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.

Lament and Repentance

From an adoptive parent’s perspective –

We became foster parents to “help the whole family” and adopted our son (met him at 5 weeks in the NICU, brought him home at 6 weeks, adopted him at 2 years). He was our 8th placement- some families we were able to be helpful towards more than others, I can see my failures or ignorance too.

We have kept a private Facebook page to keep biological parents updated with pictures and an ability to message. Some family members have a recent relationship with our son, and I feel like we have all gained family. BUT, the biological parents aren’t safe (actively using drugs).

I hear you adoptee’s. I hear how you hate adoption. I hear your lack of control, choice, autonomy. Hating that your name was changed, lost culture, lost history, lack of belonging, desire for real change in the system and legislation. I hear you. Your feelings are valid and real. Thank you for sharing with us and allowing us to learn and gain understanding and mourn with you.

As an adoptive parent, I sit in lament and repentance – over my ignorance (even after lots of books and trainings), my savior/rescuer habits and mentality, my selfishness and self centered ness. And I’m just sad with you, and sad with my child.

My question…What were things said to you/done/moments of clarity or understanding that helped you bond and attach to your adoptive parents? I understand it’s a journey and a process, but I still want emotional health and intelligence for my teen.

PS – have been in therapy with an adoption specialist for 3 years.

From an adoptee in response –

Do you have any idea how hard it is to love yourself as an adoptee ? F*** your bonding. Kids will bond to others when their brain says it’s safe. And some don’t at all. At the end of the day, the child may never naturally attach to you but that isn’t saying they won’t naturally attach to others. Trying to have those children identify non-biologicals as being the traditional family roles, when they do not actually fit (mom, dad, etc) is not helping make the kids feel like part of your family. It’s an attempt to replace the family they already have. It’s easier for you but it’s harmful for them. Look into support groups for kids of addicts. Keep learning more about active addiction and what is a threat and what is not. Actively support and promote a bond with the original parents, while teaching your adoptee boundaries and healthy coping.

Yeah, It’s Uncomfortable

Adoptive parents don’t like to hear it said that they “bought a child”. Over and over from former foster parents or adoptive parents, when they realize their role in adoptee trauma, will say “I didn’t know”. Or some variation of the below –

“I thought I was helping” “I had only heard good things about adoption/fostering” “I never thought about the parents” “I didn’t see it as buying a child” “I thought my situation was different” “I….” “I….” “I….” So many “I’s”.

The point is every one of these reasons comes down to a saviorism narrative, that society has created. When you continue using sugar-coated language, you are furthering that narrative.

You are centering yourself to make yourself feel better.

Adoptive parents, whether you like it or not, you bought a child. Money exchanged hands for you to receive a product. Is anyone telling you to go tell your traumatized toddler that ? Of course not. You have done enough damage. But you do need to reconcile that fact within yourself. And when that adoptee starts asking questions, be in a position to take accountability and center the adoptee, like you should have from the get go.

PS The adoptee does not owe you any gratitude for what you did.

Hard To Believe But True

To keep the knowledge of this from an adoptee is so unconscionable. Even in the 1930s, when my parents were adopted, they always knew they were. Since I now know more about my original grandparents, my grandmothers would have always made great mothers to my parents. It was simply two factors – the times for my dad’s unwed mother and Georgia Tann’s machinations for my maternal married grandmother (though her husband appeared to have deserted her and there is no one left alive who could answer what my heart wants to know about why).

From an adoptee – How could you not tell your kid but then tell other people??? Like wtf. There’s something incredibly wrong with that picture.

From another adoptee – (BTW the child is already 8 years old) – that would be where I would have to ask for a conference with the adoptive parents. I could not knowingly and wrongfully withhold such information from a child and still be able to look them in the face daily. Idk if said child could remain in my class, although I’d want to be a support for the child. What a horrible situation for a teacher, especially if also an adoptee, but what a horrible bunch of bullshit for that child. School aged is beyond old enough to have already had those conversations. I’m not happy with these adoptive parents AT ALL.

