A Belief That Enables

When you make a decision, you make that decision consciously for only 5% maximum, the rest of your decision (95%) is controlled by your subconscious mind. The decision to adopt a child is conscious but there are subconscious factors below that which are influencing or will influence your experience as an adoptive parent. Some couples adopt for the same reason some couples decide to have a biological child – in order to save a marriage by bonding it with a child. Of course, the couples who adopt generally have other factors – most especially an experience with infertility and failed attempts at using reproductive medical assistance to have a child biologically. In other words, many adoptions actually start out on shaky ground to begin with.

So today, I came across something else that is more than a little bit disturbing. I hasten to add a trigger warning at this point for anyone for whom child abuse discussions might be too emotionally upsetting to continue. Having done my due diligence in this regard – you can proceed reading or leave this blog warned and saved the painful recollections.

It is sometimes asked – Why did they adopt just to abuse them. There is an assumption that adoptive parents wouldn’t abuse their adopted children because they went to so much effort to adopt them. All parents are capable of some degree of abuse – even with a great deal of love and often from ignorance or poor examples growing up. Therefore, it is dangerous to put any adoptive parent on a pedestal because sometimes adoptees are abused. It is a sad fact – and sad anytime any child is severely abused by any adult person for that matter. When the abuse starts… the people around them often say: well, those kids are very troubled and acting out. The adoptive parents are doing the best they can. Who can really blame them for doing what they have to do in order to control that child ?

One reason that it doesn’t shock or confuse me that some adoptive parents might harm their adoptees is that I have become aware of how common a trait of narcissism is among adoptive parents. Wanting a child doesn’t mean you’re going to treat them well. Adoption is inherently a selfish act – regardless of what you believe is motivating you. An adoptive parent may expect their adopted child to be compliant with any of their expectations or demands. That parent may lash out at their adoptee when they don’t meet those. Adoptive parents are not exempt from having anger issues and abusive tendencies.

Sometimes this abuse doesn’t begin immediately but when that cute baby becomes a rebellious teen. One adoptee shared her example – my adoptive mother actually said to me when I was 7 yrs old – “We wanted a baby, and you’re not a baby anymore.” That is how she explained they were going to adopt a baby boy.

Abuse is about possession and control. And in a weird, twisted kind of logic many abusers don’t actually think are they abusive. An abusive narcissistic parent may think they are a really good one. Being abusive goes against the savior narrative that so many adoptive parents have accepted as their reason for adopting. Adoption seems to be a process that attracts people who need to feel good about themselves. And once they’ve completed the adoption, they feel effectively immune from criticism because, after all, it was such a “selfless” act to rescue a child in need.

People adopt simply because they want kids. However, they may not actually have any idea of how to raise those children, once they have achieved that primary goal. These kinds of adoptive parents may have difficulty accepting that the child they adopted is an individually separate person with ideas of their own, desires, wants, and needs that do not necessary mirror the adoptive parent. In fact, often don’t While nurturing plays a role in the kind of person we each become – adoptee reunions with their birth parents after they reach maturity often prove – there is more to the genetic influences than many in the adoption industry want society to believe.

Another example comes from an adoptee with an emotionally immature mother – “She wasn’t able to have children and I think she thought a child would fix her. I was adopted at birth. I believe she thought I’d be a mini version of her but when I had my own emotions and interests, she couldn’t handle it. In came the weird emotional games.” It is way too common for adoptive parents to adopt a baby as a way to fix their own issues. It never works that way.

The abuse somehow feeds into these adoptive parents’ need to feel like they are doing something good. They are a “strong” parent and showing these troubled kids “tough love.” And then, there’s always the go-to excuse so many adoptees have hard – They should be grateful. They could have it so much worse. Never say to an adoptee sharing their experience something like – Just because you were abused by your adoptive parents, that’s why you hate adoption. Or sorry you had a bad experience. An experience sounds like a short term event. Adoption is lifelong.

Dismissing any adoptees’ discontent and trauma is victim blaming, also called gaslighting. It is an attempt to control the adoptees’ story in order not to break their happy, little “adoption is rainbows and butterflies” illusion.

