a lifetime.

~ Thanks to Donna Ashworth and The Family Preservation Project

21st Century Children and Families Act

Whether it gets through or not, it is a step in the right direction. New legislation authored by California Rep. Karen Bass (D), would drastically change that standard: Under the 21st Century Children and Families Act, states could not even attempt to permanently sever children from their parents until they’d been in foster care for two full years consecutively, barring extreme circumstances — and even then it would be up to the states, and no longer a federal mandate. The reason that this is important is that the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) requires states to terminate parental rights when a child has been in foster care for 15 of 22 consecutive months. Granted this is just a tiny step.

“This bill is an important first step in moving away from cookie-cutter timelines that have caused devastating harm to children and families for decades,” said Kathleen Creamer, managing attorney of the family advocacy unit for Community Legal Services in Philadelphia.

Existing exemptions would be maintained for certain “aggravated” circumstances, such as when parents have committed sexual abuse or have been involved with the death of another child. But the legislation would free parents from the federal timeline when their custody rights are threatened due to incarceration or immigration detention — or in cases where they are actively working with the court to overcome hurdles in their lives to successfully bring the family back together. Parents are not subjected to the federal timeline if their children are placed with relatives.

Under the bill, if a state so chooses, it could eliminate all timeline requirements, except in cases involving aggravated circumstances. 

Bass announced her landmark legislation in a news release Thursday. “It’s time to update old child welfare laws,” she said. “More needs to be done to improve foster kids’ options for stability in their lives. Premature modification of parental rights too often leaves children in foster care with no legal family.”

The legislation is at the earliest possible stage, and far from guaranteed, with many elements that could lead to controversy, including strengthening the rights of prospective LGBTQ parents. The bill could also be challenged by representatives of the adoption industry, policy watchers said.

“With respect to the timelines, we’ll be looking at those proposed changes carefully and considering how they affect children and families involved in foster care, especially BIPOC children and families, given the systemic discrimination they face,” said Mary Boo, executive director of the North American Council on Adoptable Children.

Children removed from their homes following allegations of abuse or neglect remain in foster care while their parents address the issues that landed them there, issues typically arising from extreme poverty. Under family and dependency court oversight, local child welfare systems must mitigate the circumstances that led to the child’s removal into foster care, offering the parents therapy, anger management, parenting classes and drug treatment, as well as the time necessary to overcome situational crises such as homelessness or illness.

Charles Redding barbecues for his two children last Easter at the home of a relative in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The family is now in dependency court fighting to stay together.

But that time is often not enough. The pandemic has brought heightened scrutiny to the “cruelty” of federal timelines. Parents such as Charles Redding of Minnesota have fought to regain custody of their children when circumstances are stacked against them to no fault of their own. Redding, for instance, had emerged from jail with no computer to attend court-mandated hearings and online classes, and the local center where he needed to go for drug testing suspended services. Earlier this year, Redding’s two children sobbed through a virtual court appearance, imploring a Hennepin County juvenile court judge to give their dad more time to secure stable housing for them to live together.

David Kelly, a former official in the U.S. Children’s Bureau, called the bill introduced this week “a critical, long overdue step toward justice for families,” adding: “I hope it proves a galvanizing moment for realizing the family children need most is their own.”

Bass is a longstanding champion of children and parents caught up in the foster care system — families who are disproportionately Black and Native American. She is among those emphasizing that the bar for reunification is often too high, and the impact of permanent family separation too damaging to continue the federal standards as they currently exist.

“The changes that I’m proposing today focus the foster care system on the child and the idea that children should be at the center of our efforts,” Bass stated. 

Her legislation would require that before moving to terminate parental rights, states must describe the steps they took and services they provided to help keep a family together. It would also mandate data collection on the accessibility and availability of those services. 

Shanta Trivedi, director of the Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts at the University of Baltimore said that while states are already required under law to provide services under a “reasonable efforts” standard, the proposed law will ensure that protocol is followed for every family.

“This puts teeth into the ‘reasonable efforts’ requirement that were previously absent,” Trivedi said. 

The bill has another key element: It adds sexual orientation, gender identity and religion to federal nondiscrimination protections that previously only included race and ethnicity. Under the proposed law, states and agencies they contract with could not “deny to any person the opportunity to become an adoptive or a foster parent” based on those additional factors. The provision would directly challenge laws in nearly a dozen states that permit faith-based providers to exclude members of the LGBTQ community by following religious ideology in choosing which foster and adoptive parents, or even which youth in foster care, they will and will not serve.

