Putting A GenZ Adoptee in Congress

Maxwell was adopted as an infant by a special education teacher, who migrated to the United States in the Freedom Flights, and a musician. The Freedom Flights were the largest airborne refugee operation in American history and operated between 1965 and 1973 from Cuba to Miami, twice daily, 5 days per week.

He was born in Orlando, Florida. His original mother was caught in a cycle of drugs, crime, and violence – while pregnant. She didn’t have healthcare and wasn’t able to see a doctor. She put him up for adoption because she would not be able to raise him. He reconnected with his birth mother in June 2021.

He said, “What changed everything for me was connecting with my biological mother, learning about her story, learning about the things she had been through.” He learned he has multiple siblings (and she wasn’t able to raise another child).

His grandmother, Yeya, came to the USA in the 60s with only a few clothes and without any money. His grandmother had to work 70 hours per week under harsh conditions. He was close to her and only a few days ago, the family buried her.

Frost says to have a better democracy, there should be more poor and working-class candidates in the political system. He became politically active early in his life organizing with March for Our Lives and not surprisingly better gun control regulations are among his most heartfelt issues. He also cares about climate change and voting issues. He notes that “The biggest generational divide isn’t the issues – it’s the urgency.”

Big Rage

When I was 4 and my brother was 10, our mother was sentenced to two years in prison for drugs. She was the eldest of 5 siblings (my natural father was not in picture or listed on the birth certificate). At first we bounced around to various family members. Eventually my brother went to live with our uncle and I went to live with a friend of the family. My natural mother signed the custody papers, then later the voluntary termination of parental rights, from prison with her sister (a Notary Public) signing as witness. Suddenly, at 4 years old, I had a different family. We moved to another state when I was 7 where I proceeded to live a brand new, vastly different life.

I won’t go into the rest – the court trial for custody when my natural mother was released from prison (she lost); the old money, don’t-air-dirty-laundry, only blood relatives matter mindset of my “new” extended family; the shock of moving from a major city in one state to rural farmland in another (on top of everything else); having my name legally changed as a teenager, when the adoption papers were finalized; everyone in my small town knowing my story because I had a different last name than my “parents”; reconnecting with my natural mother, natural brother, and her family as an adult and discovering they’ve always felt I was “stolen” from them.

I fucking hate it.

I hate being adopted; I hate my natural family for splitting up siblings; I hate them for giving me away to outsiders; I hate my extended adopted family for hating me, belittling my experience, telling me to be fucking grateful I was taken in by someone; I hate that I am reminded of my adoption Every. Single. Day. in large and small ways; I hate that I’m fucked in the head with no concept of normal; I hate feeling like a piece of luggage; I hate having two birth certificates; I hate people thinking I’m “playing the victim” when I try to talk about it; I hate not knowing my genetic history or where I’m from; I hate my natural mother for signing the termination of parental rights; I hate my natural brother for getting to grow up with our cousins; I hate feeling like I don’t belong anywhere, with anyone; and I HATE that I cried while writing this because after 40 years it still hurts so much.

So much hate inside me. Big Rage. But I am more than that, I have just as much love. A bundle of strong emotions. I’ve always said I feel like I was born without skin – just raw nerve endings exposed to the world.

Krista Driver NPE

Today’s story comes from an essay in Right To Know. NPE stands for non-paternity event (also known as misattributed paternity, not parent expected, or NPE) is when someone who is presumed to be an individual’s father is not in fact the biological father. This presumption may be on the part of the individual, the parents, or the attending midwife, physician or nurse.

The story that was told to her was that her mother was 15 years old and homeless, living in a van, and making a lot of poor choices as many troubled teens do. She didn’t have adult supervision, and drugs and parties and a little bit of crime-ing seemed like good ideas to her at the time. One winter day, she was arrested for “breaking and entering.” The police found her in a pile of dirty clothes in the back of her mother’s van. Her mother went to juvenile hall and she went to the hospital. They say, she weighed only 2 lbs and diagnosed her as “Failure to Thrive”. The doctor told the social worker, “It will be a miracle if this baby lives through the night”. She acknowledges, “I guess I wasn’t ready to ‘give up’ because I lived to tell the tale.”

