ADHD And Struggling

Design and Illustrations by Maya Chastain

I found much of this discussion helpful and so I am sharing it for today’s blog.

The original comment –

My 17 year old son adopted from foster care at 15, after 8 years in care. 2 failed adoptive placements before and he was living in residential treatment for 15 months before he transitioned to my home. He’s been with me for 2 years in total. He has not had contact with any biological family in 5+ years and did not have consistent care givers for the first 7 years of his life. He expresses hate towards his biological family and will not discuss with me.

He’s dealing with depression, anxiety, and ADHD. Although I believe the depression is very long term, today is the first day he has ever said it out loud. He had actively denied it previously. I also deal with depression and the sentiment he described of feeling like nothing even matters is something I’m very familiar with. He’s been let down so many times and I often tell him he’s had a very normal reaction to abnormal circumstances. He is so afraid to hope. He is in weekly therapy and working with psychiatrist. I feel like tonight him acknowledging his depression was a really big step forward. I am trying to help him navigate depression and be more hopeful. He is incredibly intelligent and capable and could really pursue so many opportunities and be well supported in whatever he chooses. He’s sabotaging himself instead. He is an older teenager navigating the transition to adulthood. Thank you for sharing any thoughts.

Response from an Adoptee with Depression and ADHD –

Just to translate some of what you’re saying here and how it may come across. You may not say these things out loud but “could really pursue so many opportunities and be well supported” tells me you probably imply these things:

“You could do so much more if you’d just apply yourself.”

*I’m never going to be good enough*

“Why are you struggling with something this basic”

*I’m stupid and can’t do basic things*

“You self-sabotage a lot”

*Push past burnout and ignore self-care*

My support network lets me move at my own pace. Also learning that I can’t brute force my way past ADHD by being “Intelligent” has helped.

No one really figures shit out until their 20s. Heck – I didn’t figure out anything until my 30s. Gen Z just has more pressure because you can’t live off the salary from an entry level job anymore.

The original commenter replied –

I definitely think this is something I’m struggling with and I appreciate your translation. I think what’s hard for me is that he is 17 but in many way operating as someone much younger. However he has the expectation the he be treated like every other 17 year old. We are fighting regularly because I won’t let him get a driver’s permit or I set structures around bedtime and Internet and he wants freedom. I’m very comfortable trying to meet him where he is and help him grow at whatever rate he grows. But he wants adult freedom and responsibility – he’s simply not ready for and it feels negligent on my part to just give him that because of his age. So I’m trying to help him set meaningful goals for himself, so that he can work towards the things he says he wants but it seems that his depression is a major barrier to working towards those goals.

I’m not rushing him to figure it out or trying to prescribe specific goals. I’m trying to support him in doing what he says he wants to do and having the freedom he wants to have. As a single parent, I’d love for him to have a driver’s license, just as much as he wants it. But how do I help him be ready for that, when the depression he’s experiencing seems to suck any motivation to do the work ?

Response from an Adoptee with Depression and ADHD –

Why can’t he have a learner’s, if you don’t mind me asking ?

People with ADHD (and often undiagnosed co-morbidities) struggle with being infantilized.

You’re talking about controlling bed time when ADHD can come with delayed circadian rhythm and insomnia.

Yes – ADHD often means you have issues keeping up with organizational skills, goal management, emotional regulation and peer relationships. That doesn’t mean you treat that person like a young child. In an environment where controlled exploration is allowed, you develop coping skills.

ADHD – ESPECIALLY as a teenager – means you’re fighting yourself for control of a brain that seems constantly against you. Emotions are hard to regulate. Your rewards system is fucked. Object permanence is a myth. Time is an abstract concept I’ve yet to grasp.

How can you expect a 17 year old to be motivated to control things that are hard and wield an intangible reward like “opportunities,” if he can’t have any control over what’s in front of him that matters.

“Opportunities” offers no tangible reward. My ADHD/PTSD/Depression brain looks at basic chores and goes, “I don’t get why that matters.”

I’m an adult. With therapy and support, I’ve found ways around that. But I also found it after I started having my own boundaries and stopped infantilizing myself.

Meaningful goals don’t work with ADHD. They just put things behind a glass wall you’ll never break. You get frustrated and give up easier.

You need to give him simple goals he can succeed at to build self confidence.

