Foster Care Reality Check

Sadly, that Rose Garden we were NOT promised at birth is a nightmare for some children and their families. Today, in my all things adoption group that includes foster care former youth and related issues – this question was asked.

Foster Parents: What do you provide that biological families don’t? No specifics!

This was a balanced and complete perspective, I believe –

If the biological parents didn’t have to worry about finances, they would have been able to provide stable housing and access to food, which they were not able to provide. However beyond those two things, there is a lot the biological parents would not have been able to provide, even if given access to a stipend – emotional safety from emotional abuse – safety from physical and sexual abuse – access to mental health care, due to understanding and education, not due to lack of medical insurance or transportation – medical care for the same reason as above – appropriate attention to emotional needs, affection and secure attachment – a model for healthy adult behaviors (as in, an adult who does not actively impose sex onto children) – acceptance of LGBT status – home environment that caters to their emotional and mental health needs – access to extracurriculars that promote mental and physical health such as sports – space to develop individuality without fear of rejection. There are also things the biological parents can provide that a foster parent will never be able to provide: a genetic mirror – the comfort of being in a “normal” family – never having to explain one’s adoption status / history, awkward conversations one can be forced into – insecurities a foster child or adoptee may feel if the parent has or conceives biological kids at some later date – not feeling like one is a charity case or having to feel like they are required to be insanely grateful all the time – missing their biological parents is a really big issue, regardless of any history they caused the removal from those parents – grieving a loss that the foster parent will never be able to fill for that child.

And there was push-back on this and other similar responses – “I can tell you all are foster parents…so many child protective services buzz words…security, safety, stability etc…I know the original poster asked for no specifics ,so you don’t have to tell me, but you all should be questioning whether you provide anything actually concrete or are you blowing sunshine up the behind by inflating what you offer ?”

Foster care is troublesome as is the reason it exists. This is enough from me today.

Not A Blank Slate

One of the most enduring myths is that a baby is born as a blank slate that the parents get to write upon. The baby thief, Georgia Tann, used that concept as a marketing ploy for 30 years with adoptive parents but guess what ? The blank slate idea is alive and well.

Today, prospective adoptive couples are advertising on social media and adoptees find it very hard to take that without making comments from their own personal experience. One adoptee commented on one of these social media posts of a couple seeking a baby to adopt and got this response from another person there –

Babies actually are a blank slate. They are meant to be shaped, formed and nurtured by those that surround them. This family could be the second chance for a mother struggling with a difficult decision. I’m saddened to see your hate filled comments directed at a family who is struggling. Show some compassion.

The adoptee replied – I’m sorry you can’t have a child of your own. Adoption is not what you think. Babies are not blank slates and will forever yearn for their family. Please educate yourself prior to posting this stuff on Facebook and preying on a woman who is in need of support, she does not need strangers ripping away her child for their own self serving rights. Educate yourselves first. It’s preying on children. There is something bigger going on inside of your heart that you need to address. Get some support to help you heal and in the meantime, stop preying on humans.

Hopeful and already Adoptive Parents –

If you could look into the future and know that the child you will adopt will resent you for adopting them, for the actions you took to acquire them, for paying for them, would you continue the process? Does hearing what adoptees say in private, but keep from their adopters, give you a glimpse into what that future might be? (I share such stories here all the time.) If you knew for a fact that their thoughts and feelings would be in the same vein as what you hear from grown adoptees, would you still keep trying to adopt? If you knew the child you are seeking to adopt would commit suicide from the pain their adoption brought them, would you still keep trying?

But of course, hopeful and already adoptive parents live in la-la land for the most part and such warnings simply fall on deaf ears.

Adoptee Remembrance Day

Though I missed the date this year, now I know. The event is meant to serve several purposes.

It raises public awareness of crimes against adoptees by adoptive parents, an action that current media does not recognize. It also allows us to publicly mourn and honor the lives of our brothers and sisters who we have lost who might otherwise be forgotten. It raises awareness about adoptee suicide, shining a light on a difficult topic. Through these actions, we express love and respect for the adoptee community.

Adoptee Remembrance Day reminds others that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends, and lovers. Adoptee Remembrance Day gives our allies a chance to step forward with us, memorializing those who have died too soon, and it also recognizing the loss all adopted people experience, before they’re actually adopted.

While this topic remains sensitive in nature, adoptees who are murdered by their adoptive parents is increasing around the world. It is a time to honor their legacy by setting aside a day just for them. While those who have passed away before us, are no longer able to speak and share their stories or voices, there are many adoptees today who are paving the way for the voiceless to become strong enough to share their voices and stories. We are the voice of the voiceless.

