The Pain of Family Feuds

I’ll let this story from my all things adoption group speak for itself.

I’m an adoptee that was adopted by my maternal grandparents at birth, my birth mom has always been in my life at different times and in different ways, our relationship now is very rocky, and I never saw much of my dad growing up.

When I was 6, my grandparents cut off all contact with my dad’s family. For years they told me that it wasn’t safe, or that they had no interest in seeing me, which wasn’t true – my grandparents actively threw out letters and cards from them.

I used to beg to see my family, when I was a young teen I started sneaking out to see my aunt, then my grandparents found out. I was grounded and stopped from leaving the house. I grew up remembering and loving these people who lived literally two miles away but missing out on a childhood with them.

I grew up with no racial mirrors and felt like I did something wrong to these people that I had fun memories with as a kid. One time I saw my aunt across a store and begged my grandma to say hi, but my grandma dragged me out of the store and said it wasn’t safe.

4 years ago, I reunified with my dad’s family locally and have an amazing relationship with them, and flew to California to see my uncle and meet my cousins for the first time, and eventually flew to New York. I was greeted with open arms, but it doesn’t make up for the 20 year gap of not having these people in my life. These are people I should’ve grown up with!

My aunt lives close to me and we talk, but I feel like a stranger in her house. I feel like I don’t belong here. My uncle is in town to visit with his kids, and I’ve been here all day, and decided to stay the night…for the first time at 28 years old, I’m spending the night with my aunt – something that most kids did growing up.

It’s 3 AM and I’m laying on her couch, unable to sleep because I don’t feel like I belong here, even though they treat me like we were never apart. I don’t know what the point of this post is…it’s just complicated, not many people understand my complex adoption trauma or seem to think that it’s somehow “less” because I was adopted by my grandparents, I should just shut up and be grateful for that.

I still feel like I’m in the fog. My grandparents have both died, and I have a hard time wrapping my thoughts and emotions around the trauma that two people I loved very much even so caused. I’m just trying to live with it.

Refreshing

It is refreshing to encounter an adoptive parent with such clarity about her adopted child. Heron Greenesmith writes at Parents.com – Please stop calling my adopted daughter ‘lucky.’

She writes – I “would have given anything for her to be with her biological family instead.” It was not a newborn infant that was adopted but a 5 yr old child. “Love can be burden, particularly if you are a 5 year old who has never met these people who know everything about you.”

It was as she wrote about her experience on social media that she was told – “She’s so lucky.” – perhaps a thoughtless platitude, a senseless nothing typed quickly into a comment bar.   “Lucky girl to have such dedicated parents!” (Dedicated? Why did that word carry so much power to imply that adoption was somehow more work than literally creating an entire human in one’s body?)

And here is why she does not consider her daughter lucky – her daughter was taken away from her natural parents and siblings. She experienced indescribable grief and trauma at an age before many of us even begin to understand that level of misfortune is possible. She also sees a young child who walks through life with the burden of knowing one may lose what one loves without warning.

She admits that some parents are unable to keep their kids healthy and safe. Our nation’s child-welfare services are designed to support these families in need. They are supposed to keep kids healthy and safe while parents are getting the assistance they need. And if further tragedy strikes and parents are wholly unable to care for their children, the system turns its gears and tries to find a new home for the child.

She is also not comfortable with the reasons that some people may consider her adopted daughter lucky – Lucky to be with parents in a higher tax bracket? What does that say to the children in low-income families whose parents are keeping them healthy and safe? Does it tell them that poverty itself is justification for removing kids from their parents? And too often, poverty is the justification for removing children from their biological families.

She writes “there is nothing I would not give for her to have been safe, fed, and clean in her first home, without having to have gone through hell first.” “She is incredibly unlucky and will spend her life carrying her tragedy with her. It is our job to help her understand her tragedy and help her carry it.” She remembers that first day and a terrified kid being driven in a car by people she’d met two weeks earlier to a new house where she’d live “forever.” But she is also aware that to her daughter, “forever” doesn’t truly exist.

Adoption Is NOT The Goal

A foster parent is asked by some other person – “So . . . are you going to adopt him ?”

A red flag that this foster parent is in it for the wrong reason would be this answer – “We hope so. We’ve been waiting a long time. His parents are (insert case details here).”

A better answer that would be more appropriate would be – “The goal of foster care is to support a family in crisis. We will support the goals of the state as long as they need us to.”

But the best answer is actually the most direct and simplest – “That’s not the goal of foster care.”

Love this post by a woman named Lauren Flynn –

Y’all, it’s #fostercarewarenessmonth and we need to talk: Why is “foster to adopt” an acceptable phrase, ever? Why are there SO many people who become foster parents (which is SUPPOSED to mean pledging to love and support a child AND their family and be part of the crisis remediation team for that family) when they have zero intention of actually working towards the goal of reunification?!

