What To Do ?

Today’s question – A woman adopted 2 kids years ago and has raised them since they were very young. Now that they are older, some truth came out that the situation that caused the adoption wasn’t as bad as she had been led to believe.

1) She wants to know if there is a way for their birth certificates to revert back the originals? She thought she had to change them in order to adopt the kids. (This is a common misperception that adoptees are trying to change because it almost always matters to them.)

And/or

2) Can she help their birth mother regain custody so that she can finish raising her own children ? Or un-adopt them, is that even possible?

A complication is that the kids say they don’t want a relationship with their biological mother or even to meet her. The woman is not certain they are telling the truth. Maybe they don’t want to hurt her feelings?

Some responses –

1) She probably did need to change the birth certificate to adopt, that’s still the case in many jurisdictions. It’s why guardianship is often preferred, though what that means also varies from one jurisdiction to the next, sometimes it is viewed as not allowing for stability.

2) The first step is for the kids need to get to know their mother again. If they refuse, I’m not sure what she can do other than to gently encourage it and never speak poorly of their mother. If they get to that point, what comes next varies widely from one jurisdiction to the next.

The mother may be able to re-adopt her children. However, if the allegation was neglect or abuse determined by Child Protective Services, that may not be possible. Same with guardianship. She might be able to take guardianship of her children, or not, depending on the situation.

These options may fail. It may be possible for the adoptive mother to give the original mother a power of attorney, should the children move in with her, and/or unofficially she could share custody of them, just like some separated/divorced parents do.

The woman definitely needs to consult a lawyer, so that she can determine if the court might view her as a possible risk. This assumes that Child Protective Services removed the children from her care. If her Termination of Parental Rights was a private relinquishment (that would make all of the above FAR easier.)

Another possibility is an adult adoption, which could restore the information that was originally on their birth certificates (by again changing the documents to finalize an adoption). If these children are already teenagers, that makes this option easier, as long as they are in agreement.

And this is the most important point, from an adoptee – It’s very possible that they don’t want a relationship with their biological mother, if she hasn’t been in their lives. Listen to what they are saying. I would never have wanted to leave my adoptive family to go and live with my biological family. It would have felt like a complete rejection of the life I had lived. I wouldn’t want another name. I am the name I have been for a long time, not baby girl “x”. These kids need to be the ones leading. Everyone else needs to just sit back and listen.

Therapy. Individually. Let them heal their own traumas. Create a space that’s safe and secure enough that they know they can speak honestly about how they feel about their biological family.

Another adoptee admits that she wanted so badly to have a relationship with her biological family. “It was freaking awful. The worst.” It’s not always what the adoptee thinks it would be like, either way.

The most important thing is their healing and security. The rest will come, if that is the right direction. They don’t deserve to have the process of reintroduction rushed, if they say “no” for any reason. It should be their lead.

A Change Of Heart

Mother and Daughter

Even under the best intentions, when choosing a semi-closed adoption plan, even after years of contact – emotions can change. So it was, when the relinquished daughter turned 18 and enrolled in college, that a problem set in. It was a blind-sided moment for the birth mother. At her blog site, Her View From Home, under the subcategory, Motherhood – Adrian Collins tells the entire story of occasional in-person contacts, until the hammer came down.

Suddenly, the adoptive parents were no longer supportive of her daughter’s relationship with her birth parents. She’d been instructed to choose between her birth family and her adoptive family. There was no in-between or chance of negotiation. Of course, after so many years, on the cusp of maturity, this baffled Collins. She immediately got on the phone, pleading with them to consider all of them a vital part of their daughter’s life. They wouldn’t budge. Instead, they hurled insults at her.

They accused her of conniving to steal their daughter. They questioned her motives and tore at her character. They jabbed at her most vulnerable spots as a birth mom. And as she sat flabbergasted, all she could think was – “What have I done to deserve this?”  Then, of all things, the adoptive mother even belittled her adopted daughter. Collins admits, “my voice escalated into shouts of, Why can’t you just love her?!” 

The vindictiveness amazes me. Days later, her adoptive parents removed all financial support from their daughter and said they regretted the adoption. They turned their backs on her and disowned her. Collins felt betrayed. She had entrusted her daughter to them, and now they’d abandoned her. The pain of watching her daughter endure this loss was almost as unbearable as the day Collins had left the hospital without her. 

It was her husband (and also the girl’s original birth father) who brought up the idea of re-adoption. “We can take care of you,” he told her.  Since she was already 18, she only needed to give her consent for an adult adoption to take place. In essence, her own birth parents became their daughter’s legal parents once again. Adult adoption is somewhat common between some kinds of parents and foster or stepchildren. It is rare when this occurs between birth parents and their biological/genetic child. They didn’t pressure their daughter in the least and only assured her that their only motive for an adult adoption was to extend even more love to her.

In spite of Collins own doubts about building a strong relationship with the daughter she did not raise, she says – when she looked at her daughter just before the adoption hearing in court – she realized her heart had been fastened to her daughter’s ever since she had carried her in her womb. She had promised to give her daughter the best life possible and she was always willing to do whatever it took to make that happen. True, she wasn’t able to provide that for her daughter at birth. Now, she was happy at a chance to take care of her daughter as an adult. When their names were called to enter the courtroom, she turned to her daughter and smiled. Her daughter smiled back.

She admits – I’ve spent time in reflection about my decision to make an adoption plan. Did everything turn out as planned? Absolutely not. Would things have fared better if I’d kept my daughter in the first place? I can’t say. Sometimes we have to take steps of faith without seeing the whole picture. We can only do what we think is best at a particular time in life.

If we do the best we can, we really can’t get it wrong. That is my own belief. The All That Is uses everything that humans do to make it right – maybe it takes a long time for the right to come out – and even if I don’t live long enough to see that – I do believe it does turn out in the long run. My own “adoption reunion journey” proved as much to me. The whole situation of both of my parents being adopted wasn’t perfect from my own perspective but I would not be alive if it had not happened. I have said before, and I say it again now – it was imperfectly perfect. Sometimes, that is as good as it gets.

Sibling Separation

One of the impacts of adoption can be a separation of siblings.  The struggles of a mother to keep and raise her child are temporary in nature – though it may not seem that way at the time.

I believe my dad’s mom did her best to keep him but in the end, The Salvation Army’s approach did not support her intention.  She gave birth to my dad in one of their homes for unwed mothers having discovered herself pregnant due to an affair with a married man much older than her.  Therefore, she did not even seek his assistance but in her very self-sufficient way dealt with her circumstances alone.

After a period of time bonding with her son, she was released with him with the expectation that she would be able to live with a cousin geographically nearby.  I think she found little patience there.  She applied for a job with The Salvation Army and was accepted and transferred, still with my dad in tow, from San Diego California to El Paso Texas.

By the time he was 8 months old, my dad was legally the ward of The Salvation Army.  My granny went there for a child to raise (after my dad was adopted, she went there for another child to be his brother).  I don’t know what it cost her but maybe less than some of the other options.

My dad never seemed much interested in his original family.  He was actually adopted twice when my granny had to throw the abusive alcoholic she had been married to out for the well being of her sons and then met and married a different man.  My dad was devoted to them and supported them genuinely as they aged.

Unknown to my dad at the time he died, a half-sister was living 90 miles away that could have told him a lot about his mother, his other older sister and a brother.  I find it sad but that was the reality.