Why ?

*** TRIGGER WARNING

I know these things happen but still my brain cannot wrap itself around the idea that an adopted girl as young as 3 has been sexually molested – her behaviors graphically illustrate that it is the reality. My heart hurts just trying to think about it.

One recommendation is related to Sex Ed Rescue – finding a better way to talk to your child about sex. Cath Hakanson is the person behind Sex Ed Rescue. She is an Australian and a qualified sexual health nurse, author and speaker. She believes that kids need help to thrive in this sexualized world. Sex Ed Rescue can help parents with … giving age-appropriate answers to tricky questions about sex, starting conversations that feel natural and guided by your personal values as well as becoming an ask-able parent.

There was a warning about virtual therapy places (specifically mentioned Better Help). They don’t all vet their “therapists”. There are horror stories out there of people being paired with people who outright say they aren’t licensed. I’ve seen people say they were matched with open white supremacists, counselors who were just telling them to leave their spouses over trivial arguments, and even therapists who were doing sessions while buying groceries – meaning that anybody in the store could hear your personal issues–a major HIPAA violation. The person went on to say – if you can find a legitimate virtual therapist it’s fine, but it would probably be difficult to find one willing to work with sexual assault victims virtually. She shares that when she was in foster care, she had to see a therapist and one of the topics that came up was child sexual abuse. One of the ways they questioned her was through games to make it more appropriate to what a child could understand. If a kid is old enough to just talk things out, virtual therapy would be great, but it would be increasingly difficult to be effective the younger the child is.

Tiffany Hamilton aka Never Alone Support was recommended. She is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of my step-father. She says that her goal is to provide this type of support to any victim who is seeking it. She says, “I want to help them where they are with whatever they need. This is my passion and my hope is that I can make a positive difference in the lives of sexual abuse victims and help to save them from a life of addiction, self-harm, and suicide. She has a podcast on Apple.

Most important – from an adoptive parent of children who have been sexually abused – I know that for a single parent, keeping her world and physical contacts limited is not easy but in my experience it is absolutely necessary. 4 years in for us and we’ve had a lot of progress with consistent therapy and boundaries.

I would be extremely cautions of any child or adult you leave her alone with, until you have some significant progress in these behaviors and she understands that it is not okay for others to touch her private area other than diaper changes. And also that she cannot touch others. I would also limit how many people can change her diapers. Children that have been sexually abused and have sexual behaviors are more likely to be abused again, and it’s more likely that someone close and trusted would abuse her. If she goes to daycare/school they need to have a designated person to change her, not just who ever is available. She needs to have healthy boundaries with others and a limited number of people who can have contact with her genital area for her care and hygiene.

Do not shame her for masturbating, it’s not something she has control over, but you want her to be safe – so be sure to keep her in the clothing that prevents her from inserting anything. But touching herself is an appropriate response with a child who has been sexually assaulted. Gentle redirection without shame is what you need. So don’t say “you can’t touch,” say “oh look at this toy! It is okay to redirect her to an appropriate activity that occupies her hands – “Let’s wash your hands and play with playdoh!” Gentle redirection, if she tries to have anyone else touch her. “It’s not appropriate for so and so to touch you there.” This is why it’s important to limit who can change/bathe her. She needs to know that only those people who are safe can touch her when they bathe/change her.

This is an extremely urgent need. Contact her pediatrician, see if they can expedite referrals. Also, DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. Keeping logs may help you find patterns in her behavior that can identify possible triggers, and could also identify abusers. For instance if she spends time with a family member and is sexually acting out every time following a visit that is a red flag. Contact your local children’s advocacy center and see if they can do a forensic interview. A forensic interview could identify the abuser and knowing the nature of the abuse could be helpful.

Secrecy v. Privacy

I belong to a group that almost 20 years ago divided into a “tell/don’t tell” perspective. I often wonder how that has worked out for the don’t tell group. And if it has served, at what point might their offspring do a inexpensive DNA test and thereby learn the truth – that they were lied to their entire childhood. I’m glad we never thought to go in that direction.

My blog today is inspired by an article in Psychology Today LINK> Secrecy v. Privacy in Donor Conception Families, subtitled Walking the fine line between privacy and secrecy is inherent in donor families. Some of the differences – Privacy is the choice to not be seen, while secrecy is based in fear, shame, or embarrassment. Privacy involves setting comfortable and healthy boundaries. Carrying a family secret is a heavy burden. Donor families based in honesty and transparency have more meaningful and deep relationships.