We also recognize that there are international adoptees who are living without citizenship and/or have been deported due to mistakes by adoptive parents, adoption agencies, attorneys, and ultimately, the U.S. adoption system. Some international adoptees must survive abuse and neglect, including in regards to their citizenship, from their adoptive parents. We honor the adoptees who did not survive or are struggling to survive their deportations to countries they left as children where they have no support network and limited access to support services, including mental health care, clothing, food and shelter. Lack of citizenship is a tragic and often unacknowledged issue facing the adoptee community. 

I will seek to be more aware of this date next year and write about it again at that time.

The Family Preservation Project

Ever since I first heard the words “family preservation”, I have loved this concept.  I suppose because my family was fragmented by adoption – both parents were adoptees and both of my sisters gave up babies for adoption.  I often wonder what it would have been like for our family to have remained intact – parents with children – but then I would not exist, my sisters would not exist and they couldn’t have given up their babies to adoption.  Still, I do like the concept of family preservation and all of the efforts in these modern times to keep mothers and their babies together and if there is a dad present, him too.

So why the elephants ?  The Family Preservation Project‘s website answers that for me.

The Elephant is symbolic of the community this page would like to build. Elephants are a matriarchal society; that is, one that is led by a head cow, who presides over her herd of females. Each herd is made up of mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts. They are guided by the oldest and largest female of the herd. This herd sticks closely together, rejoicing at the birth of a calf and mourning at the death of a member.

The Family Preservation Project is not a community that necessarily excludes men, but one that celebrates femininity and the intimate connections made by women through motherhood.

FP365 is a family preservation movement and it is global. Their mission is to empower vulnerable, expectant mothers and prevent family separation. fp365 is dedicated to building a strong foundation of advocates willing to provide local support, networking and community involvement.  Additionally, they believe a critical piece of education and awareness is found by exploring the layers of lived experience. As we listen to those voices we will shift the current cultural narrative which promotes separation by adoption to one which celebrates the preservation of family. 

In the adoption community I belong to, the women have a mission to encourage expectant mothers to keep their baby and not rush into adoption.  They often mention Saving Our Sisters (SOS) as a resource.

SOS supports all members of expectant families considering adoption. We are committed to helping them make fully informed decisions based on information that so many other families have learned too late. We are dedicated to ensuring that they avoid applying a permanent solution to a temporary crisis based on partial or misinformation.

SOS is dedicated to direct action and education regarding the preservation of biological families whenever possible. This may include assisting expectant and new parents by locating resources, explaining the long and short term effects of adoption separation on everyone in the natural family, explaining the lifelong effects of trauma their infant will suffer if exposed to maternal separation, and connecting them with a local support person and mentor.

SOS welcomes volunteers, donations, and donors to join us in empowering and preserving families by preventing unnecessary adoptions and advocating for fair and ethical adoption laws, policies and practices.

If you want to learn more about how elephant families are like human families you can read the Elephants Without Borders pdf.  Throughout time, elephants have had a curious effect on people, creating a sense of reverence and respect. Of course, their massive size and immense strength is enough to demand it. But elephants and humans have much in common, including their intelligence.

Both elephants and humans love, protect, and nurture family members and educate the young with the skills and knowledge they need to survive. Like humans, elephants are not born with natural survival instincts and need to be taught these by their mothers and other female guardians. Lessons include how and where to feed, to use tools, what to be aware of and to understand their place in their social structure. (Much more at my link above.)

 

A Different Story

Maybe you are here to be uncomfortable and dig deeper. When you find yourself uncomfortable, that is a sign you need to consider what I share here more realistically.  Triggers tell us where our issues are.

The fact that society has crafted adoption as this great, positive, wonderful thing for everyone adopted as well as those who adopt is the very core of my concern with adoption. It’s the very reason adoptees can’t speak freely in general society without being dubbed ungrateful or hateful or negative. It’s the very reason expecting moms feel unworthy to parent their own child.

Adoption isn’t negative or positive. It’s complex. It’s not simple at all. How someone feels at 5 may not be how they feel at 13 or 30. It is not wrong to fight to change the narrative as I seek to do here everyday

It is not wrong to want those that cannot be raised by their parents to have the tools and the right to understand how adoption works, what it means for them now and in the future.

There is no shortage of places you can go to hear how great adoption is.  I am here to be as real about adoption as I have developed the ability to understand something that is rampant in my family’s life even though not as directly my own experience as others in my family.  Even so, I wasn’t able to raise my own daughter and she grew into an adult guided by others and with no small amount of shame and guilt in my own self to deal with for not being a “better” mother to her.

If you want a space where adoptees will tell you how wonderful their adoption was and how grateful they are because that feels really validating to you – then there are other places that will do that for you.  Don’t expect to find much of that here.

