Adoptee Anger

Adoptee anger by Kyleigh Elisa

What one adoptee has to say about her own from Kyleigh shares about Adoptee Anger posted in Intercountry Adoptee Voices. Kyleigh was adopted from Colombia and brought to the USA.

I am angry for sure. I feel like my anger ebbs and flows. Like, some days I’m just ready to burst and others, it’s a slow burn deep down.

When I was first given permission to be angry about my adoption about a decade ago by a therapist, it was like a volcano that erupted inside of me and I couldn’t stop it for months. Back then it was more about always feeling unacceptable. Feeling like I hated how I was different in a sea of white people. That no-one close ever really acknowledged the pain inside me due to adoption. That I was made to feel like I was an exotic commodity, while also being told, “No, you’re just like us. You’re just our Kyleigh”. I feel like that was some kind of unintentional gaslighting trying to make me feel accepted, but it had the opposite effect.

Since then I let my anger out more regularly and I don’t drink to dull the pain like I used to. I am definitely still angry though and I hate being adopted. I hate colonialism. I hate white supremacy. I hate the patriarchy. I am afraid of religious organizations that allow people to justify it all. I believe all these things contribute to why we are all adopted.

Billowing anger by Kyleigh Elisa

I just start thinking about it all and the anger billows. It’s a thought path I have to force myself to interrupt because it does not help me. While I think it’s good to be aware that stuff exists, I also cannot allow it to deteriorate my mental health. So I research and try to give back to our community and participate in adoptee organizations – this reminds me that I’m not alone.

Remembering I’m not alone helps a lot. Taking gradual steps to reclaim pieces of my culture that were taken from me helps too. It’s scary while I try to get back what was lost, and that’s upsetting at times, but in the end I reap the rewards accepting each little piece back to me, as it’s mine to rightfully hold.

My Unorthodox Life

This program is being discussed in my all things adoption group this morning. It is said that “The whole storyline was so upsetting. The adoptive family is awful.” And also this, “One of the characters is looking for his “birth person” and is scared to hurt his adoptive mom by calling her his birth mother. Adoptive mom says stuff like “I thought I’d be dead when you start looking” or “Can’t you ask your private investigator to ask questions to her rather than make contact?”. So much insecurity, jealousy and emotional blackmail.

One adoptee notes – My adoptive mom did the exact same thing . As if it’s about HER “trauma“ (which honestly is self inflicted).

And there is this about the show – The adoptive mom also got pregnant shortly after adopting, and begs him to not change his name, even though she falsified his birth certificate! She’s like “I want you to stay happy,” when he is obviously depressed, tormented, hasn’t dated anyone in years, etc. The biological son (his brother by adoption) is calling him an idiot for doing it because “we have the best parents in the world” and “you’re the one who started this problem.” Then hangs up the phone on him. They are doing all they can to sabotage any reunion. His poor birth mom. He doesn’t even pick up on the fact she wanted to keep him.

I haven’t see this one but last night we suffered through A Serious Man – written, produced, edited and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. All we could figure out by the end of the movie was that it was the Coen’s revenge on their Jewish upbringing. I kept thinking – if I was Jewish, it might make sense. There is no adoption thread in that movie.

In my mom’s group, there are more than the usual number of Jewish people. So, I have been exposed to some of their experience. The one that stands out large for me is the mom who had famously large breasts and then developed breast cancer. She had boy/girl twins the same age as my youngest son. Though she had a great attitude going into the experience, she died rather quickly. I was somewhat impressed by the way her Jewish community was there for the whole family throughout that ordeal.

My paternal grandmother died of a heart attack the day she was to be released from the hospital following breast cancer surgery. She was originally from Long Island NY and my understanding is that there are a lot of Jewish people there. I have a smidgeon of Ashkenazi Jew. I suspect I may have gotten that from her. Another mom in my mom’s group lives in the town on Long Island with the same name as the surname of my paternal grandmother – Hempstead. The family goes way back with historically significant sites in New London, Connecticut (a diary covering a period of 47 years from Sept 1711 to November 1758 by an ancestor, Joshua Hempstead, is still in print).

Hope Meadows

Of the roughly 40 houses currently rented in Hope Meadows in Rantou IL – 10 are occupied by families who’ve adopted children from foster care. The rest are occupied by older adults who volunteer to help them.

I stumbled upon mention of this reading something else. It was just a little “also” paragraph at the end but I was intrigued and had to go looking into it.

On a quiet street in Rantoul sits a small neighborhood of 15 nondescript duplex houses, part of a larger subdivision built decades ago to house the families of pilots and workers at the now-closed Chanute Air Force Base. Although it’s impossible to tell just by looking, something remarkable is happening here: adopted kids from troubled backgrounds are finding acceptance and support in the arms of neighbors old enough to be their grandparents. That’s by design at Hope Meadows, a community bringing together several generations of people from all walks of life for one purpose: building a safe and stable environment for adopted children.

