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.

Is A “Foster Only” Home Acceptable ?

Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends

When my sons were young, this was a favorite cartoon in my family. Both of my sons had stuffed animals that were imaginary friends and they did mature out of it. In the cartoon, when this happens the imaginary friends are taken into a foster home.

Sadly, though there are MANY foster homes in real life. And there is a lot of abuse in the system. Today’s story is about attitude. A foster parent was posting publicly that she’s not willing to adopt the children currently in her home if they needed that, and that she believes it is totally fine to foster while being unwilling to adopt. I disagree completely because I feel that if a child has no possible route to return to their family and consents to adoption, they should not have to experience another loss, another transition etc. Basically I feel like foster parents need to be open to what the child and their family end up needing, and that taking a placement of a child KNOWING that if reunification cannot be achieved you will be disrupting that child, is wrong.

Obviously there are special situations (a child not wanting to be adopted by you, a child needing to move to be in an adoptive home with their siblings) but that’s not what this lady was talking about, she was talking about having a child in foster care long term, them needing an adoptive home, and refusing to be that home for that child resulting in their team needing to search for other options for them. I also feel like this happens a lot to kids who have (or are perceived to have) challenging behaviors, or older kids, so it’s not like they have all these other great options if an adoptive home is needed because most people who adopt waiting kids in foster care discriminate against kids with behavioral needs or older kids.

Basically, do you think being a “foster only” home is acceptable ?

And now some comments and perspectives.

ALL foster homes should be foster only when reunification is still on the table. Too many foster carers foster for the wrong reasons and sabotage renunciation. We need to go back to the old days when foster homes weren’t even allowed to adopt. Foster parents should be willing to give a child a safe place for whatever amount of time is needed, whatever the outcome. They’re supposed to be part of the team that helps the natural family work through it all. Foster only homes result in higher reunification rates and successful efforts. Eliminating foster only homes would feed the predatory foster to adopt system. No child *needs* adoption. Generally adoption is for the adults. Children need stable homes, but not the erasure of their genetic identity.

From an adoptive parent’s perspective – Why is adoption the end goal? Why can’t they remain in foster care? Why does termination of parental rights have to happen? It’s plausible to think that not having adoption available would reduce terminations and potentially give parents more time. But Child Protective Services is so quick to be done with cases and push adoption that parents aren’t given a fair chance. Very few terminations are actually needed. Maybe the state needs to help make it easier for kinship to take kids. Provide them the money foster carers receive. Why are you so set on adoption being the end result? I think that’s something you need to sit with. There are so many other options. And we can’t just settle for termination and adoption. Without adoption being in place parents rights can be reinstated later down the road if the child is still needing permanency. You feel like it wouldn’t be good for the kid, but several former foster youth have stated the exact opposite.

There was offered this example from real life – a person who has fostered 3 babies/toddlers in the last 3-4 years. They were not reunified with their parents. One went to an extended family member. The other two were placed for adoption through Child Protective Services. This person has 5 children of her own. Three are still at home. She doesn’t want to raise another child for 18 years. But she does feel strongly about providing a safe place for children – while their parents work their plan. Her position is hard for some to understand. People ask her how she can “just give them up after 8 months or a year in her home” and she simply says – “they were never meant to be here forever.”

Levels of Necessity

A woman asks – Is there ever an instance where adoption is ok?

A good example comes from an adoptive parent – I don’t know. I thought no, but then a friend reached out yesterday about being contacted to adopt a friend’s child that was born 3 months early. The baby is still in the hospital (born in November). Both parents recently passed away, and the extended family is either unwilling or unable (because of incarceration) to adopt. The other siblings have been adopted by other families that are not related. If all this proves to be true, it’s the first time I’ve felt like maybe this is a time when a child does need a home and does need to be adopted. The baby is literally alone in NICU and is truly an orphan. With that being said, as an adoptive parent, I’ve come to realize that most adoptions don’t have those levels of necessity attached to them.