Evolving Approaches

Why are so many foster parents uneducated about trauma ? It’s 2021.

Yes, training is lacking but it’s frustrating to keep seeing things like the comment below from a foster parent. If I have a biological child with special needs, we change to accommodate her. We change for biological kids. Why not do the same for a foster child ?

The question above was raised by one foster parent, after reading this comment below in quotes from another foster parent.

“I don’t know. This is sad because the foster family shouldn’t have to change everything for a child. It’s give and take. Obviously the child should feel accepted, but that’s also a choice on their part. Half this stuff (sleep in the bed, no TV after bedtime, eat what we’re eating, bond with us, doing chores) is not unreasonable.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t bend rules for the ‘undamaged’ kids in my home, not everything changes for the new arrivals. Foster kids need to understand the world doesn’t evolve around them. In the real world people don’t care if you’re in foster care. They don’t care if you have trauma. You do what your boss tells you to do. They don’t make accommodations for you.”

“We need to stop making excuses for foster children and stop letting others feel sorry for them. Being in foster care shouldn’t be used as an excuse. Everyone is treated the same in the real world. So why should we bend the rules to foster kids? A foster child shouldn’t force you to change your household or your rules. You’re the boss of your own home.”

“They should follow the rules and the values that the family that decided to open up their home to them has in place. We can’t keep allowing foster kids to take and we always give. It’s unfair. It doesn’t teach them anything about giving back or teach them anything about following the rules in life”.

So why wouldn’t foster parents want to provide specialized care when traumatized kids need this so critically ? Why do they choose to be foster caregivers ? Oh right, it is the money, the stipends foster families are paid to take in stranger’s children.

There could also be another aspect. Some foster parents are there for the glory and accolades from other people. This person’s perspective is simply justification for a rigid response. In reality, what should motivate anyone to be a foster caregiver, would be to help the child heal from whatever trauma has put them into the system to begin with. Just removing the child from their parents and home and being put into foster care IS trauma to begin with.

Think about it – if the injuries were visible and the child was then refused help to heal because of BS excuses like, the “real-world” is unsympathetic to your pain and suffering, many people would judge such a foster caregiver (like the one quoted above) as some unfeeling monster who neglects the children in their care. There should be zero tolerance for an attitude like this.

Truth is, parenting should be individualized to the unique person each child is. As parents, we should give more to children who need more. Parenting is not about one’s self or selfishness. A parents job shouldn’t be to make the kid’s lives crappy, even if we ourselves feel we have it crappy.

Finally, this foster parent writes as though fostering wasn’t a choice they made freely. A child who is unwillingly placed in your home doesn’t owe you gratitude or deference. And “everyone is treated the same in the real world”….what a sad excuse for having closed off your heart. One gets the sense that this foster parent has come from a middle to upper class white family and has not experienced a whole lot of the “real” life they speak so freely of upholding.

Seeking Ever More Accuracy

Years ago, the phrase NPE was coined to generally mean when the expected parent or parents weren’t.

  • NPE means nonpaternal event, also sometimes nonparental event.
  • Some folks didn’t like that term and began to use MPE, misattributed paternal event or misattributed parentage.

Of course, today, this situation could arise as a result of an adoption, a donor situation, either male or female, or the more often thought-of situation where the father isn’t who he’s presumed/believed to be based on the circumstances at hand.

There is one in my family. My sister never let on, even though I was supporting her through an unplanned, unwed pregnancy and was aware of her decision to surrender her child to adoption and was in on her thoughts as she made a decision on which hopeful adoptive parents to chose. For many years, I had a little lockbox in keeping for my nephew which I finally gave him in late 2016.

Imagine my own shock when his adoptive mother informed me that they were questioning the official paternity on his birth certificate. The DNA didn’t seem to add up. She was one of those good adoptive mothers who supported her adopted child’s search for the truth of his origins.