The legislation proposed by Bass retains current legal requirements that adoptions cannot be delayed to match children with families of the same race, gender, culture and religion. But it instructs states to consider such factors if that is requested by the child or their birth parent.

When the Adoption and Safe Families Act became law decades ago, nearly a third of all foster children had been in the system for at least three years. The timeline was designed to push those cases in the direction of adoptions or guardianships so that children didn’t languish with uncertain futures. 

Since then, adoptions from foster care have more than doubled — from 30,000 in 1998 to 66,000 in 2019. Over the past decade, federal statistics show that the number of children awaiting adoption has also increased, by more than 20%. 

The attempt to rewrite ASFA comes at a time when some are pushing for its outright repeal, including Jerry Milner, the Trump-era head of the U.S. Children’s Bureau. Along with Kelly, his former deputy, Milner now leads a consulting group helping state and local systems interested in significant reforms of their child welfare systems, including the strengthening of family bonds so children can avoid permanent family separation. 

Critics of the current timeline that pushes for termination of parental rights after 15 months describe it as arbitrary and unjust to the families who mostly come from communities of color where daily life and the weight of historic and systemic injustice can bear down on home life. Advocates for parents say the federal timeline also penalizes people in recovery for substance abuse or seeking treatment for mental health challenges — complex healing that can take time and involve relapse and setbacks. 

In a February 2021 op-ed, Creamer and Chris Gottlieb, co-director of the NYU School of Law Family Defense Clinic, described the social context around the original law: “Passed in the wake of the now-debunked ‘crack baby’ scare, and at the same time as nefarious federal laws on crime and welfare, it reflected the racial and class biases that were ascendant at the time and that to this day continue to inflict harm on children, youth and families.” 

Under the proposed legislation, a 24-month timeline was selected to align with the Family First Prevention Services Act, a 2018 law that overhauled the federal child welfare system to decrease reliance on group homes and emphasize foster care prevention. But as it is currently worded in the Bass bill, states could choose not to abide by the two-year timeline — the legislation as written uses the word “may” — not “shall” — while continuing to receive federal funds for the children who remain in foster care. 

“We are hopeful that this is just the beginning of making sure that states have the flexibility they need to embrace and uphold family integrity,” said Shereen White, director of policy and advocacy for the national nonprofit Children’s Rights.  

Child welfare policy consultant Maureen Flatley, who helped craft both the original Adoption and Safe Families Act and Bass’ new bill, said the additional protections for parents would not only help more children reunify with their families, it could reduce the number of young adults who leave foster care alone and disconnected from stable housing, income or a support system. 

Flatley said while the timelines can succeed at creating a greater sense of urgency around permanency for foster youth, roughly 22,000 youth still age out of foster care each year with no legal family ties. Meanwhile, many of their parents may simply have needed more time to complete court-ordered service plans.

“By maintaining those family connections and those relationships, we may be able to mitigate and limit the number of kids who are aging out alone,” Flatley said. 

Under the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act, states have received financial incentives to push foster children along the adoption path, despite critics’ objections. Bass’s bill does not address adoption incentives, instead taking aim at timelines that lead to the termination of parental rights — a critical first step for children to be adopted.

Still, even staunch detractors of the existing law applauded Bass’s attempt to update it through a social justice lens. 

“I don’t know what the chances are for passage, but the fact that we can even have this discussion shows that the racial justice reckoning finally is reaching child welfare,” said Richard Wexler, an outspoken foster care critic and executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. “If it passes, it will improve the lives of, ultimately, millions of children.”

Thanks to The Imprint for this blog.

Curiosity

From an adoptee – My son recently asked to talk to my birth mother and I’m not sure how I feel about this. I don’t plan on ever having them meet, but we’ve been talking a lot about how I didn’t grow in Grammys belly and that I grew in somebody else’s belly, and I think he’s curious. I’m not sure why he wants to talk to her. I think part of me doesn’t want to hurt my adoptive parent’s feelings, and part of it is that I don’t want him to be made to feel the way I feel or felt (abandonment issues).

