When Something Doesn’t Feel Right

From Slate.com’s Dear Prudence.

Titled – Help! I Think the Kids We’re About to Adopt Are Being Wrongfully Taken From Their Family.

Subtitled – The parents may be incarcerated, but the extended family seems totally qualified to raise them.

My husband and I (both white men) decided to become foster parents several years ago, with the ultimate goal of eventually adopting. We took the classes and our first placement came to us in September 2020, during the pandemic. In my estimation, we have done an excellent job with the day-to-day, but something has come up that I’m at a loss about. I’ll try to be brief.

In short, the agency has decided that the children’s extended family (they are two siblings, both parents are incarcerated for unknown “drug-related” reasons) is ill-equipped to care for them, despite owning a home, seeming to have a stable income, and already having raised two children previously. They have asked us to step in and proceed with a full adoption. My husband wants to do this as he has always wanted children, and these two are pretty awesome. I am very hung up on a number of things that can be boiled down to: I feel like we are stealing someone else’s kids. We don’t know (and the agency won’t say, for “privacy” reasons) why the parents are incarcerated, and we don’t know why the extended family has been ruled out and denied custody (they really seem fine, stable, nice, and they are interested in the kids), also for “privacy” reasons.

This seems insane to me. What if the parents are in jail for possession, or some other goofy crime that God knows I’ve committed 8,000 times myself (in bygone years)? What if the extended family is perfectly fine but has been precluded due to some bureaucratic nonsense issue like lacking paperwork? We live in a large urban area and the foster system is known, according to them, for its diligence, but this still feels icky. Both our families are pro the adoption, and I’m the only one pointing out red flags. They think it’s because I’m not “fully committed” to the idea of adoption or having kids, but I can tell you I’ve been agonizing over this and can’t get past the lack of data we have on how the kids have come to this point. They are Latinx kids caught up in foster care and the carceral state. Am I overthinking this? Should we trust the agency’s process? What should I do?

I don’t entirely agree with Prudence’s response – but here it is.

I think your concerns are very, very real and very thoughtful. But the thing is, they are about the system, not about this one adoption. Declining to move forward won’t free your kids from that system and all of its problems—it will (as far as I know; hopefully a reader will correct me if I’m off base here) simply lead to them being placed with another family that may or may not be as loving and sensitive as you are.

I think you should do it, and make it a priority to give the kids as much contact as possible with their family of origin, and as much reassurance as possible that they are not terrible people. So no, you’re not overthinking it at all. You are thinking about it the perfect amount. And I have a feeling you’ll put the same amount of thought into all the future aspects of raising Latinx kids and the many complicated issues that come with being an adoptive parent.

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.

Hopes & Wishes

For some time now, I’ve been writing these adoption related blogs every day. I don’t think I have missed many, if I’ve even missed any. I often wonder what there is left to say . . . and then something arises and off my fingers go to type up a new one.

I know my perspectives have grown since I started writing these. A lot of credit for that goes to my all things adoption Facebook group – where I often find stories and perspectives to pass along here without revealing any sensitive or private details. I hope that by sharing these, my readers also find their perspectives broadening along the way.

When I first joined that group, it wasn’t long before one of the members called me out on my unicorns and rainbows happy perspectives on adoption. It hurt at the time but it was an important wake up call and I do believe I have emerged entirely from what is known as adoptionland fog.

Because both of my parents were adopted and both of my sisters gave up babies to adoption, what is actually a VERY UN-NATURAL practice seemed entirely normal to me. Yet, now that I know who my grandparents are – I’ve added their birthdates to my annual birthday calendar – because I wasn’t able to acknowledge them in their lifetimes. It matters to me.

I now think of my adoptive grandparents and aunts, uncles and cousins as placeholders for the real thing I lacked. This isn’t a judgement of them. They probably all viewed it as natural to our lives as I did but it really isn’t. I don’t even think of them as related to me anymore. But I do have a history with them and have felt their love and concern over the years, especially during my own childhood.

And adoptionland IS changing slowly but surely, one family at a time. In my all things adoption group, expectant mothers are often encouraged and even financially supported to the best of our ability (such as with Amazon gift registries) to keep their babies. It is more of a walk the walk than simply talk the talk group and I am proud of that.

Adoptees and former foster care youth are PRIVILEGED voices in that group, as they should be for they have the direct experience to open the minds and hearts of the public in general. Many people who have already adopted are learning to be more sensitive and to do the already reality situation better, including honesty, truthfulness and attempts to keep their adopted children connected to their biological/genetic families and at times, even culture (when that is different than the adoptive parents’ own culture).

My hope and certainly my wish is for our society to be more supportive of struggling families in EVERY WAY POSSIBLE and to see adoption no longer a choice that couples realizing infertility feel privileged to make – taking some other family’s baby to pretend that child was born to them.

A change it is a comin’ and I am grateful to be part of that. Happy New Year.

