Turning 18

I have sons that are 18 and 21. The 21 year old is more of an adult now than the 18 year old but maturity is making changes in the younger boy’s perspectives. My daughter grew up away from me. At 3 years old, she ended up with her dad and a step-mother because I simply could not earn enough to support the 2 of us with child care necessary to even to to work – added to that rent, food, pediatrician bills, clothes, etc. During her childhood, communication was always difficult. I didn’t live in the same town and felt the disapproval of her parenting adults when I tried to visit. I even gave her a prepaid calling card so she call me when it was the least disruptive in her family life. I do remember seriously looking forward to when she was mature and no longer lived with them. Thankfully, we do have a good relationship – maybe not perfect and I blame myself for the feelings of abandonment she has experienced.

Anyway, I do understand the perspectives in this birth mother’s story.

My younger child’s 18th birthday is coming up this month. We haven’t had any contact since last year, when his adoptive mother got upset that I had posted something about 17 years gone, one to go. Somehow she assumed that this meant that I wanted the kid to come live with me when they turned 18, but I just meant that the control freak adoptive mother would have less power over him then.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine who adopted kids from Russia with his ex-wife has been completely alienated from them, and posted that he regrets ever adopting them in the first place. I guess his ex won whatever game she was playing. (This blogger’s note – a lot of people who adopted from Russia experienced huge challenges with those children.)

I’ve been tempted to just post publicly that the adoptive mother wins, that I regret ever having kids at all. When I saw “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once,” I thought about how there is no universe where I would have chosen to have kids and have her adopt them. Even if I’d been dying of cancer, I would have picked someone else to raise my kids. She’s been horrible to me so many times over the last 18 1/2 years, and still every few years, she’ll initiate contact with me and just pretend like all the past awfulness didn’t happen, or maybe that we’re equally at fault. She’s never apologized for anything, I don’t think she understands the concept. She’s said that she wants me to respect her as a “mother”, but I can’t even pretend to.

If on their 18th birthday, I posted that I regret that I had kids, would that make the adoptive mother happy? Is that what she wants? If I was really a horrible mother, then wouldn’t it make sense that I regret attempting to raise children? What does she want from me in order to at least not guilt trip them about any attempt to contact me? If I groveled before the Queen (the adoptive mother) and apologized for trying to raise my kids instead of being a docile handmaid, would that improve my chances of ever having a relationship with either child as adults? How am I supposed to feel? I guess if neither kid wants anything to do with me, they wouldn’t be checking my Facebook to see what I post.

This blogger’s perspective – There are no win situations in life and we simply can only do the best we can do.

Christmas Gift Inequalities

Unless someone is a foster parent who also has biological children of their own, they may not be familiar with this problem. Today’s issue – How do you handle the uneven balance of gifts? My fosters will actually end up with a ton of gifts as their biological family and the agency, even my own family and myself will all be buying for them. I was thinking I wouldn’t buy my fosters as many presents as my biological children because the agency will be filling their wish lists? But what if the agency doesn’t come through? Or what if my foster teens notice I only bought them say 2 presents, while my biologicals got 5? What has worked for your family? What has been your experiences?

One respondent suggested this – Let them have more – they already have less. I let them open agency gifts and such at the parent visitation (if applicable) or as they arrive with the worker. Then the gifts from me are opened at Xmas with all of us together that morning.

Someone else said –  I understand her concern. Fostering impacts everyone in the family, especially the biological kids and uneven amounts of gifts could cause hurt feelings.

Another suggested – I’d guess it evens out with your biological children’s extended family vs foster children’s biological family ? As in, you get everyone equal presents for Christmas morning and the rest fills itself in ?

Maybe this explanation adds a bit more clarity – It is about understanding the reality of adoption and foster care. One thing that is reality is that biological children and foster care children are often treated differently, usually to the detriment of the children in foster care. This question assumes that a biological child is equal to a foster care child, therefore the number or type of gifts should be ‘equal’. There is no equality in foster care.

Another suggestion went like this – Let the agency know that you don’t need any presents from them because you’ll be doing your job fulfilling the wish lists for the children. Just to note – your biological kids haven’t experienced the trauma of being removed from their family and having to spend Christmas without them, so if we want to play tit for tat… you could always send your kids to another family to spend Christmas, so that they understand their situation better.

