The Damage Done By Addiction

It is a personal issue for me but people do sometimes recover. Just this morning I was reading an article by a woman who admitted the difficulty of recovering from the trauma of her past and four addictions. Today’s story –

I am a foster parent and have a one year old child in my home who I have had since she left the hospital. I have a good relationship with her parents, I think about as good as can be expected in this situation. We text frequently, exchange pictures, arrange visits outside of the court-mandated ones. They love her endlessly but are deep into struggles with addiction. Both have had a few stints where they go to treatment for a day or two (so, there does not appear to be a barrier with access to treatment) but do not stick with it. Addiction has been a long-time struggle for both parents.

Her case is very much still open and I am still trying to help them into treatment. But, it’s to the point where the department is asking about permanent placement options. The child has a relative (I think mom’s second cousin, not positive on the exact relationship) who lives about three hours away and is not in contact with the rest of the first family. Relative has said she would adopt if needed, but didn’t want to be the first choice. Parents were asked who they would want to adopt and they said me. I had not talked to them about this and didn’t know it was being asked, so I don’t think they felt pressured. If we get to that point, I would try to facilitate a relationship that’s beyond “open” – i.e., I would invite them to her activities and holidays and would support them seeing her with gas cards and paying for activities and the like. I know many open adoptions end up closed, but to the extent that you can believe an internet stranger, please try to believe that I would not do that.

She also has four half siblings and cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents (none placement options, unfortunately) in the area where I/her parents live. Under these circumstances, what’s the “best” placement option? (Understanding that the actual best option is with her parents). I’m a foster parent who yells at other foster parents about interfering with kin placements, but it seems like parents should get a say here. How does one weigh the benefits of living with a member of your first family vs living outside of your family but having the option to see them regularly? (I know guardianship would be preferable, but the department won’t do that – so, the options are adoption or not adoption for this case).

First of all, straight up, I would NOT want to go to a relative that didn’t want me.

One response seems realistic to me as well – I would adopt if left no other legal choice. If you do allow her parents to see her when they are able, then I think ultimately it’s what best for the girl, if her parents can’t find their way out of addiction and the state is pushing the issue. A similar response from an adoptee was –  If I was the little one in question, and guardianship was not an option, I would want you to adopt me over the distant relative and keep me in contact with my close family. The deciding factor, for me, is that the distant cousin doesn’t want to be the first option, and that is bound to come across to the adoptee, especially if times get tough when they are older. It’s hard enough to know that your biological parents didn’t want to/couldn’t raise you, but when you start getting the same message from multiple sources, it can really compound the trauma.

Someone else writes – Considering the addiction issues, this child needs a home. If there was NO other option but you vs the cousin, I’d prefer you because you live near her family/parents. But, closing this child off from her family at anytime and getting all “she’s MINE” – no, nope, nada. Being a supportive and caring adoptive mom with the child’s mental and psychological health front and center – providing therapy as needed throughout this child life for issues that will pop up – remembering always that you are not this child’s mother….period. I can be on board for you to provide a stable home for this child.

Finally this from a voice of experience – I was adopted at the age of 9. Both of my parents are addicts. My adoptive parents said they would never keep me from my family. True to their word, they didn’t. When my mom was clean and I asked to go back and live with her, they let me. Even paid my mom child support that wasn’t mandated, just to help out. She relapsed and my adoptive dad actually gave me the choice to stay in foster care and finish high school or for him to come and pick me up, since legally he was my parent. I chose to stay in high school in order to stay near my siblings, instead of moving across the country. If you are really going to keep it open, with access to the child’s family, I would say you are the better option than a long distance blood relative who doesn’t speak to the family. I just hope that you always give her parents grace and don’t cut off communication when you are mad. Especially if the child wants to keep that communication open.

Tainted Love

I heard this old song from the 70s and immediately, I thought of current events, our president and his supporters since the election was called in favor of the opponent. However, as the lyrics kept playing in my head, the words of so many adoptees who’s perspectives I have read for the last 3 years started forming themselves into the truth of this situation.

The sad truth is that no matter how much love an adoptive parent has to give the adopted child there will always be something tainted about it. Not that the adoptive parent could do anything to prevent that or that their love is not genuine and heartfelt.

An adoptee begins with a serious strike of perceived abandonment at the start of their relationship with the adoptive parent. It matters not the reason really – it is a fact. The parent who gave birth to them isn’t there. This happens as well in divorce when the two parents that were one entity for the child split apart. I know that one. Coming of age in the early 70s, I bought into the idea of male/female equality and that extended itself in my own perspective to the two parents. Either one was equal to the other. In a divorce, it really didn’t matter which parent raised the child, both were equally the parent. And it is true as far as it goes.

Since learning about adoption trauma and the impact of mother loss, I have had to accept that it really wasn’t the same. Not that I can change the way things came out but I do understand the errors in my own thinking at the time. I remember clearly explaining to my daughter regarding the divorce – you still have a mother who loves you and you still have a father who loves you but we won’t all be living together anymore. That was true as well. What I didn’t conceive of at the time was that she would not grow up with me but with him. And decades later, come to find out, it wasn’t the good situation that I thought it was but I was never told until very recently.

So, back to adoption. Fact is, an adoptive parent is never going to be the same as the parents the child was born to. There are many issues. There is the feeling that if the adoptee doesn’t live up to the adoptive parents expectations, they could send the child back. While that may sound like a far-fetched worry, it actually happens and causes what are called second-chance adoptions. So there is an insecurity and people-pleasing aspect to being an adoptee.

If the parents actually have biological children AND adopt, there are differences in the parental response to the children, even if that is NOT the intention of the adoptive parents. It has been explained as – your house is on fire and you can’t save ALL of your children. Which would you chose ? Your biological/genetic child or the one you adopted ? Sadly, the answer is obvious excluding issues that preclude a choice at all.

And I have read more times than I would like to admit to that adoptees can be difficult to love and tolerate. They act out. They often do not understand themselves why they behave that way. These are deep seated psychological issues. It is always recommended that a trauma/adoption informed therapist be employed to salvage a truly destructive and dangerous situation. Yes, it gets that bad sometimes.

Now you know why those words “tainted love” inspired me to write today’s blog.