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).

It Really Was That Bad

Today’s story –

I was adopted from foster care when I was 12. I was adopted into the same home as one of my biological sisters. Being adopted was the only way I could stay with my younger sister, so I consented. I knew my first family, as I lived with them to the age of ten. Having to leave them, especially my siblings, destroyed me.

Nearly as bad was the family I ended up with. My adoptive mom berated me constantly, and could be very cruel. I was told that my sister and I weren’t wanted, and that’s why my mother kept her other (three younger) kids but gave us up. That we were lucky that she chose us. The day of the adoption she told me that my life now was between her and Jesus.

I have a good relationship with my biological mom and stepdad, and their kids. I love them, and they love me back with a kind of enthusiasm that I never experienced in my adoptive home. Awhile back, my adoptive mom sent me a message, trying to apologize. It was painful, but it made me know for sure that things were as bad as I thought they were.

From the adoptive mom –

A couple of years ago we sat in the livingroom and I made an attempt at making an amends with you. I thought if I had stopped drinking and stayed sober, then the past was the past.

At the beginning, when you moved into our home, I made a feeble attempt at reaching out to you. You cringed and would not trust me, would not call me mom. You already had a mom and I had not even showed I was a safe person. I couldn’t and didn’t listen to your silent pain.

I know I verbally and emotionally abused you. You went to therapy but it didn’t work and I was glad because I did not want my neglect to be exposed. I knew I was guilty for causing the demons that haunted you.

At the height of your anorexia, you were hospitalized and yet I was jealous of you. I know I was insane. It was my own mental illness more than the alcoholism.

I just wanted to tell you that I am so ashamed of not giving you the childhood you deserved. It was my loss, I never really got to know you. I take none of the credit for your strength.

They Are Not Orphans

If anyone cared about children and adoption, they would be focused on changing the things that lead to a child being taken away from their parent or a parent not feeling adequate to parent their own child.

Things like poverty, addiction, mental illness and abuse.

Most “adoptable” children are NOT actually orphans. That is a myth.

Poverty plays a huge role in how children end up in foster care and through that in the adoption system or end up going straight into adoption without the parent ever trying to raise their own child.

Society needs to focus on the inequities that destroy a stable family unit.

Focus of those aspects that disrupt children’s lives.

At the maternity ward level, every adoption takes place in a tragic situation where the birth mother actually wanted her baby – that is the main reason any woman would devote 9 mos of her life into the creation of a new human being in her own womb. This is a huge sacrifice and commitment on the part of any woman.

Here’s the honest truth – there actually is ENOUGH money in this world to HELP people – instead of jerking their precious children away from them in order to make a profit from another couple who desperately believes that is their only path to parenthood.

A Failed Adoption Is Not The Same Thing

A woman shares this – Someone’s asking how to support a friend whose adoption has been disrupted at [a specific point in an unborn baby’s gestation]. This friend is a would be adoptive parent. The responses to this situation, that include some from other adoptive parents who identify themselves as having experienced this, equate it to a death in the family, stillbirth, or trauma.

Certainly, one could relate the two up to a point. The prospective adoptive parents have been excited about the pending adoption. They have the expectation of holding a newborn in their arms. They may have invested in a crib, baby clothes and diapers among their other preparations. But the similarity stops there.

My daughter experienced a stillbirth with her first pregnancy. She describes to me being given the expelled fetus in a blanket to hold and say goodbye to at the hospital. She tells me that when she became pregnant again with my grandson, she could hear this first one saying to her in her heart, you weren’t ready for me then.

Another woman shares (she is an adoptive parent) – I have had two late term stillbirths. Both were cord deaths. In no way, shape or form would I say that a failed adoption is at all related to experiencing a stillbirth or death loss. You cannot even put the two together. It’s only recently that stillbirth has been allowed to even be spoken about. This is why pre-birth adoption matching of unborn babies to be shouldn’t be allowed! Adoptive parents who compare the two, taking away from the women who have had an actual loss by birthing a stillbirth baby by comparing that tremendous sorrow with a belief that their loss of a baby because the expectant mother has changed her mind is a kind of mental illness.

