Adoption Is A Loss

You Don’t Just Lose Someone Once

You lose them over and over,

sometimes many times a day.

When the loss, momentarily forgotten,

creeps up, and attacks you from behind.

Fresh waves of grief as the realisation hits home,

they are gone.

Again.

You don’t just lose someone once,

you lose them every time you open your eyes to a new dawn,

and as you awaken,

so does your memory,

so does the jolting bolt of lightning that rips into your heart,

they are gone.

Again.

Losing someone is a journey,

not a one-off.

There is no end to the loss,

there is only a learned skill on how to stay afloat,

when it washes over.

Be kind to those who are sailing this stormy sea,

they have a journey ahead of them,

and a daily shock to the system each time they realise,

they are gone,

Again.

You don’t just lose someone once,

you lose them every day,

for a lifetime.

~ Thanks to Donna Ashworth and The Family Preservation Project

Parentification

This was a new term for me and came out of one of the stories I read recently conveyed by a foster parent. Here’s the story –

I am currently fostering a 14 year old. They were removed because of trauma from a family member who is not their mom but who still lives with their mom. Mom refuses to ask this person to leave or to move into a different apartment, but is otherwise doing what is asked of her to work towards reunification. Today this kid told me they really want to be reunified, which makes perfect sense. I’m worried because this seems unlikely unless mom starts believing them and takes steps to cut their perpetrator out of her life. How do I support them? If you were in their shoes, what would you want from a foster caregiver? I’m also worried because many of the reasons this kid states for wanting to reunify are to care for their mom. It’s not my place to make the judgment calls, but it seems from the outside like a case of parentification. Add to this that I’ve heard this child talk about how much they wish they had been given the opportunity that their peers had to “just be a kid”.

So what is parentification ? Parentification is when the roles are reversed between a child and a parent, a toxic family dynamic that is rarely talked about and is even accepted as the norm in some cultures. However, research has found that it can have far-reaching negative psychological impacts. It is a functional and/or emotional role reversal in which the child sacrifices his or her own needs for attention, comfort, and guidance in order to accommodate and care for the logistical and emotional needs of a parent and/or sibling.

One response was this from experience – my parents put me in foster care briefly when I was suicidal from the pressure of being a “good kid” and experiencing their abuse. I wanted to go back to them to protect my brother. I feel for the teen. I would have this child in therapy now to begin processing those emotions of responsibility. I’m 24 and still struggle with guilt that my brother may have suffered when I was gone or what would have happened if I’d stayed gone. My mom would’ve likely lost her mind. She did – when I went to college. My best advice is therapy for the child while in your care, and perhaps talk to a therapist about how you could best talk to their mom about her removing that person in the home. My mom chose my dad over me often, so I feel for the teen.

Another one shared – Unfortunately this might be something that never fully goes away. I was like this, the eldest child who took care of the family from a very young age and getting rid of that guilt and the “needing to take care of them feeling” has been very very resistant to therapy. I think the best you can do is just try to be empathetic, don’t make them feel like they’re acting too old or whatever (mine did that and it really fucked with my head) just be kind and remind them they can relax and do things for themselves, even if they don’t listen.

This one touched my heart, because I am the oldest as well. I was not in an awful situation but I have always felt a sense of responsibility for my two sisters. Our parents died only 4 months apart (high school sweethearts married for over 50 years). From the first day I returned to my family after my mom died first, I found myself having to take over financial responsibility for my sisters that my mom had been financially providing, making me in effect “the mom”. Then, after our dad died too, I had to ask the court to appoint someone to assist my youngest sister with her finances. She is likely a paranoid schizophrenic with very weird ideas about the way money functions. The court agreed to appoint a conservator. My sister and I have struggled. What had been a really good relationship before was destroyed when our mom died. Our mom had a poor relationship with my sister for over a decade and my sister’s feelings about that transferred to me when my mom died and I had to take over the family finances.

Also this interesting perspective – I cared for a teen relative of mine last year similar situation. As soon as she could legally, she returned to mom and the abuser to care for her siblings again and her mom. This is what she had been taught was the only way to get attention, love etc from mom. The best way we found to help her was to enroll her in a group for teens about healthy relationships at our local Domestic Violence shelter. She also did therapy with someone she selected and equine psychotherapy which helped her with attachment a lot. While she was here, we focused on just reminding her of our unconditional love and building trust in our relationship. Even though she went back, it didn’t take long for all of that to help her see how to set boundaries with mom, identify unsafe situations with abuser and start to come out of some of the fog. It’s still complicated but she isn’t engrained and I see her setting more healthy boundaries. We (and her dad) are still safe people she can come too and does. It took about 6 months of us just watching from a distance and being supportive regardless. In your situation, maybe focus on staying neutral and asking for a CASA or Guardian ad Litem to help with the other side of the coin. Having a mentor also really helped my relative. It was someone closer to her age that she could confide in and she is still actively talking to that person now. Maybe your foster youth could use a mentor because they aren’t a therapist but can be a sounding board. Also a lifeline if the youth returns and ‘adults’ get cut off from that person. (I say adults because the mentors we have had are usually 25 or younger and parents don’t see them like they do a 40 year old caseworker).

