Difficult Conversations

 

Regarding transracial adoptions . . . the legitimate question was asked –

Do you honestly feel that you are competent enough to explain to your Children of Color what is happening right now in the World?

I have been on the phone all morning with P’s Momma & Daddy.

Checking in… LISTENING… Crying… Asking how I can support them… Admitting my inabilities because I am WHITE… & Handing over the reins to the best Parents to navigate this situation because it is what is RIGHT for a Child we all love!

My heart is so broken…
Broken that this is a reality.
Broken that there are people in this world that can be like this.
Broken that I cannot truly empathize with a part of my family that I love & hold dear.
But I am also extremely grateful that a relationship exists where these very important conversations & interactions are able to happen.

One foster parent answers –

I am not competent and I know that. If anyone has some advice I will gladly take it. I have been letting her view and search for information without obstruction. She’s had questions and I’ve answered to the best of my ability but I’ve also let her know when I don’t know. We went to our local protest on the first day (and early) before they started teargassing. But when we got home we watch live what was happening in the same place where we were just standing. I myself have been reading and trying to learn so that when she has more questions I can do better. But yeah, if anyone has other advice, bring it on.

Another responded with this –

It’s better done by a person of color with whom kids have a safe relationship. I don’t need to whitesplain. Of course I can be there but I am not a POC. I defer to POC.

Yet another perspective was this –

The most aware and capable white person will never be good enough to raise a child of color. This is why I’m absolutely against TransRacial Adoption. Black kids belong in black families. If they aren’t prepared to live life when they are no longer under the umbrella of white privilege, it becomes a matter of life and death.

I would have to say I agree . . .

 

 

When A Parent Dies

When a parent dies, children can end up with strangers – either in foster care or through adoption.  At one time as my husband and I were rewriting our trust documents, having learned about the realities of a foster care system that sends a young person out the door with no resources at the age of 18, we made provisions to lower the age at which our children could access the financial accounts we had created for them.  Originally, we were more concerned about immature mismanagement of the funds.  From this new awareness, we realized those funds might be critical to our children’s survival, if they lost us.

Losing a parent at any age can be life changing but losing a parent while still in childhood robs the child of important supports going forward.  Death is absolute, so no well-meaning person can change that reality.  If there is no other person – another parent, grandparent or extended family willing to step in – then child welfare and the courts step in.

Even for a young child, closure is necessary, even if understanding is lacking.   Death is an important and natural part of life. Whenever possible, there should be an opportunity to be with someone in death, who has meant something to you in life. It is true, it can be a traumatic shock the first time one sees a dead person but it is also instructive. The intimacy of “saying goodbye” before a burial can help heal a young person’s loss, all the way into adulthood.

Even adult adopted children can be very wounded by being deprived of experiencing the death of their loved one.  When my mom tried to get her adoption file from the state of Tennessee in the 1990s, she was rejected (she was a Georgia Tann adoptee).  More devastating than the rejection was learning that her mother had already died and that door to connect with her forever closed.

Never deny a child this opportunity.  Think about it – who wouldn’t go to their parent’s funeral, regardless of age?  The reality is that it will hurt.  That is death.  Every child (adopted, in foster care or otherwise) deserves a chance to say goodbye.

Somehow Adoption Continues

Catch me if you can.  Has the effort to adopt hit a pause button given the current circumstances ?  It seems it has not.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, our daily lives have all been affected in a way that none of us were anticipating just a few weeks ago. So you might think that now isn’t the ideal time to consider adoption.  The for profit adoption industry does not think so.

One adoption blog seems to be saying “now is actually a great time to begin or reinvigorate your adoption plans. Difficult times bring a greater need for adoptive parents.  Adoptions have increased in the past few weeks because women want more for their children and babies. They are turning to adoption during the coronavirus.”

Desperate times seem to increase desperation.  Somehow we lose the sense that this is all temporary.  The uncertainty causes us to question our ability to meet the challenge and survive.

This adoption agency wants to encourage more adoptions, even in the midst of this crisis, it appears that they have sensed this as a marketing opportunity.  They note – “with the world in turmoil and with financial situations uncertain, we find that more women are contacting us, looking for a stable, loving family to adopt their baby. They love their child enough to do what is best for them. They know they need a family stable enough to weather the storm. A family that will be able to protect and care for their child no matter the circumstances.”

Well fear does this to people but the decision to surrender your child is a permanent solution.  It actually reflects a lack of trust that the future will be better and that we will all get through this somehow.  It causes a young woman to doubt herself as capable.  This is a sad state of affairs.

It is true that people are generally stressed now.  That should not make it a good time to take advantage of a woman in a state of hyped up fear.  One expectant mother shared what she is going through right now –

“Some family friends of mine are giving their (unsolicited) opinion that I should seriously consider adoption since I am currently unemployed and it is not realistic for me to get a job amidst the virus, being pregnant and having had asthma as a kid. They seem to think I need to make the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ and give her ‘a good life’. If the only people who can give a child a good life are the few that can properly afford to adopt, then huge demographics of people are morally wrong for having children apparently. Including the people who said I should place her. I was so upset that I was crying yesterday, just for being told that.”

Let’s have more compassion people.

How Grief Passes Down the Family Line

A dear friend pointed out that I don’t seem to believe I have the right to be a mother.  The circumstances of my life have done this to me.  The tears come.  She was quite perceptive.

She noted that on a photo of my daughter and her family (children and husband) I wrote – that I could take no credit for the wonderful person she is because I didn’t raise her after the age of 3.  My friend noted – When men take your children away they really do a number on women.