Also, just to note that yesterday I learned a new detail about my mom’s paternal family. His first wife died while pregnant at the beginning of a new year. The two girls (my mom’s older half-sisters) were put into foster care for a short time. I had not known that detail before but my heart aches, considering the trauma of having lost their mother, to then be separated from their father and older brothers. They were very poor and I can believe there was ample concern about his ability under those circumstances to care for young girls. Thankfully, he did find other ways to care for ALL of his children after their mother’s death by involving extended family.

This from experience – The kids in foster care in my home got more gifts than my biological son. The foster care kids didn’t get to be with their families for the holidays, a few extra gifts does not hold a candle to that loss. If it had come up with my biological son, it would have been an opportunity to talk about compassion and gratitude.

I really liked this answer from an adoptee – Everything is complicated when there are younger biological and foster care kids in the same house. Maybe try not putting so much importance on gifts and doing something together as people instead. I’d love to remember a happy Christmas seeing lights and drinking cocoa, instead of tenseness around a tree centered on who can get what.

A former foster care youth provided her direct experience – We would get a box of smellys (toiletries), a selection box of candy and some socks or something equally small in value. There is no need to be concerned about extravagant gifts from the state.

A former social worker, foster parent shared this – Communication is key. My social workers keep me posted about what has been donated, so I know what to buy or not to buy. You could ask that items not be wrapped, so you can see for yourself and make sure everyone feels equally excited and there’s no hurt feelings the day of. When the social workers ask for the wishlist, I’m also intentional about putting more affordable wishes on the list, while I purchase the “big” items or clothing that is specific to the foster child’s style in order to make sure they get things they really want. We were gifted some really amazing presents from a church for our foster son last year, so there’s the chance they could get doubles – if you don’t know what’s going to be donated until closer to Christmas day. The earlier you receive the donations the better you can plan accordingly to ensure that all foster children receive equal gifts along with your biological children. For example, children may receive different donations from the people that took on their wishlist that are more expensive than a child whose list was bought by a family with less resources. Our extended family is consistent at buying both our biological and foster children equal gifts but not all extended families do. I always give my relatives specific items that aren’t repeated on other wishlists, when they ask for what the kids would like.

A Potential Egg Donor Asks

A woman asked for perspectives today in my all things adoption group (basically they are about 100% against and I understand why). Here is her story –

Since before I was an adult even I have felt so sure I wanted to donate eggs, the desire and resolve only grew stronger over about a decade but I wanted to have my own child first. Now I have and coincidentally found this group around the same time. It has made me completely rethink egg-donation. I had a kid and I don’t have much time left to decide due to age, so I have to decide. I know there are some donor-conceived people in this group as well and I’d so so much appreciate your thoughts on whether it’s even an ethically okay thing to do? Anyone that wants to can answer of course. Would I inevitable cause trauma to the resulting child by donating eggs?

Extra info in case it matters to anyone’s perspective: I live in a country where I won’t get paid for it except medical expenses covered, and the law says the children will get their donor’s identity if they want at 18. The family services and all related health and social carers (they are excellent here) will strongly encourage all recipients to tell their children of how they came to be from the very start.

Here is my own response –

I can only speak from experience. Back in 1998, after 20 years in a marriage where the understanding was that he was glad I had been there, done that (I have a grown daughter and 2 grandchildren from my first marriage), my husband sprang on me that he wanted to have children after all. We did ovulation predictors, were referred to a doctor who does assisted reproduction and got a booster shot when I saw my last egg. No pregnancy resulted. Then, he told us about another way – egg donation.

We did everything ourselves. Vetted potential donors by email. One said something that reminded my husband of something I would say. We chose her. She already had 3 children of her own. But she had promised another couple first. In the end, they treated her very badly and I thought she would change her mind about us but she did not.

We have always respected her and what she did for our family. After our first donor conceived son was born, my husband immediately wanted another. I had a cycle between our two boys where my womb failed to develop a good lining and had a D&C. Our donor moved from the location of the first doctor – who only did 4 procedures that year with only one success – ours. We followed her to the new location with a doctor who was one of the first in this country to do these procedures. We succeeded in having our second son. Donating was not physically easy for her. We did what we could to alleviate what we could post-extraction.

Our boys have met her more than once. I show them pictures of her or her children sometimes via Facebook because distance prohibits a closer relationship. She did 23 and Me, so I bought a kit for my husband, then for our oldest son and then for our youngest son. She is shown as their genetic mother there. 23 and Me provides a private messaging channel should they want to communicate with her. She has said she is open to that. I send her photos about once a year and updates when appropriate.