Don’t make freedom a “reward”. It breeds resentment. Work with him to set personal boundaries and schedules. Those won’t look like what works for a neurotypical.

I like “How to ADHD” for life hacks. I also really recommend Domestic Blisters but she’s more aimed at 20 somethings. Catieosaurus is great. She does talk about sexual health on occasion but nothing a 17 year old with Google hasn’t seen.

Loved In The Womb

A woman writes – Feeling so selfish. I want to keep my baby. I’ve been matched with a family. But now I feel my baby kicking. Also, my life is getting better and I want to keep my child. What do I do, please tell me ? They’ve paid my rent and helped me out. I don’t want to be selfish. I have grown so much in love with my unborn. This prospective adoptive family is well off financially. I am troubled by thoughts that they cannot possibly love my baby more than I do.

Right off – No one will ever love your child better than you. Ever.

Keep your baby, and block the adoption agency, don’t answer calls don’t sign anything, heck change your phone number if necessary. Your baby, not theirs. They will be able to steal another baby, don’t put yours thru that.

No, they cannot possibly love your baby more than you do. I am adopted and I ache for my birth mother daily and I’m 26 years old with two kids of my own.

It’s not selfish to keep your baby from experiencing adoption trauma.

No “open adoption” agreement is legally binding.

Forget about this couple, any baby will do. 

From a birth mom – I wish I hadn’t let those around me pressure me into feeling like I “owed” someone else MY son.

Having more money does not mean they can be better parents to your child.

No one paying your rent or for anything else is entitled to your baby because of it.

They have a motive and that motive is self serving and is totally selfish. None of it is in the best interest of your child.

Their disappointment will fade, your love will only grow. Do the best for you and your baby.

I’ve mentioned this organization before and will mention them again because they have helped so many women keep and therefore raise their own babies – Saving Our Sisters. They are dedicated to supporting all members of expectant families who are considering adoption to NOT apply a permanent decision to a temporary situation.

Adult Adoption

I read a review today of a TV reality show I will NOT be watching – Adults Adopting Adults. Yet I thought it would be an interesting topic to explore in today’s blog. I’ve come across the concept before within an all things adoption group I belong to as some adoptees in reunion with their biological family, wish to be adopted as adults by their original family. And in doing a quick google search – it really is a thing – and there are lots of law firms willing to help anyone through the process for a fee.

Beyond the adoptee in reunion with their original family, why would anyone else want to do this ? Certainly in that reality show, there are some sexually nefarious reasons and so, I really have no interest in watching it. By the way, the question has come up regarding immigration and no, adopting a foreign national does not automatically grant them citizenship.

Adult Adoption is very common in Japan and it actually goes back to business inheritance laws that no longer apply but tradition suggests they still hold a lot of sway as I learned in an article for The Economist. The country’s declining birth rate has limited the likelihood of a male heir for many business families. Many legal adoptions are coupled with a form of arranged marriage (known as omiai) to one of the family’s daughters—but the son-in-law (or mukoyoshi) then changes his name to hers. Today a host of matchmaking companies and marriage consultants recruit voluntary adoptees for Japanese companies.

To be selected as a mukoyoshi is to be awarded a high executive honor. This prompts fierce competition among managers, ensuring that the business has access to as good a talent pool as non-family companies. In fact, researchers have found that adopted heirs’ firms outperform blood heirs’ firms—although the prospect of being overlooked for an outsider can serve as motivation for sons to knuckle down, too.

In the US, the primary drivers of adult adoptions are where a step-parent wishes to secure inheritance rights for their step-child and in situations of disability requiring long-term care. I have a friend with an autistic daughter approaching legal age who has been informed to maintain support requirements, she will have to adopt her own daughter. I can also imagine this happening where a parent needs the legal guardianship of their child (though I do believe having flirted with that issue regarding my dad, adoption isn’t necessary to secure that support).

In June 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark civil rights case of Obergefell v. Hodges that the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples, with all the accompanying rights and responsibilities, is guaranteed by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Before the advent of federally legalized same-sex marriage, some couples utilized adult adoption in order to pass on inheritance rights and medical decision making to their partners.

Yet Another Story of Misattributed Parentage

Mark Overbay

Story thanks to the Right to Know people.

