The Damage Done By Addiction

It is a personal issue for me but people do sometimes recover. Just this morning I was reading an article by a woman who admitted the difficulty of recovering from the trauma of her past and four addictions. Today’s story –

I am a foster parent and have a one year old child in my home who I have had since she left the hospital. I have a good relationship with her parents, I think about as good as can be expected in this situation. We text frequently, exchange pictures, arrange visits outside of the court-mandated ones. They love her endlessly but are deep into struggles with addiction. Both have had a few stints where they go to treatment for a day or two (so, there does not appear to be a barrier with access to treatment) but do not stick with it. Addiction has been a long-time struggle for both parents.

Her case is very much still open and I am still trying to help them into treatment. But, it’s to the point where the department is asking about permanent placement options. The child has a relative (I think mom’s second cousin, not positive on the exact relationship) who lives about three hours away and is not in contact with the rest of the first family. Relative has said she would adopt if needed, but didn’t want to be the first choice. Parents were asked who they would want to adopt and they said me. I had not talked to them about this and didn’t know it was being asked, so I don’t think they felt pressured. If we get to that point, I would try to facilitate a relationship that’s beyond “open” – i.e., I would invite them to her activities and holidays and would support them seeing her with gas cards and paying for activities and the like. I know many open adoptions end up closed, but to the extent that you can believe an internet stranger, please try to believe that I would not do that.

She also has four half siblings and cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents (none placement options, unfortunately) in the area where I/her parents live. Under these circumstances, what’s the “best” placement option? (Understanding that the actual best option is with her parents). I’m a foster parent who yells at other foster parents about interfering with kin placements, but it seems like parents should get a say here. How does one weigh the benefits of living with a member of your first family vs living outside of your family but having the option to see them regularly? (I know guardianship would be preferable, but the department won’t do that – so, the options are adoption or not adoption for this case).

First of all, straight up, I would NOT want to go to a relative that didn’t want me.

One response seems realistic to me as well – I would adopt if left no other legal choice. If you do allow her parents to see her when they are able, then I think ultimately it’s what best for the girl, if her parents can’t find their way out of addiction and the state is pushing the issue. A similar response from an adoptee was –  If I was the little one in question, and guardianship was not an option, I would want you to adopt me over the distant relative and keep me in contact with my close family. The deciding factor, for me, is that the distant cousin doesn’t want to be the first option, and that is bound to come across to the adoptee, especially if times get tough when they are older. It’s hard enough to know that your biological parents didn’t want to/couldn’t raise you, but when you start getting the same message from multiple sources, it can really compound the trauma.

Someone else writes – Considering the addiction issues, this child needs a home. If there was NO other option but you vs the cousin, I’d prefer you because you live near her family/parents. But, closing this child off from her family at anytime and getting all “she’s MINE” – no, nope, nada. Being a supportive and caring adoptive mom with the child’s mental and psychological health front and center – providing therapy as needed throughout this child life for issues that will pop up – remembering always that you are not this child’s mother….period. I can be on board for you to provide a stable home for this child.

Finally this from a voice of experience – I was adopted at the age of 9. Both of my parents are addicts. My adoptive parents said they would never keep me from my family. True to their word, they didn’t. When my mom was clean and I asked to go back and live with her, they let me. Even paid my mom child support that wasn’t mandated, just to help out. She relapsed and my adoptive dad actually gave me the choice to stay in foster care and finish high school or for him to come and pick me up, since legally he was my parent. I chose to stay in high school in order to stay near my siblings, instead of moving across the country. If you are really going to keep it open, with access to the child’s family, I would say you are the better option than a long distance blood relative who doesn’t speak to the family. I just hope that you always give her parents grace and don’t cut off communication when you are mad. Especially if the child wants to keep that communication open.

What’s Best ?