NPR has an article about whether curiosity is a positive or negative feeling. Curiosity is a complex emotion. Is it a painful reminder of what we don’t (yet) know ? The object of curiosity’s desire is information. Surprisingly, one of the factors that affects the balance of negative and positive is time. Curiosity arises when a person notices a gap in her knowledge. The gap induces a feeling of deficiency, which in turn motivates her to fill the gap. Curiosity comes in two flavors: deprivation — a strong but unsatisfied need to know — and interest — information-seeking that’s motivated by anticipated pleasure. When our curiosity will not be satisfied anytime soon, we focus on not knowing, on the information gap itself, and this is largely negative.

One commenter to the original post told this story of her experience. My children, 6 and 8, met my birth father’s family this summer. Long story, but they didn’t know about me and we connected via Ancestry after my birth father passed away. I met him many years ago, but he didn’t want a relationship and kept me a secret from his family. I had to explain a lot of very complicated things to my children in an age-appropriate way when we all met, but I felt strongly that they needed to know their family and learn about their grandpa they never got to meet. It was heartbreaking at times, honestly – “we had a grandpa that we never got to meet? Why didn’t he want to meet us?”

Learning about my parents origins (both were adopted) was like this for me. My grandparents were all deceased, so I will never get to know them. In my case, I was heartened however to learn that for 3 out of 4 of my grandparents, they were aware of my parents existence. Of course, their mother were but they also told their own families as did one grandfather. My parents were not secrets in these lives. However, one of my grandfathers never knew about my dad’s existence. I’ve been a bit of a surprise to his Danish and immigrant extended families as they didn’t know he ever had any children. From what I know, my dad was so much like him, they would have been marvelous fishing buddies – the pity of it all. For me, it has been interesting to know that my biological grandparents were people with lives that were taking place, while our lives were completely unknown to them or for that matter, their lives were never known to us either.

I appreciated this suggestion regarding how this woman might talk to her son about the mother’s biological mother – “I grew in her belly and not Grammy’s belly. That is a little confusing, not just for you but also for me, too. You’ve said you want to talk to her, but that feels confusing to me because I love Grammy very much and love you very much. Can you explain why you would like to talk to her? What would you like to say? Would you like to ask her questions? Could we write a letter to her with everything you want to say, and we can save it for later?” Including an interesting theory – if he’s as young as I’m imagining, his questions are likely a reflection of worries or concerns or interest for himself, not you. So he might be wondering why HE didn’t get to grow in someone else’s belly, like you did, and why he doesn’t have a biological mom. He might feel left out because you’re mom, so you’re normal for him, and not being adopted is abnormal in his little world.

I also totally get the truth of this comment (as the child of adoptee parents) – No one should pretend the adoption only affects the adoptee and not her/his children.

There is a complication – the original poster has a minimal relationship with her biological mother on Facebook. She does have major abandonment issues and her biological mother saying once – that she couldn’t wait to have grandchildren but then she said, “not your kids, your sisters.” She goes on to say, I’m certain she was just trying to protect her heart and possibly prevent losing me because of my adoptive parents. Such situations are so very complex and it isn’t always clear what the motivation for some casual remark was.

Her son said that he just wants to tell her that he likes peanut butter and jelly. One practical and realistic suggestion was – send her a one-sentence text or FB messenger message saying, “[Son who is 6 yrs old] asked about you and wanted to tell you that he likes peanut butter and jelly.” Maybe don’t tell him you’re doing this. See if/how she responds. See how you feel about her response or lack of response. And then decide what to do from there.

One woman shared her own complicated adoption situation and then suggested – I think you should be honest with your son (in an age-appropriate way) about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, in part so he knows he’s not wrong for having natural curiosity about or wanting a relationship with his biological grandparents.

Another story from experience – My daughter (12 years old at the time) decided to do a DNA test to find the “rest of her heritage.” I already knew of my biological mom and didn’t like her, but I allowed it. I thought she’d get some pie chart about her cultural background. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine she’d find my biological dad. I’m glad she did because it filled in a lot of gaps. But at the same time, I now have a lot more issues due to secondary rejection. Even so, I don’t regret it. It’s her history just as much as mine. It just sucks how badly it affects me. I’ll be fine though as I’m learning how to cope through therapy.

Choosing Not To Have Children

More than one friend in my age group has told me that their grown children do not intend to have children which will mean no grandchildren for my friends. Even my oldest son has expressed some doubts that he will. What is going on here ? Very real concerns about how climate change will make the future very difficult for today’s children and their children and much sooner than I had previously heard – like by like by 2050.

