In The Middle Of A Divorce ?

What? You’re not going to divorce so that you can adopt as a couple, because couples are favored by agencies, but then you’re going to immediately divorce once the ink is dry, further traumatizing this child?

Please no.

Here’s the backstory –

My husband and I are in the process of separating. Our marriage hasn’t been doing well now for a while and divorce sadly feels imminent. We’ve had our foster daughter, age 3, since she was 9 months old, The termination of parental rights is already on the books, scheduled for a May hearing right now – so still over 2 months away.

My question is, has anyone gone through a divorce in the middle of trying to adopt from foster care ? We want to still adopt her and we don’t want to do anything to compromise our chances of success in doing that.

I know divorced parents aren’t as good as happily married parents, but we do love her like she was our own. I just need advice on how to proceed in this situation. Things are feeling tough right now and we just don’t know what to do.

Short answer, I don’t know if it is possible in this case but the best solution might be to let the kid go back to her parents.

Which does bring up some questions –  if reunification is not off the table, why aren’t these foster parents working toward the goal of getting this child back with her parents ? Why has this little girl remained in their care for so long – without a successful reunification ?

The sticky part is – what does it mean if termination of parental rights has been scheduled for finalization, is reunification still an option ? And it is honestly possible for termination of parental rights to go to trial and then be denied by the judge.

And this from someone who seems to be knowledgeable in such cases – changing the case plan to termination of parental rights is usually the final warning to the parents that they must make “significant” progress. Once the case plan changes, the parents have about 30-60 days to make improvements. Basically, it’s used as a threat. The parents still have rights, and a chance until their termination of parental rights hearing actually takes place. At that point, it’s up to the judge. The judge can decide not to terminate.

Divorce IS traumatic on kids. Adoption and foster care add on more trauma. Deception to achieve the goal of adopting a young child is a terrible choice. This feeds into an idea that hopeful adoptive parents should do anything, at all costs, for a child they love… but in reality they’re doing anything at all costs for what they want.

Back to the question – Why is reunification not happening ? What supports could possibly be provided to the family that aren’t being offered now ? What are some things that could be done to support reunification over termination of parental rights ? When safe, reunification should always be the first and most supported option. The next option would be to support the child going to other members of the family. Why hasn’t that been explored ? Etc.

It is blatantly unfair to adopt a child knowing full well that you will be getting divorced. No matter how amicable things seem now, divorce changes people. Especially once family, friends and lawyers start giving their opinions.

It’s not fair to ask a child to navigate the feelings of adoption and divorce at the same time. Divorce brings up extra feelings of abandonment and chaos for an adopted child. They have already lost one family, only to lose another. The child needs stability and going straight into a custody battle is not it.

That Was Then

The human child requires a period of a year after birth to attain a degree of maturity. The Self or core-being of the infant is not yet separate from that of the mother but psychologically contained within her.

The nature of their relationship is fluid, mother/child/world transcending time and space.  The mother provides a container for the child’s developing ego, just as her womb previously provided a container for the child’s developing physical body.

It is a dual unity – the mother not only acts as the child’s Self, but actually is that Self. An uninterrupted continuum of being within the matrix of the mother is necessary in order for the infant to experience a rightness or wholeness of self from which to begin it’s separation or individuation process.

The continuity and quality of this primal relationship is crucial, and it may set the tone for all subsequent relationships.

~ from The Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier

When my daughter was born in 1973, we were kept separated except for brief reunions in my room.  She was in a nursery the rest of the time and fed a bottle, which damaged the effort to nurse her.

By the time my sons were born in 2001 and 2004, they were in the room with me – the first son almost all of the time and the second son in the nursery briefly each night so I could sleep but it was interesting that we would wake at the same time.

Being returned to the natural mother is better than being handed over to someone else. Any interruption in the continuum of the primal relationship with the mother can result in a lack of trust in the continuity of the goodness and rightness of the child’s environment and of their own self.