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.

It’s Not What Comes After . . .

The better life, the money, “stability” etc…it is the “before” that causes the trauma. This can’t be loved or bought or guilt forced away. Taking children in the first place is what causes the trauma, not how you treat them after. Nothing un-dos that first wound.

When I was unable to financially support my daughter and her father refused to pay child support, like my maternal grandmother before me, I sought temporary care for her with her paternal grandmother who she had been cared for by since infancy as I had to go to work in the outside world. So that is who I turned to, when I tried to make some significant funds to cushion my intended reunion with my daughter. I was driving an 18-wheel truck with a partner. I didn’t even know whether I could do that work (turned out I was relatively good at everything but backing that big rig up) or how long I would be doing it. I didn’t have a long view and I didn’t know what I know now about mother/child separations.

It didn’t turn out to be temporary. She ended up with her dad and he remarried a woman with a daughter and together had another daughter. A yours-mine and ours family life I was not able to give her during the period of her childhood. She is now nearing 50 years old and I only recently found out that her life in that family situation was not as good as I imagined it to be – though she loved her step-mother (now deceased) and loves her dad still regardless. We once shared that her circumstances make her in many ways subject to the same deep emotional wounds of separation that adoptees experience. It does make me very sad that I inflicted that on her in my ignorance and belief that as long as one of the two parents were in the child’s life it was equally good for that child.

Here is someone else’s story taken from the Daily KOS and the source of my image for today – My Family Separation Trauma: A Wound that Never Heals. Excerpts, you can read the entire story at the title link.

I was separated from my primary caregivers, my grandparents, when I was five; thirty years later I was separated from my four-year-old daughter. Now she is 19 and we are estranged. None of this is of my choosing. I fought it with all I had. I ended up with no family at all.

Lots of people have a family-separation story, and they’re all heartbreaking.

For my own self, the effects have been similar to how this woman describes it below for her own self. I will add, for me, it was always difficult to pick out a “daughter” birthday card because the words never fit the relationship I had with her (thankfully, as adults we are loving and close, though at times the wounds shine through as they should so I never deny what was done).

I seldom got to see my daughter as she was growing up. I was prevented from being a part of her life. I’m having a hard time grappling with the enormity of all that I lost—from her first day of kindergarten, to picking out her prom dress, to what’s going on with her right now—the depth and breadth of experiences that I missed. The richness of bonding with one’s growing child and seeing their personhood evolve. I missed it all and I can never, ever get it back.

She goes on to write – “I always thought, “At least my daughter is fine.” By all reports she has been happy and thriving. But this happened to her, too. I understand that now; she has trauma of her own. She was only four.” Mine was 3 and I thought the same. At least, she is a generally upbeat and happy person today.

I carry my own wound. There were no role models for an absentee mother in the mid 1970s. I always felt that others must be judging me as some kind of monster of a mother not to be raising my own daughter. The writer says for her own self, “In the meantime I carry this wound. I must move forward with it, accounting for it, dealing with it. Most of the people who see me every day have no idea of how badly I’m damaged. It’s taken a long time for me to figure it out myself.”

My daughter seems to forgive me and understands I was doing the best I knew how to at the time but I seem unable to fully forgive my own self for inflicting an abandonment on her (even if I never thought of it as “that” until very recently, since learning about the practice of adoption more deeply, as I uncovered my adopted parents (both) origin stories. First, I came to accept this about my parents and their original parents, only later realizing the effects on my own life and my daughter’s life.

Unrealistic Expectations

I am really short on time today. I will tell the story without the comments. When my own daughter was a toddler, my childcare choice of a private home modeling themselves on a family structure went from my daughter LOVING to go to being tearful at being left there. It troubled me so much, I left work and went back only to see a larger boy bullying her through the window in the half door. I removed her that very moment. I found a woman with one daughter who was seeking a “companion” for that daughter. Never did my daughter get better care, rested and well fed and happy when I picked her up each day.

Here’s the story from a jealous adoptive mother without additional comments today due to time constraints.

“Those of you who have adopted and are working moms, I need input. We found a great person to do childcare for us. She lives nearby and doesn’t charge a lot. She is a great mom to her kids and loves our little girl.