In that group I mentioned, we each recognized a right to privacy for each other and honoring their right to privacy demonstrated our respect for their choice and was a foundation for trust among us. Withholding information for fear of the consequences implies a negative kind of secrecy. Secrets require a lot of emotional energy and are a heavy burden to carry. Secrecy undermines trust and is therefore harmful within relationships. Privacy, which includes creating healthy boundaries is generally beneficial. Learning when and how to create boundaries is a good lesson to teach one’s children, especially in this age where information seems to flow so readily and once out there, can’t be taken back.

The stigma of infertility is still very present in society and is often the reason why a couple may not want to be open about how they were able to conceive their children. Yet there is also a sense of social responsibility that has mattered to me from the beginning. Women are generally NOT fertile beyond a certain expiration date. When someone conceives at such an advanced age as I did (46 and 49), that could give the wrong impression to another younger woman that they have more time in which to begin their family desire fulfillment than they probably do. There are always exceptions to anything age related but that is a general rule. Much harder to conceive after the age of 40. I conceived very easily in my 20s.

Many children not told the truth about their origin – whether it was adoption, a donor facilitated conception or an illicit affair – still feel that there was something being withheld from them. When they discover the truth, they often feel anger. Even with the more modern openness, such origin stories are still not the norm. Many who are aware of their status may have little opportunity to talk about it to others who understand. Some may not have the language to speak about their experience.

I have given my children the gift of 23 and Me testing and accounts. Both their egg donor and their genetic father are there. This has led to questions from relatives of the donor to one of my sons. My advice to him as tell them to ask their donor about whatever they are curious about. When one donates genetic material, they must be aware that questions may arise in the future. It is only natural. Still, it was my perspective it is up to her as to what or how much she wishes to tell one of HER own relations about the circumstances. Having the 23 and Me channel gives my sons a method of privately communicating with their donor. I also frequently show them photos of her and her other children, so they are more aware of these persons with which they are genetically related. Distance prevents closer, in person relationships at this time, though they have met her in person more than once. I have an interestingly close, psychic and emotionally connected, relationship with my sons. My belief is that it comes from a combination of carrying them in my womb and breastfeeding them for over a year plus being in their lives pretty much 24/7 for most of their childhood (though there have been brief absences for valid reasons).

A For Effort

Today’s story – I reunited with my biological family when I was 17 and have lost contact with my adoptive family since then, due to abuse/abandonment. My kids have always known my biological family as family and thankfully there isn’t any way for them to know how different it feels for me. Over the summer we moved from Wisconsin to Kansas to be close to my biological family. My birth mother and I have always had a challenging relationship and this move has made it unbearable. We moved into a house her boyfriend had available to rent and this has caused her to feel entitled to overstep when it comes to my kids and my life. She never had other kids and seems to be wanting to make up for it with mine. I’m almost 40 and am struggling greatly. Through the move, I have discovered that Wisconsin is truly home to me and my kids, and my real family, that I thought I was searching for, is the family I created back in Wisconsin. Now my kids and I are working on moving back and I’m struggling with so many emotions. I desperately want to be back home as soon as we can find housing but I know that moving back will likely server the unhealthy ties I have with my birth mom. It’s a relationship that part of my heart has always longed for but causes me endless stress.

Not all reunions work out. It is so hard to develop relationships with people you’ve not known your whole life – I know. I’m there myself.  Boundaries are the distance where I can love you and me simultaneously.

Sometimes we have to try something to know it isn’t right for us. Teaching our kids that decisions don’t have to be forever, that it’s okay to change your mind and realize you aren’t where you need to be, and to then take steps to change your circumstances as soon as you reasonably can.

Second Family Confusion ?

Matching Dresses

From an adoptive mother who has attempted an open adoption, which now appears in danger of becoming closed.

So birth mom requested before the adoption that we take annual photos together, our whole family along with her and her son. At the time we were fine with it, we’ve embraced her and her son as an extended part of the family and had no issue with us all having photos together. Well, here we are second year of photos and birth mom bought our daughter a dress for her birthday to wear. She told me about it and I thought it was so sweet. What she didn’t tell me was that her dress was going to match our daughter’s. She shows up with these “mommy and me dresses” for photos we are suppose to take as a family. Totally thrown of guard and didn’t say anything about it. Definitely bothered me though as I feel like that can be really confusing for my daughter as she gets older.