Why does #fostertoadopt have hundreds of thousands of posts but #fostertoreunify has barely 500?! Shouldn’t every foster parent foster to reunify?!

No seriously. Don’t just dismiss that, resist the urge to get defensive, sit with it. Sit with it, and think about if you were, God forbid, in a situation where your babies were taken from you. Would you want them to be in a home that was “fostering to adopt”?! Or would you want them to be in a home that would fight like hell for your family’s healing?!

I wish I could say that I could never imagine praying for another mama to fail so that I could keep her babies, but God help me, that wouldn’t be true. I know how it feels to want to keep these babies close, because I’ve been there. To hope for a family to be separated, to lay awake and pray for the children you love to lose everything…that’s true selfishness.

I don’t want that for myself or for any other foster parents, and I sure as hell don’t want that for families in crisis, families the system is supposed to be HELPING.

We can fight for a better way. This #fostercareawarenessmonth let’s start with doing away with the term “foster to adopt”

🤍

 

Some From Foster to Adopt Thoughts

The image is NOT the person who’s thoughts I will share today but it is not uncommon that people who foster end up adopting one of their foster care children. And so, here’s the story for today.

I’m a foster parent and have adopted from foster care. I’ve been in this (adoption related) group for a bit and I have been trying to learn and listen to all of you. I absolutely hate the toxic positivity and saviorism in the adoption world and the lack of understanding about trauma and the systemic issues that cause removals and adoptions that can largely be prevented. This needs to stop. However, I’m not understanding what you would suggest current foster parents do?

We didn’t go into foster care in order to adopt, we went into it to prevent family separations. We have always been active in helping the parents, in anyway that we can, get their kids back and keep a relationship with them. We have only adopted in cases that were extremely abusive and dangerous to the kids.

I don’t understand what your solution for these kids would be besides adoption? Kids that themselves have chosen not to continue a relationship with their family. Kids that say they want a new family. I see people in this group say to do permanent guardianship, but how is that not treating them as less than your other kids? Not letting them call you mom/dad if they want and not legally being a member of the family.

My kids were old enough to understand what happened and they asked for us to adopt them. They wanted to heal and have a safe and stable family. I’m in no way a savior or a hero or anything close to that for adopting. I just want to be there for these kids. I’m open minded, I want to hear from the adopted adults on their thoughts, which is why I joined this group. I want to do what’s best for them now and for their future and I have no desire to erase their history or original family from them.

So in response, not in regard to this specific situation, but from the big picture point of view came these important perspectives –

The solution is actually really simple. Address the reasons kids end up in care. Neglect is the number one reason and usually stems from addiction. So, tackle addiction with better programs that work that are not just accessible to the rich. Better social supports so families are not struggling. We need to reduce removals.

Guardianship has been practiced forever. Families have raised kids not their own since the dawn of time. It does not require legally severing a child’s identity. It does not require falsifying documentation. You can love and care for a child without that. They don’t need your last name to feel loved and cared for. It’s literally just paperwork. Adoption is not necessary.

A good adoption story (they exist, in fact, it can be said that both of my parents who were adopted, had good lives) does not make children being removed from their parents ok. Families need to be helped BEFORE they get to a point of their kids being removed. As a society, we need to truly care about family preservation.  Society needs to wake up enough to stop seeing adoption and foster care as something that saves children. Until that awareness becomes common, nothing about foster care or adoption will change.

Adoptees may never feel a sense of belonging to their adoptive family because it’s not their family. That may be hard for people who believe in adoption to accept but it is the obvious reality. If there were less foster/adoptive homes, the system would have to change. A change in what qualifies for removal, a change in what it takes to get kids home. All the money now wasted on foster homes could go back into social programs to help families.

If you want to help families, get out of the foster system if you are a part of it. Start working with local shelters and other organizations that help struggling families avoid Child Protective Services. Join programs that help foster youth aging out. Be an ally to parents caught up in the system. It’s a warped system that profits off of the destruction of families.  It is also that simple.

So You Want To Help A Child ?

Many people go into foster care with good intentions. They really want to help a child who might need it. Here are some words from a woman who did that.

So, having been a foster parent, I want to just get out there to those considering it to say – don’t. Child protection is a corrupt vehicle of systemic abuse. The system abuses children, and as cogs in that machine, you are participating. If you ‘have a heart’ for children or ‘feel called’ or whatever it is, let me suggest you can do any of the following:

1. Volunteer as a CASA. These advocates listen to kids and represent their position in court. No one listens to foster kids, and this is a genuine chance.

2. Volunteer at a local women’s shelter, as a domestic violence or sexual assault advocate, or within the shelter childcare system.

3. Support wellness courts, programs that serve addicts, and programs in your community aimed at helping with food security or relieving poverty. Most children are removed because their parents are struggling with addiction.