The problem that we are struggling with is that our little girl loves her a little too much. She is so excited to see her and gives her BIG hugs that we do not typically receive…

I know this sounds like jealousy, but being adoptive parents, it is so hard to see this affection given to others when you do not get the same in return. She is only 9 months old and has been with us since she was 2 weeks old, so we have no doubt she cares for us and knows we are her parents, but we are debating on her going to another friend who is more of a grandmother figure than a mother figure.

We know that this other person would care for her very well and she would be just as loved there. I would just blow this off as being ridiculous, but my husband feels the same way. He wants her to go with this other person even though it is further for us to drive and more of a hassle.

What would you do? Are we being ridiculously selfish and we should just be happy that she loves her childcare person so much? I thought that here I would at least get some understanding, my heart is hurting.”

OK – just one comment in response with which I agree (I also had several “mom” friends with twins who had nannies when their children were preschool).

She needs to be grateful that her daughter loves who takes care of her. My crew loves our nanny of seven years. She like family. I’m glad my kids have such a strong bond with someone else.

Are Mothers Ever Strangers ?

How is it a woman whom grows HER baby in HER body for 40 weeks, shares DNA, blood supply, HER body nourishes and GROWS HER baby, she then births HER baby, breastfeeds HER baby the first 4 days of life and hands HER baby off to strangers and a year later she is a supposed STRANGER TO HER BABY??? Are mothers ever really strangers?????

There was a story where a woman had a baby. Like 6 months later she passed away. But she was an organ donor. She donated her heart. They put the baby on the recipient’s chest and the baby remembered her heart beat. I think a face may be strange but baby’s do remember their mom’s heart beat

My biological mom is a complete stranger to me – even after meeting her and seeing her a handful of times over the years. It’s also extremely weird and uncomfortable seeing her and her family in public.

I was raised by my biological mother. We have no bond or attachment, I wish her health and happiness but really just like I do for everybody else.

I did not breastfeed (though I wanted to), but my first visit with my son was two weeks after I left the hospital without him. He was always better with me…didn’t cry, or fuss, etc. When he was six months old, the adoptive parent got angry with me (it was actually the adoptive mother) and withheld visits for three months. Birth father got involved and they agreed to stop withholding visits (though they did this repeatedly throughout my child’s life), and I went to see him with the birth father. He didn’t want anything to do with me. I knew in my heart that there was something else going on, so I asked birth father to wait in the living room and I took him to his bedroom, where he came alive and couldn’t stop laughing and smiling. It was the presence of birth father he objected to. Me, he remembered. Still, each time they withheld visits, or moved to a different state, I had to re-establish my relationship with him. He never forgot who I was, though. And I always sent him cards and gifts on our special holidays, no matter where they lived. They did, at least, give those to him, as far as I know. I haven’t seen him since his high school graduation in 2016, but I just finished putting together his Easter box (formerly known as a basket)…later than usual because my mother in law passed away, but full of t-shirts and childhood favorites like action figures. They didn’t have Baby Yoda when he was little.

My biological mom is definitely a stranger, she doesn’t know me, she’s not part of my life or my children’s lives. I don’t have a mom.

My biological mother is and will always be a stranger, she never had any intention of knowing me despite having the chance to rectify that during reunion. Not every “mother” wants to be a mother to all of their children. I really hate the idea that all biological parents are supposedly wonderful caring human beings, some of them are simply trash.

In my experience, no. My mom was never a stranger. I felt recognition to the depth of my being when we met face to face. I am literally made of her.

My biological mother feels like a stranger to me. She does not feel that I am a stranger to her. It’s a very uncomfortable dynamic.

The above received this reply – I expect that is what my son is probably going through now. Does it make you uncomfortable when she sends you cards, gifts or money? I have not stopped this with my son, and maybe he is too kind to tell me to stop.