Second issue is that her birth mom is taking photos of our daughter with her biological son alone. I feel like this can be super confusing for a child also. She will see our family photos when we get together with birth mom and brother. Photos with her “second family”. The whole feels wrong to me.

Am I wrong in not being okay with these two scenarios? Like both of these cross boundaries and could be confusing for a young kid right? I don’t want her growing up thinking she has a third parent or another family like that. I guess I’m just looking for validation in my thought process before we address it with birth mom. It would be cute, if that was her mom but she isn’t, I am – and she didn’t even ask me if I’d be okay with it.

On response immediately noticed this red flag of insecurity – if she “was her mom but she isn’t . . .” Actually she is her mom and always will be. Such insecurity and denial of reality. When will adoptive parents learn that the biological parent IS mom and dad ? That never changes. These are the adoptive mom and adoptive dad. That is all the amended birth certificate did – give them rights of authority. It didn’t change the facts of the child’s biology.

Someone else pointed out what may be the crux of the issue – Wearing matching matching dresses with her mother, taking photos with her mother and little brother, are not confusing to that little girl. What is likely confusing to her (and what her adoptive mother doesn’t want to try to explain and justify to her because she knows it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny) is why can her little brother live with her mother, and not her ? The adoptive mother may not even understand what troubles her. This is not as uncommon as it may seem when an unwed mother gives up her first born and then later goes on to have other children. My paternal grandmother was one like that.

AND, why can’t she live with her biological mom ?! Because a selfish adult got attached to someone else’s child, and now that the mother is in a better position it doesn’t matter because the adopter/purchaser/adult; who should be able to manage their feelings appropriately; has the money and the power in the situation, and won’t let them go. This is why it is often suggested to a vulnerable expectant mother NOT to use a permanent solution to what may only be a temporary problem.

A reality check for the adoptive mother – Children need to know that they are loved by their parents! She’ll need the photos of her family. She’ll need the photos of herself and her brother. She’ll need the photos of herself and her mother. If you’re truly thinking of your adopted daughter, then you would understand why those photos should be the most talked about pictures framed in her room. It isn’t about you and your feelings. Think about how she will feel years from now finding out that you stopped contact because her MOTHER purchased mommy and me dresses ? Can you live with the hate, the backlash, the anger, THE TRAUMA!! That’s selfish. Are you really that blinded by a piece of legal paperwork ? Do you not see that it is ONLY a piece of paper and that baby has her mother’s DNA running through her veins! You do understand that there is absolutely nothing that anyone (including a judge) can do to change that ? Or are you really that selfish and controlling that you can’t see passed yourself and your own emotions ?

Utterly Disgusting Attitude

This adoptive mother thinks she has it all figured out but adoptees and many biological mothers are NOT buying it. This is why open adoptions close and is used as a marketing tool. This comment is very disrespectful towards birth moms. Many do think about their children. They grieve. They feel loss too. Keeping birth parents away will not prevent the child from feelings of abandonment.

From the adoptive mother – I kinda feel like some groups in the adoption triad lean towards having relationships with biological relatives. Not every time though. I felt in our situation, it is toxic. So I joined several groups… I honestly don’t think it’s the best decision in like 90 percent of these situations. It seems like everyone wants to sugar coat the biological parents. The fact is they couldn’t/didn’t want to get their crap together for their children…. We did!!! I decided to do some research and joined groups that I didn’t fit in…Like I am in a “I regret my adoption, birth parents group” and “Adoptees who didn’t find out they were adopted until they were adults” and even a “I regret my abortion group.” I think it’s the best thing I have ever done and it has truly been an eye opener to see ALL sides. I joined the abortion group after seeing several women in the “I regret my adoption” group say that, because their ADULT biological children didn’t want anything to do with them, they wish they had just aborted them.

Anyway, I’ve come to understand a few things. My adopted daughter will not have any type of relationship with her biological mom, because that is when trauma happens. They are too young to understand why someone can’t be around, so they feel unloved. My daughter knows she’s adopted but doesn’t know what it means. She’s 4 years old. I am telling her things like her name changed to our name, she wasn’t in my belly. I won’t lie ever to her. I keep a record of why she doesn’t get to see her biological mom (her dad passed away).