4. If you truly want to be a foster parent, license for transitional care or teens, and don’t waiver.

5. Donate your kids clothes and baby items.

What else can you think of that might help?

My family has long taken our obsolete toys to our regional women and children’s shelter for those fleeing domestic violence (children do grow up and we bought more things at Christmas – trying it make it magical like we experienced as children ourselves – than we should have and while it was a lot of fun to open all those presents on Christmas morning, many – sad to say – remained on shelves and were never looked at again. Happy they get a second chance). We have also taken the children’s outgrown clothes and the women’s clothes no longer need by me to the same place.

It is a small thing. Nothing to win awards for but it is some thing. Do what you can. It matters.

Unbelievable But Sadly True

“I am a believer in ripping the bandage off the wound. This is why I believe the biological family should have 6 month maximum to get their act together or move immediately to adoption and have those children in a permanent home by 12 months.” ~ Foster Care Parent

Hummmm, if people were band-aids…. sure. But people aren’t band-aids. We have memories and psychological effects from everything, from smells to interactions. We are a little bit more complex then band-aids.

These types of thoughts are based on the information the general public hears. They also come from “stories” shared about kids languishing in the foster care system, until they are too old and considered unwanted.

The truth is that in some states biological parents are only given 3 to 6 months to “get their act together” before their children are allowed to be adopted by strangers.

Each foster care case begins with the goal of reunification. The parents will be given a case plan with things that they need to do in order to have their children returned home. Children are removed when the situation they are in is deemed unsafe. The case plan is intended to remedy any issues that are considered unsafe, and help the home become one that is more stable and safe.

Some examples of what a case plan may include an alcohol or other drug abuse assessment, counseling, periodic drug testing, therapy, parenting classes, mental health assessments, home visits, even a change in residence if that is deemed necessary, the parent must secure a job or prove dependable income, etc.

How long would it take you to get your act together – if you were dealing with addiction or alcoholism, lacked the privileges a lot of people take for granted, had generational poverty, heck generational experiences with foster care placement ? What if you had lost EVERYTHING, your home, every penny you ever possessed ?

There are former foster youth who are now parents. Some are third generation foster kids. There are generations of a family line that have all spent time in foster care. It’s sad. Trauma is so hard to heal, especially with no support.

Thankfully, reunification does happen. It could take a mom almost two years to completely turn her life around. She might have to face up to some pretty difficult stuff. Some of these successful efforts will go on to help other parents make it through the requirements to reunification with their children, just like the successful person did.

Languishing isn’t the right term for most cases. There are kids who languish in foster care but it’s the older kids and teens with no real permanency goal in their case plans. They will eventually “age out.” A baby being with a foster parent for six months isn’t languishing.

People who say what the foster care parent at the beginning of this essay said are ignorant. Many hopeful adoptive parents turn to foster care with an intention to be able to adopt a baby. Many foster parents can’t even get their own situations together when a placement comes into their home in six months or a year’s time. There shouldn’t be a time frame for the biological parents. People who want to adopt should get the hell out of foster care.

And consider what happens to the older kids the foster parents don’t want to adopt ? Do they believe only babies come into foster care ? What about the 12 year old ? Are they going to adopt the 12 year old ? Most likely – no. They only want the babies.

And it has been shared that some states actually do a better job in supporting family reunification after a disruption like this. In ARKANSAS, the state gives biological parents 12 months. If need be/ if the parents are “progressing”, an extension can be granted. Many parents take as long as 12 to 15 months to complete everything the state requires of them to become compliant in every way.

It is said that ARIZONA or TEXAS are not good states to find yourself in this predicament. Termination of Parental Rights and subsequent adoptions are having to be reversed because the department in charge of protecting children is not doing their jobs properly.

Case in point, this case in ARIZONA. It ended in lawsuits that undid the adoptions. The state had to pay the family $25,000 x 2 kids. Yet, the parents did not get the help they needed. Sadly, 2 years later, the kids were back in foster care. The grandma now has permanent guardianship of her grandkids. These children were adopted, then un-adopted, got to go home to their parents, then ended up back in foster care. The state basically forced permanent guardianship on the grandmother – it all happened very fast (though not adoption). Then, thankfully, the state stepped back out of it again.

This is our foster care system at work or not working.

Family Separations and the Judge

No child should be separated from their Mother, rather we should work on means to keep them together!! No matter what. There are very few children who wind up truly unwanted. Most of the issues their parents face are temporary and, with proper support, the family can be preserved.

Republicans have suggested that one of the reasons she should be given a lifetime appointment on the highest court of the land is that she has seven kids. Constantly bringing up how many kids she has is part of an attempt on Republicans’ part to (1) draw a distinction between Barrett and what they view as childless heathen Democrats, (2) claim that any opposition to her confirmation is anti-mom, and (3) suggest that since she’s a mother, she must be a good person who couldn’t possibly issue rulings that would hurt millions of people.