I’ve only known about issues related to donor conception since I went on my first roots discovery journey in 2017 after my parents died (they were BOTH adoptees). Fortunately, we have been honest with our sons about their conception since day 1. The 23 and Me results allowed us to fully discuss their conception now that they are much older and more mature. They understand they would not exist otherwise.

Knowing what I do know about in utero bonding, I am grateful they gestated in me, I breastfed them each for 1 year + and I have been in their lives pretty much 24/7. They are now 18 and 21 and seem well adjusted. Only twice have they indicated their perspectives to us – once my older son asked if he was supposed to be grateful to her – we said No, but we are. The younger one asked if she was his mother at a very young age. I explained that I am his mother but that without her, we would not have him.

I think the respect we have for her and she has for us has been an important factor. I think our willingness to be transparent with our sons was crucial. Back in 2000, some of the mom’s in my donor egg mothers group chose not to tell. With the advent of inexpensive DNA testing and matching, I wonder what their experiences have been and whether they have any regrets but we don’t communicate as frequently or openly as we once did.

Abandonment is a Perception

Perception matters. As we go through our own “adult” stuff and often have to make hard choices, we are not always aware of how our children are perceiving what we had to do. My marriage at 19 ended in divorce after the birth of our daughter a few years later. Eventually, I then left my daughter with her paternal grandmother (about the age of 3), but she eventually ended up with her dad and a step-mother. I made attempts to stay in contact and reassure her always that it never was about her directly but my own problems. Fortunately, we are close today as adults raising children (my grandchildren and two sons I have now from a subsequent marriage who’s ages are close to that of my grandchildren). I have faced that as a child her perception was understandably about having been abandoned, even though it was never my intention to never to have her under my own roof again during her childhood.

Today, I read about a woman with somewhat similar concerns. She left her child’s father when her daughter was only a year and a half old. She gave her mother legal guardianship of her daughter as she was going through a really rough time in her life. It’s shameful and it’s tough to face these kinds of reality. Finally, this woman met someone with whom she has been able to create a whole and loving family with her daughter and a subsequent baby brother from her new relationship. This daughter is now 9 years old and there are understandably “issues”.

Her daughter has ADHD and a fiery personality. Also some mood and behavioral problems exasperated by her abandonment trauma. She tends to be self-centered (normal) and melodramatic (from me). She can be very mean and unforgiving at times. She easily gets stuck on feelings of being left out or forgotten, even while we’re actively spending time with her.

One response suggested – Behavior is communication. Give each other grace. You are not the choices you made.

Another offered a perspective which I find valid – She has emotions that she is shoving down because she does not know how to deal with them. A huge part of healing childhood trauma is to grieve the losses that caused the trauma. For her, it was not having you or her father in her life for those years. My suggestion is that you start working on grieving your losses, and be open and honest with her about it (age appropriately). Let her see that you are in denial, angry, bargaining, sad, and finally accepting of what happened. That will give her permission to explore those feelings that she has inside of herself. I would also suggest a trauma/grief informed counselor. 

You were part of your daughter’s wounding, you can play a major part in her healing too. It all starts with the parent healing as an adult. Learning what triggers us, so we can be the calm, consistent adults that our kids need because our calm becomes their calm, our ability to regulate our emotions becomes their ability.

More than one recommended LINK> Trust Based Relational Intervention – which I have seen and mentioned before. TBRI is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children. TBRI uses Empowering Principles to address physical needs, Connecting Principles for attachment needs, and Correcting Principles to disarm fear-based behaviors. While the intervention is based on years of attachment, sensory processing, and neuroscience research, the heartbeat of TBRI is connection.

Someone else suggested mediation. Sometimes a safe person who’s not her parent can help her better understand/hear what you may be trying to communicate (and vice versa). And her suggestion came from personal experience – “I’ve had mediations done with both my and my mother’s therapist, and each time seemed to help shed some light on new aspects of a topic being discussed with our respective therapists.”

And an acknowledgement that I also understand personally – The mere fact that you care so deeply, is absolutely everything. DO NOT ever give up on that. Parenting is so hard, even without the added guilt you carry. All you can do is wake up and do the best you can do for that day.

