Unequal Treatment

This is really so common for so many adoptees that came out of foster care into families with biological children through adoption. I’m not going to catalog all of it but will hit a few highlights and say only – it is tough enough to come from a difficult environment and feel so completely disregarded. One wonders why these people do it. One theory expressed in the most recent story rings true – My adoptive parents have high status in my smallish town. Both very well known. I now believe we were trophies for them to flash and extra income that paid for fancy car loans.

The biological children were all younger. The woman notes – I remember thinking their two story home was a mansion. They had a tree house and trampoline. Sooo much property. Any poor kids dream. Even though she also notes – The family who fostered/adopted my sister and I were lower middle class. Their family photos never included the adoptees.

As me and my sister aged things got worse and worse. I had felt very loved initially. Me and my bio sister were much more well behaved than their own. We did as we were told. Mostly because, if we didn’t, we’d be disciplined. My biological sister and I would take on the majority of the house work, simply because the others refused to participate and no one enforced that they helped.

When me and my biological sister pushed back on things, we were told life’s not fair or just gaslit into thinking – it’s what we deserved, as we needed more structure due to our past. My older sister and I were placed into the foster care system the last time at ages 7 & 10. Our emergency placement that night was where we stayed for 2 years as foster kids, until ages 9 & 12, when the family adopted us. Her biological mother suffered mental illness with frightening episodes. She was dependent on sketchy men. They moved a lot, due to homelessness or the men the mother was using for survival. They went without food often.

When her biological sister pushed back harder and grew a bit defiant in her teen years, the adoptive parents went so far as putting her back into foster care. That was devastating for this woman as her sister had been her only constant in life. She admits that her sister was treated much more poorly than her and it causes her to feel regret that she did not stand up for her sister more often. Months later, the adoptive parents brought her sister back home, and readopted her because she had suffered abuse in that foster home. She notes that her biological sister eventually moved out at the age of 18 and went no contact with their adoptive parents for awhile.

She notes – Even so, I was grateful. I had been a good kid and caused as little disruption to their lives as possible. I wanted to please everyone so badly. I thought I should be grateful for what they did offer me because I could’ve had it so much worse without them. When I moved out at age 19, the disconnect got worse for me. My adoptive mother doesn’t acknowledge there’s a disconnect at all. Even though, we live close but go months without seeing each other and weeks without contact. Some outsiders notice how my sister and I were treated differently.

And so now, the woman accepts it for what it was and is. She is willing to play nice for family events and holidays. Without them, she wouldn’t have any family. She responds promptly to any of her adoptive mother’s texts, where the adoptive mother pretends to care. Like, she will make empty promises or fake plans, but clearly she never actually intends to follow through. Which leads the woman to fully believe, anything that does happen is just due to concern for her adoptive mother’s public reputation. What if the adoptee went no contact completely ? Sometimes, the adoptive mother actually follows through and does something special for her, like a baby shower for her 1st child. She notes, however, that it was a very public affair. Anytime, it is something private, her adoptive mother is clearly not as nice.

The Mandalorian

So, I’m not a Star Wars fan. I was once told I reminded a Salon participant at Jean Houston’s home of Yoda. I went looking. I have to admit there was some physical resemblance. LOL

Anyway, today I learned from a Time magazine article about The Last of Us that The Mandalorian had an adoption theme. That I did find interesting (though I am still not going to watch it). I did go looking and found quite an extensive article at Adoption.org LINK>What Does ‘Star Wars’ Have To Do With Adoption? In that article I found some answers.

From the article –

There is also a series in the Star Wars universe that is an amazing picture of foster care in the most untraditional sense. The Mandalorian explores the question of “who is family” when the main character is charged with capturing and eventually protecting a young creature who bears a strong resemblance to Yoda. He is strong in the force, but the Mandalorian is set in a time when being a Jedi is outlawed, and Jedis are killed without impunity. The Mandalorian becomes a makeshift foster father to the little guy who finds all kinds of ways to get into trouble and create drama. The war-hardened Mandalorian grows to love the little guy and does everything in his power to keep him safe and to get him back to “his people.”  At the end of the first season, we see Grogu go off with Luke to learn about the ways of the force, but it probably isn’t the last time we’ll see the little guy. 

