Recognize Your Worth

Many adoptees don’t even realize that they are carrying unhealed trauma with them throughout their lives. Because for infants who were adopted, this trauma occurred during a per-verbal stage of their lives, they lacked words to describe what their emotions were saying to them. Both of my parents were adopted when they were less than one year old. My mom was adopted after having been placed temporarily in Porter Leath orphanage as my desperate maternal grandmother tried mightily to find a way to support the two of them with Georgia Tann circling them like a vulture. My dad was adopted after the Salvation Army coerced my paternal grandmother into relinquishing him. So both of my parents were carrying unhealed trauma throughout their lives.

The various ways people anesthetize themselves . . . is a wail from the deep. I once listened to Marianne Williamson’s A Course in Weight Loss on cd. I gained a lot of insight into my own compulsive eating experiences listening to her. I see how clothing our bodies in excess weight is a protective device. Both of my parents were more or less overweight their entire lives. I am told that my father was still breastfeeding with his original mother when he was taken for adoption. My mother struggled with her body image due to an adoptive mother who was obsessed by eating and weight issues. I have one memorable experience of that with my adoptive grandmother when she took me to England and embarrassed me dining at The Dorchester in London when I reached for a warm dinner role. I didn’t talk to her for almost 24 hours but gave it up in favor of not ruining our whole experience there together.

Your Blogger at The Dorchester

My mom was passive and secretive about eating. Some of that behavior certainly filtered down to me. My dad struggled with some drunken experiences, one that I didn’t even learn about until after he died, when my sister and I found a letter from him about spending a night in jail for DWI and praying not to lose his job and family over it. But after he was “saved”, he didn’t stop drinking – though he was never a violent alcoholic – and able to work even double shifts and nights at an oil refinery.

Joel Chambers writes about The Lifelong Challenges of Adoptees at the LINK> Search Angels website – Adoptees face more traumas, and more challenges, than many other people, and it affects their lives in ways that we are just beginning to understand. He has also written a post, speaking at great length about how addiction, in all of its various forms, is all too common among adoptees. These have experiences such as grief and loss, self-esteem and identity issues, substance abuse and addiction, mental health, and challenges to the types of relationships that they can form with their adoptive families. Adoptees also deal with feelings of grief, separation, and loss for their biological parents and birth families, even if they never knew them. 

A healing I didn’t even know I needed started in the Autumn of 2017, when I began learning what my parents never knew – who my original grandparents were. Then, it was only natural that I really begin learning about this thing called adoption. My daughter once said to me – “it seems like you are on a mission.” True, guilty as charged.

Mental Health and Regrets

An expectant mother says “I’m not sure with my mental health I can parent another child.” This is despite the fact, that she is a good parent to her first child and that child isn’t suffering. Does she really think giving away her baby is going to do wonders for her mental health? She may be the happy mommy for a while after doing, this with no regrets. But she can only lie to her self for so long. Eventually, she is likely to wake up and wonder wtf did I do?

One woman replied – I was this mother. I placed my 3rd. I had absolutely NO idea what it would do to me.. it absolutely broke me! I could barely function for almost 2 years. I don’t think people really understand what giving away a child means. Adoption is pushed as sunshine and rainbows in society, so I think we somewhat look at it in a positive light when we are contemplating making that choice. . But no it absolutely will NOT help your mental state in any way.

And she is alone, another one said – Me too. And yet another one said – Same with my third also. Fact is, it is the rare person who won’t realize they exchanged one set of mental health issues for another and this one lasts a lifetime for yourself, the child, other children, etc…Then this, my mental health took a nose dive after adoption. Mentally I always struggled but since then, I have been in and out of behavioral health facilities and have made 3 suicide attempts. Someone else thought – it’s a way to delay the trauma and people should be honest that all you’re doing is delaying it and compounding it later.

On that last note, came this reply – i think that also delays trauma for many in a different way, too sadly. Granted each can choose for themselves but I have supported friends who have chosen this route for a variety of reason and again, they weren’t supported after or informed of just what an emotional roller coaster it can take you on, for a VERY long time.