When she is old enough to be told the 100 percent truth, it will not be a shock, and like I said I will never lie to her. If I feel like the time isn’t right for a question she asks, I’ll just say that I will tell her that part when she’s a little older. Most adoptee’s end up hating their biological parents the most…. Then, they are mad that they were lied to by their adoptive parents….and they do want to know some history, and they like to have their old records (I made sure I have my daughter’s original birth certificate and social security card). I had to change her social security number because someone in her biological family was using her old number…

Most adoptees are mad at their adoptive parents for sharing pictures with the biological parents. Most wish they weren’t lied to but had the chance to have a stable childhood, where they didn’t even know they were abandoned…. They wish they had the chance to grow up in a healthy environment, instead of the adoptive parents taking care and caring so much about the biological parents who abandoned them. Adoptive parents feel guilty but shouldn’t… it isn’t the adoptive parents fault that the biological parents don’t want to be there. We cannot force them and popping in and out isn’t healthy. There needs to be boundaries. Most adoptive parents are empaths (that’s what brought them to adoption), we almost feel the birth parents pain of losing a child, but the fact is, most of the birth parents aren’t even thinking of these kids 99.9 percent of the time and have never been empaths or they would have taken care of their children.

I’ll never make my daughter feel unloved by anyone!! She won’t have to deal with all of the adults problems in her childhood, she will have a happy one!! So that’s my plan… lol

Anyway, good luck! Go join some groups. Several groups. They are all different and definitely seek all sides of each group. Every situation is different and just never make ANY person feel like someone doesn’t love them or they weren’t wanted. Keeping that biological family away in most cases insures that they WONT feel abandoned. We all want what’s best for OUR kids and all we can do is our best.

A few thoughts from the “other” side – “well, doesn’t she have it all figured out ?”

Being abandoned, makes us feel abandoned. Adult adoptees who found out later in life, prove this. They say they always felt like they didn’t belong, like they weren’t loved or couldn’t feel loved, even when it was shown – like a big piece of them was missing. It didn’t matter that nobody bothered to tell them there was a piece missing, they knew it.

And the empath stuff – I just CAN NOT. I feel like she read somewhere that adoptive mothers lean toward narcissism, and she’s just trying to say the opposite and have that take hold as a public opinion. This lady seems like a piece of work. I feel bad for her adoptee, because it’s sounds like mommy has it all figured out how to just side step her child’s experience of being traumatized at all. I’m honestly in awe of this person’s audacity. Just wow.

Lament and Repentance

From an adoptive parent’s perspective –

We became foster parents to “help the whole family” and adopted our son (met him at 5 weeks in the NICU, brought him home at 6 weeks, adopted him at 2 years). He was our 8th placement- some families we were able to be helpful towards more than others, I can see my failures or ignorance too.

We have kept a private Facebook page to keep biological parents updated with pictures and an ability to message. Some family members have a recent relationship with our son, and I feel like we have all gained family. BUT, the biological parents aren’t safe (actively using drugs).

I hear you adoptee’s. I hear how you hate adoption. I hear your lack of control, choice, autonomy. Hating that your name was changed, lost culture, lost history, lack of belonging, desire for real change in the system and legislation. I hear you. Your feelings are valid and real. Thank you for sharing with us and allowing us to learn and gain understanding and mourn with you.

As an adoptive parent, I sit in lament and repentance – over my ignorance (even after lots of books and trainings), my savior/rescuer habits and mentality, my selfishness and self centered ness. And I’m just sad with you, and sad with my child.

My question…What were things said to you/done/moments of clarity or understanding that helped you bond and attach to your adoptive parents? I understand it’s a journey and a process, but I still want emotional health and intelligence for my teen.

PS – have been in therapy with an adoption specialist for 3 years.

From an adoptee in response –

Do you have any idea how hard it is to love yourself as an adoptee ? F*** your bonding. Kids will bond to others when their brain says it’s safe. And some don’t at all. At the end of the day, the child may never naturally attach to you but that isn’t saying they won’t naturally attach to others. Trying to have those children identify non-biologicals as being the traditional family roles, when they do not actually fit (mom, dad, etc) is not helping make the kids feel like part of your family. It’s an attempt to replace the family they already have. It’s easier for you but it’s harmful for them. Look into support groups for kids of addicts. Keep learning more about active addiction and what is a threat and what is not. Actively support and promote a bond with the original parents, while teaching your adoptee boundaries and healthy coping.