Finally this from someone who’s been there (and hits me in the guilt place for I have done this too) – I wish my mom had owned her hand in my trauma WITHOUT excuses or trying to push blame onto others. I wish she would have validated my experiences. I wish she would have created and protected a safe space for me to understand and unpack all of the feelings and thoughts I had, preferably with a therapist. I wish she would have spent time one on one with me doing things I cared about, getting to know me deeper. I wish she wouldn’t have told me how hard XYZ was for her, I didn’t care, it wasn’t a competition, I was the helpless child. Even if my mom’s choices were between bad and worse, she was an adult who had brought me with her to that point. I wanted a mom who wanted to BE my mom.

She added – Your bit you wrote about your daughter feeling left out or forgotten hit me like a ton of bricks. That feeling is something I am working on to this day. I felt so out of place with my mom, stepdad, and new baby brother. I knew I was forgettable and honestly with a new baby – replaceable. They felt like a whole little family and I was just the chump she had to come back and get so I could tag along. (blogger’s note – though I never was able to bring my daughter back into my own life fulltime – we did have visits – I did go on to have 2 sons who I have been raising. This caused me to consider how that might feel to her – even though she is an adult with children of her own.)

One more – Focus on being your best self today and in the future. That’s how you can make it up to them, they’re often incredibly wise about this stuff. This way of thinking encourages you to reach a point of acceptance and decide… everyone’s alive, healthy, and you can’t change the past. I think that’s what I would say to my own parents, just sin no more and I don’t want to dwell in the past. (Though there may be times when the wounds bubble back up.)

My own last insight – life is messy, complicated and sometimes very very difficult. We can only acknowledge where we have failed but instead of continually beating ourselves up over that – move forward with being the best person we have managed to be at this time.

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.

Guardianship is a Better Plan

In my all things adoption group which includes foster care issues, the preference is for guardianship rather than adoption to preserve the identity and original family details for the child involved. In some states, it is an uphill battle to have such a situation considered a permanent forever home because it is still a relatively new perspective for reforming adoption.

Today’s story –

In trying to explain to the post-Termination of Parental Rights child we are foster care givers for, that we want to give him the security of a “forever home” without the identity fracture that adoption can bring, we are failing. Though he is not at the age of consent, he is plenty old enough to have several friends who have been adopted as older children from foster care, and he really wants to be “adopted.” Having been through so many foster placements and told so many times that people “didn’t want to adopt him”, the fact that we do (or did until we discovered this better way) has been a big thing for him. We can’t seem to find a way to communicate that we want him to have everything he thinks adoption is, without changing his birth certificate, etc. He is protesting that we can adopt him but not change his name at all (which was always the plan – and, yes, that is true). I’m really stressed about doing this right, and honestly every therapist we have spoken to can’t seem to understand why adoption might not be best.

The Dept of Health and Human Services seems to be willing to work with us either way (adoption or legal guardianship) but the caseworker is also having a hard time understanding how this is better for him- and I worry she is thinking we are having second thoughts in terms of our commitment to him – which is NOT the case.

I admit, I’m scared of losing him back to the system, if we mess too much with the permanency agenda. He was in some truly horrible homes and my heart breaks thinking about him ever being vulnerable to that again. Extended family doesn’t want to get involved right, now though we are determined to keep the communication open, and want to go the legal guardianship route, in case they ever are ready to be more active.

How do we communicate all of this, in a way that doesn’t hurt, because so far it’s clear we are hurting him and he doesn’t understand because of my failure to communicate it! Another thing that is bothering him is that he considers our biological children to be his siblings and he wants them to be his “real siblings” , and he thinks we need to adopt him to make that real. He is so beautifully clear that we are NOT mom and dad – he has those already – but I think because our biological children are so much younger and he’s seen them from birth and onward, so that he really has a sense of being their big brother.

Some thoughts about this situation –

Everyone’s experience is different. My husband is a Former Foster Care Youth who aged out of the system. He always wanted to be adopted because that was his validation that he was *wanted*. The family he mainly grew up with finally adopted him at age 25 but he still keeps his original name. His birth certificate hasn’t changed. Maybe that can be an option? He is adopted but keeps his name and if his biological family comes forward, he can still have a relationship with them as well.

Also this – There’s nothing stopping you from letting him have a relationship even if he is “adopted”. You also need to explain to him what adoption means to you. Family is not a piece of paper, it is the people that take care of you, and his siblings are his siblings now. Maybe explain that he already is family and in your mind he is adopted ?