Every MPE (misattributed paternal event or misattributed parentage) story has a starting point. The discovery comes entirely by surprise for many, whereas it confirms others’ long-held, conscious or subconscious, suspicions. If there truly is one, the typical story involves submitting a direct-to-consumer/recreational DNA test yourself or being contacted out of the blue by someone who has. Mine has a little of each with an added twist.

One afternoon, a friend of mine called me with what he described as “interesting news.” He told me that he and his older sister had taken DNA tests and found something unexpected. He informed me that both had discovered the man they thought their father wasn’t. Their research afterward led them to believe that my father was their BF (birth father). Additionally, they had reached out and somehow convinced my father to submit a DNA test. The results confirmed their research findings. “We,” he informed me, “are half-brothers.” He sent me a screenshot of the DNA evidence to prove it. Because I was already aware of two other half-siblings from my father, this news honestly wasn’t that surprising. I remember laughing with him about the strangeness of our new situation.

What my friend didn’t know, however, is that many years ago, I had also taken a DNA test from the same direct-to-consumer company, primarily because I was ethnicity curious (as both of my own parents were adopted – this was originally my own motivation). When I told him about this, he informed me that I wasn’t on his match list and followed with the question, “You are the adopted one, right?” “Adopted? I was not adopted.” I quickly replied. Confused, he told me that my father had told his sister I was adopted. He must have misunderstood. I was 58 years old and was confident that I wasn’t adopted. My birth certificate listed my father and mother. I had seen it many times. I called his sister to see where this part of the story originated. She repeated her brother’s claim that my father had told her I was adopted. Further, she explained, he had married my mother, knowing she was pregnant with another man’s child.

When I learned the adoption news, I was more than two hours from home and my laptop. I wasn’t laughing anymore. My head was now cloudy and confused. The drive home was a blur. “Could this be possible?” I asked myself, “Was I adopted?” Once I arrived, I quickly checked my DNA matches. Neither my father nor these two new “half-siblings” were there. As I surveyed my 80,000 + matches, none matched my surname. I found that it was 100% confident regarding the connections tied to my mother. However, most of my “close” matches were surnames utterly foreign to me.

It was true then; I had been “adopted” by my BCF (birth certificate father). But, unfortunately, my mother had taken her secret to the grave. My BCF had told a stranger rather than me. I found out I was an NPE from a friend who was a completely unrelated NPE (nonpaternal event, also sometimes nonparental event). My friend was right about the adoption but wrong about the two of us. We were not related. In a nutshell, that’s how my story began.

Life does not prepare you for such moments. As abrupt and shocking as it was, this revelation explained so much. My physical appearance, personality, and temperament differed significantly from my father’s. I was athletic; he was not. We had little to nothing in common and even less to talk about. We have not spoken in many years. Those who knew both my father and me well commonly joked that I must be “the milkman’s child.” My wife has known my father for more than 30 years and never once thought we were related. I laughed these comments off, but I really couldn’t disagree. The differences were problematic to me. I knew enough about genetics to know that much of what defines our identity, the sense of who we are, is inherited. I feared that I would start to see undesirable attributes of my father revealing themselves in me one day.

The realization that I was adopted lifted an incalculable weight from my shoulders. The fear that I would someday become my father was a burden more significant than I had previously appreciated. Yet, strangely perhaps, as the reality set in, this genetic enlightenment was validating and liberating for me. The truth had freed me.

You can read the rest of his happy ending family reunion story here – Mark Overbay.

A Different System

A women who lives in Germany and hopes to adopt, shares how their system is different than the one in the United States where I live. She mentions that her father is adopted and that she is half American/half German.

The German system is totally different when compared to the US. There are no adoption agencies, everything goes through child services and you can’t “pick” a child, nor are you allowed to talk to the birth parents and make a deal with them. In order to adopt here, you have to go through about a year full of different evaluations.

First they come to do a house inspection, you have to prove your income and debts. Then, you have very intense sessions with the social workers where you share your childhood experiences and upbringing, explain why you want to adopt and whether you’ve resolved the reason you don’t already have children or have grieved about any infertility or lost children.

After that, you have a 2 day workshop with a psychiatrist, who must clear you as fit to adopt. You also have to be cleared by your doctor, to determine whether you have any type of mental or physical illness that would make you unfit to adopt or foster, as well as anything of concern that might cause an early death (ie cancer, etc).

