Social Workers

Back in Georgia Tann’s reign in Tennessee, the role of a Social Worker was somewhat new but crucial to the completion of adoption efforts. Today, I came across this article – What Social Workers Need to Know When Working with Adoptive Families at a WordPress site titled Detached – Attachment – Adoption – Social Critique. The author writes – Though these workers were generally decent people with their hearts in the right place, I’ve been struck by how much even caring and well-meaning social workers can be unintentionally damaging.

This person goes on to say – It is a humbling experience to admit that you don’t have the capacity, whether financial, physical or emotional to handle a child without this support. And virtually no one appreciates having people outside their families making decisions for them, judging their parenting, and having control over their lives. Then adds, proceeding from the notion that social workers and others (probation officers, behavioral aids, etc.) are here to help us, why do we so often feel hurt, humiliated and misunderstood after interacting with them?

This particular essay was written by an adoptive parent. It involved traumatized adoptees. It should be a cautionary tale for any hopeful adoptive parent considering that pathway to parenting.

In searching for the image I share at the top of my own blog here (you can read the rest of the adoptive parent’s perspective at the link above), I found another article. “Is my position as a social worker compromised if I don’t agree with adoption?” with the subtitle – “A social worker reflects on their biases around adoption and the need for group decision-making in matters of separating children from families.” This appeared at a website called “Community Care.”

Any one who has read my blog for any length of time knows that I do not overall support adoption. Just saying. I know from things I have read written by foster parents and it appears true of some social workers that there are people who believe that being inside of a system is the way to reform it. I really cannot judge but from what I’ve read of some who have tried, it doesn’t actually prove out. Also just saying as a disclaimer.

The author of this point of view shares their qualifications – I have been responsible for recommending the interim removal of children from their birth families as well as placing children in the care of relatives under the auspices of special guardianship orders (SGOs). I consider myself to have a sound understanding of care proceedings but one area which leaves me feeling uncomfortable, anxious and unsure of myself as a social worker is adoption. Forced adoption can be seen as punitive. There is clear evidence that austerity (lack of financial supports for families) has added to the adversities faced by any family who’s children have been removed but who seek to have their own children returned to their care. From all that I have read the process can be daunting and the time frame too limited and therefore disallows the parents an ability to be successful.

You can read more in the link for that article above. I apologize for not providing more complete summarizations of the above information but I am short on time today. Read if you care to consider the perspectives.

I Try To Stay Humble

Before I began to know who my original grandparents were (both of my parents were adopted) – adoption was the most natural thing in the world. How could it not be ? It was so natural both of my sisters gave up a baby to adoption. So, in only the last 3+ years, my perspective has changed a lot. I see the impacts of adoption has passed down my family line, ultimately robbing all three of my parents daughter’s of the ability to parent. Though I did not give my daughter up for adoption, finding myself unable to support myself and her financially, I allowed her father and step-mother to raise her without intrusion from me. To be honest, I didn’t think I was important as a mother. I thought that a child only needed one or the other parent to be properly cared for. Sadly, decades later, I learned that situation was not as perfect as I had believed. My sister closest to me in age actually lost custody of her first born son to her former in-laws when she divorced their son. He has suffered the most damage of all of our children and is currently estranged from his mother’s family, viewing us all as the source of his ongoing emotional and mental pain. I love him dearly and wish it wasn’t so but it is not in my control nor my sisters.

I realize that not every adoptee has the same experience. We are all individuals with individual life circumstances. Right and Wrong, Better and Worse – such exactness doesn’t exist. Everyone heals in different ways. We all begin where we begin. I began where I was when I started learning some of the hard truths and realities about the adoption industry as it operates for profit in this country. I also know that the adoption practices of the 1930s when my parents were adopted are not the same overall in 2021. There are only a few truly closed adoptions now and many “open” adoptions. I put the “open” into quotation marks because all too often, the woman who gives birth and surrenders her baby for adoption because she doesn’t feel capable of parenting, just as I didn’t feel capable in my early 20s, discovers that the “open” part is unenforceable and the adoptive parents renege on that promise.

Those of us, myself included, have become activists for reforms going forward. Society has not caught up with us yet. Certainly, there are situations where the best interest of the child is to place them in a safe family structure where they can be sufficiently provided for. No one, no matter how ardently they wish for reform, would say otherwise. The best interests of the child NEVER includes robbing them of their identity or knowledge of their origins. In the best of circumstances, I believe, adoptive parents are placeholders for the original parents and extended biological family until their adoptive child reaches maturity. Ideally, that child grows up with a full awareness and exposure to the personalities of their original parents.