Reunion Questions

If at 17 years old, adopted from foster care with no contact with your birth mother your entire life but now with an opportunity to ask some questions . . .

What would you as this adoptee ask your birth parents ? If you have been through such a reunion, what were the questions that you thought, in hindsight, weren’t helpful to potentially building a relationship ?

Some responses –

Ask for the family medical history. This one is one of the more important ones. This is what drove my mom to try and find her original mother and/or obtain her adoption file.

Ask how many biological siblings you have. This one lets you know if you are the only child of your birth parents or did they go on to have other children, maybe through a remarriage to someone who was not your original father as well.

Ask for the reason they chose whatever decisions they had in their power to make that led to you ending up in foster care. This one could be a tricky one, it may lead to defensiveness or in the best possible situation, at least regret, and even better, ultimately to a radical change in lifestyle.

If they relinquished for adoption, did they decide to do that early on at the beginning of the pregnancy or at the last moment just before birth or just after ? In both of the cases of my adoptee parents relinquishments, it appears that their original mothers actually tried very hard to keep their first born child, and in the case of my mom, the only child born to her mother.

Ask who your biological father was. Does she know how to contact him ?

On a sweeter, more intimate note (I know this was the kind of information I yearned for related to my mom’s mother that finally at the end of most of my discovery journey, I finally received from my mom’s cousins, the daughter’s of her youngest uncle, who were about my age) – ask her what her favorite foods are, what is her favorite color. Ask about her childhood memories and ask her to tell you something about her extended family members.

One says – “I really wanted to look at my birthmother, hear her voice, and look at her handwriting. Basically I wanted to see if I could find that mirror of who I am.” This is the personal connection many adoptees crave. I do believe my mom yearned for these kinds of experiences. I now have the adoption file that was denied her and one of the treasures are two examples of her personal writing, a post card and a brief letter (though I also have her signature on the surrender papers).

Another interesting perspective that I saw even with my mom who wanted something, though my dad claimed not to want it at all – it is a strange juncture for any adoptee to arrive at, when been raised by people with whom the adoptee has not genetic or biological connection but who were the actual parents and sibling’s in the childhood family –

I told them that I was not ready for a full relationship with them. I wanted them to know I was alive and wanted them to know I had an amazing childhood. My mom told me that as a mother, she would want to know that everything turned out okay for her child. In one case, the biological father started calling the adoptee, “daughter.” He was buying her things and saying “I Love You.” This made her feel very uncomfortable and so, she asked that he not do those things anymore. For this adoptee, she was not his daughter. Happily, he accepted her boundaries. She shares the rest of the story going forward – they are now Facebook friends. Today he is a little more involved in my her daily life. We talk by phone from time to time. She admits that she still does not have the feelings towards him that a raised biological child would (though some of my friends do not have good relationships in adulthood with their genetic, biological family today).

And sadly, this is always a possibility – “I’ve reached out to my birth mom and have been shut out – no answers to my questions. No desire for a relationship.” Yet, there is something you can do in this situation to bring you closure and comfort. Write a letter. Tell her everything you want her to know about you, your childhood, who you are now as a person. In this way, you end feeling you said everything you needed to say.

Caught In The Middle

Some circumstances in life are just plain hard to judge. I understand the point of view of this adoptive mother, even so, where is the compassionate middle ground. I haven’t decided. Here is one adoptive mother’s point of view –

I had to discuss with my son’s biological mom that there are boundaries and if she wanted to be involved in any way then she needed to understand them and honor them. My son is MY son, not hers. We came up with a special name that we refer to her as. Never mom. Also we discussed social media. She is never to address him as her son. He is not her son. She is to call him by his given name. I understand that biological moms have to deal with the emotional aspect but so do the adoptive moms. She is no longer his mother. A mother is far more than giving birth. A mother raises you and puts you first. I am very close with his biological mom. I have a great relationship with her for my son’s sake and it was a surrender. She was not forced in any way. But she is not his mother any longer. I am. I accept her role in his life as a special person who loves him. But I am his mother, not her. And she understands and respects that. She is thankful that I allow her to be a part of our family. I didn’t take his mom away from him. She took her role as mom away from herself including by making bad choices and choosing drugs over parenting. I’m his mom and will always be. She will always be a special person in his life but never his mom. Advice to other adoptive moms – set boundaries and don’t let biological moms walk all over you. Let them know their role in the family now.