Because I think daily about issues at least tangential to adoption, that is the first place my thought goes and in an article in The Guardian titled Should I have children? Weighing parenthood amid the climate crisis by Megan Mayhew Bergman I read – Ellie at age 23 wrote the author, “While I don’t believe the changes we’re seeing have to signify end-of-days, I do believe there are incredibly thoughtful solutions at hand which – if we can pull them off – would bring about a world I’d very much want to have children in. But I also think my generation may have found itself at a unique moment in which more people isn’t the answer, and alternatives like adoption represent more eco- and ultimately, human-conscious choices.” And to be certain, more than 100,000 children have been born in refugee camps in Myanmar and in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, the largest refugee settlement in the world, which is vulnerable to extreme flooding and landslides.

Recent polling reveals that four in 10 young people are “hesitant to have children as a result of the climate crisis” and “fear that governments are doing too little to prevent climate catastrophe”.

An article in Vanity Fair last year by Tatiana Schlossberg titled How Should a Climate Change Reporter Think About Having Children? She goes on to say – Reproduction is a fundamental feature of life on earth, but a morally fraught decision for anyone who has the choice. And there’s not even a right answer. She mentions a drive through a scenic passage in Colorado but that “I felt so angry at our species. Angry because we are willing to destroy all of this and to do so knowingly, because we seem to value no life other than human life, and I’m not even sure how much we value that.” I would have to agree with that last bit somewhat.

She goes on to share – when you are a married straight woman in your 20s and everyone wants to know when you’re going to have a kid, it turns out to be almost impossible to avoid thinking about the future.

In answer to that, she shares – There are two familiar arguments about not having a kid when it comes to climate change. The first one is that it is unkind and irresponsible to bring a child into a world whose future is uncertain at best and apocalyptic at worst. The second one is that, as a privileged, white American with a sizable carbon footprint, any child of mine would be another person with a similar environmental impact, both in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and resource consumption. According to those two lines of thinking, having a child is unethical, both because of what it would do to the child and because of what that child would do to the world.

Realistically, she goes on to admit – As both a reporter and a person in her child-bearing years, I don’t know what the right thing to do is—and I don’t think that there is a right thing to do. I find myself feeling much the same way. I do believe humanity will continue to exist and on some level I feel that raising a reasonable number (like 1 or 2) of children to be highly aware and ethical will be valuable to whatever the future will bring.

She also acknowledges that – not having a child is not the same as becoming a vegetarian or buying an electric car. Having a child, becoming a parent, can be a defining feature of life on earth—the reproduction of aspen trees is not necessarily parenthood, but it is part of the same drive to pass on genetic material; it is hardwired in us, and we share it with all other lifeforms.

A dear friend of mine is involved with Project Drawdown, a climate-advocacy organization, that has ranked the 100 most effective solutions to climate change, and found that together, education and family planning for women and girls is the second-most effective way to reduce emissions (after reducing food waste, which includes shifting to a plant-rich diet and preventing deforestation), because when women are more educated, they generally have fewer children, and also add to the economic and cultural success of their communities.

The Vanity Fair article author notes – The birth rate in the United States and much of the developed world is declining. When people express concern to me about there being too many people on earth, they don’t seem to be saying there are too many Americans; they are, knowingly or not, talking about limiting the growing and increasingly young nonwhite populations in the global south. Throughout American history, anxiety about population is almost always linked to race or national origin, so what I always want to say in response is, “Who are you talking about when you ask me that question?”

I do feel lucky to have the female freedoms I do because of the time in which I have lived. I acknowledge that I am indebted to the work of so many women which has given me choice (and currently, that is highly under threat). Support for reproductive freedom is a core part of my own political identity, as is support for climate action as an environmentalist. We try to raise our sons to value the same things as well.

I will also admit to a certain degree of arrogance in that kind of thinking. That my having kids is okay because my kids will be a good persons and who knows ? One of them might solve climate change. OK, so the latter idea is probably not the most likely outcome, nor is it the most powerful argument in defense of my having children. Any person could say as much. True, I di think that my children are special, geniuses, perfect in their own ways, but I also realize that my children doesn’t necessarily have a greater right to be born than anyone else’s. I am sad for the youth of today. Even back around the 2000s when my husband and I decided to have these two boys, the concern was not as urgent as it seems today (and I say seems because it should have been more urgent then and even in the early 1970s when I had my daughter).

