Understanding To Do Better

From a Foster/Adoptive Mother – though here is one adoptee’s comment – This must be satirical. You’re joking, right ?, you must be. You cannot really be this ignorant, while still “collecting” your trophies. Disgusting. So with that in mind, here goes –

I have one biological child. Friends of mine adopted 2 unrelated children at birth. When my friends passed away, I first took guardianship of their children (ages 14 & 11) and adopted them two years later. They are now adults and struggle with the many traumas of their childhood. My daughter’s first adoption was open and she has positive contact with her birth family. My son’s first adoption was closed. Upon reaching adulthood, he found another family to call his own and is pursuing adult adoption.

I am also a foster parent to babies age 0 to 2. I went into this thinking that I would provide love to a child in need, until they could return to their family. If a child is reunified but then comes back into care, they return to me. If they cannot be reunified with parents or extended family, or if they are placed with someone who has one of their siblings, there is always the option for them to make the choice to instead stay with me. No child who comes through my doors will ever lack for permanency.

Fostering is not all sunshine and light. Most of my placements were born addicted. Two children each came to me with multiple fractures (skull, arm, leg, ribs). I can more easily advocate for reunification with addicts in treatment than for physical abusers. I most recently adopted the infant placed with me at three days. The termination of parental rights was heartbreaking. Even so, I celebrated this adoption.

I know that adoption is not all happily ever after. I will continue to make the effort to better understand the harsher realities of adoption.

Personally, I think this is better than not trying at all. At the beginning of today’s blog – I indicated that some of the comments were not kind nor gentle. There is certainly more than a hint of saviorism. Here’s another one – you shouldn’t be allowed to care for anyone’s children. You are clearly toxic and think you own them and the right to decide the narratives of their lives. I’m so sad and so angry on behalf of the children who have to call someone “mom” who is so unwilling to honestly learn.

A Lifelong Sorrow

Birth Mothers matter to me. There are 4 women close to me who gave their baby up for adoption. Both of my genetic grandmothers and both of my sisters. Therefore, when I was at the VeryWellMind site yesterday, another article caught my attention. >LINK Putting A Child Up For Adoption Impacts Mental Health, Stigma Doesn’t Help by Sarah Fielding.

The story reveals that when Janice Wright was 16 years old, she became pregnant, and her fiancé dumped her. The most significant struggle she faced came from the lack of mental health care provided to explore her feelings and prepare her for the difficult process. After she gave birth, the doctor who suggested adoption to her loaded her up with a three-week supply of pain pills to help her ‘numb’ her way back to life afterward. Wow.

Without a person in their corner, birth parents can feel even more traumatized by the process. Such was the case for Wright, who felt incredibly alone after putting her child up for adoption. “I had to bear it alone because no one wanted to talk about it,” she explains. “Maybe friends and family were afraid to bring it up, and no one talked about it.”

Both of my grandmothers had some months (6-8 months) with their first born before they lost them to adoption. My maternal grandmother never had anymore children. My paternal grandmother went on to have 3 more. My sisters lost their babies almost immediately. I believe my youngest sister had a bit more time (days, weeks?) with hers than my middle sister did.

Dr Bethany Cook, a psychologist, an adopted child herself and author of For What It’s Worth – A Perspective on How to Thrive and Survive Parenting Ages 0 – 2, notes that “Contemplating putting your child up for adoption is a very traumatic experience regardless of whether or not you believe the choice you’re making is the right one.” She adds, “An individual may feel anxious, sad, fear, confusion, frustration, happiness, and even relief. Many times there are people in your life trying to influence your decision one way or another creating even more angst and dilemmas. Along with natural hormones influencing mood and thoughts, it’s typical for an individual to go back and forth about their decision several times throughout the pregnancy. Even after the adoption has gone through, some biological parents still struggle with their decision.”

Whether made as a teenager or as an adult, unlike many other decisions, adoption is forever and can feel incredibly overwhelming in its finality. The all things adoption community I belong to often refers to this as a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.” They encourage unmarried expectant mothers to at least try to parent their child before taking the irrevocable step. >LINK Saving Our Sisters is an organization devoted to supporting and encouraging that choice. I didn’t know about them when my own sisters were going through this. It was years before I knew the sister closest in age to me had given up her daughter. However, I was the only family member aware of my youngest sister’s choice and was alongside her during her decision making process. Unfortunately, I didn’t know then, what I know now.