The person who revealed this mindset commented – I find this very sad and very controlling. What if the child decided one day to call his birth mom “mom” ? She can’t call him her son ? This is sad. Birth parents grieve too. They hurt too. Even parents from foster care. They grieve. They lost their child. I wish we can offer empathy to birth parents especially from foster care instead of looking down on them and using innocent children to hurt them and the child.

I do feel that putting a child in the middle of this situation isn’t fair to the child. The same kind of thing happens very often in divorce. I remember trying to walk that difficult middle ground. “You still have a mother who loves you. And you still have a father who loves you. But we are not going to all live together anymore.” Life is complicated enough. So how to simplify the situation suggested above ?

I do agree with this perspective – “I’m sure the only reason the biological mother agrees with this is so she can have something to do with her son. There is a difference between a ‘mom’ and a ‘mother’ but it is ultimately up to the child to decide how to view each one of these women. Not the biological mom or the adoptive mom.” These two should not be playing their own issues off with the child caught in the middle.

Someone else disagreed and I do see this point as well – No difference between a mother and mom to me. I have two moms and two mothers. Same difference. It’s not confusing. I see no reason to distinguish a difference or set them apart.

And in fact, this is a valid point – If it wasn’t for the biological mom, the adoptive mom wouldn’t even have her son in the first place. I don’t give a damn if the biological mother’s rights where legally severed, she is still his mom at the end of the day and always will be the woman who gave birth to him.

I am still seeking what I sense is an important middle ground. I understand the need for the adoptive mother to be the final say in most of what happens in this child’s life, to maintain her parental authority to make decisions – at least for a minor child. Yet, emotions and feelings are less clear. I believe that most children actually are capable of keeping the two women in a separate yet proper perspective. My heart tells me that is the truth.

What I am sensing is a possessiveness, an ownership of one person over the love of another person, by putting the magical role of motherhood into the middle of this situation. As the divorced mother of a daughter who’s step-mother married her father and so, the two of them raised my daughter, I already understand what a difficult balancing act these situations are. I did attempt to put my daughter’s feelings and interests ahead of my own. My daughter and I have discussed how similar her childhood was to that of someone who was adopted.

Is It OK ?

Is it appropriate ? I adopted my daughter thru foster care. I never met her mom or any of her family. I found them on social media and really want to reach out. Is that inappropriate? My circle is against it. They don’t understand the trauma associated with adoption. I know she has aunts and lots of cousins but I know almost nothing else. I won’t pretend they don’t exist. They are a part of her story and eventually my daughter will probably want to know about them.

About that circle of friends ? They don’t understand what and how it will effect your adopted daughter.

Additional information – this child is 2 years old. Some perspectives. If she’s very young, reach out to a few of the adults and go from there.

If she’s old enough to understand what’s happening, then she should be in charge of this decision. In that case, she may be ready right now, she may not be, or she may want to just look at their accounts for a while, before reaching out. Make certain, it’s her decision if she’s older.

This one could have been my adoptee dad’s perspective, if he had had the possibility – I found my birth parents through social media. I wish I hadn’t reached out but I did and the interaction was fine. Be careful, sometimes it’s better not knowing …

In response to that, someone else asks – do you think this adoptive parent can act as a buffer to mitigate any difficult feelings that may arise as a result of contacting the first family? I had a lot of hard feelings when I met my biological dad and his family, but not knowing was worse.

The response was – no, I don’t think even Jesus Christ himself could mitigate those feelings. I go back and forth about knowing and not knowing. Not knowing was hard, but knowing and having to face the reality of my genetics is harder. My first people are selfish and the reason I was relinquished was so they could party and have no responsibility. My male first person is wealthy, has always been and they had the means to care for me. They told me they just didn’t want to parent. Those feelings I hold towards them do not taint my thoughts on this particular question.

Adoptee Reunions do not always succeed in happy endings as this comment shares – sometimes I wish I would have just watched my birth parents and my birth siblings lives on social media from afar and never reached out. Our reunion eventually went south and it sucks. They made our reunion about them and refused to respect my trauma and my boundaries.