Christianity’s Role In Adoption

Today’s story –

3 years ago we went to an interest meeting for Bethany Adoption Services. 20 minutes in to that meeting and we confidently knew these were our people and this was our agency. Now we’re ALMOST to the finish line of the adoption process and are waiting {as patiently as possible} to become parents.

This has been quite a ride, no doubt. I sit here today thinking, praying, reflecting and can’t deny a sense of grief over our journey. Through teary eyes I type this out, that sometimes it hurts to be reminded how long our journey to be parents has taken. It’s not all rainbows and roses everyday. The joy and sorrow continue to go hand in hand.

BUT GOD. There is no denying and no getting around God’s faithfulness through this process and the peace that comes in knowing His plans > ours. The things we have learned about ourselves, our marriage, parenting, and mostly the kindness, the absolute sovereignty, and undeserved love of the Lord is worth every single hard day and tear.

Please pray for us as we wait. Pray for our future child’s birth mom to be comforted and at peace with her decision to choose life and choice for us to parent her child. Please pray for us to wait well, to prepare well, to finish this leg of the journey strong and expectant of what’s next. We are very excited and very ready and can’t wait to bring home Baby C!!

In general, the whole thing was triggering for many in my adoption group. I’m bypassing some of the comments with stronger language. Here is one of the tamer ones.

I hate using God’s plan as some justification. Like God’s plan is for a woman to give away her baby ? Same with God protects/watched out for. Like some God doesn’t? It’s all bullshit.

And the perspective from this side – Think they’d mind if I prayed for baby C and her momma instead? *sigh*

To which someone else replied – I believe in the power of prayer, but I also do not believe you pray selfishly or for someone else to be in pain. If she really believed in the power of prayer, why doesn’t she pray to get pregnant instead? I pray for the life and health of this young mom and her unborn child.

When we insist that God wants exactly what we want for our self, we are recreating God in our image, not the other way around.

My apologies for not getting this posted yesterday and I am going to have to cut what I am sharing here short. Things have been complicated in my own life the last 24 hours. Finally, last night there was forward movement again instead of battling strong headwinds and finding it difficult to make much progress. Later tomorrow or maybe not until tomorrow – there are always opportunities to say more. I wish you happiness and love in your own lives.

What Could Go Wrong ?

Regarding a kinship guardian placement vs temporary foster carer ?

An adoption community acquaintance writes –

I’m supposed to take custody of a relative’s baby tomorrow (hopefully.) The caseworker is coming back out tomorrow to see things are in order for him. He’s been in a foster carer’s home for 5 days and they are already claiming he’s bonded to them and begging the caseworker to keep him. Now I’m scared the caseworker is going to come up with an excuse why he needs to stay with them vs coming to me. Selfish, selfish, selfish.

His mom is on track to start overnights in December with reunification in January. Of course, whatever stuff I have for him, will go with him, when he goes home. He was previously with dad’s mom and she lost custody because she allowed dad to have him unsupervised.

Fostering is about reunification, not adoption.

One responder wrote – THIS is a huge problem for the foster care programs. Does the state/program/whatever get money when an adoption occurs????

Another one noted – 5 days is a transition time, no way to bond enough in that time frame. He is not bonded. He is surviving. He’s clinging to a bit of kindness in the midst of chaos. At five days in, he’s likely still confused every time he wakes up and opens his eyes! When there is family that should always be the only choice. If he can be so “bonded” after 5 days with strangers, imagine how much more bonded he’ll be after five days with FAMILY.

And this advice – Let them know that with you, baby will still be able to spend time with safe relatives, which they wouldn’t be able to do in foster care. (Safe is the key word they will be looking for. They will prefer foster care, if they think kinship will allow “unsafe” interactions.)

And finally, this from experience, a woman writes –

Bonding happens faster with family. My instant “bond” with my daughter was due to her losing her mother and attaching herself to me. She is related to my husband by blood… their connection was unspoken and immediate. Ours was initially her needing me, and later it grew into something deeper. They are confusing bonding with a desperate need for human connection… they could have been anyone and the baby would cling to them after being separated. You might have a true bond that is immediate rather than earned. (I have seen this with my own eyes! My relationship with her is now a true bond and we are very close, but her connection to my husband was just a given.