Each birth mother’s circumstance is different and so, the decision is incredibly personal and unique to the individual. Here’s another story – Kira Bracken, who put her child up for adoption in January 2019. “The fact I have an open adoption helps for me to know when he has questions, I can answer them,” she says. However, turning again to the vast experience in my all things adoption group, it has been proven time and again, that the intention to have an “open adoption” all too often fails and this intention turns out not to be legally binding.

After unexpectedly becoming pregnant, Kira felt that the compounding factors of being a single mom to a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, recently leaving a marriage, and her mother’s passing of cancer, led to her decision to place her child into an adoption. Bracken felt sad and grieved the life she and the child could have had, “You lose the right to be the mom they turn to when they are sad or get hurt, just the everyday life things.”

Bracken attributes the stigma she felt for giving her child up for adoption to a lack of understanding. “Adoption is so complex and happens for a multitude of reasons. Birth moms go back and forth constantly until they sign those papers on whether this is what they want to do. It’s not an easy decision, and I wish people would stop acting like it was and that one answer fits all scenarios,” she says. “We beat ourselves up enough for the both of us, so instead of criticizing our choice, be there as a friend to help in whatever way we need.”

“The best thing you can do is be a non-judging, validating place they can turn to vent and process their conflicted feelings without fear of filtering what or how they share their core emotions,” says Cook. This includes validating their feelings, listening to them when they’re upset, and providing regular support. A therapist can also help some people sort through their emotions long-term. 

Adoption TikTok

I will admit to being a bit of a Luddite (sometimes defined as a person opposed to new technology or ways of working – which certainly applies to me LOL). I’d still be back in Microsoft 3.0, if it wasn’t for my husband pushing me forward. I don’t do TikTok or Instagram or any of the many other platforms available today. I hate apps. I view them as multiplying clutter that I don’t need. However, I did come across notification in my all things adoption about an article in Teen Vogue (which as I am almost 68 would probably have not come to my attention otherwise). The title is Adoption TikTok: Building Community and Critiquing the U.S. Adoption System.”

The young woman wrote – “Myself and an another adoptee were featured in this TEEN VOGUE article! Such an exciting opportunity to be heard and I think the journalist did a wonderful job.”

One woman describes meeting her birth mother in Brazil (she was adopted as an infant by a New Jersey couple). “My mother pulled me into her house and pulled me onto her couch and into her lap, even though I was probably almost twice her size. She looked at my fingers and looked at my toes and, like, it was just so primal to me. Like how you would look at your baby.”

Her adoption, the country she had to leave behind, the shape of her life: All of it could be traced back to poverty. “We are all indoctrinated into this overly positive narrative about adoption, right? We see it in movies and kids’ movies, this trope of adoption being a beautiful thing,” she said. But her story didn’t feel beautiful. Her birth mother’s pain had transformed her already shifting understanding of adoption. While some women choose adoption because they don’t want to be a mother, others lack the emotional support or financial resources to raise children, even though they very much want to. 

TikTok hosts a growing community of adoptees who use the social media platform to shed light on the trauma and economic pressures that have shaped their adoption experience. The hashtag #adopteesoftiktok has garnered tens of millions of views.

You can read the rest of this article at the Teen Vogue link above.

One reader in my group commented – “Research also suggests that open adoption can reduce the grief that many birth mothers experience after giving up a child for adoption.” My only feedback is where it says that research supports that open adoption reduces grief, that doesn’t sit well with me. The study only went to 20 years post placement – yet time and again I am finding in natural mother’s groups – it’s at 20 plus years that things start to unravel, as their relinquished child starts to form and share their own views surrounding their adoption, outside of the influence of their adoptive parents. ~Natural mother 26 years into an open adoption

Endthepatriarchy’s Blog Comment

At the end of this comment, the person wrote – “I am truly astonished you have read this entire comment. You must REALLY care. Thank you for reading.” I do – REALLY CARE.

This appeared in response to the blog titled Adoption Is A Selfish Act, which I posted back on Nov 25, 2020.  I write daily so that is going pretty far back.  I am surprised to see that blog had 23 views because I am lucky to get a couple of views on any single day.  I did go back and read it again.

And I did read all of your long comment and found it sincere and thoughtful. 

