Losing Mom to Domestic Femicide

Not my usual adoption related story but adoption does come in at the end. Definitely a “Missing Mom” story. It isn’t a blog I really feel good about writing and yet, I believe this cautionary tale is important. Andy Borowitz, who generally writes satire, brought my attention to this story his wife has been investigating – The Murderer’s Little Boy by Olivia Gentile. <– You can read the sad details at this link. As a woman (as I am sure is not unusual for many women), I have been afraid at times due to some response by my romantic partner or spouse (I’ve been married more than once). It is a dangerous world and very dangerous for women, who have been described as the “weaker” sex and not without reason. I grew up in Texas and I apologize for feeling at this point like I have to say – “because Texas”. The state seems to me today to hate women in general – to be very misogynistic.

Losing a mother to domestic femicide is “the most horrific trauma that children can experience,” said Peter Jaffe, the child psychologist. Afterward, they are vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, dissociation, attachment difficulties, behavioral problems, and many other issues. To heal, Jaffe said, they need a caregiver who engages with them appropriately and truthfully about the murder, helps them mourn and honor their mother, and enrolls them in long-term trauma therapy. 

This is very much like the trauma and behavioral impacts that a lot of adoptees suffer from.

Far more children whose fathers kill their mothers are placed with maternal than with paternal kin, research suggests, though exact numbers aren’t known. No laws specify which side of the family is preferable, but in all custody cases, judges are supposed to address the child’s “best interest.” Paternal relatives must be carefully screened, Jaffe said. Since abuse is often intergenerational, the family’s entire history should be reviewed. Furthermore, anyone who enabled the killer’s abuse, remains aligned with him, intends to keep him in the child’s life, or “tries to wipe out the maternal family in the same way the perpetrator wiped out the mother” is presumptively unfit.

His maternal grandmother was forced to file a lawsuit to get visitation rights from the paternal side. Filed on March 15, 2017, she argued that as R.’s grandmother, she had standing to seek custody because the child’s present circumstances could “significantly impair” his emotional development. Her suit failed but she appealed.

Finally, in April 2018, 15 months after she last saw R., a panel from the First Court of Appeals convened a hearing on the maternal grandmother’s pleas. In their questions, the three judges seemed to convey concern for the boy’s welfare. Wasn’t it potentially harmful for R. to be raised by a man whose son had confessed to killing his mother? Wasn’t it worrisome that his father could see R. whenever the grandfather allowed him to? 

The judges ordered the parties into mediation, specifying that the mediator be from Houston, not Galveston County where the paternal kin were prominent. The resulting agreement, signed in July 2018, affirmed the maternal grandmother’s standing to pursue custody and gave her two mornings a month with R. as the case continued. Yet the deal stipulated that the visits be supervised by the paternal grandfather or by someone he chose, and it barred the grandmother from discussing R.’s mother or half-brother with him or showing him their pictures. 

Fearing an acquittal due to complicating circumstances, prosecutors made a deal with the murderer. At trial, he would have faced up to 99 years in prison for murder. Under his plea agreement, signed on November 25, 2019, he received 30 years for murder and 20 for tampering, with the sentences running concurrently. He’ll be eligible for parole in 2033.

The custody trial was scheduled for April 2020. But in a new twist to this story, in March, the paternal grandfather obtained another delay: he wanted to adopt R. and had obtained his murderer son’s willingness to cede his own parental rights. The maternal grandmother asked the court to stop the adoption. Her luck now was that there is a new Judge Kerri Foley. She appointed an attorney, Genevieve McGarvey, as a neutral assistant in the adoption case. Later, Foley added McGarvey to the custody case, too. For the first time in four years, an official was tasked with helping the court advance R.’s best interest. 

At a hearing in September 2020, McGarvey testified that R. wasn’t in trauma therapy and needed it “desperately.” She added, “[H]e’s got to talk about his mother more.” And he appeared to miss his half-brother profoundly. “The first thing he ever says when I see him is, ‘How’s J.?’ ‘Do you know J.?’”

Foley halted the adoption case until after the custody trial. But the trial has been repeatedly delayed and won’t happen until this summer at the earliest. Tired of waiting, his maternal grandmother filed a motion on February 2 demanding temporary joint custody in the meantime. A hearing is scheduled for March 21.