Lily’s Slimy Struggle by Hefess on DeviantArt

Today’s Sticky Situation – I have a friend who approached me asking if we could adopt her child she is currently pregnant with. She has frankly just an absolutely awful situation. Her baby’s father is getting out of prison soon after baby’s birth. (Within a month or so of birth) He does not know she is pregnant. I know him. We all grew up together. He’s awful. Abusive in every sense of the word. Drug addict. Been know to be inappropriate with children. Scary guy honestly. She has tried to leave him in the past and he’s always found her. She has no money. No savings. No family. We have exhausted looking into women’s shelters in our area and none are accepting people right now. She is insistent that she wants me and my spouse to raise her child and while we could very easily welcome a child into our home, that’s really not the point. She refuses to stay with me in fear of brining danger to my family and kids once her ex is out of prison. She’s saying she understands if I don’t want to take her baby but that if I won’t she is going to put baby up for adoption, terminating all parental rights, the whole thing. I really feel like she is going to regret this. I’ve offered some of the resources I’ve seen mentioned in here with really no changes in her decision. What would you do in this situation? My wife is of the mind that we should agree with the idea that baby won’t be going to strangers and if she changes her mind she won’t be in a situation where her baby is just gone to a new family she doesn’t know and will have no recourse to her baby back. With us this can all be undone if she wants that at any point. I don’t disagree with that but it still just feels so wrong. Is this the right choice? What else can we do to help her? I’m just so lost on how to proceed. I know deep down she does not want to give up her baby. She feels like she’s doing it for their safety and I understand that reasoning. Thoughts? I would appreciate so much any advice. Thanks!

Initial response – Can you look into women’s shelters in other counties or states? Either way it seems like getting far away from the abusive father would be beneficial for her and baby. I know many people recommend guardianship in lieu of adoption. I don’t know the specifics of how that works but maybe that could be an interim option.

The original commenter’s response – We have looked out of area and there seems to be some options for housing but she has a decent job here. She makes just enough to support herself. She’s not sure how to move out of area with a newborn, no savings and no job lined up. I’m not sure how that works either. I completely agree leaving the area would be best.

This response seems practical – Talk to a lawyer (or pay for her to do so). One experienced in domestic violence and child custody would be best. Dad will be able to claim parental rights no matter how bad he is, so she’ll need legal advice about how to keep him away from the baby no matter what option she chooses. Then you could talk to the lawyer about a guardianship arrangement, if she needs someone (you) to care for baby, and it will be much easier to get baby back when things are more stable.

The original commenter’s response was – I’ve mentioned this to her. I’ll keep working on her because I agree I think this a good idea. Her plan was to adopt baby out and claim she doesn’t know who the father is.

To which the answering response was – that may work, but if he finds out about it, he could contest the adoption and even potentially get full custody if she’s surrendered her own rights.

And the original commenter’s response was – I’ve mentioned that to her. She’s just so scared I think she isn’t fully hearing half of what I’m saying. I don’t see any scenario he could ever get custody though. He’s a registered child sex offender along with drug charges, gang ties. Things like that.

There is some question about whether she is married to this man or not – if he is her husband, he’d automatically be put on the birth certificate. If he’s not, she’d have to name him to get his name on the birth certificate, but if he finds out (from a mutual friend, etc), he could assert rights and demand a DNA test to prove paternity. Hopefully he has no interest in that, but abusers often do stuff like that just to pull their ex back in, even if they have no interest in parenting. All it takes is for a mutual acquaintance to see her pregnant belly at the grocery store and pass the word.

Finally this advice, a plan that can be put into action – For now, set up a temporary guardianship for when the baby is born. That way, you can take care of baby’s medical needs and everyone involved can be as safe as possible, but she still has her parental rights. Tell her not to sign the father’s name on the birth certificate when the baby is born. This means no child support, but also no abusive man can come take the baby unless he demands a paternity test. Have her keep her SS, ID, and Birth Certificates in a very easy to grab place that’s not suspicious. This could be with her or you, just somewhere safe. This is so any split second notice she can take it and leave without it being noticeable. Start saving up for a deposit that can get her and baby into a new, unknown place with a cushion too so she has time to get job or income assistance. Keep an eye around town for the shelters opening up. Its not illegal to be homeless with a newborn for this exact reason. Do the same with food drives. Maybe start hording separate gobags with diapers and formula as well. Get a burner phone. Depending on how tech savy he is, one without a GPS. He will probably be calling her off the hook and/or looking for her once he gets out. Finally, and this is worst case scenario and I hate to bring it up, she needs to put it in a legal contract who this baby is going to if she dies. This will also ideally be in the go bag. I can’t help on the adoption end of your question, but I’ve been through the leaving part. It’s going to be scary, and its gonna f**king suck. I’ve had to do this before, minus a child.

Don’t Erase Identity

Today’s story –

I work with this guy who’s sister lost her 4 kids. Of those 4, he and his mom have 3 of them. When the children went into Child Protective Services care, the baby was not given to the grandma but to a foster family, a lesbian couple.