Maybe it is just because adoption and foster care are such a huge part of my life that the themes of adoption, found family, and foster care stand out so starkly, but I don’t think so. The entire series falls apart without twins separated at birth. It doesn’t work without friends who didn’t know each other becoming the best allies for one another. The connection they feel is what ties all of the stories together. One of my favorite parts of the movies is that Jedi “become one with the force” when they die. When someone is “one with the force,” they turn invisible but can still interact with the living Jedi. They can still root their family on from beyond the grave. Even though our family is gone, they are still with us. Everything is connected by “the force.”  What a great allegory for the love believers are supposed to share. 

Even if you know nothing about Star Wars, you know about the swords. Almost everyone has swung a plastic, colorful sword and made the noises “swoosh, whoosh, bzzzz” as they “fought.” My adopted kids think it is the best ever. Star Wars and adoption are like popcorn and coke. You don’t need to make the association. However, if you have the popcorn anyway, the coke makes it so. Much. Better. Honestly, though, we couldn’t do this adoption thing without mentors and help from the people around us.  Luke and Rey had big feelings about their past. They felt betrayed by their parents until they knew the truth.

Rey stops to think about the people who loved her. The people who helped shape her into the person she was, the people who cared for her when she didn’t know what to do. And she found her name. She called herself Rey Skywalker. She had no “legal” claim to that name. She hadn’t officially been adopted by Luke or Leia, though Leia ended up being her greatest mentor. She chose to associate herself with the people who loved her when she was struggling and when she triumphed. 

There is much more at the link. The author, Christina Gochnauer, is a foster and adoptive mom of 5. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Letourneau University. She currently resides in Texas with her husband of 16 years, her children ages 3, 3.5, 4.5, 11, and 12, and her three dogs. She is passionate about using her voice to speak out for children from “hard places.”

Been There, Doing Better

Today’s story – not my own.

I am a former foster care youth who was adopted. When my biological niece (I found my family via Ancestry) was taken and placed in foster care, I had to step up and help since I’ve been there. So, I got kinship guardianship of my niece while my brother was in a recovery program. He was making good progress. Sadly, about 4 months ago, he stopped going and relapsed. The timing was bad. The case worker and attorney are looking to switch my niece’s program to a Termination of Parental Rights goal. I’m afraid if they do this, my brother may spiral downward. I definitely don’t want to see that happen. I’m not given any specific information because I am just the caregiver. Admittedly, I’m not familiar with the termination process or addiction. I don’t know what to expect or how to help my brother.

From experience, someone commented – As the current legal custodian of my niece and myself, a child raised under legal guardianship – Would you be willing/able to remain her legal custodian under kinship as a long term permanency plan? Being raised within my family was in some ways very beneficial for me. There was still a lot of trauma. But if your niece is safe with you and you can raise her long term, that may be very beneficial for her.

In response, the original commenter said – she has been with me a little over a year now. she was in foster care 5 months before she came to me. She will always be welcome here. I did not know there were long term kinship options. The only options I am aware of come from the caseworker. His perspective is if my brother does what he should, he will get her back. If I take Article 6 Custody (from termination of parental rights) that drops the case for both my brother and the baby’s mother. (I have never meet her. She checked out of the hospital early and never set anything up with Dept of Social Services to have visits or anything.) I didn’t want the final option, which I was told was my willingness to adopt her. I don’t know where this will go but I definitely don’t want to see my brother fall down the rabbit hole.

And then there was this (people can really care !!) – Addiction is a disease that can be treated. This child has a genetic risk of inheriting this gene. I want to share with you that I’ve been in recovery for over 23 years – completely clean and sober. I can share some things with you and resources, as much as you want. Please feel free to ask me ANYTHING either here or privately in private message. There IS hope and as long as your brother is still breathing, he can still clean up. There are resources for you, for the child, all sorts of things. It’s ok, and my heart goes out to you and I am sending prayers to your brother, you and all in this situation. There IS hope and he CAN recover. I think you are doing the right thing by keeping your niece with you in a kinship capacity. Please feel free to reach out, now or later, ok? xo

What Is Child Endangerment?

