Grieving Many Times Over

Today, I share a piece by LINK>David B Bohl, who is an author, speaker and addiction & relinquishment consultant. It is titled On Grieving Many Times, And Many Times Over. I was attracted to this because yesterday was my deceased, adoptee mother’s birthday. I don’t suppose we ever get over the grief. I don’t think she ever got over the grief of never being able to communicate with her birth mother, who Tennessee told her in the early 1990s was already dead.

David writes his adoptive mother’s death was the fifth death of a parent he’d had to go through. He explains that he – hadn’t learned of the first two until much later after they’d occurred. The first one to go was my birth father, who died 32 years before I learned about it, the second one my birth mother whose death I did not learn of until 8 years after it happened (very similar to my own mom). Then there was my adoptive father 12 years ago, and now, Joan Audrey Bohl who died twice —first when the dementia robbed her of her mind and memory, subsequently rendering me a stranger when she would fail at times to remember who I was and why I was visiting. There she was another mom who had no idea I was her son. In those moments, in a most sinister coincidence, she was like my biological parents who relinquished me and existed in this world without any specific knowledge of me.

He wants us to understand “What all of this means to someone like me—a relinquishee and adoptee who now has two sets of deceased parents–is that I must face twice(?), five times(?) a yet-to-be determined amount(?) of grief and confusion. Add to that losing my adoptive mom to dementia, and there is plenty to process, a great deal of loss, and certainly much to grieve. I am, of course, not blaming any of my parents for dying or getting sick, and I’ve made peace with my biological parents for giving me up a 62 years ago. But it would be disingenuous to say that I am no longer affected by these losses and that my mother’s recent death doesn’t trigger some new layer of grief where all of those people who contributed to my existence must be acknowledged in how they shaped my life. And so, I think about mothers. The mother I knew and the mother I’ve never met. And then the mother I knew who no longer knew me. I think of fathers, the one who had never even met me, and the one who raised me and provided me with a life filled with opportunities. And I of course, as a father, I think about my children.”

When I try to talk about my own family, my youngest son says to me – you have a very complicated family. It is true. And it is true for adoptees as well. As I have learned who my original grandparents were and have made contact with that novel new experience of genetic relatives that never knew each other existed – it has actually given me a new sense of wholeness – while at the same time totally messing me up with the adoptive relatives and the feelings I have (and still have) and each of them. Very complicated indeed.

There is much more in his very worthwhile article – see the LINK.

Everybody Hurts

An adoption community friend mentioned that this was a song that always made her cry. I had not heard it before. I’m pretty certain a song by REM was part of my wedding back in 1988 (not this song, of course). I suspect many of the people who read this blog do feel sad, cry, have deep soul hurt, at least sometimes. So I’m making this my Saturday morning blog, just because.

We just spent 3 days without full power (though we do have a gas powered generator, it is NOT enough to power our furnace – we used a space heater and sleeping bags at night). The noise and sustained cold (though the lowest household temperature was 63, the cold seeped into everything in the house) shattered my nerves and happily took 3 lbs off me due to shivering. There was a moment on Thursday when everything was just so wrong but I had to go on. I know we were fortunate to have that much normalcy, yet – it was anything but normal. Our power was restored at 11:35am on Friday. I have even more compassion and empathy for the people of Ukraine today who do not even have what we had and have terror piled on top of the suffering, never knowing when the next missile will strike where they are.

~ lyrics

When your day is long
And the night, the night is yours alone
When you’re sure you’ve had enough
Of this life, well hang on

Don’t let yourself go
‘Cause everybody cries
Everybody hurts sometimes

Sometimes everything is wrong
Now it’s time to sing along

When your day is night alone (hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go (hold on)
If you think you’ve had too much
Of this life, well hang on

‘Cause everybody hurts
Take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts

Don’t throw your hand, oh no
Don’t throw your hand
If you feel like you’re alone
No, no, no, you are not alone

If you’re on your own in this life
The days and nights are long
When you think you’ve had too much
Of this life to hang on

Well, everybody hurts sometimes
Everybody cries
Everybody hurts, sometimes

And everybody hurts sometimes
So hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on, hold on

Everybody hurts

David Crosby’s son James Raymond

While David Crosby was preparing for his liver transplant in the ’90s, he discovered that the child he had given up for adoption in 1962 had been searching for him. Crosby finally reunited with his long-lost son, James Raymond, and as fate would have it, he’s also a musician. Raymond is a successful keyboardist and composer. 