Your comment went into my spam folder because of your using MY Gazing In The Mirror WordPress website address. This troubled me right away.  How you could even do that is beyond me but obviously it is possible.  BTW that blog has nothing to do with this one except they have the same author.  I attempted to email you to clarify this but it bounced.  It appears to be related to Greenbrier Schools in Greenbrier, Arkansas. My paternal grandfather’s family is deeply rooted in Arkansas.

I was inclined to approve your comment anyway but have decided, to instead address your comments in this new blog, and feel that you may see this one too.  I always try to not only be honest but respectful and considerate of anyone who comments. So that you have hidden yourself makes me sad. Maybe you do not have confidence in yourself enough to present yourself to me honestly.

I will make a few responses but because of all of the above will not show your entire comment.

Certain references to saviorism, which often does drive adoptions – especially on the Evangelical Christian side of religion, seem to have troubled you. I can understand that you feel an emotional objection to that as you state that you are a Christian.

As to overpopulation, at one time I was more worried about that but it is expected to peak at 8 billion in 2040 and then decline. Overpopulation article on Vox.

Regarding “Open Adoption”, unfortunately a lot of good intentions going into such an agreement fall apart – either sooner or later. Most do not succeed in living up to the promises.

The identity issue you dismiss is real and I don’t think it is brought on by being treated differently due to adoption (except in cases of transracial adoption where the difference in race between the adoptive parents and the adoptee stands out). Fact is, babies are born with a name given to them by the conceiving parents and in adoption, most adoptive parents change the child’s name to something different that they like better. My parents (both adoptees) used to tease one another with their birth names – once they had been able to even learn those. An adoptee lives under an “assumed” name much like a criminal on the run might.

What is interesting is that you seem so passionate about these issues – when you admit that you are not adopted and that you don’t even have children yourself nor do you want any. If you could be open with me about who you are, I’d be happy to discuss whatever in more detail with you. As it is, I have written about almost everything to do with adoption or foster care so much – that I’ve probably all said it all before and am always in danger of repeating myself. I wish you well-being and happiness.

Why It Happens

Birthmom here – I am looking for a little encouragement from anyone who has experienced open adoption and that had a good experience. I unfortunately did not join any groups like this one where adoptee voices are prioritized while pregnant and did move forward with the adoption, and I grieve every single day.

I had a small handful of friends encourage me to keep my baby with me, but the majority of friends and family told me that they thought adoption was the right thing to do and that I was making a good choice. It sounded nice, but it was so hurtful to feel like I wasn’t good enough for my baby. And I love him so much, I didn’t want to make a “selfish” choice and keep him with me when there was another family that would be better for him.

Now that I read all of these posts from mature adoptees and I’m heartbroken that I didn’t believe in myself and that I gave him away. When I was pregnant and in financial hardship, feeling alone and emotional – I only wanted to do the right thing. And I felt so little confidence in myself, and hearing those other voices saying that “adoption is love” and “adoption is selfless”, made me feel like I’d be selfish for wanting to keep my baby because I’d put him into a life of struggle and financial insecurity.

So I broke my own heart and put myself last. I live with a deep pain and a regret that will last the rest of my days. I love my mom, and I’ve told her how hurtful it was when I was pregnant to hear her tell me that she thought I did the right thing by choosing adoption. She says she would have supported me either way – but I know that if I kept my baby with me, it would have been with minimal support to prove her point – that I am not enough and to punish me for getting pregnant when I couldn’t support myself and my 17 year old son.

My 17 year old (who was 15 during the time I was pregnant) encouraged me to go through with adoption because he said that life was hard with it being just the 2 of us. And that the baby deserved more and deserved to have both a mom and a dad. Having my son tell me these things was also hurtful because I feel like I’m a great mom to him, but if he thinks these things, then he added on to those feelings like I wasn’t good enough.

My baby is now 10 months old and we have an open adoption. I’m hoping that he grows up feeling loved and secure. I have a great relationship with his adoptive parents and I really love who and how they are, but I do miss him everyday. I can’t change the past or the decision I made, though I wish I could. My true wish is that he was still with me. I wish I stumbled across a group like this one before I made that permanent decision. But I didn’t. The only thing I can do now is move forward with life as it is and hope that everything will turn out ok.