Which received this clarification – I may not be the best person to ask. Everything my birth mother does makes me uncomfortable but that has more to do with the way she has behaved during my adult life than anything. She sent me 30 roses on my 30th birthday and I literally felt nauseated. It didn’t have to be that way though. I did not feel that way when we first met. I think my advice would be to make sure that you’re dealing with your own trauma and not putting it on your son. My birth mothers emotional needs from our relationship were so great that there was no room for me to have any needs or boundaries. Her need for me to heal her felt smothering. I couldn’t do that for her and it wasn’t my responsibility to try. Otherwise, I think it probably would have been nice to get cards and gifts. My birth father has been respectful of boundaries from the start and genuinely cared about my well-being and I love getting gifts from him. I think the fact that you’re even asking the question is a sign that you’re looking out for his needs and being respectful! I don’t mean to minimize the trauma or suggest that you should just be able to get over it in any way. Just that it’s worth working thru with a therapist on your own so that your relationship with your son isn’t the only place you’re looking for healing.

I think there’s definitely something to the idea that some birth mothers may feel more connected to the adoptee than vice versa. When we met I had spent most of my 22 years not really thinking about her, while she had thought of me every day, carried me for 9 months, gone thru labor, etc. From the start, it felt like there was just so much more emotion on her side than mine. I was mildly curious about my DNA but happy with my life. She felt her life was ruined and needed me to fill this huge hole in her heart. It’s a challenging dynamic.

I just want my surrendered son to be…well. We were very close until he got to be around sixteen. I have been thinking of him every minute of every day for all of his life, and I know it cannot be the same for him, so I have been doing my best with guesswork about boundaries. I suppose it is good for him that he lives so far away from me.

Not a stranger but an associate really. I’m made of her but we don’t have that bond since we were separated a week after I was born. We’ve been in reunion for 10 years but I don’t feel like I know her. Still a mystery.

My husband was abandoned by his mom at a young age and she is definitely a stranger to him. He saw her a few times growing up. He also had a very unsuccessful reunion.

Meeting my biological mom was actually what ripped me out of the adoptee fog. I was expecting to have this “knowing” of her. I wasn’t prepared for how much of a stranger she felt like. I didn’t recognize myself in her at all. It shut me down in our reunion for several years, while I went through deep identity work and trauma healing. The second meeting we had was two years ago when I flew to her and was able to meet my extended family. I started to recognize myself in them. Then we were leaving the family farm, when I noticed our shadows side by side as we walked. We have an identical walk. It finally clicked in and my body and spirit remembered her .I really feel that I had to bury my unconscious memories of her in order to survive as a child. I had to give into the fantasy that is adoption. It was so buried inside of me, but it was there waiting for me to do the healing work needed to remember.

Stranger and “legal stranger” are much different…or should be.

My birth mother is definitely a stranger, and probably will stay that way cause she doesn’t really seem interested in building a relationship. I’m just a dirty little secret from her past that she hoped to leave in the past.

I am no longer a secret! Biological half-siblings and I are connected via Ancestry and my biological mother knows it. And still she refuses a relationship. To which another adoptee noted – Mine doesn’t want my half-sisters to know about me, yet but I’m hoping if I keep in touch, she’ll change her mind. I really want a relationship with them at least.

It is definitely a paradox – Our original mothers will always be our first profound human connection. Very familiar, yet as an adoptee she is a stranger. It’s hard to explain to someone not touched by adoption.

Adoption-Related Complex Trauma

Also called Cumulative Trauma – The research is definitive. Adopted kids are not only traumatized by the original separation from their parents, they may also have been traumatized by the events that led to them being put up for adoption. In addition to that, foster care itself is considered an adverse childhood experience.

I recently wrote a blog titled “It’s Simply NOT the Same.” Though the traumas may originate similarly, the outcomes are not the same because just like any other person, no two adoptees are exactly alike. That should not prevent any of us from trying to understand that adoptees carry wounds, even if the adoptee is unaware that the wounds are deep within them.

It is not uncommon for an adopted person and/or the adoptive family to seek mental health services due to the effect of the adoptee experiencing traumatic events. Unfortunately, for psychology and psychiatry clinicians, adoption related training is rare. In my all things adoption group, the advice is often to seek out an adoption competent therapist for good reason.