You can do other things to make him feel like he has a permanent placement with you, as you work through the pros and cons of the adoption conversation.

The child is in the 8-10 age range and so, these ideas were suggested –

1) have a sit down in which you express to him how much he means to you and how your meaning of family won’t be impacted by legality or adoption. A written letter or something to that extent would be nice, and having your biological children (if they feel similar to you, which I hope they do) also write letters to express to him that he’s their brother !

2) Give him a goal age for adoption, so like if he still wants to be adopted at age 16 or whatever feels right.

3) look up legal benefits to waiting to adopt (like for where I live, if you wait until after age 14 you get all sorts of government assistance with schooling etc, that you don’t get if you’re adopted before age 14, even if you’re in the system for years like I was) to let him know the pros and cons of that

4) do things that FEEL permanent for him (if you haven’t already). Let him paint his bedroom walls whatever color he wants. Pick out some furniture. Make things “his”. That will greatly help his sense of agency in this situation. Talk about the future a lot, in specific detail. This is what middle school you’ll go to. When you’re x age your bedtime goes to x time. Next summer we should do x activities. Etc. Just make him feel heard and like you’re not ignoring what he wants entirely, you’re just wanting to make sure it’s the best thing for HIM, since it’s such a permanent decision

From a Former Foster Care Youth – I was a teen in foster care and adoption never even occurred to me BUT I aged out and was all alone. It was really scary and I would have given anything to have had someone who was ‘mine’ to go back to when I needed it. Instead I got into a lot of unhealthy relationships looking for a parent figure. Please sit down and explain adoption to him. The permanency of it and that you will forever belong to him but it means that his past will be erased. And that the birth certificate will look as though he was born to you, even if not true. And that it will legally sever the relationship with his siblings and biological family. Then explain guardianship and the pros and cons of it. Please be candid and honest about all of it. Ask him what he wants. But honestly… only do this if you actually will be ‘his’… even when he goes through the toughest part of his teens and tries hard to push you away in any and all ways possible. Because he will. As a much older adult now, I’m glad that I still have some connections to my family. It’s complicated but… it’s mine.

Plus this sad story – I stopped wanting to be adopted at around 6ish. The thought of losing my “real’ family” was not an option for me, even that young. Even if I did not really know them. Instead I went thru 75 placements in 20 years. As a former foster care youth, I wish I had been more open to being adopted. I aged out and had to deal with the reality of life on my own. I wish I had someone to fall back on and made some really bad choices, including some that ultimately cost me several of my own children.

And here is a downside to guardianship – Your biological children are your next of kin, and with permanent guardianship he is not. They have automatic inheritance rights and he would not. If you and your husband die, your children will go to family or whomever you have dictated, but guardianship ends upon death, so he would go back into the same foster system he was in previously. Some of these issues can be addressed through estate planning but some can’t so long as he is a minor.

Regarding the above perspective – here’s experience

I am a former foster care youth (that was kinship adopted) and I am also an adoptive parent. I try to tread lightly, so my adoptive parent voice does not out run my former foster care youth experience. I was 9 years old when my grandparents became my sole caretaker and 10 before they got guardianship. They both battled health issues, and it became abundantly clear that there needed to be a “permanent legal bond” or things could go terribly wrong, which would put me back in foster care. I was legally adopted at age 11, after requesting it. I would have been devastated, if they refused. It would have been yet another rejection.

Being A Supportive Spouse To An Adoptee

The person described in today’s story could have been my father. The difference is that he married another adoptee. Both of my parents grew up knowing they were adopted all along. They had this in common but their perspectives on having been adopted were very different. My mom yearned to know the truth of her adoption. My dad acted content with his lot in life. I suppose that these two adoptees found each other, fell in love and had the support of one another until death did part them, kept the loneliness at bay. Still, my mom did communicate to me her feelings about having been adopted because my dad was not able to empathize with her feelings.

Today’s story –

My husband is adopted. He was adopted at birth and has always known he was adopted. That’s about as much communication as he has ever had with his parents about it. His mom told me once “I just let him know he could ask me whatever he wanted to know and that was that.” Since he’s not a very big talker, he’s never really spoke much at all about his adoption with his parents. I’ve always come from the place of it being his life experience and however he wants to go through life with it, is how I will support him.