Started in 1994 by Brenda Eheart, a researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Hope Meadows is a neighborhood of adopted children, their families and senior citizen volunteers, all working together to form a community of support and interdependence. What was started as a permanent destination for adopted children has also become a place where adoptive parents find support as they deal with often troubled kids, and where seniors can find continued purpose as they age. Hope is the first iteration of a social services model known as ICI – intergenerational community as intervention – and it is on the verge of spreading nationwide.

Families seeking to adopt move to Hope Meadows and are paired with children in need of a permanent home. Each family lives for free in one of the 15 six-bedroom homes converted from pairs of duplex apartments, and one parent is employed by Hope Meadows as a “family manager,” earning a stipend and health insurance coverage for the family. Meanwhile, senior residents at Hope volunteer for six hours each week and receive reduced rent on an apartment in the neighborhood. There is on-site counseling available for adopted children, and the whole neighborhood regularly participates in group activities that build intergenerational relationships. The secret of the program’s success is that the relationships are allowed to form naturally, which helps provide meaningful interaction and a sort of informal therapy for all involved.

The children adopted at Hope often come from situations of sexual abuse, neglect or overwhelmed parents, Calhoun says, and they often have issues with trust and abandonment. At Hope, those children find a permanent place to unpack their bags, literally and figuratively. With the seniors and staff involved, the families have constant support. The seniors have raised their own kids and can give hindsight about what might work in whatever situation. The support makes a lot of difference in the closeness at Hope Meadows because everyone is looking at what’s good for the children.

Hope used to accept foster kids but now the program focuses solely on adoption. Hope Meadows found that the bonds that were broken when those foster children eventually left were too hard on everyone involved. It was like they were losing not only the attachment to the foster parents, but an attachment to the entire community. Childhood is all about forming attachments. That’s how we evolve, and if that’s disrupted when you’re young, it makes it harder to do it again and again. It’s harder to trust and believe that this is really going to be your new family, your new home.

The community’s senior volunteers benefit from the program as well, and not just in the form of reduced rent. Seniors at Hope generally feel a sense of continued purpose because of the impact they can have on young lives, and the relationships they build provide meaningful interaction. As seniors grow older, they can rely on community members to look after them. Seniors are an integral part of Hope’s success because they provide wisdom and support for other community members.

The program is intergenerational, interracial, inter-whatever. Many of the adopted children are African-American and most other residents are white. Everybody gets to know everybody else as an individual, and when you know someone as an individual, it’s harder to put them into a category. This is it’s intentional.  The majority of children in foster care are African American.

The Executive Director at Hope Meadows is Elaine Gehrmann. She is a former Unitarian minister and public defense attorney. Gehrmann says she wanted to be a part of Hope because it “deals with the whole person and their whole situation. Being a lawyer, clearly I helped some people, but I could only help them with their legal problems,” Gehrmann says. “A legal problem may be the least of your problems, and may be a manifestation of a larger problem. This place provides a lot of the things that communities used to provide that they don’t anymore.”

This blog was excerpted from a longer article. You can read the complete Illinois Times story here – This Is The Village It Takes.

The Family Preservation Project

Ever since I first heard the words “family preservation”, I have loved this concept.  I suppose because my family was fragmented by adoption – both parents were adoptees and both of my sisters gave up babies for adoption.  I often wonder what it would have been like for our family to have remained intact – parents with children – but then I would not exist, my sisters would not exist and they couldn’t have given up their babies to adoption.  Still, I do like the concept of family preservation and all of the efforts in these modern times to keep mothers and their babies together and if there is a dad present, him too.

So why the elephants ?  The Family Preservation Project‘s website answers that for me.

The Elephant is symbolic of the community this page would like to build. Elephants are a matriarchal society; that is, one that is led by a head cow, who presides over her herd of females. Each herd is made up of mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts. They are guided by the oldest and largest female of the herd. This herd sticks closely together, rejoicing at the birth of a calf and mourning at the death of a member.

The Family Preservation Project is not a community that necessarily excludes men, but one that celebrates femininity and the intimate connections made by women through motherhood.

FP365 is a family preservation movement and it is global. Their mission is to empower vulnerable, expectant mothers and prevent family separation. fp365 is dedicated to building a strong foundation of advocates willing to provide local support, networking and community involvement.  Additionally, they believe a critical piece of education and awareness is found by exploring the layers of lived experience. As we listen to those voices we will shift the current cultural narrative which promotes separation by adoption to one which celebrates the preservation of family. 

In the adoption community I belong to, the women have a mission to encourage expectant mothers to keep their baby and not rush into adoption.  They often mention Saving Our Sisters (SOS) as a resource.

SOS supports all members of expectant families considering adoption. We are committed to helping them make fully informed decisions based on information that so many other families have learned too late. We are dedicated to ensuring that they avoid applying a permanent solution to a temporary crisis based on partial or misinformation.

