Caught In The Middle

Some circumstances in life are just plain hard to judge. I understand the point of view of this adoptive mother, even so, where is the compassionate middle ground. I haven’t decided. Here is one adoptive mother’s point of view –

I had to discuss with my son’s biological mom that there are boundaries and if she wanted to be involved in any way then she needed to understand them and honor them. My son is MY son, not hers. We came up with a special name that we refer to her as. Never mom. Also we discussed social media. She is never to address him as her son. He is not her son. She is to call him by his given name. I understand that biological moms have to deal with the emotional aspect but so do the adoptive moms. She is no longer his mother. A mother is far more than giving birth. A mother raises you and puts you first. I am very close with his biological mom. I have a great relationship with her for my son’s sake and it was a surrender. She was not forced in any way. But she is not his mother any longer. I am. I accept her role in his life as a special person who loves him. But I am his mother, not her. And she understands and respects that. She is thankful that I allow her to be a part of our family. I didn’t take his mom away from him. She took her role as mom away from herself including by making bad choices and choosing drugs over parenting. I’m his mom and will always be. She will always be a special person in his life but never his mom. Advice to other adoptive moms – set boundaries and don’t let biological moms walk all over you. Let them know their role in the family now.

The person who revealed this mindset commented – I find this very sad and very controlling. What if the child decided one day to call his birth mom “mom” ? She can’t call him her son ? This is sad. Birth parents grieve too. They hurt too. Even parents from foster care. They grieve. They lost their child. I wish we can offer empathy to birth parents especially from foster care instead of looking down on them and using innocent children to hurt them and the child.

I do feel that putting a child in the middle of this situation isn’t fair to the child. The same kind of thing happens very often in divorce. I remember trying to walk that difficult middle ground. “You still have a mother who loves you. And you still have a father who loves you. But we are not going to all live together anymore.” Life is complicated enough. So how to simplify the situation suggested above ?

I do agree with this perspective – “I’m sure the only reason the biological mother agrees with this is so she can have something to do with her son. There is a difference between a ‘mom’ and a ‘mother’ but it is ultimately up to the child to decide how to view each one of these women. Not the biological mom or the adoptive mom.” These two should not be playing their own issues off with the child caught in the middle.

Someone else disagreed and I do see this point as well – No difference between a mother and mom to me. I have two moms and two mothers. Same difference. It’s not confusing. I see no reason to distinguish a difference or set them apart.

And in fact, this is a valid point – If it wasn’t for the biological mom, the adoptive mom wouldn’t even have her son in the first place. I don’t give a damn if the biological mother’s rights where legally severed, she is still his mom at the end of the day and always will be the woman who gave birth to him.

I am still seeking what I sense is an important middle ground. I understand the need for the adoptive mother to be the final say in most of what happens in this child’s life, to maintain her parental authority to make decisions – at least for a minor child. Yet, emotions and feelings are less clear. I believe that most children actually are capable of keeping the two women in a separate yet proper perspective. My heart tells me that is the truth.

What I am sensing is a possessiveness, an ownership of one person over the love of another person, by putting the magical role of motherhood into the middle of this situation. As the divorced mother of a daughter who’s step-mother married her father and so, the two of them raised my daughter, I already understand what a difficult balancing act these situations are. I did attempt to put my daughter’s feelings and interests ahead of my own. My daughter and I have discussed how similar her childhood was to that of someone who was adopted.

Evolving Approaches

Why are so many foster parents uneducated about trauma ? It’s 2021.

Yes, training is lacking but it’s frustrating to keep seeing things like the comment below from a foster parent. If I have a biological child with special needs, we change to accommodate her. We change for biological kids. Why not do the same for a foster child ?

The question above was raised by one foster parent, after reading this comment below in quotes from another foster parent.

“I don’t know. This is sad because the foster family shouldn’t have to change everything for a child. It’s give and take. Obviously the child should feel accepted, but that’s also a choice on their part. Half this stuff (sleep in the bed, no TV after bedtime, eat what we’re eating, bond with us, doing chores) is not unreasonable.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t bend rules for the ‘undamaged’ kids in my home, not everything changes for the new arrivals. Foster kids need to understand the world doesn’t evolve around them. In the real world people don’t care if you’re in foster care. They don’t care if you have trauma. You do what your boss tells you to do. They don’t make accommodations for you.”

“We need to stop making excuses for foster children and stop letting others feel sorry for them. Being in foster care shouldn’t be used as an excuse. Everyone is treated the same in the real world. So why should we bend the rules to foster kids? A foster child shouldn’t force you to change your household or your rules. You’re the boss of your own home.”

“They should follow the rules and the values that the family that decided to open up their home to them has in place. We can’t keep allowing foster kids to take and we always give. It’s unfair. It doesn’t teach them anything about giving back or teach them anything about following the rules in life”.

So why wouldn’t foster parents want to provide specialized care when traumatized kids need this so critically ? Why do they choose to be foster caregivers ? Oh right, it is the money, the stipends foster families are paid to take in stranger’s children.