Any parent, eventually reaches a point in the maturing of their child, when it is time to allow that child to be totally independent in their life choices, even if they continue to live with their parents and be financially supported by them. It is a gradual process for most of us and some of us are never 100% separated from our parents until they die. Then, regardless, we must be able to stand on our own two feet, live from our own values and make of the life that our parents – whether it was one set with a mother and a father or two sets of mothers and fathers (whether by adoption or due to divorce) – made possible for us as human beings. I do try not to judge but I do try to remain authentic in my own perspectives, values and beliefs. Those I share as honestly as I can in this blog with as much humility as I have the growth and self-development to embody.

(M)otherhood

As I was reading a review of this book, it struck me that these are issues that come up frequently in my all things adoption group. I am also personally familiar with secondary infertility and abortion. Looks like a good read. Here is the review by Viv Groskop in The Guardian titled – Motherhood: A Manifesto; (M)otherhood; The Motherhood Complex review – calling time on the cult of the perfect parent. Yes, she reviews 3 books, I’m only highlighting one here – (M)otherhood by Pragya Agarwal. You can read about the other two at that link.

In (M)otherhood, behavioral scientist Pragya Agarwal wonders if a book questioning the parental self and society’s attitudes to that self needs to define itself either as memoir or as political writing: “Does it really have to sit in a box?” Here is proof that it really doesn’t: this is an exhilarating, genre-defying read. Unsurprisingly, coming from the author of Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias, Dr Agarwal is especially concerned with issues of identity, which makes this a thoughtful, anthropological journey. What does it mean to want to be a mother? What will others assume about you if you choose that – and if you don’t? What do these assumptions tell us about who we are as a society?

She frequently wonders about the role of the judgmental words we use around female bodies. She is told she has an “incompetent” or “inhospitable” uterus. She writes movingly of the ambiguities of motherhood, secondary infertility (being unable to conceive after giving birth in the past), surrogacy and her personal experience of abortion as a single mother: “A contradiction: I was a mother, but I couldn’t be a mother. Not then.”

All these moments are seamlessly interwoven with statistics, quotes and scientific evidence to clever narrative effect: the personal and the universal aspects of motherhood are illuminated as interchangeable in a way that is reminiscent of Olivia Laing’s writing on loneliness or the body. The science writer Angela Saini sums up (M)otherhood perfectly in her cover quote as “a step towards a literature that acknowledges the breadth and the variety of the parenting experience and its cultural meanings”. The whole thing adds up to the most thoughtful, empathic and inspiring science of the self. (Not that I can see Waterstones – a bookstore in the UK – adopting this as a shelf category. But perhaps it should.)

The reviewer ends with these thoughts – Overall this trio represents a side-eye question: “Haven’t we all had enough of trying so hard?” As Eliane Glaser points out in Motherhood: A Manifesto, many of the current stereotypes of mothers “symbolize our failure to improve the experience of motherhood.” See TV’s Motherland, books like Why Mummy Drinks and endless “hilarious” jokes about wine o’clock: “The only suggestion we can offer is to just drink through it.” Melissa Hogenboom’s conclusion in The Motherhood Complex? We are so obsessed with being “perfect parents” that we set ourselves up for failure. Better to be “selfish” (actually, sensible) and leave children to their own devices more often. I’ll drink to that.

What does this have to do with adoption ? If we can address what drives EVERY woman to believe she needs to have children, we can lower the demand by infertile women for other women’s babies and perhaps address the core issue of providing financial support and encouragement for mothers to keep and raise their own children. So yeah, it IS relevant.

The Damage Done

I came of age in the early 1970s. I will admit that I have way too much life history with drug use. In fact, addiction was the primary cause of my first marriage’s failure. So many children are removed from their parents due to addiction issues. The money that should be feeding and housing and providing all the basics for their family goes into drugs. I understand. I remember food and housing insecurity because of that in my first marriage. Today’s blog was triggered by this story of a foster care child.

