Adoption Is Hard

As a society, we fail single mothers and we fail struggling families. We don’t provide the resources that would prevent the surrender of a child to adoption that we could. It’s amazing that it is next to impossible to google any articles on this issue. Most are advising hopeful adoptive families how not to experience a disrupted adoption experience. Almost everywhere I looked, the articles were pro-adoption.

The closest I found to a genuine admission “adoption is hard” was in this article that is not from an entirely un-biased entity (Catholic Charities) but it does describe accurately some of the obstacles adoptees encounter in trying to uncover their original identities.

My adoptive parents were “forward thinking” for their time and always told me that I was adopted. There was no surprise there. I was not the kid that asked a lot of questions and was content in what I knew – my birth mother was 16 and my birth father was a little older. In graduate school I decided it might be interesting to search for my birth family so I made some initial inquiries and found out in Pennsylvania it was not an easy process, for my type of adoption, to initiate a search – ADOPTION IS HARD. I let it go at the time and moved on. 

In 2016, I really wanted to know where I came from. Where did I get my green eyes, my nose, what was my ethnic heritage, did I have any similar traits to my birth mother ? So I began with the attorney who facilitated my adoption. He claimed to have no recollection of the adoption – ADOPTION IS HARD. Next I went to the courts (still called orphan court in Pennsylvania) and was told they had no records based on the little information I had – ADOPTION IS HARD. 

Like my own adoptee mother, this woman decided to try Ancestry DNA – and besides now knowing my ethnic heritage – struck out again – ADOPTION IS HARD. Pretty much matches my own mother’s experience there (though I have made much more progress since my mother’s death using Ancestry).

Yet, something a bit magical did happen for this woman. One night a Facebook message popped up on her phone. The moment she read that a woman had an Ancestry DNA match that listed me as a “close relative.” She had been searching for her sister who had been adopted for years. Turns out that this time the answer was a YES. She was that sister.

Then she began talking with her sister, her birth mother, two other sisters, and a brother (yes there are 4 siblings). Life got real. ADOPTION GOT HARD. You learn things that are HARD. You learn that your birth father wanted you to be aborted. You learn that your birth mother stood up to her own family in order to carry you to term. You learn that your birth mother, on the day you turned 18, contacted the same attorney you had, to leave her information with him “in case” she ever contacted him (yeah, clearly he lied to her in 2016). You learn once again that ADOPTION IS HARD.

She goes on to say – as she was writing, 4 months had passed since the day her world changed. “I can say that it has mostly been for the better. But it has not come without it’s hardships. My body is manifesting externally what I am processing internally in physical ways which has sent me on many trips to the doctors and multiple tests. On the flip side it is good, I am slowly getting to know the family that shares my blood. I love seeing what we have in common while also learning about our uniqueness.”

I write this blog to share the stories I encounter and continue to try to put into perspective my own parents’ adoptions. I have a desire to educate others affected by adoption about the realities. Whether these are adoptive families, people who have friends or family who have been adopted, or other adoptees, my message is ADOPTION IS HARD. It comes with trauma. Adoption comes with loss. Adoptees are the one group of the triad who have no say about adoption, the decision is made for them. Birth parents and adoptive parents alike need to respect that and understand that. This is about their lives, and their stories. 

I know it isn’t possible for me to speak for every adoptee out there. Each has their own unique story and journey. No one should ever forget that each adoptee’s story began with loss and eventually that loss is going to emerge. I know it did for my mom because she shared this with me as my also adopted dad wasn’t supportive of her efforts.

Fake News

My all things adoption Facebook group is all about reforming the practice. The first step is waking people up. When I first joined this group, I was just beginning to learn who my original grandparents were (both of my parents were adopted). Because adoption was the most natural thing in the world in my own family, I was totally in the adoption fog, even though I was not adopted myself. It was so normal in my family that both of my sisters gave up babies to adoption – one did it as her intentional choice, the other one wanted to keep her daughter but could not access the support to do so. Unbelievably to me now, my own mother who was actually troubled or at the least conflicted about her own adoption (believing she had been stolen from her birth parents by Georgia Tann) pressured my sister to relinquish her daughter to adoption.

So today’s story speaks to me of how society’s perspectives on adoption are based on illusions. Here it is –

I joined the group because I have always wanted to adopt a child. In my head (because of media, and various stories I’ve heard elsewhere) there are hundreds of thousands of children, maybe even millions, out there suffering and in desperate need of a loving home. I was SO convinced this is true that I believed having my own child was selfish. I’m not infertile or anything….I just had visions of helping a child… or even multiple children. I joined the group hoping to learn more about the adoption process and how best to help a child through the process. Boy – was I naive. Thank you ALL for your sharing your stories and providing an education that I never would have gotten if it wasn’t for this group. Seriously. Thank you. I am now no longer interested in adoption in the way the current system is run. But – it has left me with a deep wanting to help children and moms who go have to go through the system. It seems like poverty is the main reason children are pulled from their homes. What is the best way to be helpful, reunify, provide resources (what resources?) help the birth mothers, etc.?