I was talking with my coworker yesterday and he said they just went to the baby’s second birthday party. Apparently, they have a good relationship with the couple. He told me they’re about to adopt his nephew and change the baby’s whole name. He said one of the wives comes from a similar situation and her adoptive family changed her name and she was glad they did because she hated her original name. So they’re changing his name, so that he doesn’t grow up hating his name like she did.

I told my coworker, the little boy will likely grow up hating his name because they changed it. I also told him that changing the little boy’s name means his original birth certificate will be closed and sealed. Doing this is destroying a part of that little boy.

My coworker said he doesn’t like it either but understands why they want to do it.

Just ick though, ugh.

To Walk A Fine Line

Today’s story is about finding one’s way in unusual situations without any role models or rules to guide you.

My husband and I divorced about 25 yrs ago and he basically disappeared and didn’t keep visitation or support our 4 children. About 15 yrs ago he just showed up with a 1 yr old, said he wanted to introduce his baby to his other siblings (our 4 were about grown by then). The baby was a sweet heart and well all adored him, met the mother and she was a sweetheart too.

Both of the parents were dealing with addiction issues and the baby ended up staying with me and my 2 children who were still living at home at the time. Once the baby was old enough for Prekindergarten, I went to court and got guardianship but wanted both parents to have extensive visitation rights. At first the dad, my ex, visited often. The mom kinda came and went depending on her own issues. However the visits kept getting less and less.

Neither has visited in the past 9 yrs. I send the mom updates on her Facebook messenger but she has never responded. I’ve always struggled with what to tell him. I usually just say, “your mom and dad loved you very much but sometimes adults just have issues that takes them away from the things they love and hopefully one day they’ll be able to get it all straightened out.”

He is 16 now and has social media and can reach out to them and I make sure to tell him every so often that he can reach out to them any time and I’ll help in anyway he feels comfortable with or I’ll refrain from being involved at all, if he’s more comfortable with that.

I’ve never adopted him nor terminated their parental rights and the first visitation order we did years ago still stands. I’ve fielded questions for years from people who said, “Why don’t you adopt?”, but it just never felt “right” for me to cut off their parental rights (even if at times I didn’t feel they deserved them).

He has called me mom for years, he asked if he could when he was about 5, I told him he could call me whatever he felt comfortable with. I’ve spent the last 14 yrs second guessing myself and I’m sure I’ve done stuff wrong and surely he has trauma. I just try to be honest without criticism toward his parents, although his older siblings will sometimes let a mouth full fly about their (and his) dad.

Sometimes I feel that he may think I don’t love him as a son because I didn’t adopt him. It’s just hard knowing what was right. He has a maternal uncle who he sees regularly and he gets to see all his maternal family at Christmas, birthdays, holidays , etc. But unfortunately his mom is not in contact with her family at all, so he still doesn’t see her.

I’d take any advice/ideas on how to make sure I’m not adding to his trauma.

One response was this –

I think you did everything perfectly. I would somehow bring up that you love him as a son though and that you just didn’t want to erase his past. Mention if he feels the need when he’s older, you two can discuss it then. If he is an adult and still wishes to be adopted by you, then it was his choice and that’s what matters most, giving him a voice, and loving him.

The Anti-Adoption Movement

There is definitely a movement to reduce the adoption of newborns from unwed mothers and from people whose only sin is poverty. That’s not to say that it is not also important that children are never left in a seriously abusive situation. Unfortunately, what is “abusive” to some who insist on interfering in other people’s lives is not what true abuse actually is. Very few activists are claiming that adoption shouldn’t be an option, but the activists currently involved in the issue recognize that adoption is far from the perfect solution it was so long perceived to be. 

Already hopeful adoptive parents living in Texas are celebrating a bumper crop of adoptable babies in about one year from now. I suspected that as one of the motivations all along.

One woman describes her experience. The adoption agency had her move to another state while pregnant, purposely isolating her from friends and family who might have helped her. Though she knew who her baby’s father was, the agency told her not to tell him she was pregnant. She could have sued him for child support—he was a wealthy lawyer—but the adoption agency didn’t talk about that, only about the hardships she would face as a “welfare mom,” should she keep her child. They called her a “family-building angel” and a “saint” for considering adoption. “It was crazy subtle, subtle, subtle brainwashing.”

Adoption has long been perceived as the win-win way out of a a difficult situation. An unwed mother gets rid of the child she’s not equipped to care for; an adoptive family gets a much-wanted child. But people are increasingly realizing that the industry is not nearly as well-regulated and ethical as it should be. There are issues of coercion, corruption, and lack of transparency that are only now being fully addressed.