Now I get that’s not for everyone and some may not be as impacted by it, but my friends who have (and many were moms already) came to me and told me, they wished they had listened to me (because I told them – I’m not sure it’s going to help in the ways that you believe it would help) and many were seriously already struggling (hence not feeling able to add another kid) and they didn’t think they could nose dive further but many have. In fact, one reached out this week to me talking about how 2 years after, she still regrets it and wishes she had listened to me.

I believe support for people who go this route is lacking and very much needed – many are left to deal with it in silence and it’s a dirty secret and they have guilt and shame, which contributes to more issues they have in the long run because they don’t have a proper healing outlet to deal with all the feelings and even physical stuff sometimes after (my one girlfriend ended up with an infection and needed to be hospitalized which compounded the trauma).

Finally, this – If there are reasons causing these feelings they usually stem from trauma and lack of support – and if those were addressed, it would be still hard to parent (cuz lets be real – its hard!!) but when you have a better support system vs a system working against you (like Child Protective Services or whatever). I said to my original mom recently, what happened after Termination of Parental Rights ? She jumped at the judge when he said they weren’t her kids now, they were HIS. She spent the night IN JAIL after losing her kids. 

No Win Situation

An unwed mother is pregnant with her 2nd child, due in early February, and the dad has no plans to be involved. She has a 5-year-old that she had the same heartfelt struggle with making this decision. She has spent almost every day of his life, wondering if he would’ve been better off if she’d just put him up for adoption. That is what she wanted to before his dad stepped in and said he wanted to keep him. She has limited to no support from her family and friends.

Where she is now . . . “The only consensus I managed to come to is that I’d be traumatizing my baby if I put it for adoption, but if I don’t have support, I’m going to ruin the baby anyway. So many of those adoptees have such a jaded, negative view of their birth families for putting them up for adoption, but they also resent their adoptive families for ‘stealing’ them, so I’m right back to square one of no matter what I choose, I’m evil and ruining my baby’s life.”

From an adoptee – I’m an adoptee of a closed adoption. A DNA test for Ancestry revealed my birth parents. If I were you, I wouldn’t adopt and as an adoptee, I regret being adopted. I don’t necessarily think my birth parents ruined my life by not keeping me because I don’t know what my life would have been with them. Having another baby won’t ruin your life. It won’t ruin your son’s. You can get your mental health back either way, because either way it’s going to take work and probably therapy. I just wouldn’t make the decision out of fear that you’re not capable because I think that’s when we get into decisions we regret.

So often, when unwed expectant mothers come into my all things adoption group seeking insight, it is almost universal that they don’t feel capable of parenting. It is most likely true in all of these cases that those who do decide to parent still have a difficult and challenging situation to navigate. With some mothers, the group goes the extra mile to supply things the mother will need once she has her baby, if she decides to parent. These women often come back when the baby is older saying how grateful they are to have been encouraged to keep their babies.

This group also sometimes helps a parent who has become embroiled in a custody situation where adoptive or foster parents want to keep the baby they managed to get. The legal process is daunting, fraught with challenges and no certainty of being won. Better to at least give parenting a try. Worst case, there is always the option to surrender to adoption . . .

My favorite saying in life is from the Lemony Snicket movie – A Series of Unfortunate Events. I can’t find what I remember anywhere but it comes down to no matter how dark or bad things look, there is always a way out of that situation. It has often inspired me to hold the line until I see the way has proven to be so . . .

Baudelaire Kids from Lemony Snicket A Series of Unfortunate Events

Family Separations

My husband told me about this story several days ago. Of course, I do care. It is abominable what the US border policies have done in separating children from their natural parents. You can read the transcript at this LINK> NPR Investigation reveals how government bureaucracy failed to stop family separations with Ari Shapiro talking to The Atlantic immigration reporter Caitlin Dickerson. The Atlantic also has the story, though I am not a subscriber and have used up all of my “free” article allowance. You can access that at this LINK> The Secret History of Family Separation or under this headline – “We Need To Take Away Children: The Secret History Of The U.S. Government’s Family Separation Policy.”

