Never Good Enough

I’m going to let this person’s words stand on their own merits and be “enough.” Not being “enough” in whatever way is a common experience for adoptees.

I’ve always been the black sheep of the family with how shitty my mental health has been since I was young. Always getting in trouble for being ‘too sensitive’. Yelled at, shamed, ignored or bullied into silence. My adoptive parents had high expectations of me and gave me such a great life. I tried to live up to that, but always fell short…nothing was ever good enough for them. I have burned myself out trying to please them and ultimately turned to addiction to self-medicate.

I was diagnosed with ADD at 14, so I could be put into a private school because I was ‘too difficult’. I wasn’t…I just had a hard time coping in school and understanding everything…It was very expensive and they hold it over my head a lot, because my mental health never recovered enough to attend a university or college…my step brothers also had mental health issues as well, but they’ve both turned out financially successful. They compare us a lot. One brother won’t even acknowledge me anymore, even in family settings, ‘because of how much I’ve put the family through’… the shame is soul-crushing.

It’s been just over a year in recovery, but they’re always quick to point out what I’m doing wrong. They think ‘I should be fixed by now’, yet still tell me I need to improve because no one likes to be around me. This is a long time in the making, but I’m officially exploring an Autsim diagnosis. I’ve kept this to myself, because in the past, they’ve gotten very angry about it…they tell me somethings wrong with me but REFUSE to accept that it’s likely autism, because ‘that would make them,’ a bad parent…it’s not about THEM. It’s about understanding ME. My meltdowns, my mood swings, my ‘weirdness’, how I relate and have relationships with people and the world itself. I’ve been involved with different psychiatrists since childhood, because I was ‘too sensitive’. I feel like I have to argue this diagnosis to them for them to accept and try to understand me.

They tell me I’m a hypochondriac for trying to find something that’s wrong, yet they’re the ones TELLING ME there’s something wrong with me and that I need to seek help. I’m on meds, in therapy, I’ve been on disability long term, which pays my rent and food. I feel I’m doing EVERYTHING I can to make things work…but they’re not doing anything to help this situation, then tell me I’m the problem. I was told recently after an interaction, when I attempted to put up an emotional boundary and explain it, that life isn’t fair and I have to do things I don’t like. I calmly told them, ‘I don’t like much in life, but still I’m rising to meet the task’. The fact that I was stating my needs right then – caused a blowout and I was kicked out of the car.

Honestly I’m so hurt and tired. The self-hatred and shame never goes away…I don’t mean to sound like I’m blaming others and not taking responsibility for my actions. I was so blinded by wanting to stop the pain through addiction, I didn’t know how it affected everyone else. I was trying to self-destruct, instead of hurting anyone else’s feelings. When self-medicating, I’d isolate, so others wouldn’t get roped into my misery. I didn’t steal or beg family or friends for money. I wanted my parents to know that I respected them enough not to take their things, even when I was self-destructing.

Now that I’m realizing I was trying to manage my autism, PTSD, ADD – I have started talking with my doctor and therapist about making positive changes to help me. But I’m at a loss with my family. They won’t be receptive to this the possibility of autism and will think I’m ‘trying to find something else to blame’. I’m not…I’m just trying to understand myself, so I can function in this society. Like they’ve wanted me to all along. I’ve been killing myself trying to make them happy and it never feels like enough.

Autism and Foster Care

Children with autism are more likely to end up in the foster care system. Long- and short-term outcomes for children in foster care are not good: Children who spend any amount of time in foster homes are less likely than their peers to graduate from high school and more likely to end up homeless, in the criminal justice system or in long-term residential care. Foster care may be an even less desirable place for children with autism, given their special needs. Although foster parents may receive some specialized training, it is generally not nearly enough to help them adequately care for these children.

7.3 percent of Medicaid-enrolled children with autism were in foster care in a 2008 study. This is well above twice the proportion of all Medicaid-enrolled children in foster care. The prevalence of children with autism in foster care started out at 7.5 percent in 2001. It climbed to 10.5 percent in 2005 and then declined to 9.1 percent in 2007. Children with autism were 2.4 times more likely to enter foster care than a typical child.

Raising a child with autism is stressful for families, as the condition is unusually difficult to manage effectively. Some parents may simply not have the skills and resources to do so. This may result in neglect or abuse — and placement in foster care. Alternatively, families may voluntarily place children with autism in foster care because they can’t handle the children’s behavioral problems. Third, parents may relinquish custody so that their children can obtain Medicaid-funded or residential care that they otherwise cannot afford.

I will always be for family preservation. To lower the chances that a child with autism will land in foster care, clinicians working with these families should talk openly about the stresses of raising a child on the spectrum. They should ask how that stress is manifesting in the family, and assist the family members in getting the support they need. All US states should offer home visits from professionals or short-term breaks for parents of children with autism. (Only a handful currently do.) Home visits and respite services have been shown to lower the chances of psychiatric hospitalization among children with autism, and also may reduce the risk of foster care placement.