One issue is where an “open” adoption is promised but the adoptive parents sooner or later renege on that promise. So one reform is seeking to guarantee that “open” adoptions (where birthparents have some level of contact with their children) stay open. Activists also want women to have more time after birth to decide whether to terminate their parental rights. Given time with their newborn, many new mothers change their mind about adoption and decide to give parenting their child a serious effort. Young women who find themselves pregnant and unmarried still face pressure to choose adoption. 

Reproduce justice activists tend to focus on rights to contraception and abortion. Adoption reforms are equally important when it comes to men and women having full control of their destinies. Thanks to legalized abortion and a drastic lessening of the stigma against unwed mothers, the number of babies available domestically has been shrinking since the mid-’70s. Fifty years ago, about 9 percent of babies born to unmarried women were placed for adoption. Today that number is 1 percent. 

Adoption is too stark in its severance of the legal relationship between those adopted and their birth family, and out of line with the emotional realities for most involved. Adoption is not a risk-free panacea.  It is highly complex, with implications for all concerned that endures for decades. The identity needs of adopted people are very important and adoption, in its current form, does not recognize these.

There are other options, such as kindship placements or guardianship, which can provide safety and stability for children, but do not require such a severe break with key relationships. When we do not provide financial support to families in need but instead take their children away from them, we have to ask ourselves – Are we really promoting the human rights of all children, irrespective of background, to live safely within their families of origin? It would appear that we do not.

Some of the above was excerpted from The Trauma of Adoption. Other parts of this blog were excerpted from Meet the New Anti-Adoption Movement. Some comments are my own.

Anti-Natalism

I have seen adoptees state that they wish they had been aborted. I had not heard of Anti-Natalism but apparently it is a thing. Back when I was concerned about over-population, I could have understood this concept better. With the pandemic, it appears the planet is going to experience a huge die off before it is all over.

So I discovered this concept today when someone in my all things adoption group posted – How do you all deal with anti natalism? How would you prefer people not adopted to deal with that discussion when it does come up? One of the number one things these people seem to say is adopt, even if you can have kids, because there’s too many people and it’s horrible if you procreate while others don’t have a home. This has been frequently debunked as a myth. Poverty is the number one cause of children being separated from their original parents. In the case of both of my parents, that was certainly the issue – not whether their mothers would have rather kept and raised them.

Back in 2019, The Guardian had an article (I wish I’d never been born: the rise of the anti-natalists) about this with subtitle – Adherents view life not as a gift and a miracle, but a harm and an imposition. And their notion that having children may be a bad idea seems to be gaining mainstream popularity.

The basic tenet of anti-natalism is simple but, for most of us, profoundly counterintuitive: that life, even under the best of circumstances, is not a gift or a miracle, but rather a harm and an imposition. According to this logic, the question of whether to have a child is not just a personal choice but an ethical one – and the correct answer is always no.

In my all things adoption group, the first comment was – infant adoption is a for-profit industry and feeds into producing babies as a commodity, so also contributes to over population. Adopting or (even better) providing guardianship for teens with a Termination of Parental Rights background who are currently in in foster care would be much more ethical.

In another’s perspective – They’re applying an argument that makes sense for animals to humans, because they don’t see the difference. With pets, if more people adopt from shelters, then that saves lives, and puts puppy mills out of business. (In the Missouri Ozarks where I live – puppy mills are a hot issue.) And someone else quickly noted –  even in the dog world, this isn’t true. It’s a lot more complicated than that. I’d agree.

Another explained – I’m an adoptee and childfree by choice. It’s astounding how many people throw adoption round as a solution to infertility. There needs to be so much more education done around why this is wrong and support given to people to make their own choices…eg not everyone has to want or have children.

Another one found the argument confusing –  how do anti-natalism and adoption go hand in hand with the argument that you shouldn’t pro create. You should take someone else’s baby instead ? How does that solve the problem ? How is that any more ethical ?

Someone else explained – Anti Natalists are against people giving birth or choosing to make a baby in general. This does come across sometimes as not wanting children at all, but it doesn’t always go hand in hand. It reaches into adoption because it doesn’t automatically mean they dislike children or don’t want them, but rather that they tend to think it’s unethical to create life in a distressful world/ the earth is dying/there’s too many kids without parents/ why create something that will suffer/overpopulation/ other reasons I can’t remember at the moment, so they adopt rather than creating their own, if they do want to become parents.