Disturbing

Isabella Kalua

What causes such a sweet face to create such a pained looking smile ? It is Isabella’s smile in the most recent pictures that disturbs me on some psychic level. The adoptive parents (Lehua or Isaac Kalua) are now strongly suspected of having murdered the 6 year old a full month before they reported her missing in Hawaii. They have now been arrested and are awaiting a hearing to provide them with legal counsel. There is an article about the current state of the case at this link from Maui.

I found a dissertation by Katherine E Sunder titled Mothers Who Kill Children They Have Adopted. Her dissertation topic is described this way – A mother killing her child is a disturbing and puzzling crime. A review of the cases in the United States from 1993 through 2013 that involved mothers who killed children they had adopted was conducted. The similarities and differences between mothers who kill their adopted children and mothers who kill their biological children are described. The common factors and general patterns that exist among these mothers are examined to propose a theory for why a mother decides to kill her adopted child.

While an average of four children die every day from child abuse and neglect in the United States, adoption is often put forth as a way to try and prevent such tragedies from occurring. Generally, parents who adopt domestically and also internationally are described as extremely devoted and committed to family. They are described as people who will literally “lay everything on the line” to parent a child. Considering the rigorous and demanding process these parents go through in order to adopt a child, it raises the question of why would a mother kill the child or children she adopted ?

However, the killing of a child is not an arbitrary or unpredictable crime. Instead, it can be viewed and experienced as imbedded in and a reflection of the societies in which it occurs. Abuse by adoptive parents is often mentioned by adoptees in privacy constrained groups. In an abuse-related killing of a child, the mother has intentionally committed a purposeful physical assault that unintentionally led to the child’s death. The purpose was not to kill the child but to provide harsh discipline. 80% of these cases involve the child welfare services in their background. Some cases involve the mother’s attempt to stop the child from crying. Some cases involve an abusive relationship with a violent male partner.

Isabella’s body has not yet been found and it is not known what may have caused her death. Homicide investigators say, “What was initially reported was that she had left her home in the middle of the night, and when they [her adoptive parents] woke up they didn’t see her.” Police say support from the city deputy prosecuting attorneys and individuals from the domestic violence division was critical getting police where they are today in their now eight-week investigation. Also the FBI is credited with offering evidentiary analysis that was extremely valuable including behavioral analysis unit into the mindset of the suspects in this case.

Tolerance

After seeing this, I went looking for some background on Christianity and LGBTQ issues. I found this – Cultural backlash: Is LGBTQ progress an attack on Christianity? – from Washington University in St Louis Missouri. PS – FD is Foster Daughter. From that linked article –

“Many Christians have come to see themselves as being on the losing side of the culture wars,” said Clara L Wilkins, principal investigator and associate professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences. “Christians may perceive that an America where same sex marriage is legal is one in which they have lost their sway and are now victimized.

“This is especially common among conservative Christians, who also are more likely to believe that Christianity is a defining feature of being American. As a result, they see themselves as being at odds with LGBTQ individuals, who are perceived as having increasing social influence.”

The root causes and consequences of “zero-sum beliefs” or ZSBs— these are a belief that social gains for one group necessarily involves losses for the other – are most common among conservative Christians, and are shaped by their understandings of Christian values, the Bible and in response to religious institutions.

Christians saw the decrease of LGBTQ bias as corresponding to more bias against Christians. ZSBs are driven by symbolic threats, not realistic threats. White Christians are concerned recent social changes threaten their social influence, namely their ability to instill and enforce their notions of Christian values upon broader society — not realistic threats, such as loss of livelihood. Simply reminding white Christians about a changing cultural climate in which their influence is waning was sufficient to increase their perception of Christians’ victimization and perceived conflict with LGBTQ people. “The church is a strong moral authority with the potential to shape norms and attitudes toward sexual minorities like court rulings have shifted attitudes on same sex marriage,” the study authors wrote.

Momentous changes such as the Biden Administration’s appointment of Pete Buttigieg as the first openly gay secretary in the presidential Cabinet and Rachel Levine, the first openly transgender federal official as well as the electoral win of Delaware Sen Sarah McBride (the first openly transgender person in that role) have sparked outrage by opponents. They argue that the growing acceptance of LGBTQ individuals impedes the ability of Christians to practice their faith — as if gains for one group necessarily involved losses for the other.