When my children were very young, I used to worry that some rather innocent parental choice might cause us to lose custody of them. There was a memorable episode of The Simpsons – LINK>Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily – the third episode of the seventh season. Homer and Marge lose custody of their children to the state. The kids end up in foster care at Ned and Maude Flanders’ house. Marge and Homer were spending the day at a spa, while the children were in school. Baby Maggie was left in the care of her elderly grandfather, Abe Simpson. This caused the parents to be accused of negligence after Bart was sent home from school with head lice and Lisa was found shoe less. Child Protective Services agents arrived at the Simpson house and judged it to be under incompetent care.

This was much less likely when I was growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I do remember getting in trouble for going too far from home on my bicycle. I also remember wandering in wild and remote spaces and never feeling concern from my parents, though in adulthood I learned they weren’t aware of the extent of my journeys LOL.

We never left our two sons alone and never even employed their grandparents (who lived next door) as overnight babysitters. I suppose we have been overprotective but they are still alive and have not gotten into any serious youthful trouble. They’ve been allowed to develop their own character absent being overly influenced by peers. So often I read in adoption related spaces how easily children have been removed from their natural parents for no more than poverty, which this country does pitifully little to address and probably will do even less in the next 2 years with extremist Republicans in charge of the federal government.

Two recent events have gotten my attention. This country has a serious double standard depending on one’s race and class status. One event is alluded to in the image I chose for today’s blog (more on that below). The other I just read about in The Huffington Post – LINK>What Is Child Endangerment? When Leaving Your Child Alone Becomes A Crime. I remember hearing a similar story from my own mother. She left two of us alone to run to the grocery store, I believe. We were discovered by a neighbor. My mom learned her lesson and the police and/or Child Protective Services were never involved.

The Huffington Post story was about two children, ages 2 years and 5 months, who were left alone in a New York City hotel room, sleeping and under camera surveillance, so that their parents could go out to dinner about a block and a half away. Life is what happens next. The father had a sudden heart attack at the restaurant and was rushed by ambulance to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. The mother accompanied her husband in the ambulance. In the midst of this crisis, she asked both a close friend and her parents to rush to her children’s hotel room and attend to them (as she continued to monitor them by camera). However, the hotel denied entry to her friend (which actually is policy, I remember being with my dad but in a separate room in a hotel and he asked the front desk what room I was in and they would not tell him). In the case of these children, the hotel called NYPD.

The issue of a double standard comes up in this case, though the mother does face two counts of “acting in a manner injurious to a child” and is scheduled to appear in Manhattan criminal court on Thursday. One commenter noted – “If she was a poor woman in an inner city she would’ve been arrested.” In fact, some children are left alone in inadequate circumstances by single mothers due to a lack of affordable child care options, while that mother must work to feed, house and clothe her children. Any individual can make a call to the police or to Child Protective Services, triggering a process leading to state involvement, which can include the parent’s loss of custody. New York’s juvenile court has defined such neglect with this example – “A child of 12 might be fine alone for two hours in an afternoon. Yet, the same child may be incapable of responsibly caring for a 5-year-old for that same period of time.”

This case gets attention because the parents are wealthy and well-known. As I have already noted – most other cases involve disproportionately poor and working-class parents who leave children alone when faced with a need to go to work or on a job interview, when they don’t have accessible, affordable child care. Families living in poverty or near poverty are judged far more harshly than wealthy parents. Parents who are taken to family court are at very high risk of having their children removed from their custody and placed in foster care. More often than you may think possible, this leads to the permanent termination of their parental rights.

The Guardian had an update this morning, LINK>No fight or warning before six-year-old boy shot teacher, say Virginia police, regarding the case of the Virginia teacher who was shot by a 6 year old who brought a loaded handgun to school. The 9mm handgun used by the boy was bought legally by his mother and kept in the family’s home. It remains unclear whether the mother will face any legal charges. Virginia does not have a law that requires unattended guns to be stored in a particular way or a law that requires gun owners to affirmatively lock their weapons. The issue will be whether it can be proven that the mother’s actions violated a Virginia law that prohibits anyone from recklessly leaving a loaded, unsecured gun in a manner that endangers the life or limb of children under 14. It could be argued by gun advocates that the child was never in danger – but certainly his teacher was.