An adoption reform response to prospective adoptive parents experiencing this kind of loss could be – “While this is a type of loss for your family, can you shift your perspective and realize how amazing it is that this mother and your family will not have to live with the certain regrets surrounding an adoption? It is a lovely and precious thing for this mom to be able to parent – just as it would have been for you.”

Thwarted Father

I had never heard this legal term – Thwarted Father. However, there has been the occurrence of one in my own family. I thought I was “close” to my youngest sister when she became pregnant out of wedlock. It was always her intention to give her baby up for adoption and she sent me packages from prospective adoptive parents for my opinion about each. She also lied to me about who the father was. She lied about who the father was on her baby’s birth certificate.

Fast forward many years. Just before our dad died, my nephew’s adoptive mother contacted me. I had to share with her that my nephew’s mother actually is severely mentally ill (most likely paranoid schizophrenia but medical privacy laws have prevented our family from actually knowing her diagnosis – so this is experientially on my part but it is clear her mind operates in an entirely different way – which surprisingly I sort of understand as a kind of limbo – in this world we collectively share in common but not in exactly the same world that most people agree is a reality, using that last term rather loosely).

The DNA was just not adding up. I will always feel deeply grateful to my nephew’s adoptive mother for her willingness to go the extra mile for him to have accurate identity information. She hired a private investigator and eventually the DNA was narrowed down to two men who were brothers and who as it turns out my sister had had sexual relations with. Paternity tests of an advanced nature then determined which man was the father. Interestingly, he had only been with my sister sexually once. And she seduced him – according to the story – when she opened the door to him (he was there to drop papers off for our dad who was his friend), she dropped the towel covering her naked body. From a cousin there is an indication that my sister was sexually assaulted by her riding coach when she was only middle school age. While their interactions may have been consensual, at that age, I would not term it informed consent.

My nephew was a mature young adult by then. Certainly, it was awkward for my sister because she was very close with our dad. However, there is a dark side to this story. She knew. About 6 months after her baby was born and already adopted, she sent a newborn photo of her son to the father and told him. He threatened to sue for custody. On Father’s Day, she called his house very early in the morning to inform him the adoptive parents and the baby had been killed in a car accident. Imagine his surprise and his anger at having been thwarted from having a relationship with his son. They do try to build a relationship now. It is always hard to make up for all that was lost – in fact – it is never possible.

What exactly do ‘thwarted fathers’ get? Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch.  Well unless you consider the scripted ridicule.  And then they get ‘deadbeat’, ‘loser’, ‘serial impregnator’, ‘sperm donor’, etc…

According to the Meriam Webster dictionary, to thwart is to:

  1.  run counter to so as to effectively oppose or baffle : contravene
  2.  oppose successfully :  defeat the hopes or aspirations of
  3.  pass through or across

In the case of adopted individuals – a “Thwarted Father” means he was effectively opposed, that the adoptive couple effectively violated his rights, even if unknowingly.  It means his hopes and aspirations of being a father were defeated. He was passed. His child stolen from him with a trickery of the law. And I would add, a deliberate falsehood.

At this time, my nephew and myself as well (and his natural, biological/genetic father) all keep ourselves out of the awareness of my sister. It pains my own heart that it must be so but she refuses to accept treatment, as is her right. However, it is upsetting to be in direct contact with her. So we each, for our own well-being, chose not to have contact with her.

Welcome to June when we turn some of our attention to fathers. They deserve a bit, don’t you think ? With my two sons, I would be totally lost in trying to raise them without their dad in their lives. I know single moms who do a good job of it and maybe I would too – if I had to. Let’s just say, I’m grateful that I do not have to test that possibility in reality.

Simply Going Along

I used to be a big Garfield fan but I never knew about McDonald’s offering these glass mugs in 1978 and 1987 until today when I was looking for an image to illustrate today’s blog.

Today’s questions for adoptive parents go like this –

What if your love and security wasn’t enough for your child? Would you know? If your child lashes out and says you’re not their real parents, that’s tangible, specific about their emotions. But what if your child seems simply part of your family, is agreeable, goes through the motions. Says the things you’d expect. Gets upset the way you think biological kids react. Would you think that meant they felt connected to you or the family? Would you consider them to be well adjusted and free from trauma? How would you know if they felt disconnected from you or the family?