This is sadly true and it has happened to me with ALL of my children in one way or another.  So, my ex-husband ended up raising my daughter when my own desperation to financially support us led me to try driving an 18-wheel truck to make some decent money because he simply refused to pay any child support and I wasn’t going to spend my life in court fighting against him.

Truth be told, I never intended for him to raise her.  I left her with her paternal grandmother for temporary care that I had no idea how long that would be needed.  The grandmother could be forgiven for viewing that as my having abandoned her.  That was never my perspective but I can see how it may have looked that way as the days turned into weeks and then months.

That her father could give her a family life with siblings had everything to do with my not even attempting to interrupt that blessing (which is how I saw it though I have learned recently that “blessed” was not exactly how it was experienced by her and more’s the sorrow in this mother’s heart).  She rightly views her step-mother as her mother and who am I to argue with that perception.

Then there are my sons who are donor conceived.  Therefore, I do see them as more rightfully my husband’s than my own.  Again, robbed of my own children by the circumstances of my life which I do not claim that I am a victim of but the one who made every choice to bring these circumstances about.

So I wonder about the grief that is passed down the generations.  Both of my parents were adopted.  Therefore, BOTH of my own grandmothers suffered the same kind of grief I experience and my sisters experience (both of my sisters also lost either by surrendering to adoption or the courts) an opportunity to raise their own children.

The only good thing I can say about it all at this point is that our children have survived and are managing to raise their own children, even a nephew who in a sense is fulfilling my friend’s insight as he has custody of his own son after a divorce.  You just can’t make this stuff up.

 

 

If It Was So Good . . .

why am I so unhappy ?

It is a paradox and difficult to explain beyond the fact that fear and trauma put the child into a survival mechanism.  Yes, even with a loving and kind, caring adoptive family, an adoptee can feel messed up a lot of the time.  The adoptee may rationally feel like they should be okay with having been adopted by such nice people.  Yet, they are sad.  There is a trauma that exists deep down in every adoptee whether they ever become aware of it or not.  Adoption by strangers is never a normal experience in reality.

Adoptive parents may say, “My adopted child is so close to me.  It is like they are attached at the hip.”  While this may seem like a good thing, and the adoptive parent interprets this to mean that their child is well adjusted and/or bonded to them, it is actually a fear driven survival instinct in response to an abandonment, even if the child could never define it as such to their adoptive parent.

Sadly, the perspective of many adoptive parents is something akin to owning a possession.  In some adoptees, the response to the adoptive parents is similar to repulsion.  While an adoptee may attach, it is an attachment based on a longing for what is not there between the adopted child and the adoptive parents.  It is inescapable that all adoptees are deprived of something fundamental that affects them developmentally.

The young adopted child will eventually stop crying for the need that can never be met.  Unfortunately, in this surrender, the adoptee is seen as “such a good baby”.  By the time this happens, the adoptee’s attachment style has already been deeply altered.  They adapt.

Adoptees know how to use all of the different attachment coping styles, and switch between them based on the specific situation they find themselves in. Very little of what they are expressing outside reflects their true internal feelings.  It is not how they are really feeling or what they are really needing.  Mostly it is about appeasing the adult who is caring for them.  It is a survival tactic.  Always, what is seen, is even so, coming out of a deep and unaddressed trauma.

Acceptance

My adoptee mom shared with me before she died that she had to stop working on the family tree at Ancestry that she had been creating from the lineage of the adoptive parents (my dad was also an adoptee).  She said “It just wasn’t real to me.  I am adopted.”  Then she added, “Glad I was.” because she had reached a place of acceptance that she would never know her origins and whether having been adopted was actually a “good” thing or not.

Acceptance is a phase of grieving.  My mom grieved that her original mother had died before her search began.  Arriving at acceptance can feel lighter, more balanced and has the ability to realize what all of our experiences have brought to us.

Adoptees will likely struggle with what it means to belong to two families.  Coming to terms with that, could also make comfortable – duality, complexity and ambiguity.  An adoptee may be able to see both/and rather than either/or.

What will always be true is that an adoptee can never be not adopted. That’s a given.

Adoption can add an element of compassion.  There is no getting around the reality that the adoptee was given up.  Taken in by strangers. There are consequences to both.

Healing can happen when an adoptee can accept that what happened, happened. This was their fate. They were surrendered by one mother and raised by a different one.  An adoptee can’t avoid the pain that is part of that experience.

Platitudes such as “everything happens for a reason” or “it’s all part of God’s plan” are not helpful.  Nor are attitudes that an adult adoptee should simply “move on” or “get over it” or “stop dwelling in the past”.  These are not helpful either. The past is an adoptee’s history, their identity, their connection to a concept of family.

Babies adopted shortly after birth experience a trauma so early in life that there is no “before” the trauma to return to.  Consider that.  Add to it the pain adoptees experience by being mostly invalidated by society.

So better words don’t include a non-adoptee’s judgement of what would have been better or worse.  A simple acknowledgement of fact is enough.  Adoption can’t be undone.

Even so, an adoptee can know that they are also a survivor with those kinds of strengths and gifts. The adoption system is deeply flawed.  Seeking to reform it is a worthy outcome for having gone through the experience.

A High Price

While adoption may “succeed” in one sense, providing the financial aspects of a child’s survival and in the best cases even love, it comes at a high price.

A price so high that I question why the practice is used so cavalierly.

I think we could reduce the incidence of children removed from their original parents without ending the value of adoption for the children who will do better if they are raised by other surrogate “parents”.

Many adult adoptees believe the particulars (birth name, birth date, actual parents) of a child’s original identity should never be changed. That the surrogates should not be “parents” but guardians instead. The process still needs to be “better” than the average “foster care” which seems to result in less than optimum outcomes at times.