The Importance Of Names

From the UK Mirror

A mum-to-be has sparked an interesting debate online, after confessing she’d found herself in a bitter row with the biological family of her soon-to-be adopted twins.

The woman and her husband are due to become parents to a gorgeous pair of twins when they are born next year – but while everything had been going smoothly between the two families, they’ve recently come to a huge road block over names.

“My husband and I are in the process of adopting two cute little twins that will be born in January,” the 25-year-old explained on Reddit’s Am I The A**hole forum.

“The biological mother is a 15-year-old girl, G, who doesn’t want to keep them. She’s the daughter of a friend of a friend of ours and somehow it got through that we wanted to adopt so her family called us as soon as they knew that G was pregnant.”

The couple have been with G all throughout her pregnancy and have assured her that even though she doesn’t wish to be a mother to the twins, she can still be a part of their life and visit them whenever she wants, as they’ll all be living in the same city – despite the fact the teen has shown no interest in having a relationship with them at all so far.

“As soon as we found out about the baby, we began looking for names and when it was confirmed that it were going to be twins, a girl and a boy, we decided on the names Ellie and Evan,” the woman continued.

“Last week however, we were informed that G had chosen names herself; Walter and Agnes. She didn’t choose them because of a relative, just because she thought they sounded cool. I don’t think I have to mention how outdated the names are and my husband and I simply don’t like them.”

The mum-to-be added that even if the name chosen by G were great, they’re still hers and her husband’s children and they will be raising them, therefore it’s their place to choose the names.

“They will also get our last name and legally be our children, which was decided and agreed on five months ago,” she continued. “G’s family is upset with us for not accepting their ‘real’ names and is threatening to look for new parents.”

The mum explained that while she was considering naming the girl Ellie Agnes to appease the family, there was no way she would ever name the boy Evan Walter.

Although it appears to be empty threats from G’s family, the woman turned to Reddit to question whether she was justified in putting her foot down when it comes to naming their adopted babies.

“I think you need to look at it from the bio moms perspective. She is giving you a really big gift. Regardless of practicality, opportunities etc, these are her babies. Naturally she would want to give them a name, it’s practically the only thing she will ever be able to give them,” one suggested.

“You will be the ones to comfort them, you will be the ones to cuddle them, you will be the ones there for every milestone. I understand hating the names, but I would try to either keep them as middle names or talk to her and see if you can come up with better names together.”

In my all things adoption group, the comment was –

To me it basically comes down to whose names are they?…The baby boy and the baby girls. It’s as simple as that. It’s not the adopter’s names nor the birth mother’s names…it’s the names she chooses and gives them. So it’s their names. Their name is their property, belonging to each of them. To take that away is identity theft, as happens in the majority of adoptions. It kinda happened in my adoption, as my adoptive parents didn’t know/weren’t told my name so chose what I was to be called. I was 38 before I learned my original name…MY name. I usually liken it to me calling someone by their wrong name eg Barbara, but I call her Bernice. She’d put me straight pretty damn quick, yet Adoptees live a life by the wrong name and are expected to put up and shut up! Adoption should be about the child’s needs and about their rights, respect and
autonomy, not ownership, imbalance or superiority. When will people get that?

My own experience –

My adoptee dad used to tease my adoptee mom by using her name at birth. It turns out that both of them had names relevant to their genetic heritage – for my dad, his middle name was the name of the man who fathered him. for my mom, her middle name was her grandmother’s middle name – my grandmother had lost her mom at the tender age of 7 and was seeking to honor her. I am against adoptive parents changing adoptee’s names. The change in the last name may be a governmental requirement as regards financial responsibility but then again, these days, with remarriage so common, does it really matter what the last name
of the child is ?

Kept In The Dark

It’s hard to believe that adoptive parents agreeing to an open adoption would do this but apparently they will. Today’s story.

I just found out that my bio family was reaching out to me for years giving me gift and letters – which I didn’t receive. I went my whole life feeling rejected by my biological family, so I never searched. In May, I started my search. I found my family and I’m so happy and excited. Only to find out, I was wanted the whole time and my adoption was supposed to be “open.” I’m 27 now and I’m so upset that I went so long feeling like I wasn’t wanted. I feel like I’ve lost so much time with my biological family. I also haven’t told my family that I know this information now. I’m not sure if it’s even worth mentioning, since they were keeping me from them this whole time? I’m meeting my aunt and cousin in a few weeks and I’m so excited.