Now for some replies –

First this – I’m not an adoptive parent but I was am adoptive child who went overboard trying to be the perfect child. Busyness, perfectionism, not asking for needs to be met. All signs.

And in sympathy, this one – This was me too. I lashed out at my teachers instead of my parents and confused the hell out of everyone.

Now this honesty from an adoptive parent – My son is all the things you describe: agreeable, helpful, thoughtful….But, I can see the sadness in his eyes even when we are all together and “happy”. He is lonely even when he isn’t alone. The only time he seems to shake it is when he is with his natural family. On visits, he seems truly at peace. I can’t imagine how it must feel to struggle with that loss everyday.

And another one similarly – I see the same thing in my girls eyes. There’s definitely some sadness, hurt, anger, and confusion there, even in moments they seem to be happy. There’s a void there.

An older adult writes – To this day I feel like I am performing to expectations with my adoptive family. When I met my natural family it was just . . . well natural. It clicked. I describe it as sitting under a comfortable blanket. It just felt comfortable and easy. I didn’t have to think so much. I could just “be,” if that makes sense.

Then this – If there’s one upside to having blatantly sucky adopters, it was never feeling I had to perform anything. I told my adoptive dad (who was raising us singly because adoptive mom ran off – after the divorce, when I was 4) regularly and loudly I hated him, being adopted, everything about it. I honestly feel bad for adoptees with good adoptions feeling like they have to keep negative things about it to themselves simply in order to make their adoptive families happy.

Another adoptive parent’s perspective – My honest response to this is – an adopted child not having the reactions described would be a large red flag for me. The truth is, I am not their parent and regardless of my intentions (meaning selfish or not) I never will be and I don’t think I should try to force that specific bond. It is not mine to try to take (and if you feel threatened by that as an adoptive parent, you should reevaluate your outlook). But that opinion is formed based on many of the adoptee voices I have heard in a support group. My guess is (I cannot say for sure because I have not walked this) that feeling a connection like family is tough with the trauma of not having your parents there. A child can want to feel that connection and at times, I believe they can feel connected but there will often always be a longing for blood connections. As adoptive parents, I feel like our responsibility is to help keep (or find, if necessary) as many of these connections as possible or we are essentially harming the very child we claim to be “protecting”. But I try to pay attention to what our children are not saying because that often speaks much louder than what they are saying, if you are looking and listening.

I do credit my nephew’s adoptive mother with making an attempt – by contacting me, by doing the work necessary to correct the lie my youngest sister told about who his natural father was. My heart breaks for my nephew. Though his questions are now answered for the most part (I gave him a video of my husband’s and my wedding where my mentally ill – probably paranoid schizophrenia – youngest sister was probably as natural and “normal” as she ever was – so he could see that side of her in lieu of meeting her in person) and he has met his father and related half-siblings. Even so, now that he is a mature adult with a girlfriend who has what seems like an intact birth family that remains close to one another, he has pretty much cut all ties with his adoptive mother in favor of being a part of her family. I hasten to add that a romantic relationship (even when such complications are the truth as in my nephew’s life) can split a person mostly off from their natural family. As a woman, I’ve experienced that with all 3 of my long-term romantic relationships.

Someone once told me that children come in two types – defiant and compliant. I have two sons who certainly illustrate that truth. So, I would suspect that adoptees (from what I have learned in my own study) tend more to the compliant (which does not mean that there are not defiant types), simply because of a fear of abandonment and rejection which is common to almost every adoptee.

Seeking Ever More Accuracy

Years ago, the phrase NPE was coined to generally mean when the expected parent or parents weren’t.

  • NPE means nonpaternal event, also sometimes nonparental event.
  • Some folks didn’t like that term and began to use MPE, misattributed paternal event or misattributed parentage.

Of course, today, this situation could arise as a result of an adoption, a donor situation, either male or female, or the more often thought-of situation where the father isn’t who he’s presumed/believed to be based on the circumstances at hand.