The Trump administration was known for immigration policies that were chaotic and extreme, yet even by that standard, family separation was in its own category. Kids as young as infants were removed from their parents at the border, more than 5,500 children total. Hundreds are still not reunited. Caitlin Dickerson chronicled those policies in real time, first for The New York Times and now for The Atlantic. And her latest cover story for The Atlantic is an exhaustive investigation into how the family separation policy came about.

Caitlin Dickerson says, “The Trump administration . . . was very focused on trying to curtail immigration, both illegal immigration, as well as asylum seeking. The reason this exhaustive an account was necessary was because it’s the most extreme implementation of consequences. And some families, hundreds of them, still have not been reunited today.” She goes on to say, “. . . hawks, like Stephen Miller, were going to push for these really aggressive policies. But it’s actually the bureaucrats, the career experts who went along with zero tolerance and family separations who are really important. They told me they were very concerned about separating families, but they stayed quiet. And when I asked why, they said, well, it wasn’t strategic to speak up in these meetings or, you know, I couldn’t alienate myself before Stephen Miller, given how much power he had in the administration. They figured someone else would intervene, and because of that, this policy was put into place.”

Dickerson goes on to say that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen  wishes she had not signed the memo authorizing family separations. She didn’t have good information when she made this decision. Career immigration officials said we have systems and processes in place to ensure it’s going to be implemented smoothly. And that wasn’t true. Based on their advice, she made that decision.

Sadly, there is still the desire by some former Trump administration officials to see this policy implemented again in the future. The separation trauma is immensely destructive for the kids who were in the very early stages of development and this is going to be a lifelong story for them.

I did some research and found two other articles – LINK> PolitiFact noted in February 2021 that the Biden administration had rescinded the Trump-era policy that led to systematic family separations and that he had established a task force to reunite families that were separated under the Trump administration.

However, a LINK> Vera.org piece noted – Children Are Still Being Separated from Their Families at the Border. This one is dated June 23, 2022 written by Erica Bryant. She makes the point that – “A better system would place Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) officials at the border to immediately evaluate family relationships. This should be done in trauma-informed and developmentally appropriate settings, rather than in jail-like holding centers. Medical and mental health services that children might need should also be available on site. If ORR confirms the family relationship and rules out risks of trafficking and other immediate dangers to the child, children should be released with their relatives immediately.”

Ethics In Adoption

Adoption is a BIG Business

From an adoption community post –

There is an economy at work in adoption.

Let’s begin with adoption agencies –

An adoption agency connects hopeful adoptive parents with expectant mothers in crisis who may wish to relinquish their child for adoption. In the process of negotiating, the adoption agency receives money from the hopeful adoptive parents (in most cases), and sometimes (rarely) from expectant mothers. The money is used to pay for the associated legal fees, the matching service, and sometimes for care for the expectant mother. This money also pays the salaries of the agency employees. This is true even if the agency is listed as a “not for profit” agency. The employees, social workers, and directors are not working for free.

Hopeful adoptive parents reach out to agencies for help in finding an available child (usually an infant) to adopt. There are 40 hopeful adoptive parents (couples/families) for every infant available for adoption. That is an estimate, some say it may be as high as 1,000 hopeful adoptive parents for every infant who becomes available for adoption.

If you look on websites and in social media, an expectant mother who indicates anywhere that she is considering adoption, will receive hundreds, often thousands, of responses from people who would like to adopt her baby. The demand far exceeds the supply of infants available for adoption. In the leaked Supreme Court draft written by Alito he makes a note of that lack of supply.

So, let’s apply the law of supply and demand –

In order for an agency (which, whether for profit or not for profit, stands to make money from the transaction) to keep itself in business, the agency must provide a certain percentage of infants for the demand. When supply is low and demand is high, coercion enters into these transactions. Agencies must obtain children for their market and are willing to do whatever it takes to supply that market. Social workers and agency contacts do whatever it takes to convince an expectant mother that one of their adoptive couples is better for her child, than she could ever be.

If she receives any money from the agency to cover her expenses but then decides she wants to parent, they will call her a “scammer” or a “fraud.” In many states there is no revocation period during which a woman who has given birth but indicated she is willing to give up her baby can change her mind. Those are considered “adoption-friendly” states Some have short revocation periods. In many cases, social workers pressure expectant mothers to hand their babies over and sign their termination of parental rights, while the new mother is still within the first 48 hours after birth.