Foster care arrangements can cost between $30,000 and $50,000 in taxpayer funds per child per year. That money could be more wisely spent supporting the needs of these families. Society has an ethical obligation to help families care for their children with autism. We can and must do better to help these most vulnerable children and their families.

Thanks to David Mandell and his essay in  LINK> Spectrum News for today’s blog. I started with an interest in how neurodivergent issues relate to foster care and a google search ended up with that essay.

The Blame Game

Today, I read this story from a woman who gave up her son for adoption –

I just recently got news that my son I placed has been diagnosed with non-verbal autism. His adoptive parent reached out to me, to inform me and low-key blame me. But the point of this post is that not only did I deny my son his natural right to be with his natural parent. He has subsequently been denied the right to (literally) voice his truth. This choice comes with consequences I never imagined. This is not an appeal for sympathy. The only point that is infuriating to me is his adoptive parent has added this fact to the list of things that make her a “hero.” We are both in the wrong! There are no heroes! Just a victim and villains. But her admirers have already heaped some more praise for her “taking a disabled child” as her own “from a mother who probably did drugs and made him that way.” (That’s a quote.) I literally have never, not that it matters but the public victimization of my son will never end. My fault. He lives the consequences of adoption.

So many adoptive parents actually have a savior complex that this sad story does not surprise me. Autism is also something that matters to me personally. My oldest son didn’t talk until he was nearly 4 years old but he did communicate. I remember the unique alphabet he had before he started constructing sentences – like the sound meow for C which some people will say is for cat. Asperger’s runs in my children’s genes and we are fortunate because it is a high functioning kind of quirky intelligence with a great ability to focus.

One commenter wrote this – I’m autistic and this is infuriating. Finding out this early can be a blessing, so that early on your son’s more individual needs can be recognized and properly addressed. I didn’t find out until my 22 or so, and like so many others, I wish I’d known earlier. I love that I am autistic and my best friends are autistic, it’s something to be celebrated, not something to shame ANYONE about. This woman is beyond ignorant and she’s probably going to become an autism mom. You son should be given alternative ways of communication, I’m not sure how you use it in a sentence but AAC, augmentive and alternative communication, is what he should have available to him. I worry that the adoptive mother will push for him to speak, which he should not be forced to do. I doubt she’d use them, but perhaps you could offer some resources ? https://autisticadvocacy.org/ is the first website I was recommended.

Another offered this perspective – I’m sure it’s been said a million times but you literally can not control autism. You can have never touched drugs, smoked, hell even used caffeine, you could’ve ate all natural and organic, and he could’ve remained with you and he still probably would have been a non-verbal autistic. Also, that person must not be that knowledgeable because even when kiddos are nonverbal, they can still communicate. Just because he may end up communicating differently doesn’t mean he’s flawed or someone to be fixed.

And there was this too – The adoption you can take blame for, but in no way can you blame yourself for his disability. My mother blamed herself for years because my brother is non verbal autistic too, but this is just something that happens. Now I will add just because he’s currently non verbal doesn’t mean that he will be unable to express himself. Quite the opposite actually, these kids let you know how they feel if you pay attention. The adoptive parent has no right blaming you for his diagnosis or playing the hero role. If you adopt a child then you adopt all their needs too.

So here’s the truth from another commenter – It’s genetic. Point blank. Ugh, I can just see her becoming the stereotypical “Autism Warrior Mom” and blaming his first mother in the process—which trust me, as an autistic adult, is the absolute worst on top of worst. She’s going to get torn apart by the autistic community (rofl, just watch). Plus, a child is not a product and cannot be custom made; no one gets to choose whether a child is disabled or not. So no, it’s not your fault… I just hope they treat the kiddo okay, because typically these types of people will put them in quack therapies that are harmful to their mental health, or worse because they don’t understand science and don’t value the humanity of autistic people. Knowledge is power. And it’s not your fault; I can’t believe she blamed you…

And this dose of reality – Autism is not caused by drugs. The more autism is studied, the more clear it is that some people just have neurological differences. It’s nothing you did, and there’s surely nothing heroic about adopting a child who later turns out to have a difference or disability. Any child, born to you or adopted, may have a disability at birth or become disabled at any point in life. Accepting that is part of the parenting deal.

On a lighter note – My son’s APs said that I caused his autism by letting him watch too many science documentaries instead of making him watch more cartoons like a normal kid.

Adoption Vows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here was one suggestion –

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

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

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

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

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

The Sad Fact of Rehoming

A women writes – “I used to be a support coordinator for developmental disabilities, I saw people put their kids in medical group homes. I can not fathom making that choice. Of course parenting kids with medical needs is hard, that’s what home health support is for. If you’ve made money off your parenting, you should actually parent.”