There is one in my family. My sister never let on, even though I was supporting her through an unplanned, unwed pregnancy and was aware of her decision to surrender her child to adoption and was in on her thoughts as she made a decision on which hopeful adoptive parents to chose. For many years, I had a little lockbox in keeping for my nephew which I finally gave him in late 2016.

Imagine my own shock when his adoptive mother informed me that they were questioning the official paternity on his birth certificate. The DNA didn’t seem to add up. She was one of those good adoptive mothers who supported her adopted child’s search for the truth of his origins.

The actual father, proven by advanced DNA testing due to some uncertainty over which brother the father actually was, turned out to be my dad’s friend and former co-worker. What is worse is what I learned subsequently – that my sister actually did know who the father actually was. She informed him 6 months after the boy was born as though he had only just been born. Then, when the father indicated he was going to sue for custody because he never agreed to the adoption, very early in the morning on one Father’s Day, she called to tell him his son and the adoptive parents had been killed in a car accident. Imagine his father’s shock when this son turned up on his doorstep already in his 20s.

So, my sister is genuinely mentally ill. I don’t excuse this behavior even so. One can’t make these things up and it happens more often than one might think.

So, as the whole adoption related community (adoptees, original parents and adoptive parents joined by a whole host of friends and related family) seeks more accurate terminology, NPE has now been replaced by MPE – misattributed paternal event.

Inexpensive DNA testing and matching sites like Ancestry and 23 and Me are bringing truth into many adoptees lives, and in cases such as my own as the child of two adoptees, and has made all the difference in making us whole, in contact with our genetic origins and often with family members who’s lives continued to unfold, unknown to us, due to the rupture forced by adoption on the original family trees.

Why Is The Truth Hard to Hear ?

Today’s thoughts –

Relationships between adoptive parents and their biological kids are different than relationships adoptive parents have with their adopted kids. The connection with one’s biological kids is often deeper, biological connections are often stronger.

Many adoptees talk about how they could clearly see those differences in their adoptive families and in the way they were treated. Adoptive parents always defend themselves. “I love all my kids exactly the same. My connection is the same with all of my kids. My kids don’t feel that way and never will.”

There are a multitude of similar comments that have been uttered a thousand times.

If the reader is an adoptive parent – why is that something that’s hard to hear or gets you so defensive ?

No one is saying that adoptive parents don’t love their adopted children, or that they don’t have any connection with them. It’s simply not the same because biological connections matter. Yet an adoptive parent will immediately feel hurt because they don’t believe this is true about them.

For me, loving my biological children has always been natural, easy and effortless. Our bond was amazing the moment I laid eyes on them after birth. I hope my children all feel equally attached to me as their mom.

I suspect that anyone with adopted children has found they have had to work hard to love them with the same kind of overwhelming devotion (and some clearly don’t, as when the child is put back up for a second chance adoption). An adoptive parent must get to know their adopted child during the worst time in their lives. An adoptive parent may have to break some really hard news to them. In my own family, I had to explain to the adoptive mother of my nephew that his mother has a severe mental illness and that she has indicated that if she were in his presence she would not really be all that warm with him. It is very sad and I suspect he struggles now with all the truth that has come his way, including discovering that the man my sister named as his father was not and that the actual father was a co-worker with our dad that my sister seduced. No wonder she wanted to put the evidence of her behavior far away.

Any person who adopts has directly caused trauma. An adoptive parent may find that they did not bond or attach easily to the adopted child in the beginning. It may have taken a lot of work, a lot of therapy, blood, sweat, and tears. As parent and child, they may have had to work through mountains of pain, and will likely have some always. And maybe it is still hard somedays.

You can love them fiercely and they may even get more one on one attention than your biological children most days because they need it.

Yet, if you are being totally honest with yourself, you will admit that your bond with them is not the same as it is with your biological children. The love – while it is there and it is strong – is not the same, your biological connections with those children are strong as hell.

And as difficult as it is for you as an adoptive parent, it’s even more difficult for them. You are not their mom or dad, you never will be. They may have love for you, and maybe you have achieved some bonding, but the truth will always be that if they could go live with their mom/dad or other biological relatives – they absolutely would – without a second thought, simply because biological connections are strong as hell.

