Adoption Vows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here was one suggestion –

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

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

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

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

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

Birthday Blues

My birthday usually falls near the Memorial Day weekend. Many years, I had a L-O-N-G celebration of existing. It was a happy and self-affirmative occasion.

However, when I began to learn about the trauma associated with adoption, I discovered that the day an adoptee was born is not a happy occasion for many of these persons. It is a reminder of abandonment, rejection or at the least, that the parents from who their life descended are not raising them.

Until an adoptee matures and begins to break through the fog of how wonderful it was that they were adopted narrative, many wonder why they act out or sabotage their own birthday celebrations. What is wrong with them ? Everyone else seems happy to celebrate their birthday.

And now I understand better and can see the difference between my own birthday and an adoptee’s. I remember as well there was some confusion about my own mother’s actual birthdate, though eventually it settled on January 31st and now that I have her adoption file – I see the errors and their eventual correction.

Yesterday, I watched a youtube video the Birthday Episode by My Adoption Story by Lilly Fei and the conflicted feelings, which I remember my own mom having about her adoption are so obvious. Two things stood out for me – when she said she was “found” and how she described the way some international adoptions of transracial children involve the child having birth dates that are estimated based upon physical characteristics because the actual date of birth is unknown.

One adoptee writes – One reason I hate my birthday is because its a celebration of the day I was born and then placed in a nursery just sitting there because my birth mom didn’t want to get attached by holding me. It annoys me that this reason even bothers me, but it definitely does. People who aren’t adopted have great stories about the day they were born and how all these people came to see them and hold them and there are pictures. Yeah that doesn’t really exist if you’re adopted.

Many adoptees feel anger and negative emotions that are understandably directed at their birth family…It is not actually the birthday itself. Yet unavoidably the birthday is a reminder of what happened – back then – so each year, when that birthday rolls around, it all comes back into sharp and painful focus. It is what was done to that baby, for whatever reason at the time of birth, that is the actual problem.

One possible strategy for an adoptee is to change the focus of their birthday. Take a few or even several hours of time out on your birthday. Just you – go somewhere you really like, and reflect, alone, on your current goals and how you hope to achieve them. Keep your thoughts written down. Look at them a few times during the following year. Then when the next birthday rolls around, go over your thoughts again and revise them for the current reality. One adoptee found this kind of birthday event to be helpful in overcoming the birthday blues.

One other suggestion is to deal with all of your negative feelings BEFORE your birthday. Don’t avoid them because then you will feel sad that day. By acknowledging your feelings and seeking to understand what they are trying to tell you, you can then let them go for that day and celebrate the fact that you are resilient, you are a survivor, you are worthy to be loved and celebrated, you rock this life (even though you have that trauma of having been adopted).

For more insight, you may wish to read this Medium essay titled Birthday Blues. Adrian Jones says – “There is one certainty with my birthday: I will find a way to sabotage it. As sure as the sun rises each morning, my birthday will somehow become a fiasco. For most of my life it has been like this. I wish it would stop, but it won’t.” He goes on to write what he has discovered is the source of his pain and the anxiety he feels as his birthday approaches –

“You see, I’m adopted. Born a bastard, I was separated from my biological mother at birth. The woman I spent nine months preparing to meet was gone in an instant. In my most vulnerable state, I was motherless. Without mother. At the time, I was overcome by a high degree of trauma, a trauma that cannot be undone. Worse, this trauma is precognitive. I, like millions of my adoptee crib mates, do not know what life is like without trauma, as we were introduced to life in such a traumatic state. Due to recent scientific studies, we know this to be true. Babies are born expecting to meet their mothers, hear their voices, smell their scents, taste their milk.  When their mothers are not available, they become traumatized. If puppies and kittens must stay with their birth mothers for a few weeks before being adopted, why is it okay to separate a newborn from her mother at first breath?”

There is much more to read in that essay. I highly recommend it.

Licensed

First it was the Gotcha Day announcements and parties related to adoptions.  Now the promotions have moved into the field of foster care.

Starry eyed.  When someone thinks getting a foster care license is such a difficult accomplishment that it needs to be celebrated publicly as this huge deal, that’s a red flag. Truth is, it’s easy to become a foster parent.

The stork with the baby and the baby bottle images hint at a broader agenda and that is – to participate in what is known as foster to adopt – which is often an easier path to adopting an infant or young toddler than traditional adoption.  And the “no cravings” remark must be alluding to pregnancy and the well-known strange cravings for certain foods a pregnant woman experiences.

And it seems to be a thing also to have a “foster shower” and an Amazon wish list when announcing that one intends to foster children.

As a reality check, when becoming licensed to foster children, as the graphic indicates in its unique manner, you have to define age groups and number of kids. You have to have beds and maybe change some rooms around for the age requirements.  You can’t get licensed for specific ages without having space and furniture (beds) for that age group. If you wanted to be open to all ages, you have to have a crib (and basic baby supplies), toddler bed and twin bed minimum.

One foster parent did say however, “when older siblings of little ones we were fostering came into care we were able to take them with minimal fuss, no additional training required.”  Which is a good thing.