Crosby was in his early 20s when Raymond’s mother became pregnant. “She gave him up for adoption and didn’t tell me he existed,” he says. Raymond was born when his father was young. Crosby declines to identify the mother with whom he had a fleeting relationship, but he admits they put their son up for adoption immediately. Crosby never forgot the son he gave up.

When Raymond and his partner were about to have their first child, his adoptive parents suggested he might want to track down his biological parents. “So he went to check and he sees my name there and he thinks: ‘Nah, couldn’t be.’ So he checks first names and middle names [Van Cortlandt] and realizes, yeah, it is me. He’d already been a musician for 20 years when we met up – “so anybody who tells you it’s not genetic, you tell them come talk to me.”

As his health deteriorated while he waited for a new liver, David Crosby’s thoughts drifted to the boy. “I was in the hospital dying, and I knew that I had a son out there someplace,” Crosby told The Baltimore Sun. “I had been beating myself up for years about not being there for this kid.” Crosby says, such reunions end up in animosity. “But James did a wonderful thing, man. He gave me a chance to earn my way into his life.” How did he do that? “By making music with him.”

Raymond had already made a name for himself in music, having pursued classical and then jazz from a young age. He was the musical director for a successful Nickelodeon series and a sideman for acts including Chaka Khan. From an early age, Raymond knew he was adopted, but he didn’t seek out his birth father until he was living on his own. Discovering his dad was David Crosby came as a shock. 

The father-son duo got along well from the start. “He was this nice, decent young guy, and we became friends immediately,” Crosby said. “We write spectacularly well together.” He says the final song on the album, For Free is Crosby’s favorite. It is I Won’t Stay For Long, which was written by Raymond. The album came out July 23, 2021 and was also produced by Raymond. Crosby says, “Imagine how I feel about my son being that good a writer. I wear it like a garland of flowers on my head. It’s just fucking wonderful.” They began playing music together and soon they formed the jazz-rock band CPR (Crosby, Pevar & Raymond). By January 1997, CPR was touring and performing.

On his website, Raymond talks about his work on the album – “Lyrically, where I started was this visual of agricultural workers in the Central Valley of California, truck drivers, laborers starting their workday early in the cold of morning … knowing that it would get hot as hell as the day wore on,” Raymond said. “I wanted to speak of their resiliency and spirit and that of so many other working folks across the USA.” Crosby added his storytelling and voice, and the results are an iconic father-son collaboration. 

James John Raymond is a musician, songwriter, producer and film composer living and working in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I discovered on his website LINK>James Raymond that the composer contributed some additional music to one of my all time favorite movies – 2007’s August Rush. If you want to know more about him and his craft here is a somewhat technical explanatory YouTube.

I can’t help but think of my youngest, musical genius, son. This is the kind of YouTube, my son might make someday regarding his own compositions. My son does things like this YouTube with his Geometry Dash gameplay. He frequently composes music on his computer and posts it online, as well as playing it for us – his family.

Goodbye Again

Candace Cahill lost her son Michael twice, first to adoption and the second time when he died at age 23. The story follows Cahill from the moment she makes the decision to give birth to her baby, to her tortuous decision to relinquish him to adoption, through the subsequent years of doubt and yearning, to their reunion, and finally, to his heart-wrenching, untimely death. It is an intimate story of child relinquishment and child loss as well as a sensitive and intelligent exploration of motherhood and forgiveness. Today’s blog is thanks to LINK>an interview of Candace by Michèle Dawson Haber for Hippocampus Magazine.