She adds this – My biological family sent me gifts my whole life and most recently they sent me a letter to reconnect when I turned 21…my adoptive parent just told me about this letter 2 months ago… I didn’t look for them only because I felt rejected by them. Had I known, I would have started looking for them when I turned 18.

One suggestion to this woman was to bring her lifetime’s photo albums. Make copies of the photos to leave with her aunt and cousin. This is an incredibly thoughtful gift in a situation like this. I remember when I met my cousin. We are related through our maternal grandfather. During her afternoon with me, she went through every one of the many photo albums her deceased mother had left her (her mother was my deceased mother’s half-sibling). I used my phone to photograph all of the photos she thought significant enough to tell me something about. By the time the afternoon was over, I felt as though I had lived the decades within this branch of my family that I had missed. Oh, the stories. I wish I had been recording everything she told me !!

From another side of this equation – I’m a birth mom who has tried keeping in contact with my kids (aged 13,12,11 now) within our open adoption but the adoptive parents haven’t ever followed their own guidelines that we agreed to, even from year one. There has been 0 responses from them in 3 years period. I still write every month and have asked how to send gifts and such with no reply. Your story makes me hopeful that, when the time is right (they turn 18), I’ll be able to reach out and have some sort of relationship with my children. It also makes me sad to realize they might be feeling the same rejection you have, when that is so definitely not the case.

Someone suggested to her that she keep copies of her letters – so they can read her words when there is a reunion.

Here’s another example – a similar thing happened with me and my daughter… They did give her the gifts I sent the few times I could emotionally pull myself together enough to do it. They never, ever sent the photos and letters they were supposed to, unless I hounded the social worker to hound them (clearly an emotionally exhausting and traumatizing effort. To top it off, my daughter was told and still believes that they sent me pictures and letters. Every year, they went through the motions of preparing these things, often with my daughter’s help, but never bothered to mail them to me – Ever.

Some honesty about reunions from an adoptee – Reunion is one of the hardest things I’ve had to navigate as the cognitive dissonance of mixed opposing emotions is a complex beast with no real resolution. Regarding your adoptive family, my advice is do not share with them if you feel you are emotionally not in a place to handle the response. Wait until you can have that difficult conversation whilst keeping yourself safe. This may take some time. (I told mine after the reunion.) I didn’t bring gifts when meeting my biological family, but I did take photos of me at different ages, and a loooong list of questions. The best advice I was given was to start the relationship the way I intend to continue it. Emotional openness and honesty are what I value most, as unmet or misinterpreted expectations can be kryptonite to such new fragile bonds. Remember, it’s your life and they are YOUR family, and we don’t owe anyone else anything.

Another birth mother horror story – I reunited with my son when he was 27. I found out that NONE of the letters I wrote him were forwarded (I can’t say whether it was his adoptive parents, my own mother or the agency at fault). His adoptive parents even disposed of the only gift I was ever able to give him – a small teddy bear that I sent with him to his adoptive home. I was livid when I found out he didn’t have or even recall the teddy bear and texted his adoptive mother myself. I refused to involve our son in this, but we had a semi-open adoption. I got letters and photos for the first 5 years. In those letters, she mentioned the teddy bear often, and the bear was stationed on his dresser in early photos – like it was important. Now, she recalls none of this, and even when I sent her the picture as a “reminder,” she gaslighted the entire exchange. I tried to reach out a few times after that, as it seemed important to our son, but eventually got brushed off enough that I gave up. She really made it evident that I wasn’t worth her time, even though I met her for dinner once thinking that it would be a good thing for our son. In retrospect, it was just a 3 hour grilling session to gauge my intentions and the dynamics between me and our son since our reunion. I would say tread cautiously and remember that there may be many people playing puppet with your truths. I will never know who decided that my son wouldn’t get my letters. I was a minor and trusted my mother to forward them to the agency, as they played middle man. I often wonder if my mother actually did. Were my letters screened like an inmate and deemed inappropriate. (I wasn’t the typical rainbow birthmom…I expressed my grief, love and regret often). Did these letter ever make it to their final destination, at which point the adoptive mother nixed them? I’ll never know, just as you may never know. I’ve accepted that I will never know the entire truth as to why my letters never reached him.