Is It Really The Same ?

It often comes up in the adoption group I am a member of whether it is really possible to love adopted and genetically related (biological) children equally.  Many doubt it and some from experience.

A woman who gave up a child for adoption writes –

I am not sure if I could love an adopted child the same. I mean, it would be a child so of course I would love them. But love them as my own? I can’t honestly say yes.

People always point out how my son and I are so similar. Yes we look alike. But he has my anxiety, my compassion, my sensitive nature. If I had adopted a child, if people told me we were so much alike, some part of me would think they were just pacifying me.

I can’t imagine being adopted and having these thoughts. I struggle with the fact that I have a family member out there that I sentenced to these thoughts. I wish there was a lifelong revocation period for real.

An adoptee responds –

I used to laugh at people when they said me and my a dad look so much alike- we don’t. I used to love to say- that’s funny cause I’m adopted, just to make them feel silly. Somehow it made me feel better to discredit the mention of resemblance.

One woman made the point that an adoptive parent simply has no “biological” obligation to the adopted child.  That is hard to argue with.  A legal obligation certainly.  A financial obligation, one would hope.  I know my mom had told me her adoptive parents couldn’t disinherit her and her adopted brother because Texas law forbid that.

One woman notes she has seen this in spaces where the adoptive parents can remain anonymous. She says, adoptive mothers who have both biological and adopted children do validate the inequality, especially if put in the context of a theoretical question like – “if the house was on fire…who would you save ?”..  Certainly, adoptive parents who have only adopted children do believe they love them the same as if they were their “own” offspring but when the comparison is there in reality ?, that clarifies the issue.

A very honest example matches my illustration above –

I was raised by my natural mom but we are very different people. My next sibling and her always clicked in this way that she and I never did and it definitely f**ked with me.

I don’t know if it’s related but the entire narrative about how you’re supposed to love an adopted or fostered kid from the getgo “like they were your own” always struck me as really f**king bonkers and super gross and violent towards the kid in question.

Like, you’re strangers. They don’t even know if they’re gonna like you yet, leave them the alone and let them figure out their feelings in their own time and space.

One more, as an adoptive parent I would never speak for all adoptive parents, but in my experience as both a mother to a biological and an adopted child, it is NOT the same. There is more nuance, more complexity, more layers. I have often likened it to a marriage commitment. I choose to love her no matter what. Sometimes the feelings are there; sometimes they’re not. But I would also say that it’s true for every relationship. True love is a commitment and a daily choice.

Be sure to choose love regardless of whether the child is adopted or your own.  Love is a state of being and how one acts towards another person.  Love does not need a genetic relationship to exist.  If the love isn’t there, find yourself a good therapist !!

Grandmother

The photo is not the person I wish to acknowledge.  I know a woman who is a grandmother and her role in her grandson’s life was crucial.  Her youngest son impregnated a young woman.  The couple was not only unprepared to marry but not actually ready to parent either.

Into this young family’s support came the grandmother.  For four years, she was the dominant support in this young child’s life including where he slept at night – most nights.  This gave time for the young couple to mature without being entirely out of their child’s life.  I was the fortunate witness of the grandmother’s devotion to her grandson.

Just before the boy was to enter kindergarten, his parents brought him great joy by deciding to marry.  Making that commitment to one another official, changed the young mother seemingly overnight.  In my friend’s perspective, the young woman became a Super Mom heavily involved with her child’s public school.  The young boy lives full time with his parents now.

This is the difference a strong familial support can make in a young person’s life.  This is family preservation as it ought to be, though sadly not always.

It’s About Pregnancy

In the fight against abortion, it is often very easily overlooked the kinds of demands any pregnancy places upon a woman.  They are not minor.  It takes almost a full year out of any woman’s life to gestate another human being.  It changes a woman’s body, a woman’s daily life and if the pregnancy goes to term and she delivers the baby – her entire life will no longer be the same.  It is not an equal situation regarding the man who made being pregnant possible in the first place.

So, one fact overlooked in the choice to have an abortion is a woman who is unwilling to commit such an extended period of time to gestating yet one more human being – and if being honest, thoughtful people realize that this planet is already overpopulated.  There is no longer any need for human beings to be fruitful and multiply.

I know that not wanting to commit myself to 9 months of pregnancy was part (but not the only reason) that I once chose to have an abortion.  However, I would be quick to add, every time I have had the circumstances to support me and the willingness to go through the extended period of time to gestate a child, I have loved every minute of it.

Adoption advocates seem only to care about the production of children that can be taken from mothers who are unable to make the longer commitment to raising a child.  Adoption carries with it definite wounds to the original mother and to the child she surrenders to adoption.  While there is a time and place (orphaned or abused children) for adoption, banning abortions is not for the support of infertile couples wanting to have a larger volume of babies to chose from.  It is about controlling the lives of uppity women – plain and simple – by jerking around the emotions of people who love their own children.