As a writer, trying to get my own family’s story told, her insights into the publishing experience are informative. I know about the need for a cliff hanger at the end of each chapter to keep the reader wanting to read more. Candace says “I wanted readers to feel as if I was sitting next to them telling the story. It was about finding the right balance between exposition and scene.” Writing is harder work than I once believed. She also made an interesting choice for her narrative arc – “I originally opened the book with the scene when I hear Michael has died, and then I interspersed my pregnancy and his childhood. It worked, but not as well as when I arranged the events chronologically. I’m much happier with this structure; it feels more intuitive.”

Michele notes – Your story about . . . one first mother’s experience of adoption from pregnancy, relinquishment, years of no contact, and then reunion, is an important contribution to the discourse on the impact of adoption. To which, Candace noted – until recently, stories from the point of view of a member of the first family have been mostly non-existent. In sitting down to write it, her only thought was, “I’m just writing my story for me, it’s not going to be published. It was only when I got about halfway into it that I realized it should be out there, because it is a story you just don’t hear.”

In this blog, I do advocate for family preservation, even though I would not even exist if there had not been the adoption of both of my parents. Michele says “There are many who believe that adoption should be abolished altogether. These advocates say that the effort and resources that are put into adoption should be redirected to family preservation.” Candace realizes that “My story puts me on both sides of that issue. It could be used by an abolitionist, and it could be used by adoption proponents as well. Writing my story has helped me come to see that two things can be true at one time. I don’t believe that we are ever going to get to a place where adoption isn’t needed at some point. There will be times when the natural parents are incapable, unavailable, pass away, or whatever it may be, and there are no other kin that can step in. But we do need to make much more of an effort at family preservation, or at the very least, we need to quit stealing children’s identities.”

Michele notes – “only after reading your book did I consider that a first mother might also undergo an identity crisis. Do you mind telling me what you discovered about your own identity over this period?” Candace replies – “My biggest struggle was recognizing that I was a mother. That, despite the fact that I relinquished my child, I still was a mother. I’m not a parent—I was never a parent. But I am a mother.” As a mother who really didn’t raise my own daughter beyond the age of 3, I understand this perspective.

Candace says I “started querying agents in February 2021.” Then she mentions, Legacy Book Press. She thought it was perfect because they only do legacy stories. That is when she decided to skip the agent thing and go straight to publishers. She says that “Legacy accepted right away, and I decided to move forward.” In the interview, I learn that Candace had training as a social worker. I have great respect for the field because my beloved, decease mother-in-law was a member of that profession. She says that the field – encompasses empathy, the ability to recognize and see other people – and I would say from my own experience that was very much true of my mother-in-law.

Candace expresses her intention this way – I am using my memoir as a case study to develop a curriculum that can be used in social work departments and as continuing education materials for adoption professionals. I also hope to help adoptive parents and hopeful adoptive parents learn to be more open regarding everything related to adoption, but especially in talking with their adopted children openly and honestly. Michele ends her interview acknowledging how that – “work is so necessary to help transform understanding of the impact of adoption and forge a path toward systemic change.” 

Desaparecidos Of Argentina

Today’s blog is thanks to an article in The Guardian, LINK>Adopted by their parents’ enemies: tracing the stolen children of Argentina’s ‘dirty war.’

Back in the 1970s, after a military coup in Argentina, at least 500 newborns were taken from their parents while in captivity and given to military couples to raise as their own. Today, Russia is accused of doing something similar with children taken from Ukraine. Jorge Videla, was known as the “Hitler of the Pampa,” after the 1976 coup. Two years ago, the Argentinian government sent hundreds of DNA testing kits to its consulates around the world in an effort to put names to unidentified victims and to find the children of the disappeared, known as desaparecidos. Many of these children are still living today but unaware of their true identity. The Abuelas de Playa de Mayo is a human rights organization whose mission is to find the children who were illegally adopted during those years. (I wrote about these Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo in a blog some time ago.)

