Even When Trying To Do The Right Thing

Adoption can be a tricky needle to thread, even when one is trying their best to do the right thing. Today, I bring you the story of an adoptive mother who is trying her best to do what’s best for the children she is raising.

My husband and are the adoptive parents of two children (domestic), placed with us at birth after their original moms chose us from our profiles. The adoptions were supposed to be “semi-open,” in that we exchanged letters and other communications through the agency only, and didn’t share our last names or the towns in which we live. This was the policy of the agency, and it was the moms who chose the agency.

I naively assumed this process was driven by the mom’s wishes (we did not “choose” the agency… our first placement was very sudden and via a connection that our home study social worker had at the agency).

After the first year with our eldest child, communicating through the agency, we took the lead from his mom and stopped using the agency as middle man (and also shared last names and the specific location where we live). We now correspond regularly and directly with her, and take her lead for the amount of contact she wants. We would do more, but also we respect her choice regarding how much contact we have. If and when our son has more questions or wants more contact, we will facilitate that.

For our younger son, the agency told us after 6 months to stop sending letters and pictures for his mom because she had moved and they did not have a forwarding address for her. I assumed this was her choice too, so while it made me sad for our son, I stopped sending the letters. Now I am not so sure about any of this. I have a handful of reasons to believe that the agency was very badly administered and evidence that, at best, they were sloppy with record keeping and filing. I do not trust that it was his mom who declined contact. What I am sure of is – it’s my responsibility to know as much about our child’s first family as possible, and to share what I know as/when our child asks for it.

And here’s the sticky part where I don’t know how to balance what is ethical and what is best for our child: While I was not supposed to know his mom’s last name, I learned it in the first week of our child’s life (there was an extended hospital stay, and the hospital revealed it… I didn’t go looking for the last name). When the agency told me to stop sending letters, I easily found our child’s mom and extended family on social media. I feel like the agency should have done this, and not simply accepted the lack of a forwarding address as an indication from the mom that she didn’t want the level of contact stipulated in the adoption agreement. But they did not, and thus I have been checking in on her through social media all these years, collecting whatever information I can for our child. I am now wondering if, because of my suspicions that the agency was negligent, I should reach out to his mom directly and ask her if she wants any contact with us or updates.

What I don’t want to do is violate her privacy or wishes… but also I want as much information for our child as I can gather. Of the two children I’m parenting, he is the one with the most questions about/interest in his first family, and while I care about his mom and her wishes, I don’t feel I actually KNOW them. And, of course, our son is my priority. He’s approaching the age where his questions are becoming much more specific, and I want answers for him.

I guess what I’m saying is that I want to get a clear picture of his mom’s true wishes (not her wishes as filtered through the agency’s policy and negligent administration) before he gets to the age where he can find her on his own. While I know I can’t protect him from the traumas of adoption, I can support him, and I don’t think putting him in the position of being blindsided by whatever he finds would be the best way to support him.

The first response to this story came from a woman who surrendered her child to adoption and I do agree with her simple answer – Reach out to her. At this point you have nothing to lose.

There are many many answers and most are encouraging the attempt to make contact. I’ll just share this one from an adoptive parent –  I think you can make contact to verify her wishes, but when she tells you what she wants, respect that. And understand that your son may be blindsided regardless of what you learn now—like everyone, the wishes and life situation of his mom may change by the time he’s older and wants to know more.

Follow your instincts and respect whatever you learn. At least you can say you made the effort and if the effort closes the door, you can then put the question into the mom’s box to answer – when that day comes.

It Happens

Some kids are simply born adventurous.  I remember once when my family stopped to check out a small county fair.  My older son was climbing around in a structure and wanted us to keep watching him.  He was always connected to us – well most of the time.  The younger boy was quite independent and adventurous.  This particular time, I took my eyes off the older boy and looked for the younger one, only to see him wandering off totally unconcerned.  Thankfully I could retrieve him.

Once in a large structure with lots of climbing around opportunities (City Museum in St Louis if you’ve ever been there, you will understand).  My husband was following our older son around and the boy got into a space too small for my husband to follow.  He then frantically started heading up to the next level.  The boy had been smart enough to go to a staff member and my husband caught up with him quickly.

There was a time when a young boy wandered off from the family home that was isolated in the wilderness that we have ample quantities of here in my county.  He was missing for 3 days, setting off a massive search that finally succeeded in locating him.  While his mom had been on the telephone inside, he had decided he wanted to go and visit his grandmother but  she lived at quite a distance away.  He had been headed in the right direction at least.

Just because an adventurous young child takes it upon themselves to wander away at an opportune moment does not mean the parent is irresponsible and that they should lose their parental rights and the child taken for adoption or foster care.  Negligence is much more than the rare occurrence of a child’s inventiveness.

Case in point –

A woman was driving along on a busy road outside a mobile home subdivision. She found a small child wearing only a diaper walking near road. Fearing for his safety, she stopped and picked him up, putting him in her car and took him home.

Common sense then caused her to worry that she would be accused of kidnapping him. Wisely, she called police. They began searching for his mom. It turns out she had been napping with the child, who then got up and was able to get out of the house.

Of course, the mother was frantically looking for him. She wasn’t a mom who deserved to lose her child. He had never gotten out of the house before.  That day he had just figured out how.  Had wandered off, while his mom slept. Moms get tired. Kids are smart.

Fact is, almost every parent has a story about one of their kids who figured out how to open doors and go off on their own at some very young age.  A very young child often does not know their parents names or phone number.  Of course, as parents we need to keep our children safe.  However, no parent should be judged harshly because their child is an escape artist.  No parent should lose custody over such an occurrence and always all of us should be happy when a wandering child is returned home safely.  True, it is a dangerous world out there but sometimes, even with attentive and loving parents, it happens.