Here’s the truth – adoption isn’t the answer for anti-natalism. Adoption is trauma regardless the intent. So if they’re about being ethical, I think they should do a little little more research on adoption trauma before they push that agenda.

Another noted – Usually people who are childfree by choice are very pro-abortion.  The foundation of the philosophy is that humans already born take precedence over the unborn or not yet conceived. That there is a finite amount of space/resources and we are close to exceeding or have already, thus births/continuous growth should be avoided.

The bottom line was – If you think it’s horrible to procreate, then don’t. But don’t traumatize children and families, so you can still fulfill YOUR dream of a family. If you really strongly believe it’s awful to have biological kids, no one is forcing you. But don’t look for a way out – that’s just as selfish, if not more so.

Review – I Am Sam

I learned about this movie from my all things adoption group and I wrote an initial blog on July 19th titled I Am Sam. I promised to come back with a review and last night I actually watched the movie on dvd from Netflix. Sean Penn and Dakota Fanning are both remarkable in their performances for this movie.

It is easy to understand the attraction of this movie to the all things adoption and foster care group because the core story is the lived experience of many members of that group. Not so much having a mentally challenged (ie as the movie says explicitly more than once – retarded) parent but as in the Division of Family and Child Welfare taking a child or children from the parents. In fact, when my sons were young, I did worry that our parenting might be adversely challenged by so do-gooder. Thankfully, my sons are now almost grown (one is already 20 and the other one is 17) and beyond such concerns in our own family. It is also true to the lived experience of so many that foster parents often do eventually want to adopt a child placed in their care. However, the movie is enlightened to the trends now occurring in adoptionland that family reunification and in the case of this movie, an eventual recognition on the part of the parent that he is lacking something (a mother – the child’s mother abandoned the child to the father shortly after birth) brings into the resolution a kind of co-parenting solution that is satisfying to watch (I don’t think that saying this is a spoiler for this movie as the ending leaves as many questions as it answers).

The movie was very progressive for its time in the portrayal of people with a variety of cognitive disabilities. In fact, I recognized that I do know one woman who has effectively lost her children due to just such a challenge. The take-away message for me was how incredibly hard it is parent a child regardless of the circumstances. This is clearly portrayed in the contrasting and yet similar parenting challenges of the main character and his lawyer. Every parent needs support of some kind at some time or other.

In an LA Times review, the writer shares this story – “I’m smart enough to know when I need help, I ask for it,” a 46-year-old mother with a learning disability told me recently. She receives support from a parents-with-special-needs program. If she needs help with parenting skills of any kind, a parent counselor is just a call away. If she feels frustrated, she attends the program’s parents support group.

Also from that LA Times review, In one critical scene of the movie, Sam is questioned by state agency officials about why he thinks he has the ability to be a father. He responds, “It’s about constancy and it’s about patience. And it’s about listening and it’s about pretending to listen when you can’t listen any more, and it’s about love.” In the case of parents with special needs, we must provide the kind of support services that will offer practical help and an ear to listen. Parents with special needs benefit from help with tutoring, after-school activities, transportation, budgeting money and, like every parent in the universe, a little baby-sitting now and then.

The movie helps everyone who watches it to understand “that persons with disabilities have needs and desires just like everyone else,” as the parent with a disability mentioned above explained. “They need to take care of someone and love someone else.”

Too Old ?

It is still Foster Care Awareness Month and today, the questions was asked – Should someone in their 50s be able to adopt infants and toddlers from foster care ?

I encounter this as an older mom from time to time. I responded – Recently, visiting my primary care doctor, my youngest son came up and she asked – how old is he ? I said 16-1/2. She did the math quickly – you had him at 50 ? I said, yep. I know this is about adoption and foster care but honestly, it really depends on so many factors. My grandmothers both lost their YOUNG mothers when one of them was 3 mos old and the other one when she was 11 yrs old. The length on any life is simply not guaranteed. I do think health matters. I was put through a whole battery of tests including a heart stress test before being allowed to conceive my last son at such an advanced age. Agencies could require additional health assessments for older persons.

Just before I responded, I was happy to see someone else reply – I was 50 when I had a newborn placed with me for a weekend due to an abuse allegation on a foster parent. I adopted him at 53.

One wrote – While I don’t agree with anyone over 55 adopting (I don’t agree with adopting at all) my state allows people to foster and adopt well into 65.

And of course, it is very common these days to see grandparents raising their grandchildren. I know at least one in that category. So this answer did not surprise me – I fostered my 3 grandchildren (4 & under) at age 53 and adopted them at 56…no way I was letting them go to strangers.