One of those children is now a 45-year-old banker living in London. His name is Javier Penino Viñas, and his biological parents, Cecilia Viñas and Hugo Penino, were abducted in 1977. Javier was illegally adopted by Jorge Vildoza (a high-ranking Argentinian navy officer) and his wife, Ana María Grimaldos. When asked to appear in court, Vildoza fled the country in a panic, taking the child with him. “After the Videla regime, there was a democratic transition, and in that period the trials against the military began,” says Javier. “My adoptive father was quite high up in the navy, and the family knew that the transition to democracy was starting to cause problems for anyone in the military. That’s when we moved to Paraguay and ended up changing our identities.”

Some experts say that behind the illegal military adoptions was a quasi-Catholic belief that, while the parents of the children were irredeemable sinners who deserved to die, killing their newborn children would be a sin. However, the Argentinian historian Fabricio Laino believes there was a more cynical logic at work. “The military were convinced they could ‘save’ and ‘reform’ these children. They wanted to redeem them from families who, according to them, would surely have raised them in a subversive environment.”

Baltasar Garzón is a former Spanish judge and human rights activist. He believes that “The appropriation of children, as well as rape, has always been aimed at humiliating and subduing the enemy. Taking away the enemy’s child was a bargaining chip.” They change a person’s life by taking them out of their environment and away from their biological family. The method used in Argentina was especially perverse. A pregnant woman was held in captivity until she gave birth. Then her baby was taken away from her. After torturing her, she was killed and effectively made to disappear.

Therefore for decades, hundreds of children have been raised by the same people who were responsible for the torture and death of their biological parents. After the return to democracy, members of the military fled with their adoptive families – often to countries where extradition was prohibited.

It could be that the taking of Ukrainian children is due to a similar intention by Putin. To, in effect, change these children’s lives by taking them out of their environment and away from their biological family. Then placing them with a Russian family on Russian soil. Time will tell the true extent of such efforts and hopefully reveal the number of children affected. War is such a hideous exercise. My wish is that these children ultimately find their way back to family in Ukraine.

Not A “New” Life

This comment came up in a discussion about how adoptive parents change the name of their adoptee when the adoption is finalized. One woman commented – “Nothing wrong with that, we started using his new name too to get him used to it. New life, new name.” She was quickly corrected – “I need you to fucking not. Adoption isn’t a “new life”, it’s a continuation of the life they are already living. This comment is insensitive at best.” This one had started new childcare job. She is a domestic infant adoptee. One child in her class is in the process of being adopted and that X is their legal name and Y is the name the adoptive parents have chosen to change it to. This child isn’t an infant, so the childcare workers are basically having to train the child to respond to a new name.

I will admit, I did a little sleuthing into the one who made the insensitive comment but could find nothing definite except that she is relatively new in the all things adoption group. There are some interesting photos but nothing certain as to her status in adoptionland but her comment seems to indicate an adoption there.

Lacking that, I looked for some context and found this recent (Oct 2022) article in The Atlantic LINK>Adoption Is Not a Fairy-Tale Ending, with the subtitle – It’s a complicated beginning. While maybe not perfectly what I was looking for, I did see how it begins – In America, popular narratives about adoption tend to focus on happy endings. Poor mothers who were predestined to give their children away for a “better life”; unwanted kids turned into chosen ones; made-for-television reunions years later. Since childhood, these story lines about the industry of infant adoptions had gradually seeped into my subconscious from movies, books, and the news.

The author, Erika Hayasaki, notes – researching a book on identical twins raised in radically different circumstances, the reality of adoption is far more complicated than some might think—and, as many adoptees and scholars have argued, deserving of a more clear-eyed appraisal across American culture. Her book, Somewhere Sisters, chronicles identical twins Isabella and Hà were born in Vietnam in 1998, and their mother struggled to care for them. Isabella (born Loan) was adopted by a wealthy, white American family that gave her a new name and raised her in the suburbs of Chicago. Hà was adopted by a biological aunt and her partner, and grew up in a rural village in Vietnam with sporadic electricity and frequent monsoons.