We All Want To Feel Safe…

Safe by Kristin Brantley Poe<LINK

I was inspired by this adoption related painting to consider the concept of Safe. I found a related kind of article at LINK>Fostering Perspectives, an effort by the North Carolina Div of Social Services and their Family and Children’s Resource Program.

Safe can be defined as free from harm or hurt. So, feeling safe means you do not anticipate either harm or hurt, emotionally or physically. One emotion we often feel without consciously knowing it is the feeling of safety.

It’s likely you’re able to recall at least one time in your life when you didn’t feel safe. Do you remember what emotions you were experiencing when this happened? Several emotions often compete for attention during traumatic events like this. The author of the article writes – When I was feeling unsafe, I was scared and anxious, and my body just froze in place. My heart pounded and my mind was racing to figure out what was going to happen next. Because I was not in control of my body’s reaction, panic was closing in.

Your interest in adoption related topics including foster care and family preservation is probably why you read this blog. It is highly probable that you may have heard the expression “safety, permanence, and well-being” before. We use these terms to compartmentalize the vision we have for child’s welfare. Caring people want children to have a permanent family who will be there for them for the rest of their lives.

The concept of safety is always evolving. Historically, we may have thought of safety as simply being free from physical abuse, free from sexual abuse, free from emotional abuse, and free from neglect. This type of safety is a critical first step on the road to well-being. We can broaden our definition of safety to include the concept of feeling safe; a concept that is called psychological safety.

What research tells us is that permanency and general well-being alone are not enough. It matters if a child does not feel safe. To have the kind of a good quality childhood that allows the child to develop, grow and be well in all aspects, the child needs to have a feeling of psychological safety as well.

At every age in a child’s development there are things that help a child to feel safe. When they are very young it might be a pacifier, a special blanket, sucking their thumb, a stuffed toy, a loving caregiver, a kind word, a smile, a hug, or the act of either rocking back and forth or being rocked. As children grow older, a feeling of safety might take the form of a friendly voice on the telephone, a comfy pillow, a special meal, friends, clubs, a special location, spiritual beliefs, or books.

Unfortunately, some seek safety through unhealthy behaviors – over-eating food, getting drunk on alcohol and/or high on drugs.

One important thing to remember is that children who have experienced trauma may get a sense of safety from things we hardly ever think of being related to the concept – food being readily available to the child at all times might just help them feel safe from hunger. The comfortable temperature in a room might help them feel safe if they have experienced homelessness or inadequate shelter.

It can be surprising to learn that things we may believe should create the feeling of safety such as a comforting hug or a hot bath could actually cause a child who has been abused to feel terribly unsafe. Sights, sounds, smells, people, places, things, words, colors and even a child’s own feelings can become linked to trauma. Afterward, exposure to anything associated with the trauma can bring up intense and terrifying feelings. Often, these associations to a trauma will be completely unconscious.

This is why it can be challenging for non-related (genetically and biologically) caregivers to actually help. It could help to become a really good detective. Such an effort might help a child identify things that make them feel safe. It could also help eliminate or minimize the things that cause the child to feel unsafe.

All caring people should understand that just because a government agency has certified a foster/adoptive/kinship parent as “safe” (often meaning such obvious factors as having the right locks on doors, or that there are no criminals living in the home, and that family pets are up-to-date on their rabies shots) does not mean that a child moving into this home will feel safe. In fact, what government agencies define as a “safe home” has very little to do with a child placed there feeling safe.

“If your (adoptive) parents or foster parents go on and on about what happened a long time ago, that’s kind of putting you down and not really making you happy.”
~ Angel, age 13

Adoption, Foster Care or Guardianship

Came across some thoughts. Just passing them along.

To the thought that adoption equals indentured servitude, one adoptee said – It started as permanent indentured servitude and nothing has changed except the marketing. In answer to that, someone else said – Until the law changes, hopeful adopters can choose guardianship or (not quite as good) choose NOT to amend the birth certificate per this LINK>google doc on State Laws.