After going through all of that, there is another house visit is made to check whether anything has changed. Then, if you make it that far, you get the ok from child services and are on an adoption list.

If a child is put up for adoption, child services goes through the list and chooses the best couple for the child. Fully open adoption are very uncommon in Germany but the birth parents can change their decision during the first year of surrendering their child.

One commenter noted – Sounds like Germany puts effort into vetting and preparing hopeful adoptive parents but do they put effort into maintaining family unit, family preservation, and supporting parents in crisis pregnancies to keep and parent their child ?

One wrote – I do applaud moms having a year to change their mind and get their child back. Is it actually that simple or does a judge have to approve in best interest case?

This was the reply – In Germany, child services does take a look at the mom to see if she is stable enough to take the child back. Germany has great ways of helping – so if she wants it, she will definitely get the help she needs. The main goal is to always keep the children with their birthparents and if not, at least in the family, if at all possible.

Someone else inquired – You don’t mention how the child came to be available for adoption. Where do the adoptable kids come from? Once adopted, are they issued fake birth certificates with the adoptive parents names listed?

The answer – there are different ways: there are “drop boxes” in hospitals. If a mother has her baby at home, she can take her baby to the drop box. The baby is put up for adoption after an 8 week waiting period, to see if the mother comes back to claim the child. If she comes back up, after the 8 weeks or within a year, the adoption will be reversed. The second option is that she has the baby in the hospital and uses a fake/anonymous name, then the hospital contacts child services, who will try to talk her into keeping her baby, but if she doesn’t want to. then the 1 year stage also starts. And the third option is that a pregnant woman goes directly to child services and says she wants to put her unborn child up for adoption. If she remains consistent in that desire, she can have a say in the type of adoptive parents she wants for her child. She is allowed to meet them in person but no personal information is exchanged – no last names, no addresses.

In Germany, once the child is officially adopted in court, the birth certificate is changed. The mother can leave her name and an address for the child to be given when the child reaches the age of 16. This is entirely the birth mother’s choice to do or not. The birth father also has the 1 year right to make a claim. In some cases, if the adoption is already finalized, he may only receive visitation rights but in some other cases, the adoption is reversed and the father receives custody of the child. A judge makes that decision based on the child’s welfare and the father’s life. 

There is a law in Germany that child services remains in contact with the family until the adopted child’s 18th birthday. The child always knows they were adopted and that fact is not kept secret.

It is noted that –  the German adoption system will not lessen or alleviate adoptee separation trauma any more than the US system. All adoptees should deeply process all aspects of their adoption and realize whatever negative impacts they may be affected by. This is described as absolutely life changing and a gift by those adoptees who have. It does appear that adoption is not nearly as common in Germany as it is not the multi-billion dollar industry there that it is in the United States.

The Adoptee’s Hero’s Journey

I’ve been aware of Joseph Campbell’s concept known as The Hero’s Journey for a long time and have seen it referenced in a variety of situations. As I was reading yet another perspective on this, an insight came to me. An adoptee’s search for their original parents (and if successful, even a reunion) is actually a kind of Hero’s Journey. Duh.

The hero’s journey is one of separation, initiation and return. It is a healing descent into the underworld (the unknown outcome) to recover something missing or lost, to restore a vital balance.

Its theme is that when faced with a kind of death struggle against titanic supernatural forces, the self can be triumphant. The self is reborn into a higher level of consciousness, maintaining access to the lower lever when appropriate. Because this lower level is transcended, a more powerful self can operate upon it in a way that appears magical to those still below.

So from my perspective, the titanic supernatural forces are the standard adoption narrative. When one comes out of the adoption fog (a belief in the story that separating mothers from their babies is somehow better for the baby than allowing the mother to raise her own child, bonded to her in the womb and wanting only her love), the woke person somehow touched by adoption somewhere in their life (not necessarily an adoptee themselves, as in my case), finds it is no longer possible to go back to the old perspective. It is possible however to go back to or continue to have an appreciation of the family one acquired by adoption, even though it would be unrealistic to expect those person’s acquired as “relatives” due to adoption to understand the new, higher level of understanding one has gained during their own journey.