Twins have always fascinated me. I was born a Gemini and have always wondered what happened to my twin. When I was a child, my 13 month younger sister and I were often dressed alike and sometimes people thought we were twins. When my daughter was preschool age, she used to claim we were twins. I suppose I’ve had at least two surrogate twins in my life. I digress.

The author discovered that when reunions with birth families do happen, they aren’t always happy; they can be painful, confusing, or traumatic. Adoptees who are parents, lawyers, educators, or activists are challenging the rosy image of adoption that stubbornly persists in our culture. Children are not offered up for adoption in a vacuum. Many of them “are available because of certain, very strategic political policies.” Often the reasons for removing children from their parents comes under the heading of “neglect.” Throughout adoption history, this broad category has encompassed homelessness, poor hygiene, absent parents, and drug abuse in some instances, or simply leaving a child with caregivers outside the nuclear family.

A happily ever story after adoption often comes at the cost of forsaking everything that came before. The process, known in the adoptee community as coming out of the fog, refers to when an adoptee starts to see beyond the narrative about fate and question their true feelings about the adoption system, and how it has impacted their relationships, personalities, and identity formation. As the child of two adoptees, I also had my moment of coming out of the fog because adoption had seemed like the most natural thing to me until I was over 50, both of my parents had died and I began to discover my families true origins.

For me, coming out of the fog was, and continues to be, a process that involves simultaneously holding my adoptive grandparent’s love and good intentions in my heart’s memories alongside all the ways that adoption robbed me of what, for most people, is almost an unconsidered common reality. There are all of these contradictory realities within one’s experience of belonging to a family created by adoptions. The duality of that space can be hard for those without such a background to reasonably understand.

We All Want To Feel Safe…

Safe by Kristin Brantley Poe<LINK

I was inspired by this adoption related painting to consider the concept of Safe. I found a related kind of article at LINK>Fostering Perspectives, an effort by the North Carolina Div of Social Services and their Family and Children’s Resource Program.

Safe can be defined as free from harm or hurt. So, feeling safe means you do not anticipate either harm or hurt, emotionally or physically. One emotion we often feel without consciously knowing it is the feeling of safety.

It’s likely you’re able to recall at least one time in your life when you didn’t feel safe. Do you remember what emotions you were experiencing when this happened? Several emotions often compete for attention during traumatic events like this. The author of the article writes – When I was feeling unsafe, I was scared and anxious, and my body just froze in place. My heart pounded and my mind was racing to figure out what was going to happen next. Because I was not in control of my body’s reaction, panic was closing in.

Your interest in adoption related topics including foster care and family preservation is probably why you read this blog. It is highly probable that you may have heard the expression “safety, permanence, and well-being” before. We use these terms to compartmentalize the vision we have for child’s welfare. Caring people want children to have a permanent family who will be there for them for the rest of their lives.

The concept of safety is always evolving. Historically, we may have thought of safety as simply being free from physical abuse, free from sexual abuse, free from emotional abuse, and free from neglect. This type of safety is a critical first step on the road to well-being. We can broaden our definition of safety to include the concept of feeling safe; a concept that is called psychological safety.

What research tells us is that permanency and general well-being alone are not enough. It matters if a child does not feel safe. To have the kind of a good quality childhood that allows the child to develop, grow and be well in all aspects, the child needs to have a feeling of psychological safety as well.

At every age in a child’s development there are things that help a child to feel safe. When they are very young it might be a pacifier, a special blanket, sucking their thumb, a stuffed toy, a loving caregiver, a kind word, a smile, a hug, or the act of either rocking back and forth or being rocked. As children grow older, a feeling of safety might take the form of a friendly voice on the telephone, a comfy pillow, a special meal, friends, clubs, a special location, spiritual beliefs, or books.

