When Adoption Fails

There is a dark and dirty little secret in adoptionland that goes by the name of “rehoming”.   It’s usually the oldest in a sibling group adopted from foster care the adoptive parents want to get rid of. Clearly, adopting an entire sibling group just to obtain a baby/toddler is common. Rehoming is also sadly too common. It’s always the littlest ones the adoptive parents want to keep.

One adoptive parent wrote – “If you heard screams echoing out of the mountains on September 9, it was me. Along with most other parents of adopted children, I was horrified with the news about ‘rehoming.’ Once again, members of a group we belong to were becoming infamous. Once again, we were as shocked as those who don’t belong to our group. As always, we knew we would be answering questions about why people in our group do what they do.”

“As adoptive parents, aren’t we supposed to be the vanguard for saving children? Aren’t we supposed to be the forefront of child protection? Those misconceptions are part of the problem.”

A plan to adopt begins with selfish reasons, and then evolves.  The challenges that face adoptive parents are often different from those that plague biological family builders. The author of that piece goes on to say, “I know because I have built my family both ways. Even though challenges are different, they are tough, regardless. Is it easy for biological parents of children who are born with severe autism? Of course not! Do they abandon their child? Here’s the point: A few of them do. Most of these parents pull themselves up by their bootstraps and go to work on being the best parents and advocates they can be for their challenged child. Others will walk away. Some of the children of these parents will spend their childhood and youth on a carousel in and out of different foster homes.”

This is what can happen when adoptive parents don’t put their responsibilities to a child before their own personal desires for a beautiful harmonious family life.

Some adoptive parents of children with very difficult circumstances say that people who haven’t adopted don’t “understand” how difficult it can be, and they should not point fingers unless they have “been there.”  The author of the op-ed shares, “My adopted daughter loves us and we love her, even though we travel a rough and rocky road. I think there is something very important that is often overlooked. When all we can do isn’t enough, we still need to do everything we can do.”

Attachment problems.  When children are taken away from caregivers after attaching, it causes severe trauma. The more times it happens, the worse it gets. And just like other forms of trauma, each individual processes and handles it differently.

In foster to adopt, the prospective adoptive parents can send a kid back to the State’s care if the situation does not seem to be working out. Another aspect with foster to adopt is that the State can put a stop to the adoption intention at any time if it judges the situation will not serve the interests of the child.

Rehoming is a monstrous act. When our laws allow a parent to turn over their child to a stranger with less paperwork and legal work than it takes to dispose of a car that doesn’t have a title, then something is broken and it needs to be fixed.  No parent should be able to dump their children willy-nilly.

Somehow Adoption Continues

Catch me if you can.  Has the effort to adopt hit a pause button given the current circumstances ?  It seems it has not.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, our daily lives have all been affected in a way that none of us were anticipating just a few weeks ago. So you might think that now isn’t the ideal time to consider adoption.  The for profit adoption industry does not think so.

One adoption blog seems to be saying “now is actually a great time to begin or reinvigorate your adoption plans. Difficult times bring a greater need for adoptive parents.  Adoptions have increased in the past few weeks because women want more for their children and babies. They are turning to adoption during the coronavirus.”

Desperate times seem to increase desperation.  Somehow we lose the sense that this is all temporary.  The uncertainty causes us to question our ability to meet the challenge and survive.

This adoption agency wants to encourage more adoptions, even in the midst of this crisis, it appears that they have sensed this as a marketing opportunity.  They note – “with the world in turmoil and with financial situations uncertain, we find that more women are contacting us, looking for a stable, loving family to adopt their baby. They love their child enough to do what is best for them. They know they need a family stable enough to weather the storm. A family that will be able to protect and care for their child no matter the circumstances.”

Well fear does this to people but the decision to surrender your child is a permanent solution.  It actually reflects a lack of trust that the future will be better and that we will all get through this somehow.  It causes a young woman to doubt herself as capable.  This is a sad state of affairs.

It is true that people are generally stressed now.  That should not make it a good time to take advantage of a woman in a state of hyped up fear.  One expectant mother shared what she is going through right now –

“Some family friends of mine are giving their (unsolicited) opinion that I should seriously consider adoption since I am currently unemployed and it is not realistic for me to get a job amidst the virus, being pregnant and having had asthma as a kid. They seem to think I need to make the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ and give her ‘a good life’. If the only people who can give a child a good life are the few that can properly afford to adopt, then huge demographics of people are morally wrong for having children apparently. Including the people who said I should place her. I was so upset that I was crying yesterday, just for being told that.”