My 11 year old foster daughter is (understandably) having an incredibly hard time coping with feelings of abandonment by her mother. While I don’t agree with it and have advocated otherwise, she is not allowed to talk to or see her mom until she takes a drug test. Mom has refused and my foster daughter is feeling unloved and abandoned. I’m at a loss for how to help her cope. She often asks me to validate her feelings by saying things such as “If she loved me, she would just go do the drug test, right?” or “She must be on drugs. She loves them more than me, doesn’t she?”. She wants me to answer her yes or no. I don’t know how to answer to help her. I don’t want to speak negative about her parents by agreeing with her but I don’t want to make her feel like her feelings aren’t valid by saying something like “She loves you but drugs are powerful and affecting her choices.” I have reached out to mom and tried to get her to take the drug test so they can have contact and let her know what is going on with her daughter. She always says she is going to but hasn’t yet. It has been over a year now.

She ends with this request for advice – Those who have been through similar situations, how would you recommend I help this child?

The first answers are good ones. Is she in therapy? She needs somewhere to process feelings and learn about addiction. Does she have a therapist? If not, that would be very helpful. Someone who is trauma informed, addiction experience, and foster care and adoption competent would be a good thing for her. Sounds like you and her therapist need to have a discussion about addiction with her.

I didn’t know about this person but it sounds like reasonable advice – I highly recommended listening to and reading Gabor Mate and as an addiction expert and particularly his compassionate, scientifically based approach to addiction. It will help you (and your subsequently foster daughter) understand with compassion rather that judgement, anger, exasperation or frustration.

Personally, I saw this perspective immediately and am glad this was said – Her mom probably can’t pass a test and doesn’t want to make things worse. I would start by explaining that. We wouldn’t make an illiterate person pass a reading test for a basic human right…sad. Being a child of an addict there is a lot of pain and hard days for sure but she should be able to see her mom. All the therapy suggestions are on point and hopefully the therapist can also advocate.

I had not heard of this concept (except from link below) but it also seems right to my own heart – I would advocate for safe use with the social worker on the case about safe use, and creating a safety plan. Passing a urine analysis doesn’t equal safety and not passing a urine analysis doesn’t equal unsafe. I don’t think “she loves you but drugs are powerful….” would invalidate her feelings. That statement and her feelings can both be valid at the same time.

Traditionally, the substance use field has focused simply on substance use and ways to measure, prevent and treat negative consequences. This has led to a continuum of laws, policies and services that runs from restricting supply to reducing demand and, for some, continuing on to harm reduction.

Various versions of this simple continuum have been used over time, all of them beginning with a focus on a disease or harm that must be avoided. While this may seem completely sensible at first glance, it makes less sense when considering that many people use psychoactive substances to promote physical, mental, emotional, social and/or spiritual well-being. In other words, people use substances to promote health, yet substance use services focus on how drug use detracts from health.

Health promotion begins from a fundamentally different focus. Rather than primarily seeking to protect people from disease or harm, it seeks to enable people to increase control over their health whether they are using substances or not.

Since many people use drugs often or in part to promote health and well-being, health promotion along these lines involves helping people manage their substance use in a way that maximizes benefit and minimizes harm. (Indeed, this is how we address other risky behaviors in our everyday lives, including driving and participating in sports.) It means giving attention to the full picture—the substances, the environments in which they are used and in which people live, and the individuals who use those substances and shape the environments.

Someone else shares their personal experience – My kids (adoptees) parents have issues they go through and are not always on the up and up but we make time together happen. It’s always (right now) supervised etc. However soon my daughter will be 16 and she will likely want to drop by their house when she’s driving etc and I have helped her understand enough on ways to stay safe emotionally and legally by going to see her family and having open discussion with her on addiction. Some may not agree but they eventually grow up. I prefer to help her work through it now than stumble more later. She has a therapist who is mainly focused on addictions as well.

One more from personal experience – I would probably say screw the social worker’s orders and let them have a visit. My adopted daughters’ mom had the same type of demand and I followed the rules. Their mom died, and it had been so long since they’d seen her in person. I frequently regret not breaking the rules. Life’s too fucking short and unpredictable. Using drugs doesn’t automatically equate to being unsafe. It’s going to be way harder for this mom to get clean and sober if she’s not allowed to see her child.

Addiction is a VERY complex issue. My heart breaks for the young girl.

Messed Up Perspectives

“My door is open for your baby (even at 3 a.m. I’ll take your baby so this doesn’t have to be a choice)(and I won’t say your name) I will even go to a different state to save your baby. Just message me if you don’t want your baby…

I look at the news. I recently saw the negligence suffered by a 4-Month-old boy. The baby passed away from lack of nutrition and dehydration. They also found worms in his diaper… another baby was rescued from a plastic Walmart bag… many babies dying… one child’s death due to negligence is too much!