And this view from experience – My parents were that old and I did fine. Only disappointment was that all of my older siblings were my biological mom’s age or older. At 28, all my siblings are old enough to be my kids grandparents. Because they are in their late 40s, early 50s now. Other than that, I still did everything – with sports, dance, went on vacations. They kept up. With me and my little sister who they adopted when she was 1. And I was 6 at the time. Maybe they should have just stopped with me. But I wanted a little sister. So, when she was literally dropped at our door and the mother terminated her rights, they adopted my little sister too.

A concern was expressed but this smacks of ableism to me – I see it every day at work, as soon as our older ladies step in with the kids (especially the toddlers), the children do not get the kind of engagement they need from the caregiver. Toddlers and kids need someone who can physically be involved in their play and in their development. From my experience, older women and men are not usually able to do that for them. That’s not to say the kids don’t love the older ladies, but they know they can’t ask them to play or help because of their limitations. I’m very old school (you know, “get over it and go play”.)

I remember my mom always sent us outside to play – without her !! Out of hair and need for giving us attention – though we knew she loved us. It was just how she was (she had me at age 16 and my youngest sister at 22, so she wasn’t old). I would add until very recently, I will be 67 later this month, there were no physical limitations on the “play” part and we did “play” with our kids. I’ll admit my knees have crapped out a bit, so I can’t do the long hikes anymore. My husband just turned 69 this year and he runs every day – so the physical stuff he can still do with his sons – and he is always willing to have fun. The older one is now 20 and not so much into “play”, actually for that matter the 16-1/2 yr old isn’t either. They are pretty independent of us for entertainment. My husband does like to joke with the youngest one that he’ll be changing his dad’s diapers some day. It really isn’t funny – experienced this stuff with my in-law’s before they died and with my dad after my mom died. It happens. It’s reality.

One commented – How embarrassing would it be at your high school graduation having to explain to your friends that the old lady with a walker is your mom? Yet, I think, would they say this about a person in a wheelchair. In this week’s Time magazine is a feature on Rebekah Taussig – a disabled mom who has paralyzed legs. And she writes about such everyday things as learning to lift him (her baby born during the pandemic) from the floor to her lap, or in and out of his crib, or up and over the baby gate on her own.

I suppose appearances matter a lot when your life is determined by your peers. Maybe we’ve avoided a lot of that comparison angst because our sons are educated at home because we have a home based business and are here all the time anyway. They have grown up with mature conversations and exposure to people of all ages – from babies to people much older than us up in their 80s or 90s.

Of course, I liked this response too –

I’m 50 and have such an issue with this. I’m going to ask that you give your age with your response. I’m tired of people implying that I am too old to do anything. I ran a half marathon in February, I work a full time job and a part time job and just hiked for 4 days straight – over 20,000 steps a day. How dare you all restrict women and what they can do at any age! I am a teacher and an owner of child care centers. I have more patience and experience and knowledge than the vast majority of 20-30 year olds.

I had my daughter when I was 19. I find this too. I may have behaved more like a child with her than I have with my sons but I have gained so much from years of living that is also an advantage over how I was when I was that young.

Another one wrote – My grandma (just found out, not even biological, through 23 & Me) started raising me when she was 60 and I had the best life and upbringing I could have ever asked for. She never missed a beat and was way cooler than all of my friend’s parents. To this day she’s my best friend.

I think I’ll just end it here. There is no one size fits all on this kind of issue. One argument the person who asked the original question made – in response to the above was – Adoptees already have so much stacked against them, that older parents just add more layers. Fair but . . . . again, no one size fits all . . . . even with the experience an adoptee has in their circumstances. I’ll make my anti-ageism stand here.

Pocahontas’ Son

Last night we watched The New World about the first English settlers at Jamestown. I was intrigued about the story of Pocahontas and for the most part in further research, it was about as accurate as it could be for an event that took place so long ago with few original documents. From a Smithsonian piece titled The True Story of Pocahontas, I picked up some new details and a few reality checks.

Pocahontas died in England where she was treated as the princess that she was. Born about 1596, her real name was Amonute, and she also had the more private name Matoaka. Pocahontas was her nickname, which depending on who you ask means “playful one” or “ill-behaved child.” Much that is known came from Captain John Smith who wrote about her many years later describing her as the beautiful daughter of a powerful native leader, who rescued him from being executed by her father. It’s disputed whether or not Pocahontas, who was only age 11 or 12, rescued Smith or did he possibly misinterpret a ritual ceremony, or worse take the tale from a popular Scottish ballad of the time.