Taking Off Rose Colored Glasses

Today’s story –

Four years ago, my husband and I became foster parents. Our first “placement” (geeeze I hate that term), turned into an adoption. Our son, now 4 1/2, will be meeting his biological mom for the first time in December when she is released from prison. We have constant contact with her via phone calls and emails, as well as visits with grandparents every few months. My question is, what can we be doing to make her transition home easier-for her, and for him? He calls her by name, and knows that she is his tummy momma who grew him and gave him life and love, but he really hasn’t asked many questions beyond that. I’d love to have some feedback, so we can do our very best to navigate this the best way possible. I am far from a perfect parent, but this is obviously something that I don’t want to mess up.

PS – until recently, I viewed foster care and adoption through rose colored glasses, but that is no longer the case. My eyes and my heart are now open to the hard parts of adoption. 

Immediately was this response – as a birth mom. Drop the tummy momma crap. We are humans, we weren’t incubators.

The woman understood immediately and said – Thank you all so much for your honesty. “Tummy mommy” will stop immediately. You’re so right, that’s an awful way to refer to her.   I am doing my best to dig deep, not for me, for them. I don’t want to mess this up with any of my own bullshit feelings. They’ve been through enough.

A compassionate response came next – Offer her acceptance for any and all emotions she may experience. Work your way from there. Allow him to be around her as much as she and him are comfortable. Encourage playtime/movie time whatever he likes. Be understanding above all else. These are extremely difficult emotions for his mom just as much for him so offer as much kindness as possible.   This is never easy and remember she is in pain and your son IS traumatized at some level because of losing her. That is a fact and you as an adoptive mother HAVE to make peace with it.

One suggested way to deal with this is – be mom (your 1st name) and mom (her 1st name).. that will better help him associate who she really is to him – his mom. He will know her, he will sense something familiar about her and she will feel like home to him because they already have that birth connection. She is his mother in a biological way that will never change. Kids aren’t as confused about the duality of multiple moms as we are as adults. You’re going to have to do a lot of hard uncomfortable (for you) things to actually support this relationship.  He’ll get to know her over time and much easier if there aren’t adult issues and expectations on it.

Finally, some important advice – You need to find a genuine love for her beyond her being the person that is the reason you have your child.  Just going through the motions you think you should in terms of open adoptions isn’t enough. It should not be what you think you should do. It should be naturally what you want to do. Coming out of prison is difficult. You are treated like a pariah. Getting a job with a record is hard, getting any help from anyone or any government funded programs is difficult to impossible. Some programs you cannot even apply for if you have a record. Welcome her. Make sure she knows she has an important place in his life. Do NOT talk about boundaries and make her time with your son a top priority.

Misunderstood

Suddenly, friends and family have discovered what I have been writing about daily for over a year and they are understandably confused.  I would not have understood before about two years ago myself.  Both of my parents were adopted and so adoption was the most natural thing in the world to me.  Both of my sisters gave up children to adoption.  What I can say is that ignorance is bliss.

But for adoption I would not exist and I never forget that.  But for adoption my mother would have grown up in abject poverty instead of the privileges of wealth as the child of a banker and socialite.  My husband has said that my story could be viewed as pro-adoption and that is the truth.

Even so, I cannot ignore the many voices of adoptees and the original mothers who have suffered because adoption carries with it inherent wounds and that is what I tend to try and explain in this blog.

Even so, today I read a heartwarming story.  I am sympathetic to the pain of infertility.  I do believe that couples who have struggled with that really DO need to seek counseling before adopting any child.

Back to that heartwarming story.  A couple was traveling on an airplane with their 8 day old adopted daughter.  The mother have given birth in Colorado.  It had been nine long years of fertility treatments, miscarriages and adoption stress for this couple.

A flight attendant announced that he’d be passing out napkins and pens for anyone who wanted to jot down a message for the new parents. The cabin erupted into cheers and applause. A steady stream of people came by to coo and congratulate the couple.

One of the napkins read: “I was adopted 64 years ago. Thank you for giving this child a loving family to be part of. Us adopted kids need a little extra love. Congratulations.”  YES, some adoptees are truly grateful and I do not doubt that but I pause on that thought “adopted kids need a little extra love.”  Hmmmm.

The flight attendants explained to the couple that they are married, and a fellow flight attendant had done this for them while they were on their honeymoon. They wanted to pay it forward.

The new father shared, “Adoption is wild with uncertainty.  You wonder, is this birth mother going to choose us? What happens if she changes her mind, if she backs out?”  The overwhelming support the couple felt during that plane trip was also a time when they were worried that their daughter might somehow be stigmatized.

Southwest Airlines released a statement saying, in part, that the crew showed “kindness and heart” on that flight.  Common kindness always matters.  I actually do care about every part of the adoption triad.  Just saying.