“A more powerful self can operate upon it in a way that appears magical to those still below,” or even to someone such as myself, who accomplished identifying my own 4 original grandparents in only one year’s time and making new family genetic connections to an aunt and some cousins. Sometimes, I can hardly believe I did this. My own parents lived almost 80 years without accomplishing that for themselves (though my mom gave it a good, hard try). My parents died clueless and knowing what I know now, more’s the pity that they were robbed of the knowledge. I can only hope there is an afterlife and that both of my parents have reunited with their own natural parents there.

For me, a little success and the encouragement to go further from family and friends certainly helped to motivate me to stay on a determined course that did succeed.

You can read more about The Hero’s (or Heroine’s) Journey in this link.

Being Charitable

What are you actually saying to your adopted child as an adoptive parent about what your motives were ?  There are cases – I suppose – like true orphans.  However, among the thoughts about reforming adoption in general, instead of buying a baby to raise as your own, is the radical idea of helping the mother in danger of losing her child.  Her crime may simply be lacking the financial means to raise that child.

Clearly, if you can plunk out tens of thousands of dollars to obtain another woman’s baby, you could go very far in your ability to charitably help keep a baby and mother together.  Sadly that is not the kind of thinking that motivates most adoptive couples.  Most are self-absorbed, only thinking about what it is they desire, and rarely considering the emotional price and mental anguish someone else (and often more than one someone else – the original mother, the adoptee, any subsequent siblings) will have to bear for you to fulfill your personal desire.

You will be held accountable for every decision you make regarding adoption.

Don’t you think your adoptees will have enough sense to realize that in 9 out of 10 cases you could have helped their parents keep them vs adopting them ? Do you think you’ll never be asked this question or held accountable ? In cases where infertility was the reason for adopting (as most cases actually are), don’t you think these children will have enough sense to realize they were your second choice ?

It is still a rather new perspective and some adoptive parents have been able to own the facts and own their culpability in the messed up institution of adoption.  What is done is done but things could be done better going into the future and that is why the idea of raising awareness and talking about ways that would be more life and family affirming is happening now.

If you do want to understand adoption trauma, then here it is – I have seen this for myself in an adoption triad group with thousands of members (all 3 sides of the adoption equation) – there really are a lot of very angry adoptees.  Ask yourself, why is that, if adoption is such a perfect answer to everyone’s problems ?

For adoptees unfortunate enough to have been the victim of a shady adoption, the truth will probably come out in this modern day and time (much of that kind of story did not come out during Georgia Tann’s illicit 3 decades long scandal from the 1920s up until 1950).  There will be damage that you (as an adoptee) may or may not ever be able to repair.  The damage is deep – and comes out in bits and pieces – and in ways that are not always obviously related to the adoption directly.

 

And The Song Remains The Same

A hopeful adoptive parent is quoted as saying “Adoption is a beautiful way to grow a family because it takes great strength and sacrifice.”

What does that even mean ?

It is NOT the adoptive parents who make the sacrifices, even if they consider the financial impact on their lives of having adopted as some kind of sacrifice.  Or if they think of their infertility – the giving up of having genetically related children – as some kind of sacrifice.

What do they sacrifice ?  Most don’t even lose money because they crowed fund and stuff to raise money to adopt (yes, fundraising from strangers so you can adopt someone else’s baby is a thing).  And even if a foster care adoption, they either get a “free” young child or if they adopt an older child or young child with issues.  The adoptive parents receive money until the child(ren) is 18 to help offset the cost of raising them.  People raising their biological child are not afforded that luxury.

You know who gets sacrificed ? The child.

And a sign of our current time ?

Social distancing is the default setting for ALL adoptees due to separation trauma. Consider it an insight into how it feels to be adopted.

If you as an adoptive parent need some kind of recognition for adopting a child, then you absolutely did it for the wrong reason.

Why Go Looking ?

Someone once asked me, if the adoptive family was a good one, what’s the issue ?

People not affected by adoption often struggle to understand what would motivate an adoptee to go searching for their original family.  If one knows where they came from, it can be hard to relate to not knowing.

An adoptee that grows up in a loving, supportive family, will be strong enough to search for who they came from.  If their adoptive family was a very good one, they might even expect that they would not like what their search found once they arrive there.

Maybe it would help to understand that this kind of experience was never intended to replace the adoptive family the adoptee grew up in. Yet any adoptee will feel that they have a few “missing” pieces. It is only natural.  And once a puzzle has been revealed, completing it makes sense.