Coercive tactics are part and parcel of domestic infant adoption. International infant adoption is even more coercive and heinous because some parents are not even told that their legal rights to their child are being severed.

So, what about the children in foster care ? They’ve already had their parental rights severed. Some hopeful adoptive parents believe they are only motivated to help these unfortunate children. But there’s an economy at work there too. You can be forgiven for not knowing that, thanks to the many promotions of this method of adoption by various states. A federal stipend is paid to foster parents for children of all ages, from under a year old until they age out of the foster care system at 18.

In 1997, the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) went into effect. Its purpose was to achieve permanency for children who had been in foster care for a long period of time by having them adopted. The intent of the law was good: permanent placements for children who had been abused, neglected, or abandoned. Its implementation, however, has proven faulty. It has amplified the corruption that has always been endemic within the Child Protective Services system.

The ASFA provides federal stipends to state agencies for each adoption they process out of foster care. Because the states receive money for having children adopted out of foster care, they now have a financial incentive to take children from actually SAFE families and place them into foster homes, so that they can be adopted. The more recent Family First Prevention Services Act includes federal funds to pay for services aimed at preventing the use of foster care by providing better support to parents at risk of losing custody of their children.

Regarding the current concept of “Foster to Adopt” –

Foster parents already receive a generous stipend from the state for caring for the state’s ward. Often, a foster parent will even receive an infant fresh from the hospital due to “risk of future harm” from their parents. These infants are placed with foster parents whose aim is to adopt. Both the foster parents (who wanted to adopt an infant) and the state child protection agency (which receives federal monies for every adoption from foster care) stand to gain from the adoption of this infant “out of foster care.”

The economic implications of adoption are the most straightforward and fact-based way to address whether ethical adoption is even possible. To whatever degree this all matters to you personally – consider the social impact of adoption and the reasons why adoption is considered unethical based upon social reasons.

Include in your considerations why children are removed by protective agencies simply due to perceived neglect caused only by poverty. Consider how it is possible that stipend money paid to them somehow makes foster caregivers more fit to parent than the biological parents. Look into the statistics for suicide and mental health issues among adoptees. Contemplate why laws promote adoption rather than legal guardianship.

Adoption is a contract made between two people – in which a third person is subjected to its ramifications – without their consent. Thank you for contemplating the ethical ramifications of adoption and the use by the state of foster care to increase adoptions.

Fear of Abandonment is Real

Stephanie Drenka and genetic family

I went looking for a topic for today’s blog and found this story by Stephanie Drenka. She writes that – “I was struck by the pervasiveness of adoptive parent-focused stories. Where were the adoptee perspectives ?” The photo is from when when she was reunited with her biological mother, two sisters, and a brother.

She notes that “abandonment issues do not end in adulthood. Though I haven’t experienced divorce, I can imagine it might be similar. If a woman’s husband leaves her, even after remarries the perfect guy, she may always deal with a persistent fear that he will leave her as well. Fear of abandonment is real, and has to be acknowledged in order to resolve it.”

I have personally witnessed this issue playing out in a loved one and it had not been resolved previously. It came out at a very inopportune time but never-the-less had to be dealt with in its extremity.

Stephanie notes – Even the most well-adapted adoptee still faces moments where the trauma resurfaces. For me, that meant small things like every time a doctor would ask me for my family medical history or now, post-reunification, not knowing when I will be able to meet my biological sister’s new baby boy. And adds – I won’t go into the trauma experienced by birth mothers and families, because that is not my story to tell. Suffice it to say, from my personal reunification experience, adoptees are not the only ones who struggle with the aftermath of adoption.

She says – I love my (adoptive) mom and dad to the moon and back. They are my role models, biggest supporters, and best friends. I feel blessed to have them in my life– but please don’t presume to tell me that I was “lucky” to be adopted. Like many adoptees, my parents told me that I was special. While meant with good intention, being chosen is a burden. It puts pressure on us to be perfect and grateful. It can be incredibly emotionally taxing and negatively effects your self esteem in the moments where you can’t live up to that perfect picture. These expectations can prolong mental illness without treatment, because it may seem like asking for help is being ungrateful.