Just a personal note – when my dad was 8 years old, he was adopted a second time when his adoptive mother remarried and his first name was changed from Thomas to Gale. Thomas was his first adoptive father’s first name. Gale was his new adoptive father’s first name. A completely understandable decision. Fortunately for my dad, he was always known by his middle name Patrick.

An adoptee who is also an adoptive mother writes – I am also a behavioral interventionist. This would be a “HUGE” trigger for me mentally. I couldn’t imagine looking into that poor innocent face knowing she is probably struggling internally (even without her knowing it) and then, knowing what she will face later on when she learns the truth. It would be very hard for me to navigate without yelling from the rooftops at the parents – what you are doing to this child is so wrong and mentally abusive. Even more so, that they are sharing this information with everyone else (savior complex, most likely or just narcissistic) but the child. Does your employer know you are an adoptee? I do a lot of advocating for adoptees and foster care youth in my district.

Someone else commented –  Imagine everybody knowing your story but you. I hope they are setting aside a sizable amount of money for this child’s therapy because OMFG.

Another writes – And at what age does this go on until ? Where is that child’s human rights. They have no right to deprive that child of their roots. It’s seldom done to protect the child, it’s to protect the adopters from the reality that this child has another family and help them play out their fantasy. It’s disgusting and should be illegal.

From one adoptee’s experience – I was in a similar situation. I didn’t find out until I was 9. It shattered my view on pretty much everything. I feel badly for those children; finding out your life is a lie part way through childhood is just…heavy. The worst part about having a family that is secretive about adoption is that once I did know, I was told I still needed to lie about it because not everyone in the family knew. I shared it with my cousins of a similar age once and got laughed at by them because they didn’t believe me. It got me in terrible trouble with my adoptive parents for telling them. Those kids have a rough road ahead. An entire early childhood predicated on lies is no way to live.

Such Misplaced Priorities

I was reading today where a hopeful adoptive mother actually was promoting to the son of an expectant mother all of the things they could financially provide to her soon to be delivered baby. This is unbelievably clueless. The boy would have loved to send the woman the message below (but his mother did not allow it, saying, “I’d love it, if he could respond that way, but it’s best if he doesn’t respond at all because I don’t think she was supposed to do that.”) –

Dear Hopeful Kidnapper,

My Aunt lives 10 minutes away in a 5,000 square foot house with a pool in her backyard. We can drive to the beach in my parents fifth wheel and she can build sand castles with us. We don’t need a beach house, we drag our house with us. Her cousin loves horses and can provide that experience for our baby as well. How arrogant that you think you can give her a “better life.” Has anyone ever mentioned money doesn’t buy happiness?

And this hopeful adoptive mother is also a social worker ? Hopefully these are being given to the attorney as this is straight up harassment! The fact that she is a social worker makes this even worse, she should know better! This lady has certainly earned a top spot on the Hopeful Adoptive Parent Stranger Danger List. Being a social worker, you’d think she would have first hand knowledge that even under the most dire circumstances, most adoptees would not chose to trade up their own mother, father and family for strangers that perceive themselves as having more or better. So, neither would this newborn. It’s just nature’s way.

When adoptees say they hate hopeful adoptive parents – this is why. This arrogance and the saviorism that centers on them but not the child. The willingness…no, the eagerness to cross every boundary a decent human understands, just to get what they want. All while casting dispersions on people who are in crisis.

This perspective – I don’t understand why people make help conditional on buying a baby. It’s never “Hey, we know you’re struggling and since we care about the baby so much, we’d like to be super involved as aunt and uncle, so we can make a difference in this child’s life.” This is why hopeful adoptive parents make me so angry. They have the resources to help but will only do so by destroying a family to benefit themselves. It’s gross.

And really, this is true – The only reason she’s harassing y’all is because of how soon baby will be here. I guarantee, if someone offered them a baby tomorrow, she’d vanish from your life. So gross.