We have 4 kids. He’s an amazing dad and husband. I often wonder if I’m being a good enough wife in supporting him. I’ve read about how much trauma even the “good” adoptions have and my heart just dies inside for my husband. He has no desire to look for his biological family and says “I have a mom and dad.” I completely support him in that. Is there anything more I can do? Of course it would be easier to just keep going on with my life and not put any thought towards his mental health, since he’s always seems fine. He’s such a people pleaser (especially for his parents, which I’ve now learned is typical with adoptees). I never want him to put on a happy face for us, if he is hurting inside and I could see him doing this.

Is it actually possible to not care at all or to not feel feelings at all about being adopted? To have a happy childhood and feel no trauma and grow up and never have any of it affect your life? Because so much of what I’ve read says otherwise.

The first response was (I get this about men as well) – It’s totally possible he had a great childhood and doesn’t have any trauma, and it’s also possible he is hiding it inside, since men are socially conditioned to be that way. It’s a tough call. I can tell you it’s possible because that’s me. I have no adoption associated trauma. I’m in therapy; my therapist has tried to “get it out of me” and I’m always open to having the discussion but she closed that door once she concluded there wasn’t any trauma to work on. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I can see you truly care about and love your husband and want what’s best for him but forcing the issue may make him drive it deeper into the closet. This is a really tough and delicate situation.

And I do agree with this perspective (BTW my parents were about 8 months old and had spent time with their original mothers before they were adopted back in the 1930s) – You can experience trauma as a newborn and not remember it. It’s not always something you feel. It can just be something that affected you and you’re not conscious of it.

This could be true of my dad as well – he could have dealt with it a long time ago and just doesn’t feel the need to bring up the past. He may be in a healthy place and bringing up that trauma back up would retraumatize him because he thought he had come to peace with it. (My dad used to caution my mom against opening up a can of worms with her own yearning.)

From a voice of experience – I am the spouse of a domestic infant adoptee. I don’t think it’s your place to push, just be supportive. My husband was “fine” until he was not. It was a very, very slow process and I saw things a long time before he discovered them on his own, things like how his behaviors, such as people pleasing and his emotional response to perceived abandonment, the way his adoptive parents treated him, etc. He slowly came out of a fog, and it has been a long and painful process. That being said, not everyone has the same experience. Additionally, if he is in a fog, its something he has to process on his own. I think it could be extremely and emotionally damaging for you to spin this into any sort of realizations (if they exist) that he isn’t emotionally or psychologically ready for. Just love him, don’t push, and support him.

The Damage Done By Addiction

It is a personal issue for me but people do sometimes recover. Just this morning I was reading an article by a woman who admitted the difficulty of recovering from the trauma of her past and four addictions. Today’s story –

I am a foster parent and have a one year old child in my home who I have had since she left the hospital. I have a good relationship with her parents, I think about as good as can be expected in this situation. We text frequently, exchange pictures, arrange visits outside of the court-mandated ones. They love her endlessly but are deep into struggles with addiction. Both have had a few stints where they go to treatment for a day or two (so, there does not appear to be a barrier with access to treatment) but do not stick with it. Addiction has been a long-time struggle for both parents.

Her case is very much still open and I am still trying to help them into treatment. But, it’s to the point where the department is asking about permanent placement options. The child has a relative (I think mom’s second cousin, not positive on the exact relationship) who lives about three hours away and is not in contact with the rest of the first family. Relative has said she would adopt if needed, but didn’t want to be the first choice. Parents were asked who they would want to adopt and they said me. I had not talked to them about this and didn’t know it was being asked, so I don’t think they felt pressured. If we get to that point, I would try to facilitate a relationship that’s beyond “open” – i.e., I would invite them to her activities and holidays and would support them seeing her with gas cards and paying for activities and the like. I know many open adoptions end up closed, but to the extent that you can believe an internet stranger, please try to believe that I would not do that.

She also has four half siblings and cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents (none placement options, unfortunately) in the area where I/her parents live. Under these circumstances, what’s the “best” placement option? (Understanding that the actual best option is with her parents). I’m a foster parent who yells at other foster parents about interfering with kin placements, but it seems like parents should get a say here. How does one weigh the benefits of living with a member of your first family vs living outside of your family but having the option to see them regularly? (I know guardianship would be preferable, but the department won’t do that – so, the options are adoption or not adoption for this case).