I also thought this was a good answer – There will never be a blanket statement of “adoption is okay in xyz case.” The answer is that adoption should be a last resort. Instead, support the parents in keeping their kids. But if you are adopting no matter what, look for kids (usually teens) who have already experienced a termination of parental rights.

Another writes – Living in a country (New Zealand) where adoption is almost obsolete – fallen 98% in the last 30 years and considered a relic of the past, I think we have proven it is not needed anymore – there are better options that do not erase a persons identity.

Here is another perspective from an adoptee related to an International adoption – I was adopted from China as a baby during their one child policy – families were often stuck in the position of giving their daughters to other family members, hiding them from authorities, or giving them up for fostering or adoption. I don’t think it was my American parent’s job to fix this through adoption, when there were other ways they could care for children domestically, but should this be considered a slight “exception”? I do empathize with my parents desire to help a dire situation, but I’m sure I’d feel different had I not had a loving, safe childhood in America. Thousands of Chinese girls were adopted by American families during this time, and I know others feel they have had opportunities here in America that they know they wouldn’t have had, had they stayed with their birth parents.

I also liked this answer – With the consent of the person being adopted, and then ONLY if the person being adopted is of an age to consent to the adoption. Adoption is never necessary. Therefore, it should only be done with consent.

I definitely agree with this perspective – Until they stop erasing the child’s ancestry and issuing fake birth records, no. Adoption, as it is practiced today, is never OK. You can provide permanency, love, and support to a child without adoption. Adoption is a lie.

These last two are backed up with this personal experience – If they are old enough to fully understand what is going on, so I would say 12 and up (just my opinion) and if there was no other family. In my case there was no one, but I didn’t get adopted until I was an adult (had 7 unsuccessful adoptions while in foster care) but adoption should only happen of the child is fully aware of everything and 100% without a doubt wants to be adopted.

And lastly this – I am an adoptive parent – I adopted my nephew when my sister was dying and his dad was not available. I would have done things differently and possibly left it as a kinship placement with permanent guardianship – had I known then, what I know now. Talking about his first parents is common in my home, we have his mom’s pictures hanging up, I have his original birth certificate and several other documents of importance. And he’s in therapy at the age of 6 from trauma directly from being adopted. It’s not sunshine and roses, even when it’s family.

Surrogacy

I first became of gestational surrogacy while going through reproductive assistance. One of the women in my mom’s group had cancer and so her twins were birthed through a surrogate. I remember her stressing about what medical staff would think of her because she wanted to be in the delivery room and would have to wear a head covering at the hospital because her hair had all fallen out from treatment. She died when the twins were only 2 years old.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law had tried for years to conceive and due to the serious pharmaceutical medications my sister-in-law was on for the treatment of manic-depression symptoms, it wasn’t safe for her to go off of those prescriptions. For some time, they tried using assisted reproduction with her eggs and it always failed. They were eventually successful and they did use a surrogate. As our two families became estranged after the deaths of my in-laws, I don’t know if the baby has her genes or not.

Both of these occurred before I started learning so much about adoption. My husband and I have two sons with the same genetic background but none of my own genes. They do have my husband’s DNA and they had the same egg donor. What I have learned is that the baby becomes bonded with the mother the fetus is developing within. I remember how my OB always reassured me that I was playing an important role in my developing children’s lives – the foods I ate primed their taste buds, my emotions affected them in the womb. I was every bit as ecstatic when they were born, every bit as much in love with them as my infant, as I was with my daughter who does carry my genes.

From what I have learned, I do have grave concerns about the effect on infants of gestational surrogacy. I was directed today to explore Severance magazine’s website by my adoption community. I pass that on to my readers here. Their byline is “Severance on the aftermath of separation” and they seem to speak to all related issues. The reality is that in this age of widespread availability of DNA testing, many argue that anonymity is no longer sustainable and that a child can never possibly consent to donor anonymity or waive their right to know where they came from.