“What does an adopted baby know ? She knows her mother, she knows her loss, sadness and hurt, she knows that those who hold her today may be gone tomorrow and that she will be the only one left to pick up the pieces that no one seems to think are broken.”
~ Karl Stenske, 2012

The reasons a child is put up for adoption or relinquished are many – an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy, often compounded or driven by a lack of financial resources (poverty) or no familial support to care for a child. Becoming a single parent may simply seem too daunting to an unwed expectant mother. Sadly, for some, a chronic/terminal illness or certain diseases may lead the mother to believe she cannot provide proper care for her baby. Certainly, prolonged substance addiction and/or severe mental health issues (which may be related to addiction) can cause parental rights to be forcefully terminated by child welfare authorities. Adoptees who come out of the child welfare system (legal termination of parental rights by a court of law) cannot legally be returned to their birth families due to safety or other reasons that are considered serious.

Adoption is not always a success. Disruptions and dissolutions do sometimes occur.

Disruptions can happen after the adoption has been finalized when the adoptive parents then experience difficulties with their adopted child. The adoptive parents may have difficulty finding support and the resources they require to deal with the issues that come up.

Risk factors leading to a higher rate of disruptions are: older age when adopted, existing emotional and behavioral issues, having a strong attachment to their birth mother, having been a victim of pre-adoption sexual abuse, suffering from a lack of social support from relatives causing the adoption to occur, unrealistic expectations surrounding the adoption and the child on the part of hopeful adoptive parents, and a lack of adequate preparation and ongoing support for the adoptive family prior to and after the placement.

A devastating occurrence is a dissolution or breakdown. This applies to an adoption in which the legal relationship between the adoptive parents and the adoptive child is severed, either voluntary or involuntarily. Usually this will result in the entry or re-entry of the child into the foster care system, or less commonly a second chance adoption, or even the private transfer of the child from the adoptive parents to a non-vetted receiving parent.

Adoption has been subject to both positive and negative assumptions related to the practice and this is of no surprise to anyone who has studied the practice of adoption for a period of time.

There are 6 main assumptions about the practice of adoption –

[1] Adoption is a joyous event for all involved – known as the Unicorns and Rainbows Fantasy in adoption centric communities; [2] adoption parallels genetic birth experience and a biological family life – which close observation and mixed families (who have both biological and adopted children often belie); [3] once adopted, all of the child’s problems disappear and there will be no additional challenges – rarely true – and often attachment or bonding fail to occur; [4] creating a family through adoption is “false,” only biological families are “real” – this goes too far in making a case because many adults create chosen families – the truth is as regards children, family is those persons we grow up with – believing we are related to them – in my case, both of my parents were adopted and all of my “relations” growing up were non-genetic and non-biological but I have a life history with them and continue to have contact with aunts, an uncle and cousins I obtained through my parents’ adoptions; [5] the adoptive life is better than the biological life the child had or would have had – never a known assumption – more accurately, the adoptee’s life is different than that child would have had, if they had not been adopted; and, [6] closed adoptions are in the best interest of the child – this one was promoted with the intention of shielding adoptive parents from original parents who regretted the surrender, from the child who might yearn for their original family and often in some cases to shield a person operating unscrupulously, such as the baby thief Georgia Tann who sold ill-gotten children. Popular media has reinforced both the positive and the negative messages about adoption and many myths and stereotypes regarding adoptive families and birth parents are believed in society as a whole.

The term “adoption-related complex trauma” is rarely used in discussing symptoms and behaviors. It is more common to see terms such as “developmental trauma” or “complex trauma” to describe the psychological effects found within the adopted population.

The terms complex trauma and complex post-traumatic stress disorder have been used to describe the experience of multiple and/or chronic and prolonged, developmentally adverse traumatic events, most often of an personal nature such as sexual, physical, verbal abuse or of a societal nature such as war or community violence. These exposures often have occurred within the child’s caregiving environment and may include physical, emotional and/or other forms of neglect and maltreatment that begin early in childhood. In the case of infant adoptions, the trauma is non-verbal but stored in the body of that baby – not conscious but recorded.

Some of this content has been sourced from a long dissertation titled Treatment Considerations For Adoption-related Complex Trauma. Anyone interested is encouraged to read more at the link.