First of all, straight up, I would NOT want to go to a relative that didn’t want me.

One response seems realistic to me as well – I would adopt if left no other legal choice. If you do allow her parents to see her when they are able, then I think ultimately it’s what best for the girl, if her parents can’t find their way out of addiction and the state is pushing the issue. A similar response from an adoptee was –  If I was the little one in question, and guardianship was not an option, I would want you to adopt me over the distant relative and keep me in contact with my close family. The deciding factor, for me, is that the distant cousin doesn’t want to be the first option, and that is bound to come across to the adoptee, especially if times get tough when they are older. It’s hard enough to know that your biological parents didn’t want to/couldn’t raise you, but when you start getting the same message from multiple sources, it can really compound the trauma.

Someone else writes – Considering the addiction issues, this child needs a home. If there was NO other option but you vs the cousin, I’d prefer you because you live near her family/parents. But, closing this child off from her family at anytime and getting all “she’s MINE” – no, nope, nada. Being a supportive and caring adoptive mom with the child’s mental and psychological health front and center – providing therapy as needed throughout this child life for issues that will pop up – remembering always that you are not this child’s mother….period. I can be on board for you to provide a stable home for this child.

Finally this from a voice of experience – I was adopted at the age of 9. Both of my parents are addicts. My adoptive parents said they would never keep me from my family. True to their word, they didn’t. When my mom was clean and I asked to go back and live with her, they let me. Even paid my mom child support that wasn’t mandated, just to help out. She relapsed and my adoptive dad actually gave me the choice to stay in foster care and finish high school or for him to come and pick me up, since legally he was my parent. I chose to stay in high school in order to stay near my siblings, instead of moving across the country. If you are really going to keep it open, with access to the child’s family, I would say you are the better option than a long distance blood relative who doesn’t speak to the family. I just hope that you always give her parents grace and don’t cut off communication when you are mad. Especially if the child wants to keep that communication open.

How To Open Communication

Life happens and then you scramble to make the best of the situation. Today’s story.

We were foster parents advocating for reunification with each placement. Knowing what we know now, we would find other ways to support family reunification. With our last placement, relatives were contacted weekly for months according to the social worker, but did not want to take placement of the child nor have any communication with us. Then, mom tragically passed away while fighting hard to regain custody of her child. We were told that if we didn’t want to pursue adoption, the child would be placed in additional foster homes until a permanent placement was found. We loved him so much and ultimately decided to adopt as we couldn’t imagine him bouncing from home to home until he found permanency. We know he clearly has living relatives including a half-sibling who he has never met at the aunt and uncle’s choosing. This half-sibling lives with them. We know our son would value these irreplaceable connections with family, but we as adoptive parents don’t know if it is our place to initiate them – especially since the aunt and uncle don’t seem to be interested in contact at this point. The social worker did provide us with their phone number and our contact information was given to them months ago. Do we reach out? Give the aunt and uncle space to come to us? Wait until our son is older and let him decide? Adoptees, what would you have wanted adoptive parents to do?

The first response came from an adoptee – Call them. Talk with them, verify the information you’ve been told, set up times to talk or see each other. Keep trying, even if they aren’t responsive. This child has already lost so much, he needs his family connections honored.

Some further information on this situation – we had been told by a third party not to contact them as they were very hurt by the situation with his mom and that they were not ready to have a relationship or contact. However, I have never personally spoken to the family, and agree that the foster care agency could have said one thing when the family actually said another. I would love for nothing more than my for my son to have these family connections and family mirrors. My biggest fear is that I don’t want to cause more pain or sever the relationship further if they indeed were not ready and I seem disrespectful for not following their wishes. I know they are on social media Maybe being honest and saying all that might be the best approach when initiating contact?

Another adoptee responds to this with – A third party told my biological dad’s family the same thing (biological dad died when I was a baby). They stayed away based on the fact that they knew they had no power and the information said third party had given them. My adoptive parents never reached out to them because the same third party had told them that my biological family didn’t care about me. I didn’t have them as family as a child (and honestly I STILL don’t have a real family relationship with them) as a result. Suffice to say, it has literally ruined that part of my life.