After some years in foster care, about the time she turned 4 years old, she was taken into court and her mother was there. When she entered the courtroom, her mother was telling the judge, “They can have her now and then give her back to me when she’s about 10”. He tapped the papers on his desk and said, “I’ve seen enough”. And with that, he ended her mother’s parental rights, and Krista was now eligible to be adopted by her foster family.

She shares, “Doctor visits were always weird because I had to remind them every visit that I was adopted and therefore did not know my family’s medical information. The worst was the school family tree assignments.” LOL, she admits, “I just made stuff up. One year, my family were missionaries in China and lived off bugs in the forest. Another year, my parents were in hiding from the Mexican mafia and we were in the witness protection program. Every year, the stories become more outlandish. And not one adult asked me what was going on with me—maybe because they all knew I was adopted and didn’t want to talk about that because people just didn’t talk about adoption back then.”

She continues her story –

When I was about 12, I saw an Oprah Winfrey show on “Adoptees and Happy Reunions” and I distinctly recall wishing I could have a “happy reunion” with my mother. I mean, I figured enough time had passed so surely she was more mature and sober. There were no computers or internet back then, so I walked down to the library and looked through phone books. I copied down ALL the people with her last name and then I snail-mailed letters to all five of them. One ended up with my birth mother’s grandparents and one with her sister. Naturally, I hadn’t told anyone I was even going to look, so imagine my parent’s surprise when one night my great-grandfather called.

My parents took me to meet my great-grandparents and they were nice enough. He showed me some of the genealogy he had done, and I was instantly fascinated. From that moment on, I’ve loved genealogy and researching ancestry. They told my parents not to allow me to meet my birth mother because “She had a lot of problems and it wouldn’t be good for me to meet her”. So, just like that, the adults in my world decided it wasn’t in my best interests to meet her without even bothering to ask what I wanted or thought.

And this part is sad – It wasn’t until many years later that I fully came face to face with a harsh truth about my great-grandparents. They knew about me when I was born. They knew I was in foster care. They knew Sharon was “trying” to get me back. And yet, they left me there. They didn’t help her. She was 15 and living on the streets. They let their great-grandchild spend the first four years of her life in foster care. Then they met me at age 12. Once. And never called or wrote or anything after that. I will never understand why they made those choices.

Krista chose the field of psychology as her career path. In grad school, she once again had that dang family tree assignment. This time she decided to do it with real people and real information. So, she dug out her biological aunt’s phone number and called her for help. She agreed and they arranged a day for Krista to drive down to San Diego to meet her. On that day, her aunt decided it would be a good day for Krista to meet her biological mom, their mother, and her brothers. She admits – The only problem was that she neglected to tell me. I walked into a family reunion of sorts and I was not prepared. It was very, VERY, overwhelming. I was 21 and I simply did not have the emotional maturity to withstand all the emotions that flew at me and in me and around me. I was stunned into silence.

She describes the moment she saw her mom, Sharon, and they locked eyes. The woman had no idea who Krista was. One of her uncles went over and told her mother. When recognition hit her eyes, so did something else. From where Krista was standing – it looked like shame and guilt and an intense desire to flee. Somehow they bridged the distance and hugged. Her mother kept saying, “you’re so beautiful”. Krista says, “And I felt nothing. And I felt everything. And time stood still. And the past rushed in. It was the most confusing moment of my entire life.”

Her mother told Krista “Michael” was her father. She found him and met with him. He told her he remembered Sharon and a baby, but that he wasn’t her father. Michael was with her the day she got arrested and Krista was taken away. Later he ran into Sharon and she told him the baby died, and he went on with his life. Then, Krista shows up 21 years later claiming to be his daughter. Leaving his house one day he said to her, “I’m not your father, but I will be one if you need one”. She says, he really was a sweet man who had made a lot of mistakes in his past, but he married an amazing woman and had two lovely children. For 26 years, she thought he was her biological father. And after the night she met her mother, Sharon, they did develop a pretty good relationship though their relationship was complicated. 