We had a private agreement with our donor and have maintained an open relationship with her. Our sons have met her on several occasions. Not long ago, she informed me that she had done a 23 and Me test. Therefore, I gifted my husband with a 23 and Me first, then the oldest son and then his brother. This reality gave us an opportunity to fully discuss their conception, even though we had always been open about it, it had never dominated our family’s life. The donor is open to contact from the boys should they ever want that. She has always been very rational about the whole situation and she does have 3 children of her own that she gave birth to. Our sons know that there are at least those children who are genetically half-siblings. It is also possible another one they won’t know about in advance may turn up someday. They would not exist but for. It is their own unique, individual reality and existence.

Severance Magazine Website

When To Test

I read about a situation today where the genetic parents of a toddler who has been adopted want the adoptive parents to have the child’s DNA tested so that family connections are available for that child.  This is within a diverse adoption community and the responses were diverse as well.  It is true that in getting our DNA tested we have no idea how that identifying information may be used in the future.  Many of those commenting thought it should wait until the child was old enough to consent.  Many suggested the genetic parents do the tests so that it is out there if or when the child wants it.  Some believed it would have been helpful to them to have this information while they were yet a child.

I’ve had some experiences with adoption or donor conceived and DNA testing experiences.

Both of my parents were adoptees. I’ve done both Ancestry (my mom also did this one but it didn’t help her and yet, has been invaluable to me for learning ancestral relationships and my genetic family’s movements over time) and 23 and Me. Both have helped me be accepted by genetic relatives who might have doubted me otherwise. I’ve been able to make a few “good” connections and have a better sense of some of my family thanks to stories and photos shared. As to developing relationships with people I lost over 6 decades getting to know ? It is slow going though everyone has been nice to me.

Now on another front . . . both of my sons are donor egg conceived. We’ve never hidden this aspect of their conception from them and they have met the donor on several occasions. Fortunately she has an amazingly good perspective on it all. I waited until the oldest was 18 to gift him with 23 and Me. I knew the donor had done that one and before I gifted my son, I gifted my husband. After the older one received his results, I gifted the 15 yr old as well. He is mature and there was no reason to exclude him. It is uncomfortable but the GENETIC reality that the donor is listed as their Mother. They grew in my womb, nursed at my breast for a full year and have known no one else as “mom”. They seem to have processed it well as far as I can tell. Thankfully.

The adoptive mom of my nephew did Ancestry using only initials to identify him. It turned out (and she helped him in discovering this), my sister lied about who the father was on my nephew’s birth certificate. The Ancestry DNA test was their first suspicion. The effort though came at the nephew’s desire to know. He has since met his genetic father several times. They look remarkably alike and now my nephew has certainty.

My niece (child of a different sister) was also adopted and is going through some frustrations over her DNA results though her mother has given her the name of the genetic father. It can be a complicated and confusing experience.

There is one other nephew who was raised by his paternal grandparents. My sister lost custody in court when the paternal grandparents sued to possess him. This child is of mixed heritage – both white and Hispanic. He was raised in a very Hispanic family. His DNA shows a beautiful diversity.

No solutions, simply thoughts and examples.

Adoption Disruptions

This is a topic I had not previously considered.  An adoption disruption is every hopeful adoptive parent’s biggest fear. After all, prospective birth parents can change their mind about adoption at any time until they legally sign their consent — and when that does happen, it can be extremely difficult for the adoptive family that has invested so much hope and energy into the adoption opportunity. While adoption disruptions are not incredibly common, they do happen.

An adoption disruption is sometimes referred to as a “failed adoption.”  It’s not surprising to know that older children adopted out of foster care would experience a higher rate of adoption disruption than younger children.  Every adoption is unique.

A family whose adoption failed is left trying to piece together a difficult situation. From the perspective of an adoptee there is always some “back” place where they could be sent if the adoptive parents are unhappy with them.

One adoptee discussing this recently shared – “I wasn’t HIS kid.  I was her kid and so anything related to me – she had to deal with because he wasn’t interested. As far as he was concerned, I should have been returned to foster care when I was a little kid.” The clincher was that this man was a religious minister.

While there are many causes – legal disruptions, children returned to care, adoptees placed in residential facilities or other out of home situations – it is also potentially caused by a breakdown in the parent child relationship.