The actual father, proven by advanced DNA testing due to some uncertainty over which brother the father actually was, turned out to be my dad’s friend and former co-worker. What is worse is what I learned subsequently – that my sister actually did know who the father actually was. She informed him 6 months after the boy was born as though he had only just been born. Then, when the father indicated he was going to sue for custody because he never agreed to the adoption, very early in the morning on one Father’s Day, she called to tell him his son and the adoptive parents had been killed in a car accident. Imagine his father’s shock when this son turned up on his doorstep already in his 20s.

So, my sister is genuinely mentally ill. I don’t excuse this behavior even so. One can’t make these things up and it happens more often than one might think.

So, as the whole adoption related community (adoptees, original parents and adoptive parents joined by a whole host of friends and related family) seeks more accurate terminology, NPE has now been replaced by MPE – misattributed paternal event.

Inexpensive DNA testing and matching sites like Ancestry and 23 and Me are bringing truth into many adoptees lives, and in cases such as my own as the child of two adoptees, and has made all the difference in making us whole, in contact with our genetic origins and often with family members who’s lives continued to unfold, unknown to us, due to the rupture forced by adoption on the original family trees.

Why Is The Truth Hard to Hear ?

Today’s thoughts –

Relationships between adoptive parents and their biological kids are different than relationships adoptive parents have with their adopted kids. The connection with one’s biological kids is often deeper, biological connections are often stronger.

Many adoptees talk about how they could clearly see those differences in their adoptive families and in the way they were treated. Adoptive parents always defend themselves. “I love all my kids exactly the same. My connection is the same with all of my kids. My kids don’t feel that way and never will.”

There are a multitude of similar comments that have been uttered a thousand times.

If the reader is an adoptive parent – why is that something that’s hard to hear or gets you so defensive ?

No one is saying that adoptive parents don’t love their adopted children, or that they don’t have any connection with them. It’s simply not the same because biological connections matter. Yet an adoptive parent will immediately feel hurt because they don’t believe this is true about them.

For me, loving my biological children has always been natural, easy and effortless. Our bond was amazing the moment I laid eyes on them after birth. I hope my children all feel equally attached to me as their mom.

I suspect that anyone with adopted children has found they have had to work hard to love them with the same kind of overwhelming devotion (and some clearly don’t, as when the child is put back up for a second chance adoption). An adoptive parent must get to know their adopted child during the worst time in their lives. An adoptive parent may have to break some really hard news to them. In my own family, I had to explain to the adoptive mother of my nephew that his mother has a severe mental illness and that she has indicated that if she were in his presence she would not really be all that warm with him. It is very sad and I suspect he struggles now with all the truth that has come his way, including discovering that the man my sister named as his father was not and that the actual father was a co-worker with our dad that my sister seduced. No wonder she wanted to put the evidence of her behavior far away.

Any person who adopts has directly caused trauma. An adoptive parent may find that they did not bond or attach easily to the adopted child in the beginning. It may have taken a lot of work, a lot of therapy, blood, sweat, and tears. As parent and child, they may have had to work through mountains of pain, and will likely have some always. And maybe it is still hard somedays.

You can love them fiercely and they may even get more one on one attention than your biological children most days because they need it.

Yet, if you are being totally honest with yourself, you will admit that your bond with them is not the same as it is with your biological children. The love – while it is there and it is strong – is not the same, your biological connections with those children are strong as hell.

And as difficult as it is for you as an adoptive parent, it’s even more difficult for them. You are not their mom or dad, you never will be. They may have love for you, and maybe you have achieved some bonding, but the truth will always be that if they could go live with their mom/dad or other biological relatives – they absolutely would – without a second thought, simply because biological connections are strong as hell.

As an adoptive parent, if they can be honest with you, then you can know that your connection is strong. If you are able to hear them say that they wish they weren’t adopted sometimes, you are doing a great job. If you can suffer them telling you that they wish they were with their mom, you are humble and real.

They can tell you that even though their biological family treated them badly, they may still wish they lived with them – so they could (potentially) also be with their other siblings (often the case in these families that sibling groups become separated).

Maybe they are able to tell you that they are mad that you didn’t adopt their other siblings and maybe it wasn’t an option available to you at the time.