It’s Simply NOT the Same

The same question has come up again that reminds me that each adoptee experiences adoption in their unique personal way. A woman writes –

Can a mother and child have the same kind of bond if the baby is adopted versus biological? I am an adoptee and adoptive parent. My daughter was a foster preemie. I brought her home at 3 pounds 14 ounces. Her mom abandoned her and the family already had 5 older siblings. I feel so bonded to both my adoptive mom and child but I don’t have the experience of bonding to a bio mom or child. My adoption was far from perfect but I do know my parents and grandparents loved me.

A response –

I’m an adoptive mother and I have a biological daughter. My adopted daughters were older when I adopted them, so I don’t have the foster infant side of that. But I can say that I believe biology matters. My bond with my biological daughter runs deep, it’s insane how close we are. Loving her, hugging her, holding her, it’s all natural. I made her, I bonded with her before she was even born. I love my adopted daughters so much. But it’s not natural. I don’t feel it’s as easy to be affectionate because the truth is that they aren’t “my” kids, even though the law says otherwise. They will also never have the same bond with me that they have with their mother. They bonded with her before they were born, her love for them was natural, and came easy. I bet she never hesitated to hug them, or kiss them. I think expecting or thinking the bond will be the same sets everyone up for disappointment. My love for my adopted daughters is fierce, and I would do anything for them, but it’s not natural.

There can be a security issue – As an adoptee in an open adoption I can say I personally am bonded to both Moms but I have a more secure attachment to my adoptive mom. My first mom still has a lot of trauma and can be a fair-weather mom, which is totally understandable but doesn’t make me feel secure – whereas I know without a doubt my adoptive mom will always be there for me, unconditionally. But I know that is not necessarily typical of adoptee experience. It is just my personal story. With my son, both grandma’s love him equally and between my two moms and my mother in law there is NO difference – they are all bonded to him. I think this is because my first mom is able to release her trauma with him in a way she can’t do with me. 

And step vs biological differences –

I honestly have a hard time believing a mother (or father) can have the same kind of bond. My husband and I have had this conversation many times – he is the step father to my 4 oldest kids, 100% their father in every way and he loves them like his own – their bio dad isn’t involved in their lives. Then we had a baby together. He is an amazing father to all 5 of our kids. But he finally admitted (after she was a year old) that there is just something different about how he feels with her vs my other 4 kids. I even told him he would feel that way and he brushed me off, because he truly loves my kids – but it’s different. There is an undeniable biological bond that you just cannot ignore.

One adoptee writes and shares a link – Understanding what I understand now I have a hard time calling anything an adoptive parent does love. And truth is any “bonding” that does happen with an adoptee is probably, for them, more akin to Stockholm syndrome. Here’s that link – A “successful adoption” begins with a traumatic bonding.

A comment at that link above fits today’s topic –

I am an American and a domestic adoptee. I never could love my adoptive parents. I was told that I was adopted before i could speak. My adoptive mother would repeat “you are adopted” and, “I am your mother” over and over to me as she changed my diapers.

She says I stared at her and made her uncomfortable. I was placed with them at 1 month old.

I could never love someone who thought it was right for me to be separated from my mother. I could not love someone who thought it was right to bring up child who was never allowed to know who she was. I didn’t think she was a good, honest person because she allowed these things to happen to me.

I could not believe that she loved me either. You can’t really love someone, and be so blind to their pain.

And especially, when an adoptee becomes the genetic, biological parent of a child – they understand. One writes –  My adoptive mom loved me immensely, but I never really bonded to her. I came to them at 9 weeks old. Once I had my own biological kids, I realized what a true parent/child bond was. I believe biology plays a huge role.

Different situations bring with them different experiences for people who all vary immensely. There is no one size fits all.

It Matters What We Are Called By

The name of a thing does not matter as much as the quality of the thing.
~ Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

A person’s name is the greatest connection to their own identity and individuality. Some might say it is the most important word in the world to that person. … When someone remembers our name after meeting us, we feel respected and more important. It makes a positive and lasting impression on us.