While the number of white evangelical Christians has decreased significantly in recent years — from 23% in 2006 to 14% in 2020, their political influence continues to grow. Mass media has enabled white evangelicals to disseminate their messages of Christian nationalism, culture wars and cultural grievances and political conservatism to a far-reaching constituency. The Human Rights Campaign predicted that this will be a record-setting year for anti-LGBTQ legislation with as many as 250 bills introduced in state legislatures in 2021 alone.

Is It OK ?

Is it appropriate ? I adopted my daughter thru foster care. I never met her mom or any of her family. I found them on social media and really want to reach out. Is that inappropriate? My circle is against it. They don’t understand the trauma associated with adoption. I know she has aunts and lots of cousins but I know almost nothing else. I won’t pretend they don’t exist. They are a part of her story and eventually my daughter will probably want to know about them.

About that circle of friends ? They don’t understand what and how it will effect your adopted daughter.

Additional information – this child is 2 years old. Some perspectives. If she’s very young, reach out to a few of the adults and go from there.

If she’s old enough to understand what’s happening, then she should be in charge of this decision. In that case, she may be ready right now, she may not be, or she may want to just look at their accounts for a while, before reaching out. Make certain, it’s her decision if she’s older.

This one could have been my adoptee dad’s perspective, if he had had the possibility – I found my birth parents through social media. I wish I hadn’t reached out but I did and the interaction was fine. Be careful, sometimes it’s better not knowing …

In response to that, someone else asks – do you think this adoptive parent can act as a buffer to mitigate any difficult feelings that may arise as a result of contacting the first family? I had a lot of hard feelings when I met my biological dad and his family, but not knowing was worse.

The response was – no, I don’t think even Jesus Christ himself could mitigate those feelings. I go back and forth about knowing and not knowing. Not knowing was hard, but knowing and having to face the reality of my genetics is harder. My first people are selfish and the reason I was relinquished was so they could party and have no responsibility. My male first person is wealthy, has always been and they had the means to care for me. They told me they just didn’t want to parent. Those feelings I hold towards them do not taint my thoughts on this particular question.

Adoptee Reunions do not always succeed in happy endings as this comment shares – sometimes I wish I would have just watched my birth parents and my birth siblings lives on social media from afar and never reached out. Our reunion eventually went south and it sucks. They made our reunion about them and refused to respect my trauma and my boundaries.

There was this emphatic response – Not inappropriate – please do! You can’t be sure how they’ll respond but at least trying is the best thing you can do for your adopted daughter

Parentification

This was a new term for me and came out of one of the stories I read recently conveyed by a foster parent. Here’s the story –

I am currently fostering a 14 year old. They were removed because of trauma from a family member who is not their mom but who still lives with their mom. Mom refuses to ask this person to leave or to move into a different apartment, but is otherwise doing what is asked of her to work towards reunification. Today this kid told me they really want to be reunified, which makes perfect sense. I’m worried because this seems unlikely unless mom starts believing them and takes steps to cut their perpetrator out of her life. How do I support them? If you were in their shoes, what would you want from a foster caregiver? I’m also worried because many of the reasons this kid states for wanting to reunify are to care for their mom. It’s not my place to make the judgment calls, but it seems from the outside like a case of parentification. Add to this that I’ve heard this child talk about how much they wish they had been given the opportunity that their peers had to “just be a kid”.

So what is parentification ? Parentification is when the roles are reversed between a child and a parent, a toxic family dynamic that is rarely talked about and is even accepted as the norm in some cultures. However, research has found that it can have far-reaching negative psychological impacts. It is a functional and/or emotional role reversal in which the child sacrifices his or her own needs for attention, comfort, and guidance in order to accommodate and care for the logistical and emotional needs of a parent and/or sibling.

One response was this from experience – my parents put me in foster care briefly when I was suicidal from the pressure of being a “good kid” and experiencing their abuse. I wanted to go back to them to protect my brother. I feel for the teen. I would have this child in therapy now to begin processing those emotions of responsibility. I’m 24 and still struggle with guilt that my brother may have suffered when I was gone or what would have happened if I’d stayed gone. My mom would’ve likely lost her mind. She did – when I went to college. My best advice is therapy for the child while in your care, and perhaps talk to a therapist about how you could best talk to their mom about her removing that person in the home. My mom chose my dad over me often, so I feel for the teen.