Judge Foley recently granted the grandmother longer visits with R., and she’s now allowed to bring his half-brother. But she wants the standard access granted to Texans who don’t reside with their kids: two to three weekends per month, alternating holidays and school breaks, and 30 days in summer.

Understandably the grandmother wants to protect R. She wants to get him into trauma therapy, and she wants to participate in decisions about his medical care and education. Recently, he has bounced from school to school and struggled. She wants to talk freely with him about his mother, whom he remembers and misses. And she wants to terminate his father’s rights and bar him from contacting R.—either from prison or upon his release. 

Even if the grandmother prevails at trial, her struggle won’t be over, since joint custody could be meaningless if the paternal grandfather’s adoption goes through. The grandmother is determined to continue to fight for her grandson.  “R. has never wavered in his desire to see us or just surrendered to the horror of circumstances,” she said. If he won’t give up, how could she? 

Some organizations with links also mentioned in the article –

National Safe Parents Coalition who advocates for evidence-based policies which put child safety and risks at the forefront of child custody decisions.

Kayden’s Law – requires an evidentiary hearing during child custody proceedings to vet allegations—new or old—of abuse. Though ACLU opposed it but it has now been included in the Federal Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act which President Joe Biden signed on Wednesday, March 16, 2022.

Respond Against Violence providing “The Strangulation Supplement,” a tool for first responders and investigators to better guide them in investigations and to help capture cases involving strangulation that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. These tools are available upon request to law enforcement, forensic nurses, and EMS, as well as tools for pediatric cases and bathtub fatality cases.

The End of Roe v Wade and it’s potential effect on Adoption

Pro-Adoption advocates are likely to cheer the increased availability of newborn infants for adoption if the Supreme Court does basically, at least in effect, overturn Roe v Wade. Adult adoptees will mostly mourn the likelihood.

On this day, I found an interesting blog titled – Christians: We’re NOT READY to Abolish Roe v Wade. The author admits – “I am a man. I am an adopting father. I am a minister. I am Christian. These are my inherent biases right at the top.” He also writes – “as I’ve observed pro-life culture throughout my adult life, I’ve noticed a problem – We’re not ready for it. We’re not ready for all the babies.  Literally.”

He adds this thought – If Roe v Wade is overturned, many of these new babies could eventually end up in the foster care system or be put up for private adoption. And not just once, but every single year. The foster care system as it stands today is already stressed – 400,000 + children are already in a system that is underfunded, understaffed, and suffers from a lack of certified families available to foster and adopt. An additional 600,000-1 million children every year will overwhelm the foster care system in every possible way.

He asks – Are you willing to put your feelings aside and sacrifice space in your heart and home for children who need stability while their family situation is sorted out, knowing they could be reunified with their birth families? Are you prepared to give up several weekends to undergo the education necessary to foster? He also asks – Are you prepared to spend thousands of dollars to adopt privately? 

One of the problems I have had with the whole Pro-Life movement is that it is NOT about quality of life. It is only about getting babies born – and then, who cares what kind of life they or their mother have after that?

These babies that result from ending Roe v Wade may not be white infants; and if coming through foster care, these will likely be children with a host of behavioral, mental, emotional, and spiritual problems. When these children age out of foster care at the age of 18, they will likely end up incarcerated and having babies of their own who will then also end up in the foster care system.  Imagine having nowhere to go during Christmas. Imagine having no family to celebrate your birthday with you. That’s what it’s like for children who age out of foster care. Foster care children (in the literal and legal sense) are refugees in their own country. 

This one could get some Conservatives’ attention – To be ready for all these post-Roe v Wade babies, we’re going to have to pay more in taxes, mostly on the state level.  Many conservatives want abortion to end, but also want to cut the government programs that help mothers and families who decide to keep their babies to survive financially. This would also include stipends from the state that go to foster families to help them cover the additional costs of caring for these children. Are you willing to say that the babies need to live, but need to do it without the aid that sustains them? I believe that this question actually repeats the primary goal of the Pro-Life movement – birth but no financial aid for families.

He then asks – Christians, are you willing to accept that comprehensive sex education beyond abstinence must happen to reduce pregnancies?