The perspective from an adoptive parent, who adopted from foster care, and who is also the sister of an adoptee – The problem with guardianship is it varies so much on what it provides and how it functions. Part of me wonders if that is by design – make it so onerous that it’s the less desirable option.

Washington state recently passed a law that forbids children to be removed from a placement – if that placement is willing to provide LINK>minor guardianship but not adoption. This was specifically done with kinship in mind – apparently children used to be removed from willing kin placements to be put up for adoption, if a grandmother didn’t want to make her grandchild, her child, on paper.

Under a guardianship, the youth loses the benefits they would keep if they had been adopted or remained in foster care, including medical benefits. Guardians can apply for cash support but it is SUCH a complex process and many people don’t qualify. Her perspective is that it makes guardianship only possible for a specific socioeconomic group – and less possible for kin. Like with adoption, a teen must consent. The system leaves many teens frightened that guardianship means no more stability than foster care – with less oversight.

This adoptive parent would love to see a streamlined guardianship process that is a federal/legal mechanism. One that conveys the same parental rights and responsibilities towards minors that adoption does, while simultaneously banning any birth certificate amendments, legal name changes and still preserves legal ties to all genetic family members.

From the daughter of an orphan and an anti-adoption activist – someone saying that “in guardianship the youth lose benefits that they would keep in foster care” – that is the whole point of guardianship and adoption – to transfer financial responsibility from the state to the guardian or adopter! The adopter or guardian puts the child on their medical plan, feeds them, clothes them etc. The government does provide adoption incentive payments and tax credits and sometimes Medicaid for children with complex medical needs because its still cheaper than having the kid remain in foster care. If guardians or adopters ever lose their jobs and can’t support the kids they took in, they can go on welfare, just like the families the kids were taken away from.

The federal government is betting that won’t happen. The federal government has started offering states Title IV funding for achieving ‘permanency’ through guardianship but it is a relatively new development. Title IV refers to federal student aid in which there is a demonstrable financial need to be able to attend public, private nonprofit and proprietary schools. Attendees of these colleges can receive student loans, grants or enter a work-study program.

Hopefully, guardianship would help stop the bullying of people into adoption. Some persons make guardianship sound like it is not as good as adoption for money related reasons. It is outrageous that ‘the system’ is manipulating teens into believing that adoption offers them more stability and oversight than foster care. Foster care meets their needs until they reach the age of 18. They have a right to facilitated visitation with their family. They can’t be moved out of the county where their family resides. They can’t be homeschooled or forced to participate in their caregiver’s religion. They don’t have to call their caregivers “mom” or “dad” and their care givers are not legally allowed to refer to them as their son or daughter. Their caregivers have to take them to mainstream doctors and dentists. They are assigned a caseworker to monitor the safety and appropriateness of the placement. If they are abused in a foster home, they can sue the state and be awarded damages. They always have the right to be returned to live with their family – if it ever becomes safe and however possible – even after their parents rights have been terminated – ONLY if they have NOT been adopted.

Child Protective Services pushes for adoption in order to meet quotas. They receive bounty payments when the meet federal government requirements for completing placements into adoptions. When kids age out of foster care, they age out with their rights intact and there are many programs and scholarships available to them as former foster youth. These would not be available to them, if they are adopted or obtain a guardian. With both guardianship and adoption, the child loses the oversight of the state. The state is freed from the liability related to what happens to the person in the adoptive home or at the hands of the guardian, if any abuse occurs.

At least with guardianship, the youth remains a member of their family with all kinship rights intact – permanently. The guardian has to do the job of a parent without the title. Legally a child is entitled to the same level of care and support from a guardian that they would receive from an adoptive parent, only they won’t lose their kinship in their family and they can return to their parents, if the situation improves. The guardian does not have a right to keep the person permanently. A guardian also is not allowed to exploit a child in their care, the way an adopter can (such as putting them on Youtube and profiting off filming their every move, as so many adopters and parents do these days). Adopting without changing the birth certificate is not as good as guardianship but it is vastly better than adopting and changing the birth certificate for those who are forced to adopt their kin, rather than serve as guardians.

The Cost Of Hidden Stress

The trauma that afflicts many adoptees occurred pre-language and so the source of it’s effects can seem mysterious but the impacts are very real. Today, I learned about this man – LINK>Dr Gabor Mate. It seemed to fit what I am posting so often in this blog that I thought I would make today’s about him.