Let’s have more compassion people.

So Much To Worry About

We are ALL being forced to live through perhaps one of the most extraordinary times in our collective generations history.  It will certainly be long remembered and remarked upon.  We can not see clearly where all of this disruption will leave our country and the world, much less our families and our selves.

It is crucial that we learn to manage the anxiety.  I had to recently make a point to my own husband that his anxiety was not healthy for me.  That if I had a heart attack I could end up in the place where I really don’t want to be at this time (though truth be told, I never want to end up there for that reason).

It is a moral and social responsibility incumbent upon each of us to do our best to minimize our own role in and help to curtail the spread of this contagion.  We are all having to make adjustments and modifications to the way we would prefer to be living.  We are having to give up those things we like to do best in favor of not doing much of anything that we can’t do in our very own homes.

This can be a challenge for anyone with children in their home.  It is best to be truthful in an age appropriate manner.  I heard a young child at the grocery store yesterday ask their mother, “why can’t I touch things ?”  It is definitely a teaching moment and where day care is necessary for those who must continue to work – good hygiene and distancing can even be taught to young children.

So, I want to say to you today – It’s OK to be worried. It’s normal and it isn’t an overreaction. If that is how you feel, it’s your feelings. Feelings can’t be wrong.

It has helped in our family to have a plan.  I am the most likely to become infected because I am the supply officer for my family.  We are fortunate that we have always lived this way (though there are a few more inconveniences and necessary actions that weren’t necessary before).  We have a home-based business and our children have always been educated at home.  We have less to adapt to and we also live in sparsely populated rural wilderness.  Not always an advantage but at the moment, one we are grateful for.

 

Without Us

It is difficult being a woman.  It is difficult being a mother.  It is difficult being a wife, a daughter or a sister.  Sometimes it is difficult having women friends.  Today is International Women’s Day.

I was in a difficult romantic relationship with a dangerous man. He lived in dangerous ways and he was dangerous for my own self to be with. More than once he physically hit me. I’m not denying that my own behavior may have pushed him over the edge those times but I also know that whatever holds a man back from harming a woman, if he is able to break through that barrier even once, the risk then exists that it will be easier for him to go through that same barrier the next time. So eventually I left his physical presence. I planned my leaving carefully to be able to safely go. I saved money from what was allotted to me for groceries by buying wisely over a long period of time and I left without saying goodbye. After I was safely at a distance, I notified him that I wasn’t coming back.

It took that courage of leaving to put me into alignment with meeting my husband, so I could live in this deeply nourishing place where I feel very safe and am contented. And it took other actions too, like being brave enough to place a personal ad in a weekly entertainment newspaper in St Louis, without which I would have never come in contact with the man I married a little over a year later. Traveling through life is a lot like being in a car where I always know that I can never actually get truly “lost”. All roads eventually go somewhere and one can always backtrack and find a “somewhere” that we recognize. Leaving can be like backtracking to where you were comfortably confident in your own self, after the damage an abusive relationship can inflict upon a person. I know that all experiences – the good and the bad – end up somewhere else eventually. In that there is a great deal of comfort and a real confidence for living through it all.

My family supports the regional women and children’s shelter.  They support women and their children to survive domestic violence and end up in a better place.  They help keep mothers and their children together.  If you have the opportunity to do anything that will keep a mother together with her children, please consider doing so.  The future of our humanity depends on us being here.

Difficult Circumstances

In the world of children at risk there are adoptive parents and foster parents.  Beyond the children, there are their own natural parents to consider.  So, if you are raising someone else’s kids . . . maybe the natural parents don’t like you simply because you have their kids and they don’t.

Maybe they don’t agree with your parenting style, they think you are snooty, they don’t like going by your rules and parameters to see their children.  Maybe the natural parents sense you could cut them off from seeing their children.

Maybe if you are a foster parent, the natural parents worry you will fight against their getting their kids back.

Maybe either substitute parent just thinks you as the natural parent dress funny.

Bottom line, the substitute parents simply do not like you.

What would you as the natural parent do to improve a situation like this ?