Pocahontas grew up to be a clever and brave young woman, who served as a translator, ambassador and leader facing down European power. Pocahontas’ people could not possibly have defeated or even held off the power of Renaissance Europe. The Indians were facing extraordinarily daunting circumstances. Pocahontas was captured and held for ransom by the Colonists during hostilities in 1613. During her captivity, she was encouraged to convert to Christianity and was baptized under the name Rebecca.

It was during her captivity in the settlement called Henricus, that Pocahontas met John Rolfe. She married the tobacco planter in April 1614 at about the age of 17 or 18 and she bore him a son, Thomas Rolfe in January 1615. Their marriage created a climate of peace between the Jamestown colonists and Powhatan’s tribes that endured for eight years and was known as the “Peace of Pocahontas.” The birth of Thomas Rolfe, as he was both of European and Native American descent, reinstated peace between the Powhatans and the European settlements. Early in his career as deputy governor, Samuel Argall reported in a letter published within the Virginia Company Records that Powhatan “goes from place to place visiting his country taking his pleasure in good friendship with us laments his daughter’s death but glad her child is living so doth opachank”.

The marriage was controversial in the British court at the time because “a commoner” had “the audacity” to marry a “princess”. According to Rolfe, when she was dying, she said, “all must die, but tis enough that her child liveth”. In the movie, Rolfe is depicted carrying Thomas, their two year old son in his arms, as he was going back to Virginia but that is the most inaccurate part I am aware of. Here is where the story merits mention in this blog about adoption. At the time Pocahontas died, Thomas was sick as well. His father, fearing his young son would not survive the sea voyage, appointed Sir Lewis Stukley as his guardian March 21, 1617. Stuckley later transferred custody and care of Thomas Rolfe to his uncle, Henry Rolfe.

This likely saved his life as his father, John Rolfe died in the Indian massacre of 1622. Also known as the Jamestown Massacre. A contemporary account claims the Powhatan had come “unarmed into our houses with deer, turkeys, fish, fruits, and other provisions to sell us”. The Powhatan then grabbed any tools or weapons available and killed all the English settlers they found, including men, women, and children of all ages. Chief Opechancanough led the Powhatan Confederacy in a coordinated series of surprise attacks; they killed a total of 347 people, a quarter of the population of the Virginia colony.

In his will, John Rolfe had appointed his father in law, William Pierce, as executor of his estate and guardian of his 2 children, Thomas and Elizabeth (by a subsequent marriage). Thomas remained in his uncle’s care until he reached roughly 21 years of age. Sometime before June 1635, Thomas returned to Virginia, his transportation paid for by his Virginia guardian and grandfather by marriage, William Pierce. Once established in Virginia, Thomas Rolfe fostered both his reputation as a plantation owner and as a member of his mother’s lineage. He expressed interest in rekindling relations with his Native American relatives, despite societal ridicule and laws that forbade such contact. In 1641, Rolfe petitioned the governor for permission to visit his “aunt, Cleopatra, and his kinsman, Opecanaugh”.

The date of his death after a life filled with service to the crown and land acquisition is not totally known but has been thought to be around 1685.

As an aside, my mom was born in the Richmond Virginia general area in 1937. It is known that her mother’s family, the Starks, immigrated from Scotland arriving at Stafford County Virginia. As her husband seems to have taken leave of her to return to his mother and other children in Arkansas, it appears my grandmother’s father may have thought her husband had abandoned her. Embarrassed that she was obviously with child and no husband to be seen, I suspect there were still members of the Stark family in Virginia and that is why she was sent there to give birth (and I assume, he hoped she would relinquish her baby there but she did not and brought her back to Memphis, where the two of them fell into the clutches of Georgia Tann). Therefore, I do feel genetic familial roots in Virginia and know that one of my Stark ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War because they arrived here before that began. Later some Starks migrated to Tennessee where my maternal grandmother was born.

Open Adoption

Some time ago I read this book by Vanessa McGrady about her experience with an open adoption. Today, the topic of Open Adoptions came back up in my all things adoption group and I thought I would re-visit the topic.

Today’s questions are – What does your open adoption look like? and How is the child connected to their first family?