Most importantly, they know that you will respect and validate everything they say without trying change their minds, and without making excuses. They know that your love for them isn’t fragile and can’t be broken because they are able share feelings that sometimes hurt you feelings or make you feel bad.

Know this, your feelings are your problem. Don’t put them on your adopted child. And admit this, though your love for them, despite it being deep, is different than the love you have for your biological children, you will not deny the facts. Acknowledge that your connections, and bonds are different.

As an adoptive parent, these are things you should do your best to understand. It’s not about you and your image of saintliness out in the world. Your adopted kids know it’s different, don’t try to convince yourself that it’s not.

Dumped Out at 18

This man entered foster care at the age of 15. My biological parents had their rights terminated my senior year of high school. The permanency plan the state created for me was for me to age out of the system and be thrusted into the “real world” at the age of 18.
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If we want to discuss adoption from foster care, we need to talk about the kids that weren’t adopted.
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* 5% of kids adopted from foster care are between the ages or 15-18
* 20% become homeless the day they age out of the system
* 60%-90% of victims rescued from human trafficking spent time in foster care
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The reality is that 23,000 youth will age out of foster care this year alone. I know personally how hard it is to navigate life after foster care and I don’t want other youth to age out of care and have this be their reality.

When considering adoption, please keep these youth, not babies 0-3 years old, in mind.

One woman in my all things adoption group wrote – I’m one of those former foster youths in the system from age 5 to age 16, I aged out and was homeless upon emancipation, never got adopted, only had a failed reunification with my mom in my teens.

Another added this reality – I hate seeing comments from foster parents saying if reunification didn’t happen then kids could be adopted as young children instead of staying in the system as older children. Many older kids come into care as older kids. The reason why older kids stay years in foster care is because most people don’t want older children. They want 0-3, infants, or under 5. She adds – My foster daughter’s permanency plan was defined as another planned permanent living arrangement (APPLA) at 13. The system tossed her aside.

Yet another former foster youth writes – Came into foster care as an almost teen/teen, in 24 foster homes, and nobody but one wanted me. It’s crazy how you can get a teen easily in seconds but people would rather avoid teens and wait years for the kid they really want. I just wish we can be honest. This might hurt to say but all I hear are excuses. Just be honest and say you don’t care about teens in foster care. We’re passed along and pushed aside by everyone. It hurts but you get use to it.

You Might Be Adopted If

Believe it or not, it happens . . .  a person can live decades and not know that they were adopted.  Some stories . . .

You are at your Dad’s funeral, when two of his sisters corner you. They want you to return an heirloom that came to you from your grandma, “so it can  stay in the family.”  Huh ?

Your uncle’s wife wants your Mom’s mother’s and sisters’ jewelry for her daughter because “she’s actually a family member.”  Wow.

A sister tells you to return a picture of her grandma because the woman wasn’t your “real” grandma.  Ouch.

They leave your name off the obituary.  Or at your grandfather’s funeral your grandmother’s 3 sons (who he adopted) are asked to sit behind the other family members because “they aren’t his real kids.”

One woman at the age of 48 reveals, “I was at my uncle’s funeral when my cousin’s husband wandered up to me and said, ‘I’ve been wanting to meet you, because we’re both adopted.’ It was a huge shock – how could it not be ? On the other hand, I had an instant explanation as to why I’d always felt like a square peg in a round hole, when it came to my family.  I once said to my mother, ‘I’ve always felt like I was found on a doorstep.’ She got terribly upset.  I later learned that she had confided in my cousin’s husband because he’s a minister. She had assumed he’d keep it a secret.”

And maybe not funny but I actually thought my dad (who was adopted) had been left on the doorstep of the Salvation Army by a Mexican woman because his mother’s name was Dolores and he was adopted in El Paso TX.  Oh, the stories we make up when we don’t know the truth.  It really isn’t right.