Though it is not my situation, I’ve seen a similar situation up close and personal with my middle sister’s son.  It is actually a tragic circumstance where the paternal grandparents gained custody and the paternal grandmother attempted to poison my nephew against our family.  A situation that has not resolved itself and sadly – at the moment – he has closed the door to all contact with us.

There Can Be No Denying

Becoming adopted will never be a natural circumstance.  There is a loss of security and certainty in having been adopted that cannot be prevented.  For whatever reason, an adoptee has been torn away from those who gave themselves to that life.

There cannot be other than a sense of abandonment and rejection.  And not knowing the reasons and causes only makes it worse.  That is why closed adoptions are not good and yet, there are fears attached to open adoptions as well.  A fear of intrusion and difficult people making difficult demands and confusion as to who holds the authority over one’s life.

Life is a hard school.  There’s no denying that.  Adoptees have to contend with some harsh realities, no matter how much those people who do care about them try to minimize the effects.

Some will crumble under the reality and some will find within their own self a strength that requires no one else.  Some will find the way to make the most of a bad situation and some will fight and struggle against what is all the days of their life.

While every person born faces challenges, those faced by adoptees are an added layer of complication that only they can meet and must meet in their own personal efforts to somehow rise above.

The Original Mother

There are a total of 4 women in my immediate family who have relinquished a child – both of my grandmothers and both of my sisters.  I have a lot of compassion for every one of them.

The level of pain that such a mother may feel depends a lot on the time frame and reason for the relinquishment. I know for certain 2 of the mothers were coerced or forced.  I know that 3 of the adoptions were “closed” and only one was “open”.  That last one was my youngest sister who made the decision to relinquish from the moment she knew she was pregnant and vetted prospective adoptive parents and utilized private attorneys to facilitate the process.

Many such mothers have accepted some seriously false beliefs about themselves –
I would have been a terrible mother and my child is better off.
My child must hate me.
My child will never forgive me.
My child will never believe how much I wanted them.

These mothers also carry with them understandable fears –
Meeting their child and disappointing them.
Facing their child’s anger.
Never knowing what happened to the child.
If it was a secret, family members finding out.
Finding out the child was mistreated or needs help.
The child showing up one day at one’s workplace.
The child never trying to find them.

Within these mothers are many possible responses –
Feeling guilt and regret.
An inability to move on.
Breaking down and crying when thinking about one’s child.
Angry outbursts (caused by bottled up feelings).
Feeling guilty when others talk about their children.
Wondering what one’s child looks like.
Fantasizing about a reunion.
Anger at those who didn’t help them when they needed it most.
Jealous of the adoptive parents but wishing them well for the child’s sake.
Depression around the time of the child’s birthday,                                                                  as well as the day they were given up.
A deep sense of loss that never abates.

Even so, such women have some admirable strengths – they are idealistic, private, protective, resourceful and unselfish

Sometimes, their deep pain is triggered, even after many years, if they happen to run into their child’s father.  Certainly, birthdays and holidays will always be difficult reminders.  TV commercials featuring babies may move them to tears and thoughts of their own child.  And movies about adoption, depending on the emotional content, may be impossible to watch through to the end.

There is one important opportunity that such a mother should not neglect, regardless of the fears connected to it – that is, allowing contact by their relinquished child.

Overburdened By A Need To Be Grateful

The adopted child has many challenges but one of the most unique may be this sense that they should be grateful to the adoptive parents for having taken them into the family.

Often unacknowledged is the loss that precedes all adoptions.

That loss is profound regardless of the reason the child was separated from its original parents to begin with.  In that separation the child experiences many complicated emotions.  There can be differences between the child and the adoptive family that become ever more obvious with the passage of time and that no one is at fault for – other than the fact of the adoption.

Such differences can include – ethnicity, physical features, preferences, and intellectual abilities, or being told they are somehow “special” or the “chosen one” by the family.  Simply being adopted sets the child apart from most of their peers.

A syndrome referred to as being caused by the adoption itself leads to a strong desire to understand the mystery of having been adopted in the first place.  A desire to know the people one has been born of and the conflicted feelings about wanting to know people who it seems to the child they have been rejected or abandoned by.

Even when the adoption is “open” (both sets of parents are at the least in contact with one another) or a “reunion” with the biological family occurs, differences in nurturing and life experiences may make even one’s genetic relations seem alien.