More truth – No lavish house, top school, showy beach house will fill the void that separation from a parent will create. Children don’t care about social status. This is SO elitist!!! Like what a wild fantasy life she has dreamed up! What if this daughter doesn’t like dogs or horses and sand?! All children have the ability and their moments of it — what if this child is destructive and wild??! What happens when this fantasy bubble and perfect home and plan aren’t going exactly as she pictured?? Kids are hard and messy and unpredictable. Parenting is more than these clouds in the sky fakeness.

Finally, this from direct experience – I am an adoptee. I grew up in a huge, beautiful brick home. I had a swimming pool, along with a swim & racquet club less than 500 feet from my driveway. I had the “best of the best” as far as society saw. Upper middle class. Not rich, but never struggled for anything we “needed”. Even with that, I would have given all of it up to be with my biological family!

Making A Career Of It

Dougherty Children

So I do wonder about couples who start adopting and keep adopting until their family size is large. We live in an era of self-promotion and the Dougherty family seems to be an example of that. Sometimes it becomes a kind of calling – as it seems to have become with this family. They believe they have developed a good method of dealing with an issue that does cause some children to end up in foster care and/or adopted – Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders. Likewise, it is also true that managing a large family requires a great deal of organizing every aspect of family life to even make it possible to cope. And their are joys and benefits to belonging in such situations.

Though they call themselves the Dougherty Dozen, I could only count 10 children in any photo – maybe the parents, Josh and Alicia, are including themselves, which I could justify. “We figured, if we’re already doing this for one kid, what difference will another one make?” Josh says as an explanation. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother consumed alcohol during pregnancy. FASD can cause a lineup of physical and learning disabilities as well as behavior problems.

The couple claims that one of the reasons they have so many children is that caseworkers, impressed with their dedication and success, have continued sending complicated children their way. “We became known as the parents who could handle the difficult behaviors,” Alicia says. The couple also has four biological children between the ages of 4 and 10 as well as the 6 children than have been placed with them.

It’s hard to judge but I do cringe at their admission that they cameras in every room except the bathrooms and that they lock the kitchen food cabinets and the refrigerator at night. As to self-promotion the couple has TikTok and YouTube videos about their family life. I can appreciate their stated perspective that “a person is not their diagnosis” and belief that they’re doing their best to help the children move forward with their lives.

Child Collectors

Jeane and Paul Briggs have 34 children – 29 of whom were adopted from other countries including Mexico, Ghana and Ukraine. 

Today, I saw the term “child collectors”. This is applies to people who adopt a lot of kids. It is not all that uncommon to see 10 adopted children in one family and sometimes it is because they are siblings. We have collected antique tractors and have met collectors who just couldn’t stop collecting. I wanted an image for that term and went looking in google images for “Large Families of Adopted Children” and found this one.

Their story was hosted by the BBC – “The family with 34 children – and counting.” There is a part of me that recoils. It seems obscene. But now that I have gotten here, I’ll look into it some more. It seems more like a group home or orphanage than a family situation to my own heart. The couple has 5 biological children in addition to the 29 they have adopted.

The Briggs family lives in West Virginia. Their odyssey began with a badly beaten, blind, 2 year old child in a Mexican orphanage. That child is now 31 years old and has thrived.  He has a girlfriend and  is a naturally talented musician who can play the piano and guitar and composes his own music. Okay so far.

In December 2014, when this story was written, the couple was anticipating the arrival of two more children that they were in the process of adopting, baby boys from Ghana. The three month old babies were abandoned in the bush.

There is only one word that comes to mind because “church” is mentioned in relation to Jeane and what motivated her to adopt the first one – saviorism. There is a missionary agenda here to convert more souls in the service of the church’s reason for existing.

Over the past 29 years, as more children have arrived, the Briggs’s house has been adapted for their expanding family. It now has nine bedrooms – two of which resemble dormitories – and at over 5,000 square feet, the building is more than twice its original size. The family’s grocery bill averages $1,000/week (back in 2014) but thanks Paul’s well-paid job and Jeane’s careful budgeting, they have been able to meet their expenses.