Eventually, she did an Ancestry DNA test. Michael was right. He isn’t her father. Thomas is. He was 35 and her mother was 15, when Krista was conceived. A lot like the parentage of both of my own adoptee parents. Each was young (though in their 20s, not teenagers) and the fathers were both much older men. Reminds me of the time my husband and I tried to do some match-making for his dad’s twin brother only to discover he was only interested in much younger women. LOL

When Krista asked her mother who Thomas was and she just started crying. She let her mother know she would be willing to speak with her when her mother was ready to tell her the truth. They never spoke again. Sharon died unexpectedly a few months later and took her secrets to her grave. Well, actually, Sharon’s ashes are in Krista’s closet sitting right next to her stuffed monkey George. Sharon was 62 years old. Yet, Krista knows her mother also lied about so many things.

She says there were little to no resources here in the US. The UK had quite a bit of data (clinical studies) to pull from. Krista began to formulate a really good sense of how to define what she was feeling and put some contours around her experience. From there, she was able to identify healthy, impactful ways to walk through this NPE landscape. Solo. She didn’t have a single person who could identify with what she was going through.

Krista has turned this into her practice as a therapist. She trains other clinicians who are interested in working with this population. She has opened up virtual support groups for NPE (adult and adolescents), NPE Dads (biological dads), and NPE Wives (those whose husbands discover a child). She also works with people one-on-one and has worked with people from all across the US and from other countries. She is honored to note there will be a major clinical study here in the US (starting in the very near future) that she will be involved in.

She ends her essay with this – With the advent of home DNA kits, it’s not a matter of IF your secrets are revealed, it’s a matter of WHEN. The “recovery” isn’t necessarily linear, but it is survivable. I promise you that.

Not Every Situation Works Out

It can be heartbreaking. Case in point –

We were matched with an expectant mother 2.5 years ago who chose to parent. We understood and gave her all the things we had for the baby. We checked in on her legitimately a few times to offer help, but she blocked us – which I also understood. This was not a $50,000 agency adoption. She found us on social media. During the time we got to know her, we also got to know her sister who we have remained Facebook friends with. The sister recently reached out to ask how we were doing. In that conversation she shared that soon after her niece was born, her sister got into a bad relationship and started using drugs. Her child was taken by Child Protective Services, the Termination of her Parental Rights by court order occurred and the foster parents adopted the child. The sister was complaining that at first the foster family let them have visits, but they were super uncomfortable, seemed sketchy, and have since blocked contact with the child’s biological family.

I do advocate for moms to keeping and raising their babies. The woman above asked, “but what about situations like this?” and goes on to make a point that there are some moms that do not do well parenting or maybe their circumstances change. That maybe she wasn’t as able to parent though she thought she was.

A really good response to this story acknowledged that the woman telling this story was really trying to learn and wrap their head around breaking out of the whole “rainbow and butterfly” narrative (what adoptees often refer to as the societal adoption myth). I believe you are mature enough to understand that there is always going to be a “not“ situation that falls into a gap. I have a sibling who could perhaps fall into that not all situation… (and in fact this blog author does too.) To answer your question… Yes, there are probably situations involving parents who don’t want to raise their children. Some parents believe the narrative that giving a baby for adoption is better than having an abortion. Some parents, maybe in this particular situation, decided to parent the child because they honestly feel that’s what is in the best interest of their child and it was. Here’s the reality – being in an abusive relationship can change the victim’s mentality. A person trapped in such a relationship can literally become someone you would no longer recognize and someone they never intended to be. So again… Had this child remained with the mother and had she received the kind of support and assistance she needed when she need it including how to get away from her abusive partner, this story would have had a good outcome. There are so many women in situations that really could use help. There are a bunch of places where the system fails to help. And in her case, those failures resulted in the termination of her parental rights. I immediately wonder why this woman’s sister wasn’t contacted to foster this child who is her kin. Why was this sister not encouraged to adopt this child? It’s too late for answers to these questions. I’m just saying there were so many ways in which this one child was failed by a seriously flawed system. The trauma will be huge over the child and her mother’s lifetimes.