Another woman at the age of 36, right in the middle of a divorce with her house being repossessed, was going back to a university for advanced education and so, she was asked to bring in her birth certificate.  Under pressure, her mom gave her a piece of paper and she took this to the university office. The administrator looked at her and said, “This isn’t your birth certificate.” The shocked expression on her face must have said it all.  The administrator explained, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but it’s your adoption certificate.”  The woman says, “I felt sick. My whole life had been a lie.”

One man found out he was adopted at the age of 60 when this happened –

“My wife and I were in a local garden center when I spotted the daughter of my mom’s next-door neighbor. She was with a little girl, who she introduced as one of her three grandchildren. The other two, she explained, were adopted from Vietnam. She turned to the girl and said, ‘This man was adopted too.’  My wife and I looked around to see who she was talking about. She felt awful – she thought I knew. It turned out she still remembered going in the taxi with her mom and my mom to pick up a five-month-old baby – me – from the Salvation Army all those years ago.”

Okay, just one more for today.

This man was 39 when he found out.  He tells the story this way –

“The thing I remember most about the day I found out that my mother didn’t give birth to me, was this feeling of standing with my back to the edge of a cliff because everything behind me – everything I’d known to be true – felt as if it was a lie and I literally didn’t know who I was.”

“It even made me question the right to have my father’s war medals. As the eldest of five children, I’d been in possession of them. I took them out of the drawer by my bed that night and felt it was wrong for me to have them, because he wasn’t my real dad.”  (My dad has his adoptive father’s war medals too.  When my dad died, I gave them to his biological daughter, who we considered our aunt.)

Continuing this man’s story, “I don’t think my parents ever intended to tell me. My mother says it’s because I was a sensitive child and they didn’t want to upset me. When I asked her why she still didn’t tell me in adulthood, she said she gave my father, who had died when I was 21, a deathbed promise to keep the secret. I think the real reason was a fear that I would abandon her in favor of my birth family. Even when my mother did finally tell me I was adopted, the first thing she asked me was never to make contact with my birth mother.”

Secrets have an inconvenient way of outing themselves as these stories prove.  Don’t do it.  Don’t pretend a lie because the one you are lying too will be hurt more by the deception than by the honest truth.

Being Charitable

What are you actually saying to your adopted child as an adoptive parent about what your motives were ?  There are cases – I suppose – like true orphans.  However, among the thoughts about reforming adoption in general, instead of buying a baby to raise as your own, is the radical idea of helping the mother in danger of losing her child.  Her crime may simply be lacking the financial means to raise that child.

Clearly, if you can plunk out tens of thousands of dollars to obtain another woman’s baby, you could go very far in your ability to charitably help keep a baby and mother together.  Sadly that is not the kind of thinking that motivates most adoptive couples.  Most are self-absorbed, only thinking about what it is they desire, and rarely considering the emotional price and mental anguish someone else (and often more than one someone else – the original mother, the adoptee, any subsequent siblings) will have to bear for you to fulfill your personal desire.

You will be held accountable for every decision you make regarding adoption.

Don’t you think your adoptees will have enough sense to realize that in 9 out of 10 cases you could have helped their parents keep them vs adopting them ? Do you think you’ll never be asked this question or held accountable ? In cases where infertility was the reason for adopting (as most cases actually are), don’t you think these children will have enough sense to realize they were your second choice ?

It is still a rather new perspective and some adoptive parents have been able to own the facts and own their culpability in the messed up institution of adoption.  What is done is done but things could be done better going into the future and that is why the idea of raising awareness and talking about ways that would be more life and family affirming is happening now.

If you do want to understand adoption trauma, then here it is – I have seen this for myself in an adoption triad group with thousands of members (all 3 sides of the adoption equation) – there really are a lot of very angry adoptees.  Ask yourself, why is that, if adoption is such a perfect answer to everyone’s problems ?

For adoptees unfortunate enough to have been the victim of a shady adoption, the truth will probably come out in this modern day and time (much of that kind of story did not come out during Georgia Tann’s illicit 3 decades long scandal from the 1920s up until 1950).  There will be damage that you (as an adoptee) may or may not ever be able to repair.  The damage is deep – and comes out in bits and pieces – and in ways that are not always obviously related to the adoption directly.

