A question was asked in my all things adoption group – why when foster and adoptive parents are asked a question and answer it honestly, are they bashed or told they are doing wrong ?
One, a former licensed state foster caregiver who placed her home on hold until she could learn or prepare how to best serve kids and families in crisis, answered – MAYBE because of a rational perceived injustice, based on or due to a reasonable fear. Being complicit in systemic inequities and the oppression of marginalized people. For exercising an INTENTIONAL choice to volunteer one’s privilege to care for families in crisis. Doing so generously with genuine reciprocity and care, being greater than the conditions of extraction and exploitation, is rare. Such preparation includes learning from survivors and the victims who have been the most impacted. A tolerance of ignorance is tremendously difficult for one who knows the realities. The “unintended” harm is inexcusable. Implementing a GROWTH MINDSET is taught in training for FOSTER CAREGIVING – PARTNERSHIP PARENTING. It is a critical cornerstone of any hope of doing good. Hostility is expressed by survivors after having experienced injustice. It is VALID and to be EXPECTED by their OPPRESSORS or those PERCEIVED as representatives of that OPPRESSION. Harm, neglect, emotional neglect through gaslighting and abusive tactics are all too common. It is difficult to not to REACT, impossible to respond RATIONALLY, when faced with distressing questions, apparent or perceived willful ignorance, or simply in the appearance of continuing to promote that INJUSTICE.
The argument always comes up – so you believe a child should be with their parents no matter what the situation is?
One reasonable reply to that was this – there is a lot of room between being with their parents and being adopted. There are some parents who are not safe for their children but that doesn’t have to automatically mean adoption either.
And this response – do you want us to all tell you that your adoption will be the exception to the rule? That you’ve obviously found the ethical way to do things? That your desired child is definitely going to be one of the ones who should have lost their entire family, identity, medical history? That you won’t have to worry about inherent trauma because you’ll pray hard enough and love them hard enough and that’s all you need to do? Sorry, that’s not how this works.
Then this long but rational response – I understand where you are coming from because I was there a couple years ago. This is why we need to read, listen and learn. As adoptive parents, we need to listen to the former foster care youths and adoptees. so we can do better.
We may need to seek out the support of a therapist to process our own hurts…there are therapists out there who are themselves former foster care youths and adoptees. They are more than able to support or coach you through this. Adoptive parents need to heal their own wounds, to make the space needed to acknowledge their own responsibility and the harm they have done by adopting.
We also need to bear the responsibility of supporting the adoptees in our care. That is acknowledging our own place in the trauma first. Then seeking supports to help these children process their own trauma. Finding a qualified therapist (adoption trauma informed) for the adoptee would be the ideal.
We need to be in relationship with the biological families, no matter our prejudice. These children need to be safe, yes, but also in relationship as much as possible. We need to take responsibility to build those bridges – no matter how frustrating it can be – for the benefit of the children. If we can return the children to their family, we need to attempt to do that. If the family needs support, we need to be willing to support them. We need to do everything we can to support reunion no matter the age of the child. Of course, we need to maintain their safety but that doesn’t mean a child needs to be taken away from their biological family. There are many options that don’t include adoption.
I have faced these questions in my own circumstance and recognize that in my situation there were other options I was ignorant of…I regret adopting. I was already the legal guardian but I was not informed by adoptee voices. I was listening to adoption lawyers and adoption agencies – who are only in it for the money. I made a huge mistake not being adoption informed. A mistake that if the affected parties (such as the biological family or adoptee) wanted changed, I would.
We need to acknowledge that we will fail miserably in everything we do because we care for a child who is not our own and is traumatized. If that is the reality, we have to be ok with that. We need to be ok with fighting for trauma informed support – both in the home, at school and in the greater community.
We need to stop blaming the children or the biological families for the children’s mental health issues.
If there weren’t people willing to foster or adopt, the system would operate differently. We need to see this and then, become advocates for the adoptees we care for but also against the foster and adoption systems already in place.
The old narrative of fostering and adoption needs to be torn down and it is our responsibility as adopters to lead this fight…the former foster care youths and adoptees have fought hard enough already.
I love our adoptee but love isn’t enough. I need to do more and I learn about what I need to do by listening to the voices of former foster care youths and adoptees as well as their biological families.