As an adoptive parent, if they can be honest with you, then you can know that your connection is strong. If you are able to hear them say that they wish they weren’t adopted sometimes, you are doing a great job. If you can suffer them telling you that they wish they were with their mom, you are humble and real.

They can tell you that even though their biological family treated them badly, they may still wish they lived with them – so they could (potentially) also be with their other siblings (often the case in these families that sibling groups become separated).

Maybe they are able to tell you that they are mad that you didn’t adopt their other siblings and maybe it wasn’t an option available to you at the time.

Most importantly, they know that you will respect and validate everything they say without trying change their minds, and without making excuses. They know that your love for them isn’t fragile and can’t be broken because they are able share feelings that sometimes hurt you feelings or make you feel bad.

Know this, your feelings are your problem. Don’t put them on your adopted child. And admit this, though your love for them, despite it being deep, is different than the love you have for your biological children, you will not deny the facts. Acknowledge that your connections, and bonds are different.

As an adoptive parent, these are things you should do your best to understand. It’s not about you and your image of saintliness out in the world. Your adopted kids know it’s different, don’t try to convince yourself that it’s not.

Folkeregister

I’ve been reading a book titled Healing the Split – Integrating Spirit Into Our Understanding of the Mentally Ill by John E Nelson MD. My youngest sister is affected by a chronic and profound mental illness, likely paranoid schizophrenia based upon her expression of this challenging condition. Therefore, I want to understand this as much as possible.

So imagine my surprise at encountering the portion I will share with you in today’s blog. When I learned the identity of my dad’s father, I discovered he was a Danish immigrant, not yet a citizen though he would become one in the 1940s and he was married (not to my dad’s mother). With that discovery, I remain forever interested in anything to do with Denmark. I am fortunate as well to now have a direct link to a cousin in this family who lives in Denmark.

The Folkeregister, is a Danish registry containing detailed birth, family history, health records and circumstances of death for virtually every person in that country. Researchers used this resource in an attempt to separate the effects of genetic endowment from the tribulations of childhood.

Therefore, the researchers started their study looking at entire generations of people with mental problems, then cross-referenced their results with dozens of traits. To isolate inherited traits from environmentally induced ones, they focused on children adopted at birth and raised by families unrelated to the natural parents. They readily determined that children adopted from families of schizophrenic parents are more likely to become schizophrenic than children adopted from non-schizophrenic parents – no matter the circumstances of their upbringing.

But when researchers compared identical and fraternal twins who were separated at birth and raised in foster homes. they found the unexpected. The concordance for schizophrenia between identical twins is less than 50%. Identical twins have exactly the same genetic structure from conception. We would expect 100% concordance – if genes are the ONLY cause of schizophrenia. Clearly, genetic influence is powerful but other forces are involved. There are indications that ongoing genetic mutations create new genetic expressions of schizophrenia.

Not all psychotic ASCs (Altered States of Consciousness) reflect genetic abnormalities or primary brain disorders. What is inherited is a predisposition for idiosyncratic thinking and for developing psychotic ASCs when under stress. If genes do predispose some people to schizophrenia, what is the final trigger that pushes the person over that edge or boundary ? We know that family and social environments profoundly affect a growing brain, which changes throughout life. So the outcome of genetic predispositions to certain ASCs might be entirely different from family to family and culture to culture.

So both good news and cautionary expectations when one has this presented in their family line.

If You Can’t Do This, Why Can You Do This ?

It is well known that simply being adopted is a risk for mental illness impacts like depression, anxiety and suicide. What is less often discussed is whether or not people with a history of mental illness should adopt. Adoptees deserve the best possible care and that means anyone who has had a history of mental health illnesses shouldn’t be adopting. You can’t own a gun, if you suffer from mental health illnesses. You can’t work certain jobs. Your restricted from other things. So WHY should you be allowed to raise someone else’s children ?

Understandably, many adults with a history of psychiatric illness prefer to adopt rather than have biological children. They may have concerns about psychiatric destabilization during pregnancy or that they may pass some genetic factor onto their unborn child. Certainly, if they are currently under medication, there is a concern about the impact of that pharmaceutical on the unborn child.