Another one shared – Unfortunately this might be something that never fully goes away. I was like this, the eldest child who took care of the family from a very young age and getting rid of that guilt and the “needing to take care of them feeling” has been very very resistant to therapy. I think the best you can do is just try to be empathetic, don’t make them feel like they’re acting too old or whatever (mine did that and it really fucked with my head) just be kind and remind them they can relax and do things for themselves, even if they don’t listen.

This one touched my heart, because I am the oldest as well. I was not in an awful situation but I have always felt a sense of responsibility for my two sisters. Our parents died only 4 months apart (high school sweethearts married for over 50 years). From the first day I returned to my family after my mom died first, I found myself having to take over financial responsibility for my sisters that my mom had been financially providing, making me in effect “the mom”. Then, after our dad died too, I had to ask the court to appoint someone to assist my youngest sister with her finances. She is likely a paranoid schizophrenic with very weird ideas about the way money functions. The court agreed to appoint a conservator. My sister and I have struggled. What had been a really good relationship before was destroyed when our mom died. Our mom had a poor relationship with my sister for over a decade and my sister’s feelings about that transferred to me when my mom died and I had to take over the family finances.

Also this interesting perspective – I cared for a teen relative of mine last year similar situation. As soon as she could legally, she returned to mom and the abuser to care for her siblings again and her mom. This is what she had been taught was the only way to get attention, love etc from mom. The best way we found to help her was to enroll her in a group for teens about healthy relationships at our local Domestic Violence shelter. She also did therapy with someone she selected and equine psychotherapy which helped her with attachment a lot. While she was here, we focused on just reminding her of our unconditional love and building trust in our relationship. Even though she went back, it didn’t take long for all of that to help her see how to set boundaries with mom, identify unsafe situations with abuser and start to come out of some of the fog. It’s still complicated but she isn’t engrained and I see her setting more healthy boundaries. We (and her dad) are still safe people she can come too and does. It took about 6 months of us just watching from a distance and being supportive regardless. In your situation, maybe focus on staying neutral and asking for a CASA or Guardian ad Litem to help with the other side of the coin. Having a mentor also really helped my relative. It was someone closer to her age that she could confide in and she is still actively talking to that person now. Maybe your foster youth could use a mentor because they aren’t a therapist but can be a sounding board. Also a lifeline if the youth returns and ‘adults’ get cut off from that person. (I say adults because the mentors we have had are usually 25 or younger and parents don’t see them like they do a 40 year old caseworker).

It Is Wrong To Hide The Truth

A person should not have to live to the age of 19 before knowing they were adopted. A person should not go through life being they come from a culture they did not. However, that is what happened to Melissa Guida-Richards. That was the point in her life when she learned she was not Italian at all bur a Columbian mestiza or mixed race. Melissa shares her story in a Huffington Post op-ed – My Half Siblings Found Me On 23andMe. I may never have learned the identity of my own dad’s father but for 23andMe hooking me up with cousins with the same grandmother (who I lived over 6 decades knowing nothing about).

That same 2017 year that I began to learn who my parents original parents were (both of them were adopted but at least they grew up knowing they were adopted all along), Melissa did 23andMe and learned about her cultural genetic make-up (Latina with Indigenous, Eastern Asian and some African roots with less than half of her genetic makeup from Italian or even European sources). She finally knew why she felt different from her entirely European adoptive family who came into the US straight off the boat from Italy and Portugal.

Before she knew she was adopted, she had grown up hearing stories of her adoptive father tending goats in Italy and her adoptive mother washing clothes in a stream in Portugal. She was taught to have pride in those cultures … but these were not her own birth culture. She experienced a sense of frustration over the way she had been raised. This built up inside of her until she made the decision to go into therapy when she was in college. Eventually, therapy allowed her to come to terms with some of these things, yet she was still pushing some of the others aside, finding that easier than confronting them. It takes time to grow through an evolution like this.

Like many adoptees, it took having biological children genetically related to her to give her that connection to kinship that was missing all of her life. Then, very much like what happened in my circumstances, two years after having her DNA tested by 23andMe, she received this message – “Hi, this may be weird and I don’t mean to bother you but I’m your half-sibling.” In a matter of seconds, she went from having no biological ancestors, and yet now children who were related to her, to having a sibling only a few years older than her. And she shares, what many adoptees feel when they discover biological, genetic relatives – Finally, there was someone else out there like me. After years of feeling like the broken, weird, outsider in my adoptive family, there was someone else.