Another reunion story from an adoptee – I reunited with my Dad’s family when I was about 28/29. I brought things because I was traveling. I found out that I was wanted by his family and it’s a lot to unpack. Give yourself grace. I would say tell your adoptive family but maybe give yourself some time to process everything you want to say, so you can be in a safe place emotionally to handle their reactions. If they don’t react well, you will be strong enough in that moment to respond however you need to.

From a perspective of fairness, I will add this one from an adoptive parent – I want to be able to do better as an adoptive mom and not cause our child this pain some day. I want this child to have a connection with her roots and biological family but how can we get to a place were we can feel relaxed about the safety of this child and all the trauma she has already endured from her biological family? Her mom just asked to be able to write letters but I haven’t given her an answer, all I can think about is – all the emotions that will be stirred up and all the trauma and feelings this child has had to endure through 5 years of therapy. How can we allow this child to have contact with her biological family, when the fear is so big that she will be hurt again?

And the response to that one ?

Know your place and it isn’t first! As an adoptee I can tell you – iF my adoptive parents had hid ONE thing about my adoption EVER, no matter how much I loved them, I would have removed them from my life! As a adoptive parent, it’s not your job to be a savior, decide what information you wish to share or not share. You cannot love away an adoptee’s trauma, pain, and hurt! We adoptees all have first families and need age appropriate knowledge. I counted, in your one paragraph post the words“ I, my, we” used nine times. Nine! Biological family and roots was used four times. And not once in a positive manner!! Repeat not once did you say anything positive about your daughter’s DNA family. Mom was used once and her wishes you’ve tossed to the curb. Then you used “our daughter.” NO, she came from someone else’s body, sperm, and DNA. Your savior complex is screaming loud and clear. Now please understand I am also a biological mother and an adoptive mother and your way of thinking is wrong. You need to read The Primal Wound, The Body Keeps Score, and Being Adopted, the Lifelong Search for Self. They are not easy reads but you are now raising an adoptee. You need to unpack everything you believe about adoption, understand your fears and fragile thoughts come from being a second mother, and no, an adoptive parent is NEVER a savior.

 

The Open Hearted Way

Headed into the future, I will always prefer a mother raising the baby she gave birth to. That is hands down the best outcome as far as I am concerned. But as a realist, adoptions are still going to happen. Today I caught a mention of this book – I’ve not read it but the intention behind it seems to be a good one.

Prior to 1990, fewer than five percent of domestic infant adoptions were open. In 2012, ninety percent or more of adoption agencies are recommending open adoption. Yet these agencies do not often or adequately prepare either adopting parents or birth parents for the road ahead of them! The adult parties in open adoptions are left floundering.

There are many resources on why to do open adoption, but what about how? Open adoption isn’t just something parents do when they exchange photos, send emails, share a visit. It’s a lifestyle that may feel intrusive at times, be difficult or inconvenient at other times. Tensions can arise even in the best of circumstances. But knowing how to handle these situations and how to continue to make arrangements work for the child involved is paramount.

It is said that this book offers readers the tools and the insights to do just that. It covers common open-adoption situations and how real families have navigated typical issues successfully. Like all useful parenting books, it provides parents with the tools to arrive at answers on their own, and answers questions that might not yet have come up.

Through their own stories and those of other families of open adoption, Lori Holden (an adoptive parent) and Crystal Hass (a birth mother) share the pathways to successfully navigating the pitfalls and challenges, the joys and triumphs. The most important focus to center on is putting the adopted child’s best interests FIRST as the guiding principle. It is possible for the families involved to travel the path of open adoption by mitigating whatever challenges may arise.

This book is said to be more than a how-to. More a mindset, a heartset, that can be learned and internalized. All the parents involved CAN choose to act from their love for the child and go forward with honesty. The goal of everyone involved should be to help their child grow up whole.

The take-away ? The adoptive/birth family relationship is not an “either-or.” Within the framework of an open adoption that works for everyone involved, it has to be an “and.” Adoption creates a split between a person’s biology and their biography. Openness in adoption is an effective way to heal that split when the reality is – the adoption is – and must be lived through.

Lori Holden’s website – https://lavenderluz.com/. Podcast link – The Long View.