I love hearing my sons say “Mom” and my grandchildren say “Grandma”. My oldest son, now 20 years old, sometimes says Steve or Debbie when referring to us but I see this as a maturity thing. Though most of us will still say Mom or Dad even when we are in our 60s, if we are so lucky to have them still living. Back in my early 20s, my young daughter (preschool age) did also sometimes call me Debbie. The children hear other people refer to us by our given names and that is a factual reality, we do carry the names we are given, unless we change them intentionally.

Adoptees are mostly never allowed to keep their birth given names after adoption. Their names are changed and their birth certificates altered. This is the erasing of an identity.

With foster care, the circumstances can be slightly different, as illustrated by today’s story.

Children ages 5 and 6 have spent 1 year with their current foster family. They have been in foster care for 2.5 years. The Termination of Parental Rights has already happened. The current foster family intends to adopt them.

Now the foster mom is crying that the kids keep calling her and her husband by their first names. They insist on calling their biological parents mom and dad. This is totally understandable as those people are their original, natural mom and dad. However, the foster mom says this hurts both of the foster parents’ feelings. Their reason for wanting to adopt is to grow their family. They want the kids to accept that, after adoption, they are the mom and dad now. They don’t want to be called by their first names going forward. They set an example by calling themselves mommy and daddy. The kids continue to persistently call them by their first names. The foster parents call the original birth parents – biodad or biomom – or even by their first names. Kids remain adamant and keep saying my “real” dad or “real” mom.

And the hurt feelings for the foster parents do not end and this matter to them because they’ve never had kids of their own before. They suffer from infertility and after years of trying, they want to become parents by adopting. They’re adopting to become “parents” not simply babysitters.

It upsets them that the original natural parents hardly made an effort to visit the kids and yet the kids still remember them and call them their parents, mom and dad. The foster parents are seeking to drive a wedge between the kids and their original natural parents by saying “A real parent takes care of you. Does not choose an addiction over you or go to prison.”

The foster parents are seeking to intentionally disrupt the children’s relationship to their original parents because it simply hurts them too much to not be called mommy and daddy by these children. The foster mom has said that it has always been her dream and desire to adopt. She is laying down the law !! She will not be called by her first name after adoption.

The foster parents had a fantasy that by now the kids would be happy to call them mommy and daddy. They believed that since these kids are so young, the kids would easily bond with them as parents by now. That after having been in foster care, these kids would be happy to receive a new mommy and daddy.

It would seem that good quality healthy people would not be obsessed with molding a child to be something they are not, when they are supposedly trying to help that child by adopting them. Why would they insist on erasing the factual family history from an innocent, already traumatized child ? Reasons why reform has become such an important concept in adoption and foster care.

When Circumstances Change

Expectant mothers considering a surrender of their not yet born child to adoption who end up in my all things adoption group are often counseled “don’t choose a permanent solution to what is actually a temporary situation.” Case in point, in today’s story.

So a woman had a baby when she was 19 years old. She surrendered him to adoption because she felt that she could not support herself and so by extension, could not support a child either.

5 years have passed and the original mother recently graduated from college. Throughout his young life, the adoptive mother has allowed the boy and his original mother to have contact with one another.

In a definitely misguided perspective, the adoptive mother encouraged her adoptive son to think of his original mother as a cousin or a friend. The complication here is this is a kinship adoption. The original mom is the adoptive mom’s cousin. 

Well, his original mother can now support herself. At the moment, she wants MORE contact with her son and for him to stay with her a few nights a week.

The adoptive mother is a stay at home mom and she claims her concern is that his original mother would utilize day care for him and only spend time with him at night.

The original mother and adoptive mother are now at opposite ends – the adoptive mother claims that if the original mother loved him so much, she would not have given him up 5 years ago.

The original mother claims it is cruel of the adoptive mother to refuse her request for a few nights a week with her son.

When the original mother brought up her financial struggles at the time the boy was born, the adoptive mother came back with “You don’t get to abandon your child and then decide you want him back 5 years later. I am his mother now.”

The original mother believes, given time, the two of them will bond with one another again and he will begin to think of her as his mother also. It has been proven that children are able to comprehend of more than one woman as being equally both of his mothers.