One commenter wrote –  I’ve realized the best way I can help is at the source. If through the foster care system I am fostering pregnant and parenting teens to make sure the cycle won’t continue and help them keep their own babies. If it’s outside of the system same idea. Help at the source without removing the child. Offer babysitting, a room in your house, groceries, transportation, professional clothes and a hair dresser for interviews, etc. to do it right the focus is on the parents and supporting the parents.

Some more advice –

If you learn of a mother to be who is – for whatever reason – struggling/considering adoption for her baby/vulnerable take her under your wing and offer to help her educate herself and find balance, so she can focus.

Saving Our Sisters will educate and offer guidance and assistance.

Safe Families may have resources but be cautious as some factions are related to adoption agencies and highly religious.

The Family Preservation Project is a great site for education and resources.

Promote preserving the family….both in foster settings and vulnerable pregnancies. Our society loves to takes babies from parents who are “less than” (pffffttttt) and give them to the almighty “better than” (no, nope, nada)!!!!! Change in this area is an uphill journey but the more we speak of how critical it is for the children to be preserved in the family they were born into, the sooner THAT message will begin to drown out the child snatchers!

Not In Touch With The Reality

The incoming stimulus checks are on a lot of people’s mind these days. Included in this contingent are hopeful adoptive parents who plan to increase their adoption fund with the check. At the same time, there will be a lot of struggling families including single moms who be putting their stimulus towards keeping their own children so that they aren’t taken away by social services due to poverty. And poverty issues are huge now as we begin to see some glimmers of hope at the end of the long dark COVID tunnel.

Saying things to hopeful adoptive parents like “if hopeful adopters got all their money back, when an unwed mother changed her mind, then we really WOULD be buying and selling babies…” must be repressed to avoid hot tempers.

My heart would love to say – “I would love to give beyond imagined generosity in support of vulnerable women in crisis.” Yeah, I wish that was in my own financial power. No one on social media would react to that one but in adoption focused groups, every comment about how amazing adoption is gets tons of love. BTW adoption is more honestly filled with trauma and wounds of abandonment and rejection but no hopeful adoptive parent wants to perceive that part.

Take a woman who could NEVER do foster care because her biological daughter would be traumatized if they had to send her “sibling” back to be reunified…and yet, that is precisely the official goal of foster care – to give parents some breathing space to address serious issues that interfere with their ability to parent well.

Just today, I learned about a man named Dave Ramsey – he has a blog post, How To Adopt Without Debt. Every other post in adoption related threads is about how he supports families but then, the members of such groups use that advice to encourage hopeful adoptive parents to spend money that will tear someone else’s family apart. Why are they so myopic? BTW, a caution that he does not have a very good reputation regarding his own behaviors, so be aware the advice might not be good advice.

Is it because hopeful adoptive parents simply don’t see their desire to adopt as tearing someone else’s family apart? Are they that blinded by their side of a desire to have a child? Is it that the narrative in adoption support communities is erroneously that these children are always unwanted? Are they judging unwed mothers, or mothers in poverty, from a superiority stance?

The only hope for reform is speaking plainly and honestly about all of these related issues.

Surprising Pandemic Effect

Domestic Infant Adoption and Foster 2 Adopt websites are full of complaints about a shortage of newborn infants put up for adoption this year.

Why might that be?

Simple to explain considering the governments willingness to actually financially support struggling citizens thanks to a pandemic. Extended unemployment that can be claimed by parents without daycare. Extra Electronic Benefit Transfers (EBT), small stimulus checks, the availability of food banks and free school breakfast/ lunch meals delivered and extended to homes with school age children and the stopping of evictions….

A truly ‘small amount’ of help can make all the difference to a mom in an overwhelming situation….

Most domestic infant adoptions are poverty driven. Single mom’s and two parent families facing joblessness, homelessness, poverty, lack of daycare, depression and helplessness will sometimes give up a child that they would otherwise LOVE to parent.

Many of these struggling families, with just a fraction of the ‘Go Fund Me’ money that hopeful adoptive parents frequently raise to fund their adoption expenses …. would be enough to allow these mom’s or parents to continue to parent their own natural children.