People approaching foster care like the announcement suggests often claim they have worked through the loss of being infertile completely. Once they are finally “called” to foster with the expectation they will adopt a newborn, they need baby announcements with storks, do gender reveals and big baby showers, seek attention and have professional photo shoots in hospital beds and wheelchairs.  Doing it all – so it appears to be the same circumstance as someone who has given birth. It’s delusional and not the same.

And finally, I can’t help but ask – didn’t their “training” mention to them that the objective of fostering is family reunification ?  This expression is actually celebrating the worst tragedy and trauma this family of origin is likely to see. Comparing it in any fashion to birth, pregnancy, a stork dropping a baby at your door is tone deaf and gross. Given that these kids needs are provided for through a government stipend, I also cannot imagine asking anyone for gifts.

Yes, This Is A Thing

This celebrates a child leaving foster care because they have been adopted.

To be certain, any sort of celebration of adoption day is only for the adoptive parents… adoption day for adoptees is a loss. It’s a legal severing of an adoptee’s ties to their biological family and biological roots. It is the culmination of trauma, and is the start of new traumas. It also feeds the savior image of foster/adoptive parents, which is terribly insulting to adoptees and isn’t accurate. In the cases where non-kinship adoption is unavoidable, it should be done privately and discretely. The story belongs to the adoptee, only they never had the power to decide or say what they actually wanted – in most cases, an intact family into which they were born.

Children’s brains and emotional intelligence that aren’t fully developed yet. Their nervous system is screaming “yay permanency! Woot woot!” And the only way a kid knows how to celebrate is a party; or a certificate; or gifts; or social media posts; and whatever else they’ve seen other former foster youth or adoptees do.

What they ARE NOT able to process is 1) adoption DOESN’T guarantee a ‘forever home’ at all 2) what’s happening to them is trauma– not a celebration 3) even if they DO end up with a forever home, it may be an eternity of pure unadulterated hell (mentally, emotionally, relationally) 4) the “permanence” also means their actual biological family history and heritage and traditions, etc are now permanently gone and the list goes on and on. They’re unable to look at it from a 30,000 ft view and understand the gravity and finality of it all.

Really the issue comes down to NOT celebrating a child’s adoption publicly and not even within the family if possible.  This doesn’t mean to invalidate whatever feelings and emotions a child may be having – especially about getting out of the uncertainty of foster care and multiple placements.  However, adult adoptees will tell you that as they aged and could reflect from a mature perspective – being adopted is always fraught and traumatic – even in the best of circumstances.

Many adoptees spend much of their life in a “happy fog” trying their best to be grateful for this un-natural thing that happened to them – not in their control nor with their conscious approval – usually by adults and the legal system.  Best to go as minimal and low-key about it all as you possibly can, no more than privately within the immediate family, if celebrated at all.

Gotcha Day

It is hard to believe but it is true, some families actually celebrate the legal finalizing of a child’s great loss as something like a birthday or holiday.  Gotha Day is actually a real thing.  I suppose it truly is a happy moment for them. But it seems to mistake what is happy for them when it is also a very sad day for others.

This official transfer of a child is a loss for the birth parents as well as their child. It is likely the natural mom and maybe the natural dad as well have never cried harder than they ever did that day they signed those papers giving another couple the legal right to call their child someone else’s own child. It is bittersweet. Nothing more and nothing less.

Now that I know about the wounds of adoption, it is even harder for me to accept that my adoptee mom actually had the nerve to encourage my sister to give up her daughter for adoption. Unbelievable but true and that is the reality.

Our own parents (both adoptees) were not willing to risk financial responsibility and so made it literally impossible for my sister to care for her daughter/their granddaughter as she would surely have done had she had adequate support. My sister even tried to get government assistance but was told that our parents wealth made her ineligible because she was living in their home due to her pregnancy. Another unbelievable but true fact.

Gotcha day is what some adoptive parents call the day the birth parents signed their rights away and often that is the day that the adoption agency and the adoptive parents stopped talking to the natural parents. They all got what they came for – except someone else had to lose to make that possible.

The adoptive parents now have possession and control.

Hope Springs Eternal

It is a story as old as humanity.  The rebirth through time of the species.  Every child spends time in its mother’s womb.  Every child carries the seeds of its father.  Every human being is precious.

Sadly, many children are born into humble beginnings.  Just as the old Christmas story tells us of the struggles of the young family who give birth in a stable for animals because there was no room for them at the inn.

All of us who live have reason to be grateful.  No one promised us a rose garden on being birthed into physicality but many many humans have proven to us that anyone with enough persistence and determination can change the circumstances of their life.

When times are exceedingly difficult, we can be comforted with knowing that change is constant.  When times are abundantly good for us, we should remember that this too is likely to pass into something else.

Christmas Eve is a time when the whole world hopes for peace, goodwill towards men.  However you celebrate and whether you celebrate or not, may your holidays be blessed with warmth, loving souls around you and harmony for at least some few moments so that you too know that it is possible.