Don’t Say It’s Medicine

One of life’s more difficult circumstances – addiction – often causes a parent to lose custody of their child. A foster mother who is going to adopt such a child because there are no family options, still believes in reunification. She maintains a good relationship with the child’s mom and plans to continue to include her in here child’s life as much as is possible.

The question is how to explain to a very young child about the legal system and addiction, while respecting the mother’s right to tell her own story. However, seeing a need to also provide this 2 yr old child with the information she deserves. This foster mother is struggling with how to tell this child about addiction ?

So, she was reality checking her rehearsed explanation and good thing she was – here is what she was thinking of saying. “The judge decided you have to live with us because your mom was having a hard time when you came to live with us. Your mom was having a hard time not taking medicine that made her feel less pain, but that she wasn’t allowed to use while she was being a mommy. That medicine can make people feel sleepy and confused and forgetful. Sometimes people aren’t allowed to live with their kids when they start taking that medicine. Those mommies still love their babies more than anything in the world.”

It was very quickly pointed out to her how damaging it would be to call addictive street drugs (or even misused pharmaceutical drugs) “medicine.”

Do not call drugs – medicine. Have open conversations, age appropriate, with the child regarding the addiction, which is a kind of disease. Unless it is literally a misused Rx, do not call it “medicine.” And if that is the case, you can only really discuss such nuanced distinctions when she is old enough to ask about it and able to understand – heroin vs methadone vs fentanyl vs oxycontin. That probably would not be possible until her later teenage years.

Here’s one reason why – suppose you have an aunt who has cancer, and the chemo she had to take made her lose her hair permanently and even worse, she has an ostomy bag. People telling you, she got very sick and the medicine she took made those things happen to her, will leave a child terrified of getting sick and having to take medicine. The language used needs to be MUCH more specific. Don’t talk down to kids. Always go as specific, whenever possible, as you are able to.

Another example of why you have to be careful about switching words to describe something. While you may feel like it softens the blow to use the word medicine instead of drugs, consider when the child is four and the doctor prescribes medicine for an ear ache. Say someone dear is diagnosed with breast cancer, the child should not be told it is a boo boo. That is a terrible idea. So, explain that her mother takes drugs. Of course, the child will ask harder questions as she gets older, but it will also be easier to explain the situation more specifically then, however it has become by then.

Another possibility is to take that original explanation, leave the word medicine out of it and stay with the mom is going through a hard time. And call the issue what it is directly – drugs, plain and simple. Explain what drugs are and how they can affect someone. Drugs are not something you should ever shield any child from.

What Is The Money For ?

It is the middle of May and May is Foster Care Awareness Month.  I am in the middle of reading one Foster Care girl’s experience and it isn’t pretty, though I’m certain just as individual’s vary greatly so do experiences in the system.

Did you know that Foster Parents receive a stipend ?  Imagine what that kind of money might do to keep a family intact.  Of course, that isn’t always the issue.  The girl in the book I am reading (I will review it here when I finish it) had no where else to go.  The family dynamics weren’t good.  The mother had died.  Both the natural father and the step-father were in prison.  The grandfather got trapped in a poor decision related to trying to fix an awkward drug related situation that made him inappropriate for the girls even though he was not charged with an actual crime.  The aunts and uncles did not step forward.

So an issue developed with these unfortunate girls that the Foster Mom (the Foster Dad had died while they lived there) was NOT spending the stipend on the girls and there were cultural issues in this home.  The girls were non-Spanish speaking whites.  The Foster Mom was Hispanic and one foster child in the home before these girls was also and then one that came subsequently.  They frequently spoke Spanish with one another leaving the two white girls feeling excluded.  But what really hurt was the generous spending on the Hispanic girls while little or nothing was spent on the white girls.

One foster parent handbook states that the money is intended to maintain the placement and cover the costs of having the child in the home, including the cost of food, clothing, school supplies, a child’s personal incidentals, liability insurance with respect to the child, and reasonable travel to the child’s home for visitation.

That money is not intended for household bills, or to buy a new car or a new house because you need the extra room.  Other possible appropriate uses for the stipend could be holidays, presents, spending money depending on the child’s age, or to put into a savings account for child.  A sad fact in the book I am reading is that these girls did not receive presents at Christmas.