Child adoption laws vary from state to state. Although some licensed adoption agencies sympathize with potential adoptive parents with a history of mental illness, the law usually considers the following factors:
• the potential adopter’s emotional ties to the child
• their parenting skills
• emotional needs of the child
• the potential adopter’s desire to maintain continuity of the child’s care
• permanence of the family unit of the proposed home
• the physical, moral, and mental fitness of the potential parent.

Interestingly, an adoptee put forth this perspective – my adopted mother has always been open about her struggles with mental health (and the therapy and meds she uses to manage them) which in turn made *me* feel safe in coming to her with my struggles and she supported me as I sought therapy and medication as well. Mental illness isn’t some character flaw, it’s no one’s fault, and it shouldn’t be an excluding factor in and of itself. Plenty of biological parents have these issues as well. As long as a person is taking care of their mental health, whether it’s therapy or medications, and isn’t dangerous to themselves or others, it’s no one’s business and it isn’t relevant.

And this one offers an even broader perspective –  I’m an adoptee, and an adoptive parent. I’m also a therapist. I also have a managed anxiety disorder. I think asking people to have their mental illness well managed is one thing — and requiring psychiatric approval (from their therapist or whomever is overseeing their care), and there’s certainly diagnosis’ that should be precluded (likely anything progressive or personality wise). But most people could fit in to a mental health diagnosis at one point or another in their life. How people manage that mental illness and cope with it is the bigger picture.

One woman wrote – I do not think mental health illness = abuse but I do think abuse= mental health illness. I think you must be mentally ill, if you are abusing children.

One woman admitted –  I had no idea how my depression would be exacerbated by raising a family — and a adoptive one at that. Rather than restrictions, I think that there should be a medical screening process to ensure health (was this part of it? I don’t recall). Let a doctor decide limitations if need be. And I believe that there should be a foster parent mental health class that really discusses what it takes, the triggers, pitfalls etc. My own mental health was the thing I was the least prepared for. That said, I am receiving LOTS of support as are my children. We are ok and sometimes thriving, despite world events. But it took a while for us to get here. And I’m divorcing as part of this, because my soon to be-ex wasn’t mentally healthy enough to do this. It’s a lot.

And there was this from personal experience – My adoptive mom had a medicine cabinet full for all her needs. Depression, anxiety, sleep, ADHD, a few for physical like thyroid and I’m not sure what else but know it was about a dozen pills a day. My adoptive mom should’ve never been allowed to adopt me. She’s a batshit crazy narcissist. She needed all of us kids to have meds too – so I was flying high being treated for ADHD despite not needing it. She was a nurse who worked for our family doctor, so getting us diagnosed with anything was quite simple. To clarify I don’t think her being a shit parent was due to her possibly having depression or anxiety, honestly I’m not sure she even had those types of issues but she had something that made her think she needed meds for everything and that we did too. She should’ve never been able to adopt me.

In disputing that abusing is a sign of mental illness, one commenter add this – Nancy Erickson, an attorney and consultant on domestic violence legal issues, researched this very topic some years ago. “I found that about half of abusers appeared to have no mental disorders. The other half had various mental disorders, including but not limited to psychopathy, narcissism, PTSD, depression and bipolar disorder.” However, she adds, “Domestic abuse is a behavior, not a symptom of a mental illness.” While there is certainly an overlap, it is not always a guarantee, and it’s dangerous to make that assumption.

Another one pointed out – not all mental health diagnosis’ are created equal and many are managed well with medications. Also many people have mental illness and have not been diagnosed. Would people be forced to get a psychological evaluation ? And often among couples one partner has no diagnosis’ and so, a child can still be parented well.

One adoptive parent wrote – I absolutely agree with the idea that hopeful adoptive parents should be held to higher standards. I’m not sure how that would play out with mental illness but I do think hopeful adoptive parents with mental illness should have clear treatment plans and a consistent history of following through with their treatment plans. They should also be able to demonstrate the length of time they have been in stable mental health.