Now, the adoptive mother has threatened the original mother saying – “If you continue trying to steal him from me, I will stop letting you see him at all.” The reality is – the original mother can not legally undo a finalized adoption – so it is not possible for her to physically steal the child back from the adoptive mother.

One can certainly agree with the concern about putting him in daycare but this “stealing” language is very destructive. No one “owns” their own biological child, much less someone else’s child who one has adopted. He should be allowed to bond with his mom as often as he wants. The child should set any boundaries regarding the rebuilding of a disrupted mother child relationship.

There really has to be another way to satisfy both women. The original mother could pick her son up for the evening and drop him back off with the adoptive mother before work. Rigidity often prevents viable solutions to sticky issues from being considered. Always, the child’s best interests and well-being should be what governs decisions.

The truth is, the original mother did not abandon her child but was doing her best to do what was best for her baby at the time. Unfortunately, whether conscious of it or not, every adoptee has an abandonment wound. Because their original mother did leave them. Pure and simple. Understanding adult complications is not possible until a person is mature and living the realities of life’s hardships themselves.

The honest truth is that visits for the original mother and her child will promote a connection that is critical for the child after having been relinquished. Seeing that no harm comes of it would ease the mind of the adoptive parent. This is a situation in which a professional therapist acting as an intermediary might head off some horrific results. The child will grow up eventually and will know the truth. Better to keep things harmonious during his childhood.

Simply Going Along

I used to be a big Garfield fan but I never knew about McDonald’s offering these glass mugs in 1978 and 1987 until today when I was looking for an image to illustrate today’s blog.

Today’s questions for adoptive parents go like this –

What if your love and security wasn’t enough for your child? Would you know? If your child lashes out and says you’re not their real parents, that’s tangible, specific about their emotions. But what if your child seems simply part of your family, is agreeable, goes through the motions. Says the things you’d expect. Gets upset the way you think biological kids react. Would you think that meant they felt connected to you or the family? Would you consider them to be well adjusted and free from trauma? How would you know if they felt disconnected from you or the family?

Now for some replies –

First this – I’m not an adoptive parent but I was am adoptive child who went overboard trying to be the perfect child. Busyness, perfectionism, not asking for needs to be met. All signs.

And in sympathy, this one – This was me too. I lashed out at my teachers instead of my parents and confused the hell out of everyone.

Now this honesty from an adoptive parent – My son is all the things you describe: agreeable, helpful, thoughtful….But, I can see the sadness in his eyes even when we are all together and “happy”. He is lonely even when he isn’t alone. The only time he seems to shake it is when he is with his natural family. On visits, he seems truly at peace. I can’t imagine how it must feel to struggle with that loss everyday.

And another one similarly – I see the same thing in my girls eyes. There’s definitely some sadness, hurt, anger, and confusion there, even in moments they seem to be happy. There’s a void there.

An older adult writes – To this day I feel like I am performing to expectations with my adoptive family. When I met my natural family it was just . . . well natural. It clicked. I describe it as sitting under a comfortable blanket. It just felt comfortable and easy. I didn’t have to think so much. I could just “be,” if that makes sense.

Then this – If there’s one upside to having blatantly sucky adopters, it was never feeling I had to perform anything. I told my adoptive dad (who was raising us singly because adoptive mom ran off – after the divorce, when I was 4) regularly and loudly I hated him, being adopted, everything about it. I honestly feel bad for adoptees with good adoptions feeling like they have to keep negative things about it to themselves simply in order to make their adoptive families happy.

Another adoptive parent’s perspective – My honest response to this is – an adopted child not having the reactions described would be a large red flag for me. The truth is, I am not their parent and regardless of my intentions (meaning selfish or not) I never will be and I don’t think I should try to force that specific bond. It is not mine to try to take (and if you feel threatened by that as an adoptive parent, you should reevaluate your outlook). But that opinion is formed based on many of the adoptee voices I have heard in a support group. My guess is (I cannot say for sure because I have not walked this) that feeling a connection like family is tough with the trauma of not having your parents there. A child can want to feel that connection and at times, I believe they can feel connected but there will often always be a longing for blood connections. As adoptive parents, I feel like our responsibility is to help keep (or find, if necessary) as many of these connections as possible or we are essentially harming the very child we claim to be “protecting”. But I try to pay attention to what our children are not saying because that often speaks much louder than what they are saying, if you are looking and listening.