 

Socially Acceptable Sin ?

It seems that it is socially acceptable to covet in this situation . . . You can’t have children and so you’re looking to take someone else’s child and make them your “own”.  That is the definition of adoption.

Not only coveting, but working to thwart God’s will ?  If God made you infertile…that is like saying “no babies for you”.  However, among prospective adoptive parents one often sees them interpreting their circumstances to read “God led us to adopt”.

If you believe in the Bible as the absolute definitive source of God’s perspective, then there are so many things so very wrong and not biblical about that perspective of yours.

How about this one ?  “The sins of the father shall be visited upon the sons.”

You cannot “adopt away” God’s curses or vengeance. Your infertility is a direct result of God’s will, and is a result of sin from way back in your blood line. Blood lines matter. Adopting is thwarting God’s will.

NOT that I personally believe in all that but you can’t have it YOUR way, if you are going to hold to religion as your excuse for everything.

Does your intention to convert this child to your religion make it all right with God ?  I couldn’t say.  I doubt it though.

Unfortunately, the history of humanity proves to me that religion is often an excuse to do whatever nasty deed one wants to do and know they have “God’s blessing” because you know, they got saved and are right with God now.

So let me guess and take this to it’s logical (or illogical actually) conclusion –

God causes fertile women have messed up lives so that they will chose to surrender their baby to adoption. The sole reason is so these “special chosen few” can take that baby for themselves because they are more favored by God ?

Just a reality check today on our lesson about coveting something that is someone else’s because you know, it was God’s will that they conceive and give birth to that child.  God does not make mistakes about who he gives children to.  Just saying – you can’t have it anyway you want it or can you ?  Maybe so.

Facing One’s Own Selfish Reasons

It wasn’t God who called upon you to adopt, though you might prefer to believe that.

“I wanted to have a child to love me and I couldn’t seem to have that with my own body.”

“I wanted to do those things with my children that everyone else was doing – the parties, the sports, the performances, the popularity – that some children shine at, and to shine in their reflected glory.”

Stop making God the scapegoat for your own desires. You did what YOU wanted to do for your own selfish reasons.  Before adopting, every couple should first come to terms with the reality of their infertility and then, consider the choices available to them to fulfill their desires.

When my husband finally decided he wanted children after 10 years of marriage, and by then we were already in our forties, it became clear that we could not conceive without assistance; and so, we considered briefly whether or not we should adopt.

We decided against it and now that I know more about everything related, I am glad we made the choice we did, even though it is rather a complicated situation.

An Inconvenient Truth

Adoption is not the gray area it is often portrayed by the industry as.  It is more black and white, with that overlap of gray.

As difficult as it may be to fully realize, in order to adopt, on some level you are okay with taking someone else’s child from them.  You may not even be willing to consider the pain it causes the original mother and/or father.

This the inconvenient truth at the heart of becoming an adoptive parent.  You may want to “believe” you are some kind of heroic savior but you really are simply wanting something (a child) that for whatever reason you don’t believe you can have any other way.

Some people can do this and function adequately to parent that child.  Many adoptees, even though they have LIVED that condition, can’t reconcile the thought that this was okay with their adoptive parents.

This is not to judge or dismiss the reality that some children may actually fare better than they would have with their original parents.  I can see this in my own family dynamics.  Because I have the kind of faith that believes given a long enough view throughout time, it all works out – both at the physical level and in the soul karmic level.

There are always excuses on the part of adoptive parents. What if this ? What if that ? But I did this or I did that. If I had not, then what MIGHT have happened to that child ?

I respect ALL of the adoptive parents that are a part of my family’s life story. The adoption reform movement wishes only that adoptive parents recognize that their decision to adopt a child was driven by a desire to fulfill their own “selfish” motives.  To be honest about that.  They can admit simply that they wanted kids and couldn’t have them using their own reproductive capabilities.  It was always about what they personally wanted for themselves.

It’s not the only thing that would make adoption concepts more honest but it is a beginning on the adoptive parent side of a complicated equation.