Reality bites, doesn’t it ? In conclusion – If you are NOT prepared to do more than vote and post on Facebook concerning abortion, then stop calling yourself pro-life.  You are pro-birth.  You want the children to be born, but you’re not willing to do anything for them after they are born, and thus you condemn them to a life where they’re much more likely to be mired in poverty, crime, incarceration, and a continuing cycle of giving birth to unplanned children. 

Separating Twins Is So Wrong

I belong to a moms group with quite a few twin families. I’m certain they could not imagine separating their twins. Most of the comments from my all things adoption group center on how terribly wrong separating twins is but looking through some google images, I find that what is but should never be, happens more often than one would think. The image here is from a story “Oklahoma girl hoping to find a forever family after adoption of her twin sister” featured by Oklahoma station KFOR.

One comment in my group was this – I can’t understand a system that separates any siblings, but separating twins even more so. I have identical twins and they would be devastated. To which another chimed in – Twin mom here also and the thought of them being separated literally breaks my heart. How in the world did this happen? Yet another, The very idea of my twins being separated makes me feel sick. It 100% should never, ever be allowed. Another theorizes – if they were separated at birth, the thinking might be that they never lived together, so there was no bond. However, twins incubate together in the same womb and so they are born already sharing a bond.

Yet another notes – This happens more often than people think. The system says that it’s okay to do because a single child is “more adoptable” than a sibling group. It’s terrible.

Another commented – This happens all the time, I’m sure. It’s crazy how, when one foster family decides they are done with one of the siblings, if they have behaviors documented – the county just completely stops trying to find a home that will keep them together and sides with the foster parents every time.

The KFOR story says – “Those who know her best say Nemiah would do well in a family where she could be the only child, the center of their world. The adoption group commenter who is a twin said – “I’m sorry, but what the actual f**k??? No, I’m pretty certain she’d actually do best being raised in the same family as her sister. As a twin who was lucky enough to be adopted into the same family as my sister (but was separated from my other siblings), this is so horrific to me.

And this personal experience – This could have easily been me. I was threatened with being “sent back” or “rehomed” on a number of occasions, always due to what was perceived as “behavioral problems”, and was often told I was “making the household unsafe” (starting as young as about 6 years old). I wasn’t provided with the supports I needed, and because I struggled so much to cope, I was made into my family’s scapegoat, while my twin sister was often seen as the golden child, essentially because she hid her trauma and was able to contort herself well enough to fit into our adoptive parents impossible expectations – at least a lot better than I could.

Another personal experience – As a twin who lived separately from my sister this hurts to my very core. A relationship that was meant to be life-long and inseparable will probably be forever broken. I don’t even have the energy to be angry about this, I just grieve for her.

One tells it like it is judging – Let me get this straight, state of Oklahoma. You take twin girls away from their family, allow them to languish in foster care for NINE years, then decide that allowing a foster family, I assume, to only adopt ONE of the twins is a good plan? You have caused irreparable harm and trauma to both twins. As far as I’m concerned, there’s a special place in hell for whoever gave the okay on this egregious plan.

Another added – The fact that they let them be adopted separate is pure evil. And I’m also curious to know who the shitty humans are that said “we’ll just take one twin” and left the other one behind.

The Underground Marketplace

“Rehoming” is a term often used in situations where adoptive parents are trying to “get rid of” their adopted child. This can stem from behavioral and/or emotional issues from the adoptive child that the parents do not feel equipped to handle.

Most re-homing exchanges initially are made via the internet, through websites or forums. The majority of these rehoming exchanges are made by parents who adopted a child internationally. There is less follow-up/resources for these parents, so many of the parents have stated that they had nowhere to go or no one to reach out to for help regarding the issues they were having with their adopted child.

Although it seems like rehoming should be illegal, unfortunately, there aren’t many laws protecting children being given away to others. The problem with this is that many of the people who are taking these adopted children have criminal backgrounds or are psychologically unstable, putting the child at risk for emotional and sexual abuse, trafficking, or even death. Predators take advantage of adoptive parents who are emotionally burnt out, giving them an “out,” many times free of charge.

Kids can be put into real danger when adoptive parents are desperate enough to give in to this type of exchange.  It is not illegal but there is usually no background check and the exchange can be made with nothing more than a signed notarized document. No legal authorities need be involved.

Most people are unaware of the horrible reality of rehoming.  But it is a real issue.  Awareness can prevent a tragedy.  If you are an adoptive parent who is in a situation with a new adoptive child which seems unbearable, there are resources.  Don’t choose a do it yourself solution.

