MIA Fathers

In adoptionland, it seems that most of the attention is on moms. Birth mothers, adoptive mothers, women who are mature adoptees. Certainly, the gestation of a baby is a huge bonding reality that is severed, if a child is removed from their mother or adopted out after birth.

It is hard to locate as much information about how men feel if they lose their fatherhood. Lots of stuff about men’s fathers dying but less about the impact on men, if they lose the opportunity to parent their children. Lots of stuff about the negative impact of absentee fathers on their children.

I did find one man’s blog in which he describes that since becoming a father himself, he now judges the value of potential friends based upon how they treat their own children. I did find that interesting. I do believe that men do care about their children – my children have different fathers. My daughter has the father that I married at the end of high school. I have written in the past how he ended up raising her with a step-mother, though that was never my own intention.

My two sons have their father because he wanted to be a father badly enough to accept a novel means of conceiving them. Because he was ready to be a father, he has been awesome in his role in the boys’ lives. I believe that readiness is an important factor is whether a man is successful at becoming a father (and in that case, regarding the likelihood of a divorce severing him from his children). I believe readiness is an important factor in determining how willingly a man goes the extra mile for his children.

You may find this blog by CJ Nigh, who writes as Undead Dad, interesting. He describes himself as an East Coast writer with a Midwestern soul. He describes his blog as being about mindful fatherhood in the deadening age of hyper-technology and over-work. I think you may enjoy reading this offering – Finding Out Your Friend is an Absent Parent – for Father’s Day.

It would also be worthwhile to read this piece in Psychology Today – Father Absence, Father Deficit, Father Hunger – subtitled – The vital importance of paternal presence in children’s lives. I totally agree – parents are forcefully removed from their children’s lives, as daily caregivers, by misguided family court judgments. We have laws and policies that devalue the importance of parents in children’s lives and parental involvement as being critical to children’s well-being. In most cases, children benefit from having access to both parents—and parents need the support of social institutions in order to be there for their kids.

Just Babysitting ?

An adoptee wrote – for Christmas, I would just love for an adoptive parent to honestly say that they just feel like they are babysitting someone else’s child. I feel like that’s how I would feel if I were an adoptive parent and I wonder if they really think they are that child’s parents…

I thought this was a rather novel perspective and will share with you a few responses to this.

From an adoptive parent –

 I did feel that way and my husband did too. It took time for us to become a family. We became a family when our daughter was just shy of 5. It took time, attachment takes time. Earning trust takes time. My daughter has expressed she was scared when she met us. TOTALLY FAIR! I would have been worried if she wasn’t to be honest.

Adoption is so awful, and so hard, and I more than anything wish that her birth parents were known and could be involved. Heck! Would have been great for our daughter to be known and loved and cherished by her birth family. We don’t know why she needed adoption in her life. Likely poverty.

And it’s so so sad and disheartening to know that was likely their reality. One day hopefully sooner rather than later (with the help of a lot of technology) we will find them and she can know what it is like to have those relationships and call them “home” too.

Another adoptive parent said – while I love my adopted daughters, I know that I’m just caring for them, and loving them until they are able to leave and search out the rest of their birth family. I try to connect with various members of their birth families but no one responds to my efforts. I’ve told them that they may respond to them when they are adults and ask about them and if that’s something they want to pursue in years to come I will support them. They are still quite young to have that responsibility, but when they are ready, I’ll be there to help.

I believe they love me, and they are happy with me. But I know it’s not their first or even second choice. It was just the only one. I’m preparing myself already for all the many scenarios that may play out in the coming years. I am not and will never be their mother. They have a mother, and she’s passed all too recently. I am a motherly figure in their lives but I will never be their mom, and I will never try to take her place.

Yet another adoptive parent writes – Adoption was simply a last resort for these kids to give them some stability in life. It was not something that was planned, or desired on my part. These girls along with my biological daughter are my whole entire world. I live and breathe for them. I am a better person because of them. But I know they aren’t mine. They will forever and always be my girls, they will forever and always be our family. No matter what happens, my door will always be open for them. They can always come back.

I know my place in their lives. I know that while they were happy to be adopted to have a home they don’t have to leave, it’s not what they wanted. I know that they want their family, whatever family they can find. And I know that there’s a huge possibility that as soon as they turn 18 they will leave and search out their family. And I’m okay with that. I’m here to support them. I will drive them, pack their things, whatever they need. That’s my job. Loving them unconditionally means supporting them, even when it destroys me.

And now for balance perhaps, an adoptee’s voice –

My adoptive parents were my parents. They loved my brother and I. They worked hard for us, provided for us, loved us, taught us, nurtured us, instilled goodness in us and sacrificed for us.

They were not mere babysitters to us.

They were parents and family to us and responsible for us.

My birth mother has been a curse for me, a rotten haggard hypocrite to me, a liar and manipulator to me, a shameful and shamefilled harbinger of sorrow for me and I wouldn’t let her babysit my soiled laundry for me. I’m not in the fog. I’m not blinded by the adoption narrative. I’m not naive, grateful or meek. I hate the adoption system. I hate that my rights are superseded and ignored and that my personal information, identity and birth certificate are denied to me. I hate what adoption does and that the general belief is that it is inherently and unquestionably good, despite the evidence of Adoptees lived experiences, but I won’t allow the other extreme you put forward be my truth.