One person quoted from an article: “With international adoption, sometimes there’s unknowns and things that are not transparent on files and things like that,” James Stauffer said. “Once ‘H’ came home, there was a lot more special needs that we weren’t aware of and that we were not told.”

The issue is a couple that re-homed their adopted son because he had developmental disabilities.  The woman quoting the article commented on the issue – “Oh, cool, I wasn’t aware that if you gave birth to a kid, you have some sort of guarantee that nothing ever will happen in that human’s life that will require more than Leave it to Beaver style parenting. Sorry this kid didn’t fit into your perfect little mold and dared to be human and have problems. Hope none of your kids born to you biologically get into a car accident or come down with a serious illness or get cancer. Cause clearly you’ll just dump them, too??? Yeah. Probably not.”

Another woman wrote – “My daughter has autism and she’s the most honest, compassionate, nature loving and sweetest girl I’ve ever meet. I’m glad that I changed my mind on adoption and even more so now!”

I remember my OB having “the conversation” with us about “possibilities” such as this woman shares –  “I was told my oldest had Down Syndrome. (Mind you we were teenagers when we found out we were expecting.)”

“My OB said it does not matter how I feel about it but you do have options. I remember looking at her and asking what she meant. And she said well some people cannot handle finding out their child is not ‘standard’ so they chose to abort or put up for adoption. I remember how crushed she looked telling me.”

“I said nope absolutely not. He is us and we are him and we will figure it out together He was perfect and healthy and no Down syndrome.”

“My aunt fostered special needs kids, I fell in love with “J” and wanted my parents to adopt him. He was so fun and loving and knew no meanness or sadness. I won a young authors contest writing about him. I’ll always hold him close to my heart.”

When I was a teenager, I volunteered at a summer camp for special needs kids.  It was a life-changing experience for me.  My husband and I have worked for most of our business life together in various aspects associated with our county’s sheltered workshop.

To Imagine Disability Otherwise, a TEDtalk. This woman was my sister-in-law in my first marriage. Her child was born before my daughter with severe birth defects. This led her to make disabilities her life’s work. She has a strong belief in supporting conventional lifestyles for disabled people.  I am proud to know where her life took her.

When Adoption Fails

There is a dark and dirty little secret in adoptionland that goes by the name of “rehoming”.   It’s usually the oldest in a sibling group adopted from foster care the adoptive parents want to get rid of. Clearly, adopting an entire sibling group just to obtain a baby/toddler is common. Rehoming is also sadly too common. It’s always the littlest ones the adoptive parents want to keep.

One adoptive parent wrote – “If you heard screams echoing out of the mountains on September 9, it was me. Along with most other parents of adopted children, I was horrified with the news about ‘rehoming.’ Once again, members of a group we belong to were becoming infamous. Once again, we were as shocked as those who don’t belong to our group. As always, we knew we would be answering questions about why people in our group do what they do.”

“As adoptive parents, aren’t we supposed to be the vanguard for saving children? Aren’t we supposed to be the forefront of child protection? Those misconceptions are part of the problem.”

A plan to adopt begins with selfish reasons, and then evolves.  The challenges that face adoptive parents are often different from those that plague biological family builders. The author of that piece goes on to say, “I know because I have built my family both ways. Even though challenges are different, they are tough, regardless. Is it easy for biological parents of children who are born with severe autism? Of course not! Do they abandon their child? Here’s the point: A few of them do. Most of these parents pull themselves up by their bootstraps and go to work on being the best parents and advocates they can be for their challenged child. Others will walk away. Some of the children of these parents will spend their childhood and youth on a carousel in and out of different foster homes.”

This is what can happen when adoptive parents don’t put their responsibilities to a child before their own personal desires for a beautiful harmonious family life.

Some adoptive parents of children with very difficult circumstances say that people who haven’t adopted don’t “understand” how difficult it can be, and they should not point fingers unless they have “been there.”  The author of the op-ed shares, “My adopted daughter loves us and we love her, even though we travel a rough and rocky road. I think there is something very important that is often overlooked. When all we can do isn’t enough, we still need to do everything we can do.”

Attachment problems.  When children are taken away from caregivers after attaching, it causes severe trauma. The more times it happens, the worse it gets. And just like other forms of trauma, each individual processes and handles it differently.

In foster to adopt, the prospective adoptive parents can send a kid back to the State’s care if the situation does not seem to be working out. Another aspect with foster to adopt is that the State can put a stop to the adoption intention at any time if it judges the situation will not serve the interests of the child.

Rehoming is a monstrous act. When our laws allow a parent to turn over their child to a stranger with less paperwork and legal work than it takes to dispose of a car that doesn’t have a title, then something is broken and it needs to be fixed.  No parent should be able to dump their children willy-nilly.