And no surprise, Jeane has been home-schooling the children for nearly 30 years. This is not uncommon among Evangelical Christians. My sons have been educated at home but we don’t do it for religious reasons. Every homeschooling family we’ve met regionally does it for religious reasons. Thanks to the strength of the Christian persuasion in Missouri politics, we are not troubled about the choice we made for our own sons. We have our own reasons. We are reasonably well educated and informed people who work at home, older parents, and are happy to have our children with us 24/7. This was a decided advantage for my family during the pandemic lockdowns.

Some of the Briggs children still have first families that they are encouraged to keep in contact with. Sometimes of the children speak to relatives on the phone and Jeane will send pictures to let those back home know the children are doing well. She says, “They may have our last name but if there is a relative, then we are glad that child has two families who love them. My husband and I don’t need to be the first Mom and Dad to them.”

From a young age, Jeane was concerned with the bigger issues affecting society and was particularly interested in orphans and adoption. Even then, she knew she wanted a large family – although she never expected it would be this big. She said, “Even as a child, I knew I would adopt and have a large family. Faith has been the biggest motivation… every child should have a loving family.” I rest my case about how religion drives adoption. Certainly, many of the Briggs children came from difficult backgrounds and I do agree that EVERY child should have a loving family.

Jeane and Paul Briggs

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.

Loss of Custody in Domestic Abuse

Let’s talk about domestic abuse and child custody.

For everyone who is convinced that children only end up in foster care and/or adopted because the parents were abusive, guess what? Women in abusive relationships are especially vulnerable to losing custody of their children. Spouses/intimate partners use custody of children as an abuse tactic.

Examples:

–If you leave me, you’ll never see your children again.

–Filing false/malicious child abuse reports if you succeed in leaving with your children

–Deliberately impoverishing you so you can’t afford to provide for your children to the standard required by social workers

–poisoning authorities against you by using things like depression, addiction, etc. to paint you as an unfit mother

–deliberately getting you pregnant to make you vulnerable and unable to leave the relationship

Domestic abuse services are notoriously underfunded and unsupervised. Unscrupulous providers can get away with neglectful or even downright harmful treatment of the vulnerable women in their care because it’s non-profit, charity funded, and people assume that they’re doing good things.

Someone in an abusive relationship is in the most danger when they try to leave the relationship.

A tactic abusers might use is to always keep one child with them (as a way to make sure you can’t leave without putting that child in danger).

Abusers might explicitly favor one child over another, creating a situation where one child contributes to the mistreatment of the other child.

An abuser might groom a child to make false accusations against you (projecting and protecting themselves, the real abuser).

Of course not all cases are the same, but there are too many situations in which the mom would be a perfectly fit parent, if she just had enough support. All the things that we talk about – help getting a job, affordable daycare with flexible hours, supplemental income for pregnancy and maternity leave periods, actual maternity leave, and in this particular example, trauma therapy/mentoring/emotional support.

Someone who has fled an abusive relationship often has to cut off contact with family and friends. If there are children involved, this might be a requirement from social services (such as: if you move back to that area, you will lose your child because you’re being a bad parent putting them at risk).

That means being especially isolated when you’re already vulnerable and unwell and stressed. If your case goes to court (and many don’t, due to lack of funds or resources or simply not being able to cope), this can trigger more danger for you and your children. Some women successfully flee an abusive relationship with their child(ren), only to have their children taken away later.

Now imagine that you’re a foster carer or adopter in this situation. You’ve been told by social workers that the child was removed from an abusive family and that you’re “rescuing” them. You’re told the parents are a danger to the children. You’re told about addiction and jail time and all kinds of fairy tale reasons why you now have custody of the perfect parentless child who is yours to shape as you will.

You then go onto social media and repost this false story everywhere. Launch fundraisers, complain that your stipend “isn’t that much,” and say that you need respite care because caregiver burnout is so awful and claim you have “Post adoption depression.”

The reality is that you have no idea what the hell these children have been through. You have no idea what their parents’ situation was like.

Case in point – “Most recently I’ve watched a young lady whose abuser isn’t the parent of her children. He manipulated, punished, and such – until he was able to get the two children to their biological father by feeding him false information. This caused the biological father to be able to gain emergency custody and a restraining order against the mother. All while this same abuser has promised he is “going to help her get her kids back so they can be a family.”