Unfortunately, some seek safety through unhealthy behaviors – over-eating food, getting drunk on alcohol and/or high on drugs.

One important thing to remember is that children who have experienced trauma may get a sense of safety from things we hardly ever think of being related to the concept – food being readily available to the child at all times might just help them feel safe from hunger. The comfortable temperature in a room might help them feel safe if they have experienced homelessness or inadequate shelter.

It can be surprising to learn that things we may believe should create the feeling of safety such as a comforting hug or a hot bath could actually cause a child who has been abused to feel terribly unsafe. Sights, sounds, smells, people, places, things, words, colors and even a child’s own feelings can become linked to trauma. Afterward, exposure to anything associated with the trauma can bring up intense and terrifying feelings. Often, these associations to a trauma will be completely unconscious.

This is why it can be challenging for non-related (genetically and biologically) caregivers to actually help. It could help to become a really good detective. Such an effort might help a child identify things that make them feel safe. It could also help eliminate or minimize the things that cause the child to feel unsafe.

All caring people should understand that just because a government agency has certified a foster/adoptive/kinship parent as “safe” (often meaning such obvious factors as having the right locks on doors, or that there are no criminals living in the home, and that family pets are up-to-date on their rabies shots) does not mean that a child moving into this home will feel safe. In fact, what government agencies define as a “safe home” has very little to do with a child placed there feeling safe.

“If your (adoptive) parents or foster parents go on and on about what happened a long time ago, that’s kind of putting you down and not really making you happy.”
~ Angel, age 13

Using Detachment To Make Space

Adoption trauma refers to the shock and pain of being permanently and abruptly separated from biological family members and can affect both the birth parent and the child who is being adopted, given the circumstances of the separation. We now know that a child’s attachment to her mother starts in the womb, so even a child adopted at birth can experience severe attachment disruption later on in life. A friend was recently expounding on attachment and it seemed like some worthy thoughts to put in this blog.

She writes – Had a conversation recently with a loved one about loss, trauma, wounds, living in a bubble where the sense of belonging is not clear. When we lose loved ones, for example, due to death or breakups, when we are rejected, or misunderstandings separate you from people who are important to you – places where there is lack of warmth, lack of connection, a kind of coldness and cruelty that is hard to put in words and if you do put into words, you look weak – it is embarrassing, humiliating – further you go into the wound, building a fence around you made of loss, confusion, distorted or loss in sense of purpose, aloneness, pain, trauma, rejection, grief, loss of control. You can create narratives that preach positivity and strength but the heart is wounded, the heart has a stab pain, bleeding your life away, whispers in your inner ear of why you are not good enough – if only you were this or that..then maybe it would be alright. What can you do? A silent rage covers the wound, like a thin skin to help you function. A fight for your life that feel a fight in a dark room with no light in sight.

Then the idea “don’t be attached” sounds like more abuse, more alone, squeezing the heart tighter, as if trying to end what you are, your life. “Don’t be attached” feels like more of a stab. Abandoning yourself, your hopes. Hearing the word detachment can feel shattering. ..that as bad as you feel, now, don’t be attached.

Don’t be attached doesn’t mean withdraw from love, hope, from what you care or cared about. Particularly not withdrawing from the part of you that hurts. Not being attached is to draw closer to the hurt parts, abandoned parts, wounded parts. Not being attached is separating your self from the *story*, situations, to change the focus from the situation to the wounds to learn from them what you need to, to take time to transform into a newer version of yourself that has yet to be embraced and has navigated billions of hurts and disappointments, sometimes flat out rejections and absolute betrayals and abandonments, some that go very deep. The deep wound can cause even the lightest slights to feel exaggerated. We become sensitive to how the wind is blowing. We haven’t embraced our pain fully enough to heal. Everything that brings that pain to the surface or creates those feelings, it is a chance to embrace the wounded part, look at it, reason through, let others off the hook for a time, look at yourself, the wound, be alone with yourself, giving yourself time to heal. Otherwise, we might not sense when we are in relationships with people that abandon, hurt, reject – – because we haven’t yet developed a healthy one with the wounds we carry – using that as proof over and again that we are not worthy of more or pursue it, or even how…where.

