Stuff Happens And It Goes Horribly Wrong

Today’s story is so long, I will NOT try to convey it all. If I do this well, I can summarize it to make the relevant point.

There is a mom with 2 children at home ages 9 and 3. There is a 15 month old boy at the center of a custody battle. He was NOT removed by child welfare authorities. The circumstances of the pregnancy are complicated. This child’s father is a married man with a wife and newborn (she was pregnant at the same time this woman was). Paternity was assessed during the pregnancy which led to her separation from the older children’s father.

All of this turmoil, left the expectant mother vulnerable to a coercive adoption agency that stands to make $35,000 if the adoption can be finalized. The biological father will not relinquish, which is the obstacle for the hopeful adoptive parents who have had custody of the boy almost continuously since birth.

Though heroic for a husband faced with these circumstances, he came to the hospital when she went into labor.  The baby arrived at a time that there was NO hospital staff in the room. Her husband caught baby, otherwise he would have ended up on the floor.  Her daughter was instantly in love with the baby and wanted to hold him every second. The biological father, while remaining with his wife and newborn, offered to financially support the mother.

She is dealing with so many emotional issues, she has been on anti-depressants the whole pregnancy. Her therapist asked her what is she going to do about her situation ? She tells him she is thinking about adoption because she doesn’t feel she can raise another baby without help. He wants her to call and talk to 2 agencies before their next session. She admits that she was clueless and had NOOOO idea about adoption or agency red flags etc.

So she meets with a social worker (who actually was the Director of the agency). For the first time, she felt like she was able to share her story without the other person judging her or making her feel worse for what she had done. Talking to her felt like such a relief. So, they agree that she’ll contact their available families and see if any are comfortable with her situation. At the time, there were only 2 families waiting and 1 was not comfortable with her situation.

So, she looks at the profile of this couple, and she sees how important family is to them. She cries reading about their issues and many attempts to carry a pregnancy, even with adopted eggs. It makes her even feel so guilty. Here she is with an unplanned pregnancy, and not even science can help this couple. 3 weeks later, they meet for the first time over dinner.  Long story shorter, that couple leaves the hospital with her baby and she goes home without him.

However . . . bear with me, I am trying to get to the heart of this story as it stands now.

She made it very clear that first night that she was going to be very involved in her son’s life. Openness was a must and the couple agreed to it. I cannot relate how many “open” adoptions go bad once the adoption is finalized. No expectant mother relinquishing custody of her newborn should ever rely upon it. It is never legally enforceable and the adoption parents will have all of the leverage. They treated her like an outsider, like she was no more than a surrogate.

When her son was 1 week old, the social worker insisted that the hopeful adoptive parents allow her to visit. By that weekend, she told her social worker that she wanted to regain custody of her son and she didn’t want to proceed with the adoption. The hopeful adoptive parents begged her not to take him away but later that day, she picked her son up from the agency and brought him home.  Her son’s biological father was saying he would leave his wife and come back
to help her raise the baby. Then admitted he couldn’t do it. Conflicted parents all the way around.

She was coerced into signing the termination of parental rights by the hopeful adoptive parents, when she decided again to give up the idea she could raise the baby based on her current circumstances. Yet, there was a sticking point when a letter from her psychiatrist was required to prove that she was mentally capable of understanding the adoption plan. The psychiatrist refused – twice. So often an agency will exploit the post-partum period of a new mother. She wants her baby back now and she is fighting to achieve that. The biological father won’t consent, so that is in her favor. She’s concerned about causing trauma for her son by uprooting him.

The most reassuring, personal experience response was this – “As a child that was with the same caregiver from birth to 2 years and then moved.  That experience was not horribly traumatic for me. The trauma for me was losing my mother in the first place. I don’t call what I had a transition because it was less than a handful of quick visits. I have zero recollection of the family I spent those 2 years with. The bond is not your child to the hopeful adoptive parents, it is the hopeful adoptive parents who are bonded to your child.  Please don’t let anyone’s words about trauma change your course. There may be a slight adjustment period – or none – since your son will be back with the person who’s loss initially was experienced as trauma. Mother/child separation is the true wound. My suggestion is listen to those that have lived it, not those speculating about its effects.”

So this has been today’s cautionary tale.  The all things adoption group I belong to always counsels expectant mothers to try raising their newborn babies for an extended period of time. The hormones and emotions are wacked out and many a natural mother regrets for the rest of her life giving her baby up too quickly. It is a permanent solution to what is often a temporary problem.

 

The all things adoption group I belong to always counsels expectant mother to try raising their newborn babies for an extended period of time. The hormones and emotions are wacked out and many a natural mother regrets giving her baby up too quickly for the rest of h

In The Middle Of A Divorce ?

What? You’re not going to divorce so that you can adopt as a couple, because couples are favored by agencies, but then you’re going to immediately divorce once the ink is dry, further traumatizing this child?

Please no.

Here’s the backstory –

My husband and I are in the process of separating. Our marriage hasn’t been doing well now for a while and divorce sadly feels imminent. We’ve had our foster daughter, age 3, since she was 9 months old, The termination of parental rights is already on the books, scheduled for a May hearing right now – so still over 2 months away.

My question is, has anyone gone through a divorce in the middle of trying to adopt from foster care ? We want to still adopt her and we don’t want to do anything to compromise our chances of success in doing that.

I know divorced parents aren’t as good as happily married parents, but we do love her like she was our own. I just need advice on how to proceed in this situation. Things are feeling tough right now and we just don’t know what to do.

Short answer, I don’t know if it is possible in this case but the best solution might be to let the kid go back to her parents.

Which does bring up some questions –  if reunification is not off the table, why aren’t these foster parents working toward the goal of getting this child back with her parents ? Why has this little girl remained in their care for so long – without a successful reunification ?

The sticky part is – what does it mean if termination of parental rights has been scheduled for finalization, is reunification still an option ? And it is honestly possible for termination of parental rights to go to trial and then be denied by the judge.

And this from someone who seems to be knowledgeable in such cases – changing the case plan to termination of parental rights is usually the final warning to the parents that they must make “significant” progress. Once the case plan changes, the parents have about 30-60 days to make improvements. Basically, it’s used as a threat. The parents still have rights, and a chance until their termination of parental rights hearing actually takes place. At that point, it’s up to the judge. The judge can decide not to terminate.

Divorce IS traumatic on kids. Adoption and foster care add on more trauma. Deception to achieve the goal of adopting a young child is a terrible choice. This feeds into an idea that hopeful adoptive parents should do anything, at all costs, for a child they love… but in reality they’re doing anything at all costs for what they want.

Back to the question – Why is reunification not happening ? What supports could possibly be provided to the family that aren’t being offered now ? What are some things that could be done to support reunification over termination of parental rights ? When safe, reunification should always be the first and most supported option. The next option would be to support the child going to other members of the family. Why hasn’t that been explored ? Etc.

It is blatantly unfair to adopt a child knowing full well that you will be getting divorced. No matter how amicable things seem now, divorce changes people. Especially once family, friends and lawyers start giving their opinions.

It’s not fair to ask a child to navigate the feelings of adoption and divorce at the same time. Divorce brings up extra feelings of abandonment and chaos for an adopted child. They have already lost one family, only to lose another. The child needs stability and going straight into a custody battle is not it.