There could also be another aspect. Some foster parents are there for the glory and accolades from other people. This person’s perspective is simply justification for a rigid response. In reality, what should motivate anyone to be a foster caregiver, would be to help the child heal from whatever trauma has put them into the system to begin with. Just removing the child from their parents and home and being put into foster care IS trauma to begin with.

Think about it – if the injuries were visible and the child was then refused help to heal because of BS excuses like, the “real-world” is unsympathetic to your pain and suffering, many people would judge such a foster caregiver (like the one quoted above) as some unfeeling monster who neglects the children in their care. There should be zero tolerance for an attitude like this.

Truth is, parenting should be individualized to the unique person each child is. As parents, we should give more to children who need more. Parenting is not about one’s self or selfishness. A parents job shouldn’t be to make the kid’s lives crappy, even if we ourselves feel we have it crappy.

Finally, this foster parent writes as though fostering wasn’t a choice they made freely. A child who is unwillingly placed in your home doesn’t owe you gratitude or deference. And “everyone is treated the same in the real world”….what a sad excuse for having closed off your heart. One gets the sense that this foster parent has come from a middle to upper class white family and has not experienced a whole lot of the “real” life they speak so freely of upholding.

Who’s Child Is This ?

A woman asks – Do you have to hand over your baby to a potential adoptive couple shortly after birth ? There is a prospective adoptive couple who is extremely obsessed with taking my baby shortly after birth in the hospital. It’s my baby. Why can’t I take some time to make a decision ?

One response was this – Although it is typical for adoption agencies to push for this, it is NOT necessary and does NOT have to happen. You can take as much time as you want. There is no time limit for how long you can take, it can be a couple days, weeks, months. . . how ever long you need. To which someone else added – or never.

Someone else said bluntly – Do not hand over your baby, do not allow any hopeful adoptive parents at the hospital. 

Another woman speaking from experience said – Don’t do it. I didn’t, and I’m so glad. I was still debating keeping or giving away my baby until the day he was born. And I had a couple lined up. Thank god for the Coronavirus because the hospital didn’t allow them in. After he was born, I said I’m gonna keep him. Then the adoption counselor kept bugging me. but it didn’t matter because I didn’t break any rules by changing my mind.

Someone else admitted – This is part of classic coercive tactics, trying to make sure you don’t change your mind. Once the baby is in their hands, it would be so much harder to get the baby back, if you had second thoughts. Take your time. Trust your instincts. Someone who is railroading and coercing you right from the start will not be a good partner if you seek an open adoption.

The truth is a baby is just as adoptable at 6 months or a year, as it is at birth. There are tons of people who want to adopt. If you are contemplating surrender, take all the time you need. This is YOUR baby and every day you spend with them is precious regardless of whatever decision you eventually arrive at.

This is a choice that is 100% up to you. You are able to take your baby home and make a decision later. Any potential adoptive parents that try to push your choice should be grounds enough for you to reconsider them. If this is how they are, when YOU have control, how will they be towards you after the have your baby ?

Misperceptions

I don’t know where these people get ideas like this.  Here’s today’s story –

“So when I talked to the foster care recruiter she basically said I can’t license you for the age group you want (0-3).  You will have to do 0-18. I don’t want to do older kids because I’m only 25 and all my kids are 7 and under. She said we would only be allowed 1 child because we are going to have another baby soon.  We would have 5 biological children (though one is stepchild, who is only with us weekends).  Our state limits the number of children in a fostering home to 6 total. OK, I’ll be honest, I was really hoping to adopt a little girl since all of our children are boys.  Well the foster care recruiter basically dashed my hopes. Based on the rules, it looks like we won’t be able to foster kids until we’re old and our kids are grown.  This makes me sad. We have the room in both our hearts and our home for lots of foster children but because of the limit on how many kids we can have in our house, we are just stuck with the kids we already have.  I am brokenhearted because I really wanted to be a ‘girl mom’.  Even thought I know the goal of foster care is family reunification, what I really want is to foster to adopt.”

This is a real person.

One woman suggested – “become a Big Sister or volunteer with the Girl Scouts with that ‘room in your heart’.”

Another woman shared this – “I was raised in a church where people were expected to have big families… The first thing it does is make the oldest kids grow up way too fast. They usually end up half raising the youngest ones.  The other thing it does is divide up the parent’s attention waaaaay too much. My friends from huge families often felt like their parents didn’t know them well.  So yeah, I’m glad they are limiting this person and not allowing them to pack some really young kids in there.”

Another woman noted – “If this woman could have her way, her boys would grow up to resent the little girl, because they would know that they’re second best to the girl their mother so desperately wanted.  Nothing entitles a person to take another mother’s baby and that should certainly be true when a couple already has five wonderful children of their own.  How selfish and ungrateful can one person be ?!?”

One woman admitted – “My grandmother had two sons and then adopted a daughter.  She favored all her granddaughters over her grandsons too, which really impacted my cousins who lived near her.  The daughters of her daughter were the most prized.”