I’ve had enough people…stranger’s opinions be expressed on my behalf, silencing me and my truth, to let this post go unchallenged. Adoption has too many faults and many adopters have too many faults for anybody’s liking. Standards, policies and procedures are severely lacking. The system is not fit for purpose. No arguments here. But it is unfortunately, necessary in some cases.

My birth mother was 30 years old when she had me…her second mistake…that we know of. I hate her AND I hate the adoption system. Full blown despise them. My adoptive parents were not perfect, I don’t think they ever claimed to be, nor are biological parents. I’m a biological parent, I’m in no way perfect.

To which this blog author can honestly say – me too, sister.

What Happens When

A woman throws her baby away in a dumpster. That is what happened to the man above when he was only hours old. His mother was a drug addict. She said she couldn’t stand looking at him for whatever reason she felt that way.

When he was discovered, the police called child services who immediately put him into foster care. His foster parents took in more than 100 foster kids during their lives. He one, of only two, they ever adopted. They were nearing 70 when he came into their lives. Adopting a newborn baby wasn’t part of their plans. However, they didn’t want to leave him in the foster care system.

The poor little boy growing up in a small town where everyone knows everything was bullied in his public school days and called Dumpster Baby. He was 10 years old when his adoptive father told him his origins story. He thought: did somebody really throw me away? Am I trash or a person? It bothered him for a long time but he did overcome it. He had the love of an adoptive mother and father to assist him.

This is the kind of case where adoption makes sense to me. However, his life with these elderly adoptive parents wasn’t all roses and sunshine. His father wasn’t physically able to throw a football around, so he became fascinated with technology. He read encyclopedias cover to cover. He admits, “We grew up in an impoverished environment. We went to thrift stores; we went dumpster diving. In 1989, when I was eight, my father bought me a secondhand Macintosh, for $24 from a flea market. It didn’t work, so I opened it up and noticed some capacitors were burst. My father was a maintenance worker and had a soldering gun. I took parts from the clock radio to put in the computer. After about 50 attempts, I got it to work.”

This $24 gift and a father with some tools changed this man’s life. He goes on to say, “After that, computers were my escape. I was still being bullied and didn’t have any friends. That computer became my best friend. I was in an education program called Children Are Our Future; the director saw a gift in me and let me work in the computer lab. I’d replace hard drives and add RAM. She encouraged me to start my own business repairing computers.”

“At 12, I got my first job, working after school at the city hall as a computer technician. I helped develop an internet service protocol to tie all of the city agencies together. I pushed myself to the limit. I learned everything I could about Windows. By 14, I’d started writing code; after that, I remember sitting at a computer for two days in a row without even being hungry. I loved it.”

He is inventive and developed a tracking software for elderly people with dementia (because he had to do that find his adoptive father when he would wander off. He passed away in 2014). H also developed a meter to monitor glucose levels in diabetics via Bluetooth. Those are just 2 of over 80 custom software programs he has written. Today at 31 years old, he is the CEO of Figgers Communication. He also created the Figgers Foundation to help children in foster care all around the world. For example, this Christmas they’re buying 25,000 bicycles to give away.

He credits his adoptive parents for showing him compassion and the power of having good people around you.

Adding Insult To Injury

We are living through uncertain times.  Many people feel un-moored from their usual sources of confidence that all will be well.  Children who have been adopted or are in foster care find their worlds upended.  Lacking consistency, routine, and an overall feeling of stability and security as their personal worlds are being shaken up again by the Coronavirus and the efforts to contain the spread of that infection.

Schools have closed and public community events through which diverse people usually bond are cancelled.  Instead of joining together in common experience we are forced to isolate ourselves from one another.  At least we have modern technology to keep us connected while maintaining a safe distance from one another but life is not routine or what we would conventionally expect as we wake up each day.

For those parents who still have jobs to go to while their children are alone at home, the struggle can be significant.

One of the responsibilities that foster parents face is transporting the children in their home to visitations with their birth parents and biological family members. Often times, visitations take place at child welfare offices, while other times, visitations may occur at public places, such as parks, restaurants, churches, and other public venues. Visitations are important as they help to maintain the relationship between both child and adult. Along with this, many foster parents have very strong relationships with the birth parents and during visitations, trust is built and children can grow and develop in a healthy fashion, as a result.

Yet, those public spaces are now closed to most of us in most locations throughout the United States.  And coming out of the usual wintertime season of colds and flu can complicate things because many of us have all had one thing or another since Thanksgiving and our immunity is generally low.  Essential services such as therapy sessions, drug counseling, and even court appearances have also been affected by Covid 19.

All families face difficulty at this time in our collective history and families with the additional challenges of trauma and regulations face an additional burden on top of the difficulties they face every day.  All families are concerned, and confused, looking for answers and receiving little guidance.  There is no school, foster care related visits are being cancelled, church services are cancelled, and generally all children are now isolated from the friends they depend upon in their everyday lives.  The challenge in an era of social distancing is physical, and tangible, but can’t be solved by throwing dollars at it.

Stay safe, be well.  Come together – though at a distance.  Keep the efforts to slow the spread of this virus going until the assurance that it is once again safe to have greater contact with our fellow human beings becomes more certain.  Patience is necessary and flexibility too.