SOS is dedicated to direct action and education regarding the preservation of biological families whenever possible. This may include assisting expectant and new parents by locating resources, explaining the long and short term effects of adoption separation on everyone in the natural family, explaining the lifelong effects of trauma their infant will suffer if exposed to maternal separation, and connecting them with a local support person and mentor.

SOS welcomes volunteers, donations, and donors to join us in empowering and preserving families by preventing unnecessary adoptions and advocating for fair and ethical adoption laws, policies and practices.

If you want to learn more about how elephant families are like human families you can read the Elephants Without Borders pdf.  Throughout time, elephants have had a curious effect on people, creating a sense of reverence and respect. Of course, their massive size and immense strength is enough to demand it. But elephants and humans have much in common, including their intelligence.

Both elephants and humans love, protect, and nurture family members and educate the young with the skills and knowledge they need to survive. Like humans, elephants are not born with natural survival instincts and need to be taught these by their mothers and other female guardians. Lessons include how and where to feed, to use tools, what to be aware of and to understand their place in their social structure. (Much more at my link above.)

 

Today’s Teens Are A Lot More Understanding

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is believed to be caused by overwhelming experiences, traumatic events and/or abuse during childhood.  This came up today in association with a former foster care youth who had a terrible experience in foster care, is now in her teens and wants to share that with others.

One mature woman shared her experience – I went into the system at 3, taken from mom at 5, and emancipated through marriage at 16.  I tried to share my story.  I got a lot of rejection from other teens. That was a different time, though. Teens these days are a lot more understanding of trauma and mental illness and they welcome the opportunity to hold space for those who have gone through horrific experiences. 

Another person was very supportive of this teen’s desire saying, It’s her story and she’s old enough to share. Will she receive backlash….possibly. But I bet she’s going to get more support vs. backlash, which is what she is seeking. She’s seeking a community that says “I hear you and I understand”.

Foster care children have been stripped of everything.  It is hard to understand why people would take children into their home for foster care and not intend to make them feel at home.  Examples –

Only buying the child the bare minimum or giving them hand me downs. One mature woman who was once in foster care shares – It always made me feel less than or like a charity case.. often I was given her biological daughters clothes/school supplies from the previous year etc. I remember the first time I got my own winter coat at around 7-8 years old.  It was like Christmas to me.

It is no wonder children subjected to these situations develop personality coping mechanisms. Schizophrenia and DID are often confused with each other, but they’re very different things. Schizophrenia is a psychotic illness: symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, disorganized thoughts, speech and movements and social withdrawal. It does not involve alternate personalities or dissociation.

People with DID are not delusional or hallucinating their alternate personalities. Individuals with DID may experience some symptoms related to psychosis, such as hearing voices, but DID and schizophrenia are two different illnesses. There are very few documented cases linking crime to DID. The idea of an ‘evil’ alter is not true. People with DID are more likely than the general population to be re-traumatized and experience further abuse and violence.

Personality disorders are a constant fixed pattern of feeling and behaving over time, usually developing in early adulthood. Personality disorders, like borderline personality disorder, involve extreme emotional responses and patterns of behavior which make it hard for the person with the disorder to have stable relationships and function in society.

DID is a dissociative disorder. Rather than extreme emotional reactions to the world, people living with DID lose contact with themselves: their memories, sense of identity, emotions and behavior. Unlike personality disorders, DID may first manifest at almost any age.

Alone And Aging Out

I don’t often address issues related to foster care because I really don’t have any direct experience with that system – thankfully.

Even so, homelessness is an issue close to my heart since my own youngest sister was homeless for 4 years and somehow survived that and even managed to extricate herself from that about 10 years ago.  Her situation remains precarious and my heart hopes she doesn’t end up in those dire straits again but there is no certainty.

I have learned that when children in foster care reach a certain age, they are put out without much in the way of resources.  Some even run away from foster care before they reach that age.  These are children who lack any kind of supportive family to love and care for them.  Their parents may be in prison or addicted to drugs and self-absorbed.  Or their parents may have even died.

There is a non-profit known as Pivot in Oklahoma that is trying to do something substantial to help youth who would be homeless otherwise.  They are building a community of tiny homes to primarily serve the needs of 16 to 19 year old youth.  These are located right outside of the organization’s headquarter.  In addition to providing a bed, small kitchen and bathroom (a roof over their heads), the organization provides services.

They help the teen get a job. They teach them life skills. And they provide therapeutic attention to help these youth heal from a less visible internal hurt.  So regardless of the reason their parents are absent, a youth is understandably upset that the person who was supposed to take care of them, is not there for them.

All children still do love their parents at that level of attachment from birth. There is a grieving process that needs to be addressed – what should have been, could have been – wasn’t.  This healing is necessary if a person is truly to move forward with their lives in a productive manner.