An adoptive parent shares – I had a very similar situation with my son. Child Protective Services case worker told me they contacted his siblings adoptive parent twice and that they wanted no contact. After my son’s adoption finalized, I just decided I had to reach out anyway – the adoptive parent on the other end started to cry when I told her who I am. She said she is so glad I found her number, and that all Child Protective Services had asked was whether they would be a placement resource! She had never told Child Protective Services that they didn’t want contact. The result? These two brothers have a close relationship and see each other several times a month, sometimes multiple times a week. Definitely call.

Bottom line – Until you hear it with your own ears (or see it with your eyes, etc), I would not trust what the system says someone else says.

The Blame Game

Today, I read this story from a woman who gave up her son for adoption –

I just recently got news that my son I placed has been diagnosed with non-verbal autism. His adoptive parent reached out to me, to inform me and low-key blame me. But the point of this post is that not only did I deny my son his natural right to be with his natural parent. He has subsequently been denied the right to (literally) voice his truth. This choice comes with consequences I never imagined. This is not an appeal for sympathy. The only point that is infuriating to me is his adoptive parent has added this fact to the list of things that make her a “hero.” We are both in the wrong! There are no heroes! Just a victim and villains. But her admirers have already heaped some more praise for her “taking a disabled child” as her own “from a mother who probably did drugs and made him that way.” (That’s a quote.) I literally have never, not that it matters but the public victimization of my son will never end. My fault. He lives the consequences of adoption.

So many adoptive parents actually have a savior complex that this sad story does not surprise me. Autism is also something that matters to me personally. My oldest son didn’t talk until he was nearly 4 years old but he did communicate. I remember the unique alphabet he had before he started constructing sentences – like the sound meow for C which some people will say is for cat. Asperger’s runs in my children’s genes and we are fortunate because it is a high functioning kind of quirky intelligence with a great ability to focus.

One commenter wrote this – I’m autistic and this is infuriating. Finding out this early can be a blessing, so that early on your son’s more individual needs can be recognized and properly addressed. I didn’t find out until my 22 or so, and like so many others, I wish I’d known earlier. I love that I am autistic and my best friends are autistic, it’s something to be celebrated, not something to shame ANYONE about. This woman is beyond ignorant and she’s probably going to become an autism mom. You son should be given alternative ways of communication, I’m not sure how you use it in a sentence but AAC, augmentive and alternative communication, is what he should have available to him. I worry that the adoptive mother will push for him to speak, which he should not be forced to do. I doubt she’d use them, but perhaps you could offer some resources ? https://autisticadvocacy.org/ is the first website I was recommended.

Another offered this perspective – I’m sure it’s been said a million times but you literally can not control autism. You can have never touched drugs, smoked, hell even used caffeine, you could’ve ate all natural and organic, and he could’ve remained with you and he still probably would have been a non-verbal autistic. Also, that person must not be that knowledgeable because even when kiddos are nonverbal, they can still communicate. Just because he may end up communicating differently doesn’t mean he’s flawed or someone to be fixed.

And there was this too – The adoption you can take blame for, but in no way can you blame yourself for his disability. My mother blamed herself for years because my brother is non verbal autistic too, but this is just something that happens. Now I will add just because he’s currently non verbal doesn’t mean that he will be unable to express himself. Quite the opposite actually, these kids let you know how they feel if you pay attention. The adoptive parent has no right blaming you for his diagnosis or playing the hero role. If you adopt a child then you adopt all their needs too.

So here’s the truth from another commenter – It’s genetic. Point blank. Ugh, I can just see her becoming the stereotypical “Autism Warrior Mom” and blaming his first mother in the process—which trust me, as an autistic adult, is the absolute worst on top of worst. She’s going to get torn apart by the autistic community (rofl, just watch). Plus, a child is not a product and cannot be custom made; no one gets to choose whether a child is disabled or not. So no, it’s not your fault… I just hope they treat the kiddo okay, because typically these types of people will put them in quack therapies that are harmful to their mental health, or worse because they don’t understand science and don’t value the humanity of autistic people. Knowledge is power. And it’s not your fault; I can’t believe she blamed you…

And this dose of reality – Autism is not caused by drugs. The more autism is studied, the more clear it is that some people just have neurological differences. It’s nothing you did, and there’s surely nothing heroic about adopting a child who later turns out to have a difference or disability. Any child, born to you or adopted, may have a disability at birth or become disabled at any point in life. Accepting that is part of the parenting deal.

On a lighter note – My son’s APs said that I caused his autism by letting him watch too many science documentaries instead of making him watch more cartoons like a normal kid.