For example, one of his books is titled When The Body Says No – “disease can be the body’s way of saying no to what the mind cannot or will not acknowledge.” Dr Mate also believes that “The essential condition for healthy development is the child’s relationship with nurturing adults.” And yet, time and again, I read from adoptees that their adoptive parents were really not prepared to be the kind of parents this subset of our population needed. Under Topics, he has many articles related to LINK>Trauma.

During the pandemic, in April 2021, Dr Mate hosted an online event with Zara Phillips. She is the author of LINK>Somebody’s Daughter, subtitled A Moving Journey of Discovery, Recovery and Adoption. The event information noted that adoptees and children who are fostered are over-represented in the prison system, addiction clinics and are 4 times more likely than their peers to attempt suicide. This talk considered why that would be and what, if anything adoptees and their caregivers can do about it. For many, when we talk about adoption, we talk about placing children in need, into loving homes to parents that want them. The assumption behind these conversations is that love will overcome all challenges and obstacles. What we don’t talk about, or rarely, is that the adoption in the new home comes about because another home has ended, or perhaps not even begun. We forget that all adoption is formed from loss. Love is essential but it is not enough. They discussed what it means to carry the trauma of being relinquished. How adoption is not a one-time event but has a lifelong impact. They considered how unresolved trauma can lead to addiction and suicidal thinking. Also what, if anything, an adoptee (and those that support them) can do to heal and recover.

Often adoptive parents think that their love will be enough but time and again that is proven wrong when it comes to adopted children. Dr Mate brings up the myth of the blank slate baby which Georgia Tann used to highlight in selling babies.

There is a LOT at Dr Mate’s website. I believe much that is there could prove helpful to the people who read and follow my blog. Absolutely, he is about how to heal.

Why ?

*** TRIGGER WARNING

I know these things happen but still my brain cannot wrap itself around the idea that an adopted girl as young as 3 has been sexually molested – her behaviors graphically illustrate that it is the reality. My heart hurts just trying to think about it.

One recommendation is related to Sex Ed Rescue – finding a better way to talk to your child about sex. Cath Hakanson is the person behind Sex Ed Rescue. She is an Australian and a qualified sexual health nurse, author and speaker. She believes that kids need help to thrive in this sexualized world. Sex Ed Rescue can help parents with … giving age-appropriate answers to tricky questions about sex, starting conversations that feel natural and guided by your personal values as well as becoming an ask-able parent.

There was a warning about virtual therapy places (specifically mentioned Better Help). They don’t all vet their “therapists”. There are horror stories out there of people being paired with people who outright say they aren’t licensed. I’ve seen people say they were matched with open white supremacists, counselors who were just telling them to leave their spouses over trivial arguments, and even therapists who were doing sessions while buying groceries – meaning that anybody in the store could hear your personal issues–a major HIPAA violation. The person went on to say – if you can find a legitimate virtual therapist it’s fine, but it would probably be difficult to find one willing to work with sexual assault victims virtually. She shares that when she was in foster care, she had to see a therapist and one of the topics that came up was child sexual abuse. One of the ways they questioned her was through games to make it more appropriate to what a child could understand. If a kid is old enough to just talk things out, virtual therapy would be great, but it would be increasingly difficult to be effective the younger the child is.

Tiffany Hamilton aka Never Alone Support was recommended. She is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of my step-father. She says that her goal is to provide this type of support to any victim who is seeking it. She says, “I want to help them where they are with whatever they need. This is my passion and my hope is that I can make a positive difference in the lives of sexual abuse victims and help to save them from a life of addiction, self-harm, and suicide. She has a podcast on Apple.

Most important – from an adoptive parent of children who have been sexually abused – I know that for a single parent, keeping her world and physical contacts limited is not easy but in my experience it is absolutely necessary. 4 years in for us and we’ve had a lot of progress with consistent therapy and boundaries.