Choosing to adopt is an expensive proposition and as Stephanie notes – one mostly related to white privilege. I agree with her stated perspective – Can you imagine if the money people spent on adoption services went instead to supporting single mothers or low-income parents? Or what if adoption profits were used to benefit adoptees themselves in the form of post-adoption services like counseling, genetic testing, mental health treatment, or birth family search costs?

She ends her own essay with this – The truth about adoption is that there is no Truth. Adoption is many different things for many different people. It is love, loss, grief, abuse, hope, despair. It can sometimes be celebrated, but should always be examined through a critical and compassionate lens.

It’s Not Glamorous Or Easier

A trauma informed therapist says “let me tell you that some of my 2-5 year old kids who have experienced trauma have more behavioral “issues” than my teens. She shares this story –

One of my best friends is starting the process to foster. She has a 16-month old biological daughter and is due in July with her second. We were talking on the phone last night and she said her and her husband are doing an orientation and are wanting to get licensed to become foster parents. When I asked her, what ages? Without missing a beat, she said, “0-5. I know it will be harder to get kids in that age group. But kids who are older have been passed around so much and have gone through so much. I just don’t wanna deal with all that!”

When I brought up childcare (her and her husband work full time), she said that the government pays for daycare for foster kids. Babies/toddlers who are in foster care have just as much trauma as older kids. They just can’t express it. They likely have struggled to form attachments and ideally, I don’t think foster babies should just be put in daycare full time.

In looking for an image to illustrate this blog, I encountered another perspective that is in this same realm. “Fostering Offers Flexibility in Age and Gender Preference (But I Don’t Foster Babies Because They Are Cute and Easy).”

The decision to become a foster family is never easy. The idea can seem overwhelming when you hear about aspects of providing care that will be out of your control as a foster parent. However, foster parents have total control in terms of selecting what children come into our homes. Foster parents are able to choose a preferred age range, select gender preference if desired, and say “yes” or “no” to each child needing placement.

My husband and I chose to foster babies and toddlers for the life-long impact we believe we can make on these children and their families. There were other reasons as well; for example, we want to welcome children who are significantly younger than our 11-year-old biological twins. We may decide to raise our age preference for fostering as our own children continue to age, but that’s not a decision we need to make right now.

In an article related to fostering The Developing Child found at harvard.edu, “Toxic stress weakens the architecture of the developing brain, which can lead to lifelong problems in learning, behavior, and physical and mental health.” This is the type of information that led us to foster children ages three and under, which is a critical time that we feel we can make the greatest long-term impact. (Offering full disclosure, I also want to offer my best self, which tolerates toddler tantrums much better than I handle tween tantrums.)

During our original licensing process, I sought counsel from a friend who used to work in adoption placement and currently works with traumatized children as a therapist. She helped prepare me for the atrocities I would face as a foster parent. She explained that for babies and toddlers to be identified, it takes a serious injury that requires medical attention, and hospital workers often file the report of suspected abuse or neglect for young children.

Youth Villages

My husband called my attention to an article at NPR.org – “18 can mean an abrupt exit from foster care. For some, it’s no longer a solo journey.” I already knew somewhat about aging out of foster care and the effects of that.

What attracted my attention was this – Helping young people see that they can have a stable future is the goal of the LifeSet program. Developed in 1999 by the Memphis nonprofit Youth Villages, it is being used today in 18 states and Washington, DC. I appreciate this from their Mission and Values statements – “When at all possible, children belong with their families. We help families provide the support and structure that all children need.”

Also this – We develop innovative programs that serve children and families facing the most challenging circumstances. Our entrepreneurial spirit leads us to test the limits of existing services and create new opportunities. We provide care and treatment for children in an open, safe environment. We ensure that young people are physically and emotionally safe. We help children and families develop skills to live successfully by focusing on areas that have a long-term impact on the family.