Adoption Issues On Facebook

Ten years ago, there was an article in The Guardian which the title “Facebook has changed adoption for ever.” The sub-title was “Social network sites like Facebook are changing what happens after adoption. At the click of a button, birth parents can contact their children – and vice versa – with far-reaching consequences.” I would add inexpensive DNA testing via Ancestry and 23 and Me have done as much.

The lead-in on that article noted – “Adoption is undergoing a revolution. Until recently, it has been a closely managed process, with social workers going to enormous lengths to protect children placed with adoptive families from inappropriate contact with birth relatives.” That was always the argument but never the truth. The truth was that social workers and adoption agencies were protecting the adoptive parents from the intrusion of the natural bond between the original parent and their child. There certainly have been “. . . cases of adopted young people being contacted by birth parents through Facebook. There are even more instances in which the approach is initiated by adopted young people themselves, who are curious about their birth families.” You can read that rest of that decade old perspective at the link above.

Now today, another one. This one published in Wired titled Adoption Moved to Facebook and a War Began and raising the hackles of some in my most important (though I do belong to several) adoption related support group at Facebook. The sub-title notes – As the adoption industry migrates to social media, regretful adoptees and birth mothers are confronting prospective parents with their personal pain—and anger. I do see these in my support group. In fact, adoptees are the “privileged” voices there.

This is true to the best of my own knowledge on the subject – “The adoption industry has never been very well regulated, and there is a history of certain firms engaging in unethical practices. But when agencies were the primary facilitators of adoption, they could at least perform basic vetting of birth mothers and adoptive parents and manage complex legal processes. The open marketplace of the web removed that layer of oversight.” Wired refers to people in adoption support groups as anti-adoption but then goes on to note that these are older women who, as “unwed mothers” in the 1950s and ’60s, were forced to give babies up for adoption; women whose churches still pressure them to give up children born outside of marriage; adoptees who want to overturn laws in 40 states that deny them unrestricted access to their original birth certificates. These are legitimate experiences and desires that do not in themselves constitute being anti-adoption.

However, as understanding of the deep sub- and un- conscious trauma that adoptees experience and the lifelong regret that mothers who surrendered their children to adoption as a permanent solution to a temporary situation are increasing shared openly or privately in groups that maintain anonymity, as my dominant choice does, there is a desire to limit the number of adoptions that do take place. There are recommendations for kinship guardianship whenever possible, for true efforts on the part of foster parents to assist the original parents in successfully navigating the child welfare requirements for reunification with their own children and that at the least, when adoption seems somehow the only alternative left – allowing the child to retain their original identity by NOT changing their name nor creating a new “false” birth certificate the creates the impression that the adoptive parents gave birth to that child.

These are reasonable attempts at reform.

In the movement Wired identifies are a wide range of perspectives. Some recognize the value of adoption in certain circumstances and have specific goals, like improving federal oversight, eliminating practices that are coercive to birth mothers, or giving them more time to reverse a decision to give up a child. Others see adoption as wrong most of the time – in my group it is NOT as Wired indicates “in all cases” – but there is a recognition that the natural bond between a biological mother and her child is a reality. Some are finding community and expressing feelings of anger and pain for the first time; birth mothers describe pressure, regret, and lifelong mourning for the children they gave up, while adoptees talk about their sense of estrangement and about not knowing their medical history. Certainly, poverty plays a role in children being removed from their parents and placed for adoption.

Wired does proach the topic of the Termination of Parental Rights (TPR). The article notes that TPR has been called the “civil death penalty,” because of its severity and finality. It is overwhelmingly levied against poor families. Some children are taken away from parents who abuse them horribly—and others who should be removed are not and die at the hands of abusers. Nationally, the majority of children are removed from their homes by child protective services not for abuse but neglect, which can be a more subjective state. Neglect can mean a child was left in a hot car for hours or that a child’s parent is an addict. Or it can mean that a child was alone at home while their mother worked an overnight shift or went to the store, or that there’s not enough food in the fridge. In other words, poverty can create conditions that lead to neglect, and the exigencies of poverty can also be interpreted as neglect.