For anyone who has a baby or is pregnant with one who doesn’t want the baby because you are too far along to get an abortion… my door is always open! Before you decide that the only option is to throw your baby in the trash, don’t do it! Bring that baby to my door. I promise, no questions will be asked or judgments passed. I’ll give you my address and my family will welcome your baby with open arms.

Note: leave the birth notice sheet so I can register your baby as my baby

Also hospitals, police stations and firefighters are other options. Leave the baby in the right hands and get away. No charges will be filed. Strength is to ask for help. The strength is to put another one before yourself. There’s help.

This is a safe place for your baby.

Okay, so let’s break down what isn’t right about the thinking here.

First, this isn’t a way to promote yourself to adopt a baby.

Second, if you found a baby or a woman left her baby on your door step you have to call the police. You will get in trouble with the law if you don’t. Especially going to a different state with the baby that’s kidnapping.

Third, you will not adopt the baby. The baby will go into foster care and the police will investigate the situation. Not every baby was abandoned by their mom or mom doesn’t want her baby. Sometimes babies are kidnapped or mom is in danger. Sometimes they find dad to take the baby because he might not know he has a child.

Fourth, infanticide is very different. Women who kill their babies often have mental health issues and disassociate from their pregnancy. These women wouldn’t necessarily leave their babies at a fire station or your home.

Fifth, I see a lot of these posts focus on the person writing it, not the baby or mom. Safe haven laws don’t exist for people to adopt. Safe haven doesn’t mean no questions asked or adoption. It doesn’t mean no charges filed or the parents will not be found. Safe haven isn’t a way for a hopeful adoptive parent to adopt. Asking a woman to list your husband as the father or register her baby to you is fraud.

Women’s Rights

The topic of abortion and it’s intersectionality with adoption comes up often in adoption groups as it does in religious groups, especially those that are strong anti-abortion.  Because every baby that isn’t aborted is a potential baby for sale to someone, usually a couple, who can afford to buy the baby.  And money is always involved.

Throughout history, men have made decisions about what a woman is allowed to do.  It goes back to biblical texts that support a patriarchy.  Most women of at least a certain mature age have spent a great deal of their life dealing with men who feel an entitlement to a woman’s body in one manner or another.  And throughout history, men have impregnated woman with no sense of responsibility for any conceptions that occur afterwards.

Abortion often comes up in conjunction with infertility.  Infertility has EVERYTHING to do with adoption. Abortion is also a topic discussed in a pro-choice adoption community group. Hopeful adoptive parents use their infertility to complain about abortion.

The most enlightened point of view is just because I can’t have kids, doesn’t mean another woman can’t decide whats best for her body, mind and soul.  I will always defend a woman’s rights – not just to determine whether to carry a pregnancy to term but for equal pay, for the right to be respected when she refuses to have sex with a man and to be free of the violence of domestic abuse.

In response to someone clearly pro-Life in my adoption group, one woman wrote – I am an adoptive parent who had fertility issues. While I would never choose abortion for myself, I will never judge a woman who does. That’s not my job. I leave all judgement to God.

As someone who had an abortion, that I still think actually was the right choice for my own self and for my male partner at the time, it is not an easy thing to live with.  It’s not “God” who judges me, but my own self, and I have reflected on it deeply many many times.  The pro-Life narrative that one can’t avoid doesn’t help with the paradox of believing in a human life developing in the womb and still making the decision that the life is not what is best for one’s self given one’s personal circumstances.

One woman wrote – I’ve been struggling with infertility for three years. It sucks. But I’m still very pro-choice. My struggle to get pregnant will never mean anyone else should be forced to go through a pregnancy.

A pregnancy is a long term commitment – 9 months – which is almost an entire year.  It impacts one’s ability to live their life according to their own trajectory.  If a woman carries the baby to term and then given it up for adoption, the impacts of that decision last a lifetime for the woman and for her child – and they are not happy impacts, even in the best of circumstances.  Like any horrific trauma, both may learn to live with it.  When a woman chooses an abortion, it is not the preferred choice, which would have been not to become pregnant to begin with.  In my case, work that kept me away from my pharmacy, meant I was late beginning that month’s birth control.