Adoptees can have a loving and caring adoptive family and still not believe adoption is the answer. No one’s story is identical to another’s. I try not to say that here.  I certainly don’t expect a one size fits all explanation of all things adoption.  In fact, that is why I can always find something new to write about this  topic every day.  Each adoptee and/or former foster care youth will have a different viewpoint about their own story.  This is as it should be. I certainly know this. There are a variety of “stories” and a variety of “outcomes” among my own family members who have been impacted by adoption.  Bottom line – there is no single story.

With my own blog I seek to educate my readers on the harder parts of adoption, not the rainbow and unicorn fantasy parts (even if those are actually mostly true for the one experiencing it as such).  You can find plenty of happily ever after stories related to adoption if you only go looking for them.  My own daughter said to me once – you seem to be on a mission – and I didn’t deny that.  After over 6 decades in the dark about something so immediate and personal as adoption is in my own family, I came out of what is often referred to as the fog.  It is the concepts and beliefs that society puts out there about adoption.

Being uncomfortable isn’t bad thing. That includes adoptees too. If you never allow yourself to be uncomfortable, you miss learning about a larger reality.  Pushing through discomfort and emotional reactions can yield any one of us so much personal growth and character development.

Inherited Adoption Trauma

~ Miley Cyrus ~

In an apparent case of inherited adoption trauma, Miley Cyrus shared that her mom was adopted. She believes that she inherited some of the feelings her mom had (I can believe that since my mom was also adopted).  The feelings of abandonment are real.  An adoptee, and at times this includes their children, has a need to prove that they are worthwhile and valuable.

Miley also shared that her dad’s parents divorced when he was 3 (same thing happened to my daughter – her dad and I divorced when she was that age).  In Miley’s case, she says that her dad raised himself.

She goes on to share that she did a lot of family history research and found there a lot of addiction and mental health challenges. This was her effort to answer the question – “Why am I the way that I am?”

She firmly believes and I agree – that by deeply understanding the past, we understand our present and create a better future from that awareness.

Miley said – “It’s really hard because especially being young, there’s that stigma of ‘you’re no fun.’ It’s like, ‘honey, you can call me a lot of things, but I know that I’m fun.’ The thing that I love about it is waking up 100%, 100% of the time. I don’t want to wake up feeling groggy. I want to wake up feeling ready.”

Miley Cyrus has now been sober for 6 months.

Lying About The Family Relationship

It is hard to believe but it happens.  Siblings will be raised in proximity to one another without knowing they are siblings.

In one such story, an adoptive parent had her child spending time with that child’s biological siblings who had been adopted by another family member but these children are not informed that they are siblings.

In another story, though not related to an adoption – a woman grew up playing with her sister as a child but not knowing that she was related to her.  That reality was kept from her.

She goes on to share – “the anger and resentment I have toward my dad and her mom for trying to keep us apart for literally no reason than their own selfishness. I had to sneak and lie and use the pay phone at school to call her and pretend to be a friend of a friend to be able to talk to her to start building our relationship. I was 14 and she was 11. We are each other’s only sisters.”

These LIES bring anger and trauma when the truth finally comes out and in these modern times, it is easier than ever for that eventuality to occur.  It really is hard imagine what these children will feel one day, knowing their parents had them play together as cousins, when they were really siblings.

Some adoptive parents take the perspective that they are the legitimate parent now, and the other kinship parents involved are the other kids parents now.  They will each parent them the way they want. My parents were both adopted and I know that my dad’s way of coping with all of his unknowns was to sever any attachment to the original parents.  As far as he was concerned, once adopted, you no longer belong to the original family.  I have never agreed with his opinion about that but maybe it simply made things easier for him as two of his grandchildren (one with each of my two sisters) were surrendered to adoption.  Hard to believe but true.

Those of us who understand with better clarity must keep planting seeds of awareness …. and keep trying …. and continue educating.

What Is The Money For ?

It is the middle of May and May is Foster Care Awareness Month.  I am in the middle of reading one Foster Care girl’s experience and it isn’t pretty, though I’m certain just as individual’s vary greatly so do experiences in the system.

Did you know that Foster Parents receive a stipend ?  Imagine what that kind of money might do to keep a family intact.  Of course, that isn’t always the issue.  The girl in the book I am reading (I will review it here when I finish it) had no where else to go.  The family dynamics weren’t good.  The mother had died.  Both the natural father and the step-father were in prison.  The grandfather got trapped in a poor decision related to trying to fix an awkward drug related situation that made him inappropriate for the girls even though he was not charged with an actual crime.  The aunts and uncles did not step forward.