Clearly society can do better than we have been doing in the past. We’ve proven it. Now as a society, we need to prove we can continue to do as much to help families succeed. It is in the interest of stable citizens raised well that we should.

Hopes & Wishes

For some time now, I’ve been writing these adoption related blogs every day. I don’t think I have missed many, if I’ve even missed any. I often wonder what there is left to say . . . and then something arises and off my fingers go to type up a new one.

I know my perspectives have grown since I started writing these. A lot of credit for that goes to my all things adoption Facebook group – where I often find stories and perspectives to pass along here without revealing any sensitive or private details. I hope that by sharing these, my readers also find their perspectives broadening along the way.

When I first joined that group, it wasn’t long before one of the members called me out on my unicorns and rainbows happy perspectives on adoption. It hurt at the time but it was an important wake up call and I do believe I have emerged entirely from what is known as adoptionland fog.

Because both of my parents were adopted and both of my sisters gave up babies to adoption, what is actually a VERY UN-NATURAL practice seemed entirely normal to me. Yet, now that I know who my grandparents are – I’ve added their birthdates to my annual birthday calendar – because I wasn’t able to acknowledge them in their lifetimes. It matters to me.

I now think of my adoptive grandparents and aunts, uncles and cousins as placeholders for the real thing I lacked. This isn’t a judgement of them. They probably all viewed it as natural to our lives as I did but it really isn’t. I don’t even think of them as related to me anymore. But I do have a history with them and have felt their love and concern over the years, especially during my own childhood.

And adoptionland IS changing slowly but surely, one family at a time. In my all things adoption group, expectant mothers are often encouraged and even financially supported to the best of our ability (such as with Amazon gift registries) to keep their babies. It is more of a walk the walk than simply talk the talk group and I am proud of that.

Adoptees and former foster care youth are PRIVILEGED voices in that group, as they should be for they have the direct experience to open the minds and hearts of the public in general. Many people who have already adopted are learning to be more sensitive and to do the already reality situation better, including honesty, truthfulness and attempts to keep their adopted children connected to their biological/genetic families and at times, even culture (when that is different than the adoptive parents’ own culture).

My hope and certainly my wish is for our society to be more supportive of struggling families in EVERY WAY POSSIBLE and to see adoption no longer a choice that couples realizing infertility feel privileged to make – taking some other family’s baby to pretend that child was born to them.

A change it is a comin’ and I am grateful to be part of that. Happy New Year.

Misplaced Priorities

I could sound like a broken record stuck on repeat but here goes anyway.

Society’s first priority should be the support of and encouragement for natural families.  I was reading today about how many churches have programs to assist those persons who provide foster care or are adopting a child with all kinds of useful items.  Why don’t we do this for struggling families ?  Particularly now with the economic impacts of the COVID pandemic, when people are being evicted, worried about feeding their families due to a loss of income or expecting the electricity, gas and/or water to be cut off anytime.  It is bad enough that looking for one’s weekly grocery items feels like living in a third world country instead of what we had thought of the United States as – a first world country – but it seems we have lost that standing to greed and corruption at the top of the government and among the wealthiest citizens.

Okay, enough of my political rant but really ?  Check out this wish list recently posted by a church for new foster parents to help them “get by” –

Lots of food of all kinds.  For example, gift cards to restaurants, fast dinners like Bertoli pasta bags, frozen pizzas, PF Chang’s frozen dinners or even ready to eat, hot meals delivered throughout the first two weeks. Lots of requests for babysitting options such as volunteers that can come and watch the kids while you run errands, provide the freedom for a date night out, or a day of rest or time to enjoy adult activities, maybe even just take a nap or be quiet for an hour.  A full house deep clean from a local cleaning company or maid service.  Car detailing, “movie night” (dvd or Redbox code, popcorn, candies/snacks), board games, amazon gift cards and gas cards (for all the appointments).  A deal with a furniture store for a percentage off of bunk beds, dressers, lamps, etc.  Gift cards for lessons to whatever… swim, music, baseball, haircuts, lawncare, homecare/maintenance, bug man, carcare/maintenance, pretty much anything a regular family would need/use.

Notice something ?  A pattern is emerging.  It all about the adults, the parents, and not about the traumatized children placed with them.  And wouldn’t a struggling family be content with less frivolous luxuries ?  The priorities of charitable people need to be reconsidered and revised to help families stay intact, instead of tearing them apart.