I also support society coming to the financial and emotion aid of any woman who carries a baby to term and wants to parent that child.  That is the intersection point where the trauma of mother and child separations could be prevented.  If one’s belief is in God, then perhaps the best perspective for a pro-Life woman dealing with infertility is that God chose not to make them a parent.  Acceptance, in other words.

 

Married Men !!

A woman asked for advice regarding this situation –

Advice needed for revealing an unplanned pregnancy with a married man at the worst time in your life, and facing judgment and disappointment from others. Is it better to get it over with or hide as long as possible? I know it was wrong, and I deserve the judgment thrown my way.

The good news is that this woman is determined to parent her child.

I responded with this –

I would never say you “deserve” any ill effects. I do not know the entire story. My parents were both adopted. My dad’s mother was unwed. She had an affair with a much older man who was an immigrant, not yet naturalized though he did become a citizen later on. I doubt she knew he was married when she first started seeing him. In my younger days the same situation (though not a pregnancy) happened to me. His disloyalty to his marriage was entirely 100% his issue as far as I am concerned in EVERY case of this.

I do NOT recommend my self-sufficient grandmother’s solution to you. She went to a Salvation Army Home for Unwed Mothers. She never told my dad’s father. I do share this with you because since I discovered who that man was (something I never thought was going to be possible since he was un-named but my wonderful grandmother left me breadcrumbs in her photo album which a cousin I discovered happily shared with me) – my dad was so very much like him – in appearance and interests. What good friends they might have been. It is a sadness for my own self that they never had the chance.

I wish you good resolutions. My heart’s mind will hold you gently for the best outcome. HUGS !!

Another person responded – People are going to judge no matter what. So do whatever gives you less stress and more peace.  I would encourage you to tell him so you at least figure out where he’s at and don’t have to guess or wonder.

Someone else added – The father should know about his child, but I don’t see why anybody else has to know who the father is.

And another reminded her – He deserves to know. But you have the ultimate decision. Don’t let him talk you out of keeping the baby or into adoption. He can chose not to parent the child.

Someone else added – I would recommend disclosing it to those who need to know (in this case, the father). The fear of all the possible reactions can be debilitating. Better to just be upfront and tell him. It isn’t really other people’s business to know who the father is unless you wish to disclose it. I don’t see why you need to volunteer his marital status to your friends and family. Your child has a right to know who his/her father is. Acquaintances do not.

My favorite was what this woman shared – This is me! I told my baby daddy. I have a wonderful 16 year old whose father decided he would be involved about 7 years ago. I have been open and honest about his beginnings and have no shame. People will think what they will and I can’t control that. My son is an honor student, lettered in lacrosse in 9th grade and plays high school hockey. I’m bursting with pride about this kid! Have your baby and celebrate your child loud and proud!

Protecting Children

There has to be some kind of balance that safeguards a child without destroying family.  We should care that children are loved, sheltered, clothed and fed and in some manner instilled with values beneficial to society.  Money should not be the sole determinant of where the child’s welfare is best served and society really should do more to preserve a family’s ability to stay together.

Child Protective Services strikes fear into the hearts of many parents.  When my sons were young and difficult to keep civil in public, sometimes requiring a strong response from me, I did worry some well-meaning person might misjudge what they witnessed, though I am certain that I pushed the envelope at times, I don’t believe I ever was entirely abusive.  I did regret some reactions and there is one in particular my youngest son will never let me forget and that I more than deeply regret – though love was not destroyed and we remain very close.  I suspect he also understands that one can push their parent over whatever boundary restrains them.  I often think that if my children do not learn about going too far with me, who loves them, someone else could kill them someday for acting ignorant of their potential danger.

My grandmothers lost my parents (both of them) to adoption during the Great Depression (1935 and 1937) due to no other awful reality regarding their life’s circumstances than simple poverty.  Sadly, in the modern times we live in, society discounts the importance of natural parents and thinks they’re replaceable, especially if they’re poor.  This is something that is and should never be.  In most cases, even flawed natural parents are better for a child than moving them into the home of someone totally unrelated (in the genetic sense).

Who among us, that has ever had the difficult and challenging job of parenting another human being, is pure enough to cast the first stone ?  Yet some do precisely that with the best of intentions.  I never try to judge another parent because I have not walked a mile in their shoes nor to I know all of the circumstances behind whatever behavior I may be witnessing.  I’m not suggesting to stand there and do nothing if a child is being SEVERELY beaten.  Discipline is a controversial subject in which parents are becoming more enlightened but for which there is no consensus.