So an issue developed with these unfortunate girls that the Foster Mom (the Foster Dad had died while they lived there) was NOT spending the stipend on the girls and there were cultural issues in this home.  The girls were non-Spanish speaking whites.  The Foster Mom was Hispanic and one foster child in the home before these girls was also and then one that came subsequently.  They frequently spoke Spanish with one another leaving the two white girls feeling excluded.  But what really hurt was the generous spending on the Hispanic girls while little or nothing was spent on the white girls.

One foster parent handbook states that the money is intended to maintain the placement and cover the costs of having the child in the home, including the cost of food, clothing, school supplies, a child’s personal incidentals, liability insurance with respect to the child, and reasonable travel to the child’s home for visitation.

That money is not intended for household bills, or to buy a new car or a new house because you need the extra room.  Other possible appropriate uses for the stipend could be holidays, presents, spending money depending on the child’s age, or to put into a savings account for child.  A sad fact in the book I am reading is that these girls did not receive presents at Christmas.

Desperation Revealed ?

I did not know this kind of public revelation was a thing until this morning.  At least they are honest that it is an adoption.  Still, this method of sharing the reality reveals some desperation underneath the celebratory joy.  I have dealt with infertility myself.  I have tried and tried to get pregnant naturally only to face the truth that my body had become too old to do that anymore (I did give birth to a daughter when I was 19 years old).

This phrase, “No Bump, Still Pumped”, seems to be the response of someone who has not fully faced their infertility.  The problem with this is in making a pregnancy reference, when you’re not doing anything like pregnancy.  It could be that the grief involved with not being able to conceive hasn’t been fully dealt with.  From a kinder perspective, maybe it is an attempt to honestly alert friends and family that the baby they will see soon came from someone else, and not this couple’s own parentage.  Really, it all depends on the couple’s true perspective on the matter.  Some couples that are adopting may make an announcement that says something like “Paper Pregnant”.

In publicly saying such things, a prospective adoptive couple is celebrating someone else’s trauma, though they may not be willing to fully acknowledge that reality.  And it also indicates that they only want babies, not older children at risk of aging out of foster care without any further supports.  Such concepts are celebrating the tearing apart of a family. Celebrating without any awareness, the trauma the children will experience.

Such public pronouncements make the adopted child sound like a second choice.  They were not the first choice for the couple, which would have been to conceive naturally.  I understand this and it is the truth.  So, the couple only wants to adopt because they couldn’t have children out of their own natural biological processes.  Many adoptees struggle with the knowledge that they were the runner up choice.

Most adopted children will crave their biological families and their mothers generally regret not keeping and raising their children.  It took some time and exposure to honest adoptees and their original mothers for me to join the “non-rainbows/unicorns non-rah rah version” of the adoptive narrative.  Yet, I have become convinced that no matter how hard it is to accept, adoption is a painful reality for most of those directly affected by its promotion and acceptance.

No, You Don’t Deserve A Baby

Regarding adoption, one prospective couple wrote – “I want a baby not a full grown kid. My husband and I deserve a baby. We both crave a baby to raise as our own”.

I get that.  Not that I believe they deserve someone else’s baby but that they are hoping for that blank slate that Georgia Tann always advertised her babies as being.  Science has determined that isn’t the truth but anyway.

Another prospective adoptive couple stated, “Older children come with so many issues. You can’t mother an older child like an infant. Especially as first time parents”.  Though I was not a first time parent, my husband was.

When my husband decided he wanted to be a father, we did talk about adoption but decided that we wanted a truly blank slate as our beginning position.  We wanted to conceive and for me to carry our baby in my womb, give birth and breastfeed that baby for a reasonable length of time.  We did need considerable medical assistance and there was a compromise involved that seemed reasonable but still must be faced fully and accepted.  Which I believe I have for the most part.

Regarding the expense of adoption, someone was quoted as saying, “Adoption should be free like abortion is”.  Now that does blow my mind because abortion is not free.  I know.  I had one back in the mid-1970s.  There is a cost in dollars at the time and over the long run a cost mentally and emotionally with making such a significant decision.  I continue believe it was the right decision at the time I made it but that doesn’t equate to the reality being easy to live with.

Here is another statement that is absolutely not true – “If adoption wasn’t so expensive, there would be more kids who find homes”.  Fact is there are 4 couples wanting to adopt for every child available to be adopted.  That is one of the reasons that over the most recent decades, many couples have gone out of the United States to obtain a child to raise as their own.

One of the major interests among the members of the adoption community – original parents and adoptees – is reform.  Part of reform is actually raising awareness and changing perspectives.  That is the hope and the purpose for which I write a blog on related topics each day.