Clueless

“Hey guys.I’m a single woman who’s plan was to start applying to adopt/foster in my state. Sad story was that my social worker said that I wasn’t allowed to receive any government help like 0. I have to have a job which that’s mandatory at least with this agency. And I’m not complaining about having a job either or I’m still planing on working at some point the thing that caught me off guard was her response to government aid must be 0. Yes all the way from food stamps to government funded apartments that’s a huge No, causing disqualification to apply. I spoke with my therapist and since I have bipolar 1 she told me that it would be best to postpone the plan of adoption/foster care all together for now, my therapist even said that she does not want me to feel sad if at the end foster/adoption care is not an option for me even if I truly wanted to make a difference, since the agency is strict on keeping government out of the picture.
Any thoughts?
Advice?
Does this sound fair or unfair ?”

It’s hard to know where to start . . .

Not surprisingly, came this satirical response –

Um. Totally unfair. You should totally be jobless and on government assistance because you’ll get PLENTY of money to live on saving these kids from their parents on government assistance. If you take like 8 kids at a time you’ll make serious bank, and BONUS if you take some older kids with the younger kids you never have to do anything because the older kids can do all the cooking and cleaning and diaper changes! Yay! Also, f**k this bitch.

More to the point, came this one –

Someone sounds like they need to get their own life in order before, erm, “helping” (themselves to someone else’s children)…

And even more to the point –

Yes, it is very reasonable. FYI, they may also want to talk about your being bipolar, review your meds and/or want to talk to your therapist or get a statement from them that they recommended you would do well with foster care. Here’s the thing: all of the kids in foster care are going through big time trauma. They need someone who is financially and emotionally stable to help them through it.

In a lot of cases, poverty and mental illness have a lot to do with why the kids came into care. It’s kinda hypocritical to take them out of that just to place them right back into it. For example, the case plan might say that the parents have to get a job to get the kids back. So in the meantime, they stay with you, but you don’t have a job?

It’s great that you want to help, but what do you mean by foster/adopt? If you’re getting into foster care to adopt, just don’t, you won’t have the right mindset and it will not be good for you or the kids. What do you mean by your agency keeping government out of the picture? Foster Care =government, so I’m not really understanding that.

And finally –

She should talk to all these birth families who lose their biological children for bipolar disorder and because they were seeking mental health help and were in poverty or disabled. This post makes me angry because it seems so out of touch with reality.

Foster kids are not a prop or little adventure to embark on. You can’t just (or SHOULDN’T just) be a foster parent because you randomly decide you “love kids” and “it’s your calling.”

You can’t just decide you’re gonna be a foster parent when nothing in your life is in order to do so.

Mental health, unemployment, needing to rely on the system….. these are some of the causes for kids to be removed from their biological parents.  Our society would be better off extending the services and finances to the natural families so that they can keep their own children.

Morally and Ethically Wrong

An adoptive parent disclosed that she receives $4,000 per month in adoption subsidies for 3 children.  These children do not have any physical or intellectual disabilities.  They do not have any known medical conditions.

The fact is that states can pay not only foster parents but adoptive parents as much as $4,000 per month for 3 children.  Homeless parents are often working one or more jobs and still can’t find affordable, income-based housing.  How is this fair ?

Often adoptive parents are the first ones to say that the natural parents need to be able to provide for their kids “on their own”.

How can people not see why and how this is problematic and how morally and ethically wrong this is.  Some even justify this as a fair situation. Something is terribly wrong in our society that we do not give full support to struggling families but instead take their children away from them and pay complete strangers to care for them.

I didn’t even know adoption subsidies were a thing.

And to be clear, not EVERY adoption qualifies and it varies by state law. Often, there does have to be some kind of  ‘special needs’, though that is a broad category that includes sibling groups, children over 6 years, minorities as well as physical or mental disabilities.

Sadly, many of the original parents who surrender children for adoption do so because they believe not having enough money defines them as not being good enough to parent a child.

Here is one story to highlight the unfairness –

There was a couple who adopted a sibling group. This family makes a 6 figure income.  The couple was childless for 14 years. All of the adopted children received Medicaid, the family received a substantial subsidy, and all of the children were eligible to attend a public university of their choosing free for 4 years.

The kids never had to do “without” the basics growing up (though they did not have their biological mom which is always a significant loss). All of the children are now adults.

The husband does very very well in his profession. The couple never actually “needed” a dime of assistance nor did they ever have to pay for healthcare for the children. To their credit, the couple did make trusts for the children.

It is just hard to understand why a sibling group is automatically considered “special needs” . Why is this kind of financial support not “income based”, like every natural parent would be faced with ?

And this is basically political. Universal health care, living wage, other so-called “socialist” policies would address all these issues struggling families face.  Hard core capitalist each have their own version of America.  No one would ever need to remove children from parents simply for poverty. Not doing this creates an insanely expensive, ineffective child welfare system, and a lot of suffering. And again, this is a voting issue.