I do credit my nephew’s adoptive mother with making an attempt – by contacting me, by doing the work necessary to correct the lie my youngest sister told about who his natural father was. My heart breaks for my nephew. Though his questions are now answered for the most part (I gave him a video of my husband’s and my wedding where my mentally ill – probably paranoid schizophrenia – youngest sister was probably as natural and “normal” as she ever was – so he could see that side of her in lieu of meeting her in person) and he has met his father and related half-siblings. Even so, now that he is a mature adult with a girlfriend who has what seems like an intact birth family that remains close to one another, he has pretty much cut all ties with his adoptive mother in favor of being a part of her family. I hasten to add that a romantic relationship (even when such complications are the truth as in my nephew’s life) can split a person mostly off from their natural family. As a woman, I’ve experienced that with all 3 of my long-term romantic relationships.

Someone once told me that children come in two types – defiant and compliant. I have two sons who certainly illustrate that truth. So, I would suspect that adoptees (from what I have learned in my own study) tend more to the compliant (which does not mean that there are not defiant types), simply because of a fear of abandonment and rejection which is common to almost every adoptee.

Evolving Approaches

Why are so many foster parents uneducated about trauma ? It’s 2021.

Yes, training is lacking but it’s frustrating to keep seeing things like the comment below from a foster parent. If I have a biological child with special needs, we change to accommodate her. We change for biological kids. Why not do the same for a foster child ?

The question above was raised by one foster parent, after reading this comment below in quotes from another foster parent.

“I don’t know. This is sad because the foster family shouldn’t have to change everything for a child. It’s give and take. Obviously the child should feel accepted, but that’s also a choice on their part. Half this stuff (sleep in the bed, no TV after bedtime, eat what we’re eating, bond with us, doing chores) is not unreasonable.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t bend rules for the ‘undamaged’ kids in my home, not everything changes for the new arrivals. Foster kids need to understand the world doesn’t evolve around them. In the real world people don’t care if you’re in foster care. They don’t care if you have trauma. You do what your boss tells you to do. They don’t make accommodations for you.”

“We need to stop making excuses for foster children and stop letting others feel sorry for them. Being in foster care shouldn’t be used as an excuse. Everyone is treated the same in the real world. So why should we bend the rules to foster kids? A foster child shouldn’t force you to change your household or your rules. You’re the boss of your own home.”

“They should follow the rules and the values that the family that decided to open up their home to them has in place. We can’t keep allowing foster kids to take and we always give. It’s unfair. It doesn’t teach them anything about giving back or teach them anything about following the rules in life”.

So why wouldn’t foster parents want to provide specialized care when traumatized kids need this so critically ? Why do they choose to be foster caregivers ? Oh right, it is the money, the stipends foster families are paid to take in stranger’s children.

There could also be another aspect. Some foster parents are there for the glory and accolades from other people. This person’s perspective is simply justification for a rigid response. In reality, what should motivate anyone to be a foster caregiver, would be to help the child heal from whatever trauma has put them into the system to begin with. Just removing the child from their parents and home and being put into foster care IS trauma to begin with.

Think about it – if the injuries were visible and the child was then refused help to heal because of BS excuses like, the “real-world” is unsympathetic to your pain and suffering, many people would judge such a foster caregiver (like the one quoted above) as some unfeeling monster who neglects the children in their care. There should be zero tolerance for an attitude like this.

Truth is, parenting should be individualized to the unique person each child is. As parents, we should give more to children who need more. Parenting is not about one’s self or selfishness. A parents job shouldn’t be to make the kid’s lives crappy, even if we ourselves feel we have it crappy.

Finally, this foster parent writes as though fostering wasn’t a choice they made freely. A child who is unwillingly placed in your home doesn’t owe you gratitude or deference. And “everyone is treated the same in the real world”….what a sad excuse for having closed off your heart. One gets the sense that this foster parent has come from a middle to upper class white family and has not experienced a whole lot of the “real” life they speak so freely of upholding.