Detachment is a short term method to make space to see yourself differently, to tend to your wounds properly, to love yourself rightly, to see things thorough and to come to terms once and for all – help yourself, gently, so we can evolve beyond the wounds.

**I do also consider there possibly being a radical process to detachment. A leap – as if off a cliff into a void, another world – where if you could do it – as if die to what you are – you would open to a world you had no idea is there, that you have only been seeing your thoughts and hardly reflecting anything at all but those thoughts – not reality. I imagine a Remembering, a rejoining with something exciting and pure. Personally, I find the idea and concept curious, the thought intriguing, and at times dwell on getting beyond idea and thoughts and wonder if there is another world..maybe a real world, reflected from a free conscience, a surprise, beyond *your* mind.

She ends it with this advice – Think about that then turn and say something silly and reveal your human flaws and personal prejudices. Even though your mind is there, inching in miles toward a leap.

Adoption, Foster Care or Guardianship

Came across some thoughts. Just passing them along.

To the thought that adoption equals indentured servitude, one adoptee said – It started as permanent indentured servitude and nothing has changed except the marketing. In answer to that, someone else said – Until the law changes, hopeful adopters can choose guardianship or (not quite as good) choose NOT to amend the birth certificate per this LINK>google doc on State Laws.

The perspective from an adoptive parent, who adopted from foster care, and who is also the sister of an adoptee – The problem with guardianship is it varies so much on what it provides and how it functions. Part of me wonders if that is by design – make it so onerous that it’s the less desirable option.

Washington state recently passed a law that forbids children to be removed from a placement – if that placement is willing to provide LINK>minor guardianship but not adoption. This was specifically done with kinship in mind – apparently children used to be removed from willing kin placements to be put up for adoption, if a grandmother didn’t want to make her grandchild, her child, on paper.

Under a guardianship, the youth loses the benefits they would keep if they had been adopted or remained in foster care, including medical benefits. Guardians can apply for cash support but it is SUCH a complex process and many people don’t qualify. Her perspective is that it makes guardianship only possible for a specific socioeconomic group – and less possible for kin. Like with adoption, a teen must consent. The system leaves many teens frightened that guardianship means no more stability than foster care – with less oversight.

This adoptive parent would love to see a streamlined guardianship process that is a federal/legal mechanism. One that conveys the same parental rights and responsibilities towards minors that adoption does, while simultaneously banning any birth certificate amendments, legal name changes and still preserves legal ties to all genetic family members.

From the daughter of an orphan and an anti-adoption activist – someone saying that “in guardianship the youth lose benefits that they would keep in foster care” – that is the whole point of guardianship and adoption – to transfer financial responsibility from the state to the guardian or adopter! The adopter or guardian puts the child on their medical plan, feeds them, clothes them etc. The government does provide adoption incentive payments and tax credits and sometimes Medicaid for children with complex medical needs because its still cheaper than having the kid remain in foster care. If guardians or adopters ever lose their jobs and can’t support the kids they took in, they can go on welfare, just like the families the kids were taken away from.

The federal government is betting that won’t happen. The federal government has started offering states Title IV funding for achieving ‘permanency’ through guardianship but it is a relatively new development. Title IV refers to federal student aid in which there is a demonstrable financial need to be able to attend public, private nonprofit and proprietary schools. Attendees of these colleges can receive student loans, grants or enter a work-study program.