LifeSet puts transition-age youth in the driver’s seat of their lives with a trained specialist by their side to help them identify and achieve goals. It is is an individualized, evidence-informed community-based program that is highly intensive. LifeSet specialists meet with participants face to face at least once each week. They text, email and call young people regularly throughout the week, when needed. Specialists stabilize even the toughest situations and help young people build healthy relationships, obtain safe housing, education and employment. LifeSet is one of the nation’s first — and now one of the largest — evidence-informed programs helping young people who age out of foster care. More than 20,000 young people have helped through LifeSet across the country since the program began in 1999.

Being Infertile While Black

I actually learned about the book in my image while reading another woman’s story of the disappointments and heartbreak of going through failure after failure after failure in assisted reproduction cycles. The essay’s author mentions Emily Bernard’s book Black is the Body, in which she describes her own reproductive struggles, and how she felt like a failure for not being able to conceive. No matter how much she tried, she could not conceive (she ended up adopting). And though my blog today is not about that book, so often, one thing leads to another and there I find adoption. Infertility is a common thread that very often leads to adoption. In my all things adoption group they often counsel women to confront their grief related to infertility before adopting. An adopted child will never be the child you could not conceive naturally and not coming to grips with that will bring a problematic relationship with your adopted child who regardless may never feel like they were good enough to meet your expectations even if you did not go through infertility first.

You can read Edna Bonhomme‘s entire essay in The Guardian about her experience of infertility in search of Black Motherhood. “For women from Black, working-class families like mine, to have children – countering the forces that tried to destroy us – can be a powerful political act.” That perspective really made sense to me but was one I would have never considered, if I had not read Edna’s essay. I will share some other excerpts I jotted down.

“Infertility damages mental health in many ways, and the clinical depression and anxiety disorders that occur after failed IVF attempts can have long term negative consequences. Some people offered unwanted counsel: ‘Why don’t you adopt?’ I had to accept that some people will never get pregnant, no matter how hard they try. (As a writer) It is more challenging to tell a story about fertility treatment that ends in childlessness.”

“One friend and confidante, who struggled for nearly 10 years to conceive, told me how she had been ready to adopt right before she became pregnant. I have to rationalize that my body, like all bodies, is complex, and there is no simple answer for why I cannot get pregnant. In the closing lines of a story such as this, one might assume the denouement brings a child: it doesn’t. Unfortunately, it ends here.”

I had expected this essay to end in an adoption but another thing I often read in my all things adoption group is not everyone has to have children. It would appear that is where Edna ended up – in an acceptance of nature as it is for her Black body.

Challenge The Now

When we realize that adoption is born from a separation between a mother and child, we will see that it is traumatizing to all the people involved. Adoption Trauma serves as a term that explains how there are multiple losses, how the process itself is traumatic, and the impact on the mental wellbeing of the person being adopted, those who are choosing to adopt, and those who are separated. You can download an Adoption Trauma Factsheet at this site – https://www.transformadoption.com/. Share the factsheet, help raise awareness, educate your community, and support your loved ones.

When a person is adopted their life path is irrevocably altered. It is unnatural and traumatizing for them. The task is to learn how to manage this trauma so the adoptee may find their true identity. Corrupt adoption practices include fabricating adoption documents, coercive recruitment campaigns and systemic oppression of the truth. It is time to challenge the now and help adopted people learn their true identities so they may find their true purpose in life.

It is time to uncover the truth about yourself as impacted by adoption, learn where your origins began, and reveal your adoption story. In my case, both of my parents were adopted. They died knowing next to nothing about all of these aspects of their identity. I have been able to uncover a lot of it for myself, my sister and our own children. Creating a sense of our true identities now. An adoptee who is able to do this feels safer within their own self. Each of us educates ourselves as much as our personal interest and needs dictate. We seek to build a larger awareness of the truths of this practice that profits massively the adoption industry.

People who are adopted domestically in the United States have been advocating to get their original birth certificates, which have historically been sealed and amended. Efforts are being made state by state to overturn previous laws during a time adoptions were conducted in secrecy. It is vital to one’s health to have connections with one’s families of origin and also to know one’s familial medical history.

It is up to all of us to transform adoption. Now is the time we can re-define who adoptees are individually and collectively. They should not be second class citizens. They deserve their full basic human rights.

We are all pioneers in this effort seeking to transform adoption practices together.