There was this emphatic response – Not inappropriate – please do! You can’t be sure how they’ll respond but at least trying is the best thing you can do for your adopted daughter

Parentification

This was a new term for me and came out of one of the stories I read recently conveyed by a foster parent. Here’s the story –

I am currently fostering a 14 year old. They were removed because of trauma from a family member who is not their mom but who still lives with their mom. Mom refuses to ask this person to leave or to move into a different apartment, but is otherwise doing what is asked of her to work towards reunification. Today this kid told me they really want to be reunified, which makes perfect sense. I’m worried because this seems unlikely unless mom starts believing them and takes steps to cut their perpetrator out of her life. How do I support them? If you were in their shoes, what would you want from a foster caregiver? I’m also worried because many of the reasons this kid states for wanting to reunify are to care for their mom. It’s not my place to make the judgment calls, but it seems from the outside like a case of parentification. Add to this that I’ve heard this child talk about how much they wish they had been given the opportunity that their peers had to “just be a kid”.

So what is parentification ? Parentification is when the roles are reversed between a child and a parent, a toxic family dynamic that is rarely talked about and is even accepted as the norm in some cultures. However, research has found that it can have far-reaching negative psychological impacts. It is a functional and/or emotional role reversal in which the child sacrifices his or her own needs for attention, comfort, and guidance in order to accommodate and care for the logistical and emotional needs of a parent and/or sibling.

One response was this from experience – my parents put me in foster care briefly when I was suicidal from the pressure of being a “good kid” and experiencing their abuse. I wanted to go back to them to protect my brother. I feel for the teen. I would have this child in therapy now to begin processing those emotions of responsibility. I’m 24 and still struggle with guilt that my brother may have suffered when I was gone or what would have happened if I’d stayed gone. My mom would’ve likely lost her mind. She did – when I went to college. My best advice is therapy for the child while in your care, and perhaps talk to a therapist about how you could best talk to their mom about her removing that person in the home. My mom chose my dad over me often, so I feel for the teen.

Another one shared – Unfortunately this might be something that never fully goes away. I was like this, the eldest child who took care of the family from a very young age and getting rid of that guilt and the “needing to take care of them feeling” has been very very resistant to therapy. I think the best you can do is just try to be empathetic, don’t make them feel like they’re acting too old or whatever (mine did that and it really fucked with my head) just be kind and remind them they can relax and do things for themselves, even if they don’t listen.

This one touched my heart, because I am the oldest as well. I was not in an awful situation but I have always felt a sense of responsibility for my two sisters. Our parents died only 4 months apart (high school sweethearts married for over 50 years). From the first day I returned to my family after my mom died first, I found myself having to take over financial responsibility for my sisters that my mom had been financially providing, making me in effect “the mom”. Then, after our dad died too, I had to ask the court to appoint someone to assist my youngest sister with her finances. She is likely a paranoid schizophrenic with very weird ideas about the way money functions. The court agreed to appoint a conservator. My sister and I have struggled. What had been a really good relationship before was destroyed when our mom died. Our mom had a poor relationship with my sister for over a decade and my sister’s feelings about that transferred to me when my mom died and I had to take over the family finances.

Also this interesting perspective – I cared for a teen relative of mine last year similar situation. As soon as she could legally, she returned to mom and the abuser to care for her siblings again and her mom. This is what she had been taught was the only way to get attention, love etc from mom. The best way we found to help her was to enroll her in a group for teens about healthy relationships at our local Domestic Violence shelter. She also did therapy with someone she selected and equine psychotherapy which helped her with attachment a lot. While she was here, we focused on just reminding her of our unconditional love and building trust in our relationship. Even though she went back, it didn’t take long for all of that to help her see how to set boundaries with mom, identify unsafe situations with abuser and start to come out of some of the fog. It’s still complicated but she isn’t engrained and I see her setting more healthy boundaries. We (and her dad) are still safe people she can come too and does. It took about 6 months of us just watching from a distance and being supportive regardless. In your situation, maybe focus on staying neutral and asking for a CASA or Guardian ad Litem to help with the other side of the coin. Having a mentor also really helped my relative. It was someone closer to her age that she could confide in and she is still actively talking to that person now. Maybe your foster youth could use a mentor because they aren’t a therapist but can be a sounding board. Also a lifeline if the youth returns and ‘adults’ get cut off from that person. (I say adults because the mentors we have had are usually 25 or younger and parents don’t see them like they do a 40 year old caseworker).