Her feelings at that point, echo the anger many adoptees feel as they become mature – while her initial emotion was feeling overwhelmed with joy, she soon felt the grief. She says, How was it fair that I had no idea of this? That we, two siblings, were separated and yet adopted to the same country? Why did the world think that that was okay? Why did my adoptive parents act threatened when they found out about my sibling?

As she became acquainted with her half-sibling, she felt the novelty of experiencing actual similarities with a relative. All of her life, she had very little in common with her cousins by adoption and not surprisingly, her brother who was also an adoptee. Now this all made more sense, it had taken learning she was adopted.

She also experienced her adoptive mother withdrawing, becoming very quiet. Then, she received another message that she had yet another half-sibling who had the same original mother. It turned out that both of these half-siblings had been adopted but had been raised by the same adoptive family. Her adoptive parents lying about her adoption hurt even more. What also hurt for her was that these two half-siblings had not conveyed to her the full truth from the beginning of their making contact. They had both known about her for months, had looked at her blog, and on social media. They had decided together that it would be easier to go slow with the revelations and while the first one was open to creating a relationship with her, the other older one was not.

This whole situation felt like a betrayal to her. She says, “As adoptees I would have thought they would understand how any information about my birth family was vital to me. That hiding any part of our family would hurt me . . . since they had grown up together and knew about their adoptions since they were small, it didn’t really process for them why it felt like such a betrayal to me.” Eventually, she realized what hurt. It was one sibling protecting the other because that one wasn’t ready for a relationship with her. Their bond, from growing up together, and being biologically related, was something she could never have.

She shares some truth about adoptee reunions that I have seen more than once myself – they are often not like the movies. There’s heartbreak, anger, numbness and general confusion. People often expect an instant connection with their biological relatives because they share blood, but that can take some time or often never fully develops. I have certainly found that with my own newfound relations. They have histories together that I didn’t have with them. That gap of living different lives totally unaware of one another is very hard to fill – in fact, I have come to believe it is impossible. I am grateful for whatever relationship I can develop with each but I must keep my expectations in that regard very low.

The author arrives at this realization – My biological siblings and I may have come from the same mother, but we don’t share the same experiences. Society has pressured us to immediately connect upon meeting one another, when we barely could pick the other out from a crowd of strangers. It’s okay for reunions to be imperfect and painful because not all things in life are meant to be the way the movies portray. Having a relationship with both siblings during this (pandemic) time has filled some of the holes in my heart that adoption left. I’m beyond glad to have them in my life, and only hope that one day soon the world is a little less dangerous so we can all meet in person.

She ends with “we are still family ― flaws and all.” Yes, I totally get that sentiment.

It’s Temporary, Don’t Choose A Permanent Solution

Today’s story –

My daughter is 5 months old. I was going to parent her until a series of unfortunate events occurred leading me to believe I could not parent her. I made the difficult decision to give her to my sister. The adoption will be finalized next month.

I felt confident in my decisions until recently. I made the choice to place my child with my sister after I was in a really bad car wreck causing me to be injured losing my job along with my car and being near homeless. On top of already having 2 children I was convinced by my “support system “ that I would be selfish to keep her.

These were temporary issues and have since resolved. I am now in a stable job again and have my own car and am close to owning my own home (will happen after Christmas). So, I am currently in a stable living situation. I now know 100% without a doubt that I should’ve kept her and I could’ve made it with her in my care.

In Texas you have to wait 48 hours to sign papers. Then afterwards you have 3 days to cancel the paperwork and change your mind. Even so, I don’t feel like I had enough time to change my mind. I didn’t have time to let my hormones and emotions settle, let alone establish a stable living situation for myself. Now I so badly want to undo it.

But it would destroy my sister and the family she’s created in the process. And I’m not even sure if it even can be undone, even if my sister would agree to it.

One replied from experience – Unfortunately, I fear that your time frame to fight without repercussions has passed. I am not sure that Texas would reverse your Termination Of Parental Rights. This is definitely a question for an attorney, as it differs by state and situation. I would talk to the attorney before talking to your sister. If she is offended or panics, she could simply cut you out of both her life and your daughter’s, and take other family with her. I would try to preserve that relationship until you have legal guidance.

Yet another from experience – I also live in Texas and unfortunately it can is very difficult to reverse Termination Of Parental Rights. I’m heartbroken that your family pushed for you to give your baby up instead of standing with you by giving you support. I would seek legal advice to understand your rights. Ideally your baby should be with you and your family should help support you.