My own adoption support group advocates, and some experts in child-welfare reform do as well, for helping families get what they need—rehab, food stamps, child care subsidies. We agree that should be prioritized over permanently removing children from their parents. In a 2019 paper, “A Cure Worse Than the Disease? The Impact of Removal on Children and Their Families,” Vivek Sankaran, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, and his coauthors note that removing children from their homes is traumatic for both parents and children, and that standards for removal vary from state to state. In some states there must be evidence that a child is in immediate danger; in others, suspicion of neglect is sufficient cause. Some states allow a parent to appeal the removal within 24 hours; in others a parent may have to wait 10 days. As a result, the authors note, states and even individual counties have widely varying rates of removing children.

“If we eliminated poverty in this country, that would be the best abuse- and neglect-prevention program,” according to Elizabeth Bartholet, director of the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School.

It is true that the internet, along with widely available genetic testing, has dismantled the possibility of a truly closed adoption.  However, the truth about open adoptions is the adoptive family an easily end the relationship. Open adoptions exist at the discretion of the adopting family. They are not legally enforceable in all states, and where they are enforceable the cost of a lawyer can be prohibitive for a birth mother.

My adoption support group often recommends the Saving Our Sisters (SOS) organization to expectant mothers considering a surrender of their baby. This group seeks to persuade birth mothers that financial strain shouldn’t prevent them from keeping their children. When a woman who is having second thoughts reaches out to SOS online, the group tries to find a “sister on the ground” nearby to bring her diapers, a month’s rent, or a baby swing. In 6 years time, they helped 90 mothers and their children remain together, rather than be lost to adoption.

 

Is Guardianship Enough ?

As prospective adoptive and foster parents find the all things adoption group I belong to, some of their perspectives truly do begin to change. Same for expectant mothers thinking about surrendering their child for adoption, then changing their mind and deciding that they may actually be capable of raising their own child. Always a happy outcome.

Unfortunately, many Division of Children and Families agencies at the state level still operate from an obsolete point of view. Here’s a story from one foster mother who is facing that dilemma.

We have a 7 year old pre-adoptive foster son that has lived with us for 21+ months. I always had the intention of adopting (until I joined this group), but we were only regular foster parents until this boy moved in. Everything was going “well” and mom was going to sign an open adoption agreement. Then the pandemic hit and we had to supervise their video visits, which ended up being good because we got to know each other. Then we offered to supervise the monthly in-person visits. I joined this group and now I’m trying to help mom to get her son back. She is working on her plan and I’m so proud of her, but I am not sure it will be enough for Division of Children and Families. We have a permanency meeting in a month, so I need some help.

I have 2 questions about our situation:

For the adoptive parents/foster parents in the group: How do you navigate changing a goal of adoption to guardianship, when the department has said in the past that doesn’t offer enough permanency for the child and they would move him. Is a 7-8 year old listened to, if the child says he wants to live here forever but only if his mom can’t get better?

For the adoptees/former foster youth in the group: Let’s assume mom’s rights are terminated. There is no dad involved and there literally is no family that could take this boy in and raise him. How do we know if this boy really wants to be adopted by us or not? How do we know if guardianship is or isn’t enough for him? We have a biological child who is only 6 months, in case that matters. How old is old enough for us to follow what the boy requests? We have heard so many adoptive parents talk about how their children’s behaviors changed after adoption because they felt “secure”, but after reading so much stuff in this group, I have a whole different view about adoption. Yet I don’t know how to figure out what our foster son would really want or if he would think we love him less, if we don’t adopt him.

Only one response, from an adoptive/foster parent so far but it could be helpful to others in a similar situation –

Does he have a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) or GAL (Guardian ad Litem) ? I am not sure what state he is in but in Indiana, the guardianship petitions are heard in a separate court outside of the Child Protective Services court. Child Protective Services is notified that a guardianship petition has been filed and they can come and object, if they want but sometimes they don’t.

So I would think, if you get an attorney and just file it – with mom being in agreement, then they would have to come and object, explaining why adoption is better. I think if mom is making some efforts, then that would be a bonus towards guardianship.

Guardianship is always an option. I haven’t figured out why they don’t push more for guardianship for very young children and what the age is that it suddenly becomes an option but I have seen our state grant guardianship with a Child Protective Services case for kids as young as 2 years old.

Also, I don’t think it is ethical for the department to threaten you with moving him. So I would ask for a supervisor or above to sit in on your next meeting and just ask for them to explain why this is happening and why adoption is the only option. I would personally tell you that we have custody/guardianship for our two youngest and it has been good.