I will share selective comments because there were 70 and I’m not doing ALL of those. LOL

This one is an adoptive parent of two little girls (biological sisters). We are very fortunate to be able to have a very open adoption with mutual respect. I feel it is similar to co-parenting with the exception they do not stay at her house. (Her personal choice that I support due to varying circumstances in her life.) We speak almost daily. We spend every birthday/holiday together. Mom comes to school programs, recitals and sports games. My husband and I make the normal day to day decisions, but discuss with her major decisions. We value her input on beliefs, values and overall wellbeing of the girls.

Another situation – I talk regularly with mom, though not daily now, as we once did, because she is now working and life happens. Kiddo is able to email mom and text sister as often as she wants (she has her own devices and I do monitor her messages to all but sister and mom). They don’t talk as often as *i’d* like them to, all chat, but I can’t force any of the three to have a relationship. All I can do is say “hey have you emailed mom recently?” We exchange gifts at holidays and when we can afford it, we fly mom and sister out to visit and they stay with us. Unfortunately, dad doesn’t want contact and has kept his kiddo a secret. I’ve made efforts to reach out over the years and his position hasn’t changed. I have made it clear that he needs to get his things in order because kiddo will come knocking when she’s older (she’s 10 now).

And another – We all live in the same city, so we are able to see each other often – mom, dad, both grandmas, aunts, uncles and cousins. We do the usual family stuff like celebrate birthdays and holidays, but we also just do regular life together too – parks, stores, video calls, restaurants. Facebook access to all family members which has been a great tool for keeping our daughter connected to her family (she’s only 2, so we feel like we are responsible for keeping communication open until she’s old enough to do this herself). Her mom and I both enjoy crafting, so we’ve done several projects together. We also did family photos at Christmas! Many of these choices have been continued and enhanced because of this group (thanks!) and the podcast Adoptees On.

A slightly different kind of situation – an adoptive parent of 2 little girls (who are not biologically/genetically not related). One family does not have much contact (their choice). Our other daughter (just turned 7) can call/text/video chat/reach out whenever she wants (she has one of our old phones that is hooked up to wifi) and her parents can contact her that way whenever they want as well. They also have frequent visits and pre-covid would come to dance recitals and school programs and everything… they typically have their own birthday parties for her (their request).

In my all things adoption – one of the suggestions for reform is to turn to guardianship – not adoption. Here’s one that is guardianship. We see both paternal and maternal family members each week, we have photos around our home of their family, they can call/video call their family members anytime they like off my phone or their iPads, I speak with their family members nearly daily with updates/photos about how the girls are going and reach out for advice quite frequently, we go away on holidays together.

Open adoptions are mostly a recent development and so in many of these, the children are still quite young. Here’s another one like that (families are making it up as they go along – I believe closed adoptions are becoming a archaic thing of the past) – Grandma, aunts, cousins, and some adults siblings all call, text, and have access regularly. (More than weekly for texts and calls. Visits were monthly or more before covid. Not as much since then but we are planning for more now as situations are improving.) They attend birthday parties and holiday gatherings. We share photos and have them on my social media account. Our little is only 2. They are welcome at our home anytime and we have been to theirs several times. One of the sisters has been on vacation with us. She will be meeting us at the beach in July for vacation again. Parents are not in a position to parent or be safe at this time. I hope that changes and they can have some kind of relationship. For now they do get updates from family members and have photos of him. He knows all family members just as “Grandma” and “Auntie.” We make no distinction between the biological or the adopted. The siblings are his sisters – whether they are biological or adopted. They all love him and that is what’s most important to us.

Another example –

Fictive kinship (*) adoption but didn’t not know parents prior to fostering—I knew his sisters. Several months after Termination of Parental Rights and no contact – mom reached out. I told her I didn’t care about her personal life and business. I told her that we—specifically her son—needed her in his life. That was the game changer going forward. We have what I’d call a true open adoption to where there’s unlimited access to him, if she wants it. I don’t wait for her to ask either because I know sometimes asking isn’t easy. I’m off summers and include her in our daily/weekly activities—pool, park, splash pad, etc. We talk every week or 2. Our son talks to her too. We just made the switch from calling her momma (insert name) to just momma. We see her every holiday and birthdays too or just on a whim, if we’re both not busy. I don’t like how adopters claim open adoption and all that involves is a Christmas picture. That’s not the intention.

(*) “Fictive Kin” means an individual who is not related by birth, adoption, or marriage to a child, but who has an emotionally significant relationship with the child; “Kinship Care” is the raising of children by grandparents, or other extended family members within the fourth degree of kinship. From Alec.org – Model Legislation suggestion.