My Parents Didn’t Want Me

From an adoptee –

The adopted child will never feel like they weren’t abandoned, will never feel good enough, will never feel fully part of your world. We are told to be grateful when all we feel is pain, so are we grateful for pain ? This sets up expectations within every single future relationship we will ever have. It never goes away. We have to learn how to deal with it and cope in a world that doesn’t recognize or understand the pain of “my parents didn’t want me”.

Of course, I can’t or wouldn’t pretend to speak for EVERY adopted person but I’ve seen this so often that I know it is an all too common feeling – especially if the adopted person was never given any context as the foundation for having been adopted.

Feelings of loss and rejection are often accompanied by a damaged sense of self esteem. There is an understandable tendency to think that “something must be wrong with me for my birth parents to have give me away.” It must be understood that these feelings and thoughts are unrelated to the amount of love and support received from the adoptive parents and family.

Adoption trauma refers to the shock and pain of being permanently and abruptly separated from biological family members and can affect both the birth parent and the child who is being adopted, given the circumstances of the separation. The level of emotional and mental difficulty, as well as the long-term impact of adoption trauma, varies depending on the child’s age, maturity level, and other circumstances involved in the adoption.

The person who has been adopted, even if now living in a loving and stable home, has lost their birth parents as well as a sense of being biologically linked to other family members. The individual’s sense of loss may not be acknowledged or may be downplayed. 

Feeling abandoned early in life can lead to attachment issues in adults who have been adopted. Those early social experiences, including loss and rejection, create individual differences in security, which shape relational attitudes and behaviors. Being adopted may be associated with a sense of having been rejected or abandoned by birth parents, and of ‘‘not belonging.’’ Adoption may be linked with perceptions that the individual is unworthy of love and attention or that other people are unavailable, uncaring, and rejecting.

Adult adoptees often feel hurt that their birth parents did not or could not raise them. Hurt that their sense of self was harder to obtain. Hurt that they, to this day, feel different or outcast. Both happiness and sadness can be felt together. Asking an adoptee if he or she is “happy” with his or her adoption journey is a double-edged sword, for adoption is not possible without loss. And with loss comes sadness. They may feel angry that they do not know the truth of their identity.

Many adoptees find it difficult to express the hurt and loss they feel, for fear of upsetting their adoptive parents. While this emotional withholding is unintentional, it creates feelings of isolation. Feelings that often continue into adulthood. Sometimes, love and loneliness go hand in hand. Being loved is wondrous, but it doesn’t prevent loneliness.

A reluctance to discuss the adoption reinforces the idea that adoption is some really negative condition. Therefore, either the birth parents were horrible, unfeeling people, or that the adoptee was somehow so undesirable that the birth parents could not bear to keep him/her. An adoptee is often told that only the adoption agency/adoptive parents saved the child’s life by rescuing him/her. Given the alternative between a self-concept of being undesirable or a projected concept of birth parents as unloving and unfit, most individuals choose the latter.

For a baby being adopted, there is no getting around the fact that this infant must make an abrupt shift in bonding, whether it happens at birth, at three days, or at six months. How that is interpreted to the child, and by the child, and for the rest of his/her life, matters. Tt is ludicrous to say that adoptees have no different issues in life than do those who are not adopted, whether adopted at birth or sometime later, such as through the foster care system. It is not correct or helpful to portray adoptees as “lucky” to be adopted by wonderful adoptive parents. This puts an incredible burden on the adoptee to feel grateful to the adoptive parents, and/or the adoption system, It is a burden not put upon non-adopted people.

The idea that the adoptee was abandoned and rejected by birth parents and rescued by adoptive parents reinforces expectations and perceptions concerning all parties in an adoption, adoptees, adoptive parents, and too often in the industry, discounts the birth parents’ feelings and continued existence. Is it possible to find a more positive way of dealing with life’s experiences, including being adopted, having to relinquish a child, losing a pregnancy, adopting a child, or having a relationship not turn out the way we had hoped ? As a society, we continue to search for the appropriate balance regarding these kinds of experiences.