I would be extremely cautions of any child or adult you leave her alone with, until you have some significant progress in these behaviors and she understands that it is not okay for others to touch her private area other than diaper changes. And also that she cannot touch others. I would also limit how many people can change her diapers. Children that have been sexually abused and have sexual behaviors are more likely to be abused again, and it’s more likely that someone close and trusted would abuse her. If she goes to daycare/school they need to have a designated person to change her, not just who ever is available. She needs to have healthy boundaries with others and a limited number of people who can have contact with her genital area for her care and hygiene.

Do not shame her for masturbating, it’s not something she has control over, but you want her to be safe – so be sure to keep her in the clothing that prevents her from inserting anything. But touching herself is an appropriate response with a child who has been sexually assaulted. Gentle redirection without shame is what you need. So don’t say “you can’t touch,” say “oh look at this toy! It is okay to redirect her to an appropriate activity that occupies her hands – “Let’s wash your hands and play with playdoh!” Gentle redirection, if she tries to have anyone else touch her. “It’s not appropriate for so and so to touch you there.” This is why it’s important to limit who can change/bathe her. She needs to know that only those people who are safe can touch her when they bathe/change her.

This is an extremely urgent need. Contact her pediatrician, see if they can expedite referrals. Also, DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. Keeping logs may help you find patterns in her behavior that can identify possible triggers, and could also identify abusers. For instance if she spends time with a family member and is sexually acting out every time following a visit that is a red flag. Contact your local children’s advocacy center and see if they can do a forensic interview. A forensic interview could identify the abuser and knowing the nature of the abuse could be helpful.

Sad Christmas

From my all things adoption group –

I just asked my biological mother (who I have a non-relationship with, as she refuses one) for just the name of my biological father. She was less than kind. I have done the DNA stuff, that is how I found her. But no one on my paternal side seems to have done that. It appears that a name is too much to ask of her. If you are not an adoptee, can you even imagine that pain?

Some responses –

From an adoptee – My birth mum won’t tell me where my dad is and I know she knows because “she isn’t surprised he’s decided he wants nothing to do with me.” It hurts. Is there no way of seeing if social media platforms might have any info? It’s a long shot but it might be worth it. I know they are shite to deal with and it brings more trauma but maybe they will be able to help.

From an adoptive mother – Two of my adult adoptee kids met the same stone wall. It is infuriating.

Another adoptee – my birth mother is a grade a b*tch who lies and manipulates everyone around her – so I empathize greatly.

And when there are other children ? Mine is the same and she has even convinced the children she kept that I am the problem. The previous adoptee added – same but 3 of them are adults and 2 are low contact with her and recently in contact with me. The things she said about me were just so completely off the wall false that I’m probably going to be mad about it a long time. It was the catalyst for me though and I blocked her across all platforms including email so she’d have to really dig to even contact me now. Plus this PS –  just in case you need to hear it – you are not the problem. She is the problem.

One birth mother notes – I will never understand a mother keeping that info away from their child. I’m sorry, it’s not too much to ask.

I had this thought as well – Is there a chance she might not truly know? From an adoptive mother who adopted through foster care – I fear my daughter is going to go through this in the future too, as her birth mother never identified her dad before termination took place. I pray all the time that she is going to be in a better place when my daughter turns 18 and will reveal that information to her. I hope yours does also. In our situation, there were several men who were tested before termination. I’m not sure if she was unsure or just playing games.

And sadly, this kind of thing does happen in families – As a birth mom, unless it was rape, (which she should tell you), there’s no reason for her to not tell you. I will always be honest when my son asks me and tell him who his father is. My cousin that has Ancestry found me and asked me who his father could be, I had to basically tell him that his birth mom probably was raped because this particular uncle was that kind of person. (She will not tell him who his dad was)

One suggestion from a woman who was fostered from birth and considers herself a forced adoptee at the age of 10 – Do both Ancestry & 23andme – My mother never would tell me either, but my genetic father lied & gave her a fake name, so in a way I am glad I never fixated on a name… DNA doesn’t lie.

An important piece for adoption reform is for counselors to address with any expectant mother – why she has red flags around the father. All adoptees need better family medical history information than most have had – certainly my parents had none. 

One responder noted – It’s emotional immaturity. She won’t process her actions and own any of it, therefore she won’t give you the information and she doesn’t even see why that may be damaging to you because she’s so hung up on herself. The truth is that she may not know, but even that – she’s unwilling to share. It wouldn’t bring you any answers but it also wouldn’t add to the pain she’s caused by straight up caring only about herself.