Hopefully, guardianship would help stop the bullying of people into adoption. Some persons make guardianship sound like it is not as good as adoption for money related reasons. It is outrageous that ‘the system’ is manipulating teens into believing that adoption offers them more stability and oversight than foster care. Foster care meets their needs until they reach the age of 18. They have a right to facilitated visitation with their family. They can’t be moved out of the county where their family resides. They can’t be homeschooled or forced to participate in their caregiver’s religion. They don’t have to call their caregivers “mom” or “dad” and their care givers are not legally allowed to refer to them as their son or daughter. Their caregivers have to take them to mainstream doctors and dentists. They are assigned a caseworker to monitor the safety and appropriateness of the placement. If they are abused in a foster home, they can sue the state and be awarded damages. They always have the right to be returned to live with their family – if it ever becomes safe and however possible – even after their parents rights have been terminated – ONLY if they have NOT been adopted.

Child Protective Services pushes for adoption in order to meet quotas. They receive bounty payments when the meet federal government requirements for completing placements into adoptions. When kids age out of foster care, they age out with their rights intact and there are many programs and scholarships available to them as former foster youth. These would not be available to them, if they are adopted or obtain a guardian. With both guardianship and adoption, the child loses the oversight of the state. The state is freed from the liability related to what happens to the person in the adoptive home or at the hands of the guardian, if any abuse occurs.

At least with guardianship, the youth remains a member of their family with all kinship rights intact – permanently. The guardian has to do the job of a parent without the title. Legally a child is entitled to the same level of care and support from a guardian that they would receive from an adoptive parent, only they won’t lose their kinship in their family and they can return to their parents, if the situation improves. The guardian does not have a right to keep the person permanently. A guardian also is not allowed to exploit a child in their care, the way an adopter can (such as putting them on Youtube and profiting off filming their every move, as so many adopters and parents do these days). Adopting without changing the birth certificate is not as good as guardianship but it is vastly better than adopting and changing the birth certificate for those who are forced to adopt their kin, rather than serve as guardians.

When It Feels Like No One Cares

A birth mother story about what it is like when the entire deck is stacked against you.

I placed my daughter for adoption back in 2017 when I didn’t have custody of my 3 older kids. I was homeless, depressed and struggling. The adoption process was very traumatic for me. Although my daughter is very loved and happy, I wish I would have been encouraged or supported to keep her.

I got my life back together and fought my family for custody. I have my older two children back in my care but my third child is with a different family member. I had been doing much better in life, until …

I had just moved into a big house the couple weeks before I found out I was pregnant, was working, making great money. And then I found out I was pregnant. Everything has gone downhill from there. I have severe morning sickness – so severe that it’s classified as hyperemesis gravidarum. I was constantly in and out of the hospital, so I quickly fell behind on bills and the baby’s dad became obsessed with a stripper and left us at the time we moved into the house. I wound up losing my job due to missing so much work and was facing eviction.

The baby’s dad stepped in to try and work things out. We were all staying in a motel. I don’t make nearly the money I did at my job doing side gigs and he makes minimum wage. The cheapest motels around here cost about $2,000/month. Realizing we didn’t really have many options, we decided to sign on with an adoption agency that would pay our motel expenses. He was there for me when I gave up my daughter for adoption, even though he is not her birth father. We viewed this decision as staying strong and doing it for the baby.

I am getting closer to my due date. I can’t help but to feel like I’m only choosing to do this as we are technically homeless. We have no plan or anywhere to go after this baby is born. Does this mean I’m not good enough to parent my other children, if I can’t take care of this one? I haven’t told them about the adoption because I don’t know how to explain “I want this baby to have a better life than the crappy one I can provide for you guys.”

I feel like not only does nobody care about this baby, nobody cares about what’s going to happen to my other kids either… it’s so depressing. I don’t know what to do/where to turn anymore. I started using hard substances a couple months after I placed my daughter for adoption to numb that hole in my heart. Deep down I fear if I go through this again, I’m going to want to go back to numbing that pain, except I probably won’t survive it this time around. I have no family, not many friends, no support. Baby’s father and I are on better terms now but it’s not the way I pictured any of this unfolding, especially when my life was going so well before this pregnancy.