How Confusing And Upsetting

In a private group I belong to, this story was shared –

“I’m at a loss. We have a Foster Son age 2 and a Foster Son age 5. The 5 year old will not listen at all. We ask him to do something and he acts out or does the opposite. We have had them for a week and I have cried every night I am so stressed. I have thought of everything. I reward him for being good and it doesn’t help. I need help please.”

~ desperate Foster Parent

One of the responses was this – Seriously? You’ve had them a week and you’re upset that they are having a hard time adjusting? If you don’t have the decency to understand that these kids go through absolute hell when they are removed and placed into your home you shouldn’t be allowed to foster. Who certifies these people/trains them? Who ever it is needs to be fired.

Did you know that there are hundreds of thousands of children in the US foster care system?  Some recent data indicates that 690,548 children spent time in the foster care system during 2017.  Many children in the foster system demonstrate post-traumatic stress like symptoms.  This affects their development, coping skills, emotional regulation, relationships and attachments.

When the child has had some time to process the situation, learning meditation, relaxation and breathing techniques may be a method of learning to calm their own self, under their own control.  A lack of control over their circumstances is one aspect of their acting out behavior.

Learning to replace negative thoughts with more positive ones can help the child develop a more healthy sense of self.  These children need a safe play area and a nurturing environment.  Over time, the children will need to learn to recognize triggers in order to gain control over their emotional states.  Foster parents need discernment to ignore minor behaviors. By improving this parent-child relationship, the child may feel more supported in their everyday life.

Nothing a foster parent can do beyond patience, love, acceptance and an attempt to understand from the child’s perspective will work miracles overnight.  The trauma suffered will be deep and unfortunately, to some degree, last a lifetime.

 

 

 

Lessons From The Past

Research suggests that family separation, particularly when children are separated from their primary caregivers – most often mothers, will cause enduring harm.  In World War II, London children were less upset by the actual bombings than by being evacuated to the country as a protection against it.

Worried that German bombs would obliterate London and other major cities, the British government sent children, pregnant women and the mothers of young children away from perceived danger zones and into “reception areas” in the countryside.

The government provided transportation and volunteers provided the housing. The conditions weren’t terrible: unaccompanied children were not “warehoused” or imprisoned. Instead they were placed with families who had volunteered to open their homes in exchange for a small sum. Some took their responsibilities narrowly, providing food, bedding and nothing more, while others took children into their hearts as well as their homes.

Even though the evacuations were undertaken to protect children, being away from parents — and having no idea what happened to them — was deeply traumatic.  Evacuated children experienced the best outcomes when host families provided consistent loving care, enabling a new attachment to be formed, while fostering frequent contact between children and their parents.

These were exceptions to a deeply traumatic experience for most children. Expecting rosy-cheeked youngsters thrilled to have a rural holiday, receiving households often received ill, ragged, fearful kids instead. Younger children were afraid because they did not know what was going on; older children were afraid because they did.  Behavioral problems, whether constant crying, aggressive acting out or mute refusal were commonly noted after the children came to stay.

Children who endured prolonged separations from their primary caregivers were observed to experience the highest levels of trauma. Children who formed deep emotional attachments to and trust in the adult caregiving figures in their lives were better equipped for survival, but trauma was a highly likely outcome for all.

Betrayal

It may seem harsh but for a lot of adoptees, the giving up was a betrayal.  The handover that can be felt by the adoptee, continually felt throughout their life.  The rejection.  The abandonment.  The unanswerable questions.

It is a forever loss – permanent.

Even in the pre-verbal infant – adoption – is “remembered” on an emotional, cellular level.  This in turn causes lots of behavioral and self-worth related issues.  Often the adoptee can not explain why they feel as they do.  Why they act out like they do.  Their anger is in a very deep place that cannot be released because the adoptee is unable to express the emotional context of their feelings in language.

It is impossible to proclaim adoption good or bad in all circumstances.  There are true orphans and then there is the exploited single mother.  There is the profit motive to take her baby and sell it to a couple who has the means to meet the demanded price.

All children are priceless but the adoptee has been priced and that price paid, not only by the adoptive parents but by the original parents and their kin – and most especially, always, by the adoptee’s own self.