One of the problems with Coney Barrett is her own worldview – according to her own opening statement in the Judiciary Committee hearing, her own biological children are super intelligent but the black children she adopted were damaged, ie she “saved” them. This is known as white saviorism.

In one of the only discussions of immigration to arise during the confirmation hearings, Barrett declined to say whether she thought it was wrong to separate migrant children from their parents to deter immigration to the United States. “That’s a matter of hot political debate in which I can’t express a view or be drawn into as a judge,” Barrett said in response to a question from Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Booker said he respected her position but asked again: “Do you think it’s wrong to separate a child from their parent, not for the safety of the child or parent but to send a message. As a human being, do you believe that that’s wrong?”

Barrett told Booker she felt as if he was trying to engage her on the Trump administration’s border separation policy. Under the policy, immigration officials applied a “zero-tolerance” approach to undocumented immigration and separated families crossing the border through Mexico. “I can’t express a view on that,” Barrett said. “I’m not expressing assent or dissent with the morality of that position—I just can’t be drawn into a debate about the administration’s immigration policy.”

Booker responded that, actually, he was simply asking “basic questions of human rights, human decency, and human dignity,” which one might think a staunchly pro-life individual and mother of seven might be able to answer.

Jill Filipovic described Barrett as “Pro-life until birth” which is the real problem with a lot of Pro-Lifers. Filipovic goes on to say about the Judge – “Booker wasn’t asking about the family separation policy as a legal matter. Like her views on abortion, she could presumably separate her personal feelings from her legal ones. She’s been happy to put her views on abortion forward. Why so quiet on family separations?”

Our First Union

We seek love, because of that very first union we had with another person – our mother.  Of course, at birth, it was necessary for us to separate physically from her, in order to grow and develop further.  Even after birth, and more importantly still, if we are totally separated from her – taken away from her and given to a complete stranger (as in adoption) to raise us – very deep within us, we know her still.

In the womb, we heard her voice, experienced her emotions, tasted the foods she preferred flavoring the amniotic fluid that cushioned us from the blows of a harsh world.  We were ever intimately connected to all the interior sounds, her heartbeat and other organs functioning.  They say a pregnant woman is a totally different gender from the typical male/female divide.

Though we celebrate our mother’s love in May, the month of February is full of constant reminders of the importance of love.  We send Valentine’s to other people, even children do this as they celebrate the day in school and church.  We remember to tell people we love them.

Yesterday was my own mother’s birthday.  I lost her to death in 2015.  The years fly by so quickly.  Most years on her birthday, I called her up on the telephone and we would talk for a very long time.  During a difficult time in my life, I remember going into the darkened kitchen to cry alone in my deep despair.  Suddenly, she was there.  Her maternal sense knew I needed comforting.

My mom was taken away from her mother after a brief visit.  Her desperate mother was struggling to find a way to support the two of them.  The father (she was married) inexplicably did not answer when her cry of distress through the Juvenile Court in Memphis was issued.  I like to believe he didn’t get the message in time to prevent my mom from being taken from her own mother by exploitation and unbearable pressure (surrender your child or be declared unfit by my good friend the Juvenile Court judge said Georgia Tann, the master baby thief, to my grandmother).

Separating a child from their original mother causes deep wounds.  I grieve that our country cruelly does this to migrant children.  It is an abomination.  Truly.

The Scourge Of Poverty

Many children end up in foster care or adopted for no more reason than poverty.  A recent suggestion was if stipends that go to foster care could be redirected to parents working hard to keep their children.

Definitely, a single mom can feel stuck in a never-ending cycle of poverty, constantly worried that one financial emergency will send everything tumbling down.

In 2014 there were 46 million poor people in the U.S., and millions more hovering right above the poverty line.  A single mom may live in a cozy two-bedroom apartment and have food, furniture and toys for her child and still be very much at risk.  That apartment may not be located in a very safe place to live.  Yet subsidized housing may be all she can afford.

I was such a single mom at one time in my life.  Most of my paycheck went to rent, food, child care costs so I could work, gas and pediatrician bills.  What drove me to leave my daughter with her paternal grandmother was – so I could try and earn a higher standard of living.  I didn’t have a lot of hope for the future, if I stayed in the situation I was in.

If you’re poor, it may be in every aspect: emotionally, support-wise and family-wise.  And even when there is family support ?  As in grandparents raising several grandchildren as their own of which I do know more than a few.  Heck I turned to a grandparent myself in my own dire time of need.

And the strain on children of living with adults who are overwhelmed by life or who don’t have the skills they need to raise their children because they themselves came from troubled homes only compounds the core problem of poverty.

Poor families today are more isolated from neighbors, work, family – all of the social networks that help people through life.  There has to be a better way than the business as usual way we have now.