And finally another adoptee who was in foster care – I found my birth mother 20 years ago. My father has been difficult to locate though I know his full name. I actually informally met my half sister on my dad’s side through 23 and Me. I have sent her a request to chat but so far nothing.  It would be cool to meet the man. It’s apparent he doesn’t want to meet me. He could simply contact my mother.

Romanticized Christmas Adoption

It’s everywhere, not only at this time of year but throughout the year. One adoptee wrote – be aware of your Christmas movie viewing. The orphan/adoption plot line is strong this time of year! you may be looking for Christmas movies to view with your children. I have personally decided to use this as an opportunity to teach my kids about my adoption status, and help empower them to be educated non-adopted members of society, and hopefully avoid their desensitization/romanticized experience of others’ adoptive storylines. Join me in my campaign to keep the trauma-aware population growing! (Yes, I am part of such a campaign !!)

Regarding Christmas Princess on Amazon Prime: a former foster care youth adoptee whose adoptee status is her vehicle to position herself as a Rose Bowl Parade princess. There are flashback scenes to her addicted first mother’s neglect, their home removal, and some overt/horrifically blatant guilt tripping from her adoptive parents. (The adoptee says – I’m not being sensitive…when she is wrestling with her attachment issues and then *surprise* is approached by her birth mother, she tells her adoptive parents about it. Her adoptive dad says “it’s like you don’t appreciate everything we’ve done for you! When will you learn we’re you’re family!” Pretty tough to watch for me and they just gloss over it like that was excellent parenting and she’s the one with the problem. Needless to say, I was triggered – which doesn’t happen all that often for me.)

The adoptee adds this side note – as a kid I had an obsession with orphan stories. (Blogger’s note – it is interesting that I was too but I thought my adoptee parents were orphans when in reality they were not – there were families out there living lives we were unaware of.) I read every tragic book I could find, and was not triggered—only intrigued—by the plethora of stories I found (in my desire to romanticize my situation.) So, I’m not saying don’t let them watch potentially triggering material. I mean, by all means, if you know they have a trigger, for the love of everything, please respect that. Not all kids are able to articulate their reactions, so I’m just saying, as in all good parenting: be alert, be aware, be available to talk it out. Literally pause the movie and say “that was completely out of bounds for him to be guilting her like that. It really rubbed me the wrong way. What do you think?” and follow it up with intentional discussion “why do movie makers seem to gravitate toward adoption stories? What do you think that’s about? How do you feel about that?” or “do you like movies that involve adoption? Do you ever relate to the characters? I find myself sympathetic to the adoptive mom, I don’t want her to feel rejected, but even more so, I find myself feeling protective of the kid. The top priority should be their well-being, right?” Engage engage engage! If they happen to open up to you, please please be encouraging and sympathetic in your response!!! If I had felt free to express all of my curiosity, emotion, feelings of rejection without dismissive “How could you not feel lovable?! We love you SO much!” I would have processed much of my adoption better along the way.

Other themed Christmas movies – Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer – the island of misfits, Santa Paws (note – my wife watched it and was surprised it has a foster care theme, with it showing the foster mom as mean and evil.), Elf (Buddy is a late discovery adoptee who learns he is not in fact an elf like he had always believed, despite it being very obvious because of his physical size. The whole movie is about reunion with his father and there are some hard rejection moments in there.), Annabelle’s Christmas Wish (is about a boy who is orphaned and lives with his grandfather. There is holiday magic but also an entire plot about how his wealthy aunt is weaponizing Child Protective Services to take the boy away). There are probably others, this is just a short list offered so far.

From an adoptive parent who adopted from foster care – I’m pretty sensitive when adoption is part of a story line, and always concerned about how my adopted child will feel upon watching movies centered around adoption. But yes, my daughter is very intrigued by adoption stories and it gives us a chance to discuss healthy vs. non-healthy relationships and how no two families are the same. She doesn’t yet know everything that happened to put her into foster care. I appreciate hearing adoptees’ perspectives to know how to better navigate parenting her.