One replied directly to the woman who’s story leads this blog with this – “Do IVF and a designer baby. Sounds like you’re super fertile anyway, so maybe easier than you think. Talk to a fertility specialist.” And then added this reality check, “It’s gonna break your heart more if it isn’t forever when you have that infant in your arms and then the baby is returned to her rightful family . . . because honestly, reunification is the goal, as it should be, as long as it is safe for the child to be returned.”

And this, “I taught classes for prospective adopters and for a long time the #1 reason for picking China was the virtual guarantee if a girl, a ‘china doll’ (usually named Lily or the like. ) It is so incredibly harmful to a child to be adopted for their gender. It puts that child in a gender straight jacket. Same for sex selection sperm treatments and sex selection IVF etc. But especially for adoptees. This kind of perspective is heartbreaking.”

 

Unreasonable Expectations

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know a lot about cases where Child Protective Services interferes with a parent/child relationship.  I used to worry about it though.  Rowdy boys who I did my best to keep socially acceptable in public in the most gentle way I could.  I used to warn them that they really had to listen to me or someone might take them away.  They seemed to understand well enough to settle down and not raise misguided concerns.  That is the world they grew up in and they are now very well-behaved teenagers, thanking all that is good we all survived their childhood but that isn’t always the case.  So my story today is about one such case and its causes and impacts.

A father and son played for hours at the beach, splashing the water, and building an elaborate sandcastle. The two of them are so similar it’s sometimes hard to imagine they aren’t the same soul living in two separate bodies. Their bond unbreakable regardless of what the courts may have ordered. Their visits are essential to our son knowing who he is, where he comes from, and who he takes after in this world. (Don’t know for certain but believe he has been adopted.  The woman shares that the boy’s 2 older biological sisters are still in foster care, which explain what comes next.)

While spending time together, Dad said to me, “I need to start being good and following the rules if I want to see my daughters…. it’s just hard, because I never had rules to follow before, so it’s not easy for me.”

How hard it must be for first parents to be asked to follow the strict guidelines children’s aid societies and child protection services (CAS/CPS) sets out for them when they themselves grew up in circumstances where there were minimal-to-no-rules. Is it this perpetual cycle that explains why the children are removed ?  Then, why the parents struggle to obtain reunification.  And then, when that isn’t possible, struggle to be able to maintain visitation after Termination of Parental Rights, when CAS/CPS controls the narrative, the rules to follow, and the access to their children. It’s something I think more foster and adoptive families need to recognize is part of our privilege, and be more mindful of the unreasonable expectations placed on first families.

I’m grateful that CAS has no say over who we visit with, how frequently, or under what conditions, so that we can see our son’s family as often as possible; but I’m continuing to learn and to be heartbroken by this terrible system designed to keep families apart.

One woman shared a similar story about rules that was not related to this first one.  CPS told a neighbor her 12 and 14 year old children were not allowed to walk home from school. They had to take the bus or be picked up. She lives 1/2 mile from the school. That felt really controlling and they held that over her head, as if it were a problem. How is something like that possible ?

My sisters and I walked to and from school every day of our childhood.  Both of my parents worked.  There wasn’t even a school bus provided but we did survive it.  We were probably healthier for the exercise.  This is the kind of over-reach that worried me when my boys were very young.

There are so many problems with CPS “rules.”  The first woman went on to add these thoughts – the rules often sound arbitrary, conflicting and complicated to follow in real life. And I can see how they don’t seem “so bad” to those with the means and privilege to have a flexible schedule, financial resources and a support system. The whole premise is corrupt and needs to be dismantled and rebuilt with an emphasis on family reunification, support, culture, and preventative measures, so we never end up here in the first place.

Cultural rules change a lot depending on what cohort you are part of. CPS rules are based really heavily on white middle-class cultural rules, which are stunningly different from other groups of people.  Which led another woman to share –  our case worker keeps saying my nephew goes ‘AWOL’ and it bothers me so damn much.  Because I know that feeling of not being in control. The ability to come and go as you please, to go on a walk is not AWOL.  The amount of re-framing the system needs to do is staggering.

 

Difficult Circumstances

In the world of children at risk there are adoptive parents and foster parents.  Beyond the children, there are their own natural parents to consider.  So, if you are raising someone else’s kids . . . maybe the natural parents don’t like you simply because you have their kids and they don’t.

Maybe they don’t agree with your parenting style, they think you are snooty, they don’t like going by your rules and parameters to see their children.  Maybe the natural parents sense you could cut them off from seeing their children.

Maybe if you are a foster parent, the natural parents worry you will fight against their getting their kids back.

Maybe either substitute parent just thinks you as the natural parent dress funny.

Bottom line, the substitute parents simply do not like you.

What would you as the natural parent do to improve a situation like this ?

Though it is not my situation, I’ve seen a similar situation up close and personal with my middle sister’s son.  It is actually a tragic circumstance where the paternal grandparents gained custody and the paternal grandmother attempted to poison my nephew against our family.  A situation that has not resolved itself and sadly – at the moment – he has closed the door to all contact with us.