Feeling Like Damaged Goods

It’s a problem I feel compassion for – from a woman who aged out of foster care . . .

I never was adopted. I almost was and then, my dad got custody. Then, I went back into foster care from the age of 13 until I turned 18. When you’re a teen in foster care, everyone knows no one wants you because you’re too old. It sucks. Like you’re just damaged goods.

Advice to hopeful adoptive parents – Maybe use your desire to reach out and get to know and/or adopt a teen.

I will say from personal experience, it’s not easy. Because for me – I was damaged goods. But I still deserved to know I had worth and was loved. Teenagers also can make choices regarding adoption and name change vs younger kids who can’t. So if you’re wanting to adopt to “be the change”, and not just because you want a baby to cuddle, then actually make real contribution to change. Help someone in foster care who is likely to turn 18 while still in the state’s care. When they look at their future, there seems to be no one there who cares.

National Adoption Month and Teens

It’s that time of year again. Yes, November. National Adoption Awareness Month.

From Child Welfare dot gov – National Adoption Month is an initiative of the Children’s Bureau that seeks to increase national awareness of adoption issues, bring attention to the need for adoptive families for teens in the US foster care system, and emphasize the value of youth engagement. We have focused our efforts on adoption for teens because we know that teens in foster care wait longer for permanency and are at higher risk of aging out than younger children. Teens need love, support, and a sense of belonging that families can provide. Securing lifelong connections for these teens, both legally and emotionally, is a critical component in determining their future achievement, health, and well-being.

This year’s National Adoption Month theme is “Conversations Matter.” Incorporating youth engagement into daily child welfare practice can start with a simple conversation. Listen to what the young person has to say, what their goals are, and how they feel about adoption. Create an environment where they can be honest and ask questions. Youth are the experts of their own lives, so let them partner with you in permanency planning and make decisions about their life.

In 2019, there were over 122,000 children and youth in foster care waiting to be adopted who are at risk of aging out without a permanent family connection. Approximately one in five children in the U.S. foster care system waiting to be adopted are teens. Teens, ages 15-18, wait significantly longer for permanency when compared to their peers. Only 5% of all children adopted in 2019 were 15-18 years old. There is a high risk of homelessness and human trafficking for teenagers who age out of foster care.

More statistics from 2019 (the most recent year data is available) – of the 122,000 children and youth waiting to be adopted: 52% are male, 48% are female, 22% are African American, 22% are Hispanic, 44% are white, while the average age is 8 years old – 11 percent are between 15 and 18 years old.

The History of National Adoption Month –

In 1976, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis announced an Adoption Week to promote awareness of the need for adoptive families for children in foster care.

In 1984, President Reagan proclaimed the first National Adoption Week. In 1995, President Clinton expanded the awareness week to the entire month of November.

2nd Chance Adoption

Dax is a 16-year-old who has experienced the heartbreak faced by far too many youth in the foster care system. Seven years after being adopted, this teen was told it wasn’t going to work out when Dax came out as LGBTQ. He says, the adoptive parents stopped loving him anymore because of who he is.

He thinks that maybe he needs a same-sex couple or at least someone who is understanding about his sexual identification.

He has been featured on a News segment in Oklahoma.

In a Patheos piece, I read –

A family adopts a 9 yr old child, cares for them 7 years and then kicks them out because they are LGBTQ. They ask “Who does that ? What is wrong with people ?

And I get it. My sons live a rather isolated life at the moment due to where we live in sparsely populated rural forested land and because they have received all of their education at home. One of my sons may eventually “come out”. There is more than one person in my husband’s family who has such a sexual identification.

The news segment doesn’t tell us anything about Dax’s former family or whether religion came into their decision.

However, a couple of nights after the segment aired, a woman wrote the station via Facebook.

“We are a LGBTQ+ supportive DHS approved foster/adoptive home. We are open for teen placement. WE HAVE CHICKENS !! (Dax has raised and loves chickens).

The News channel has put her in contact with the child’s case worker, so there may be a happy ending to this story.

I got some of this information from The Friendly Atheist at Patheos, Hemant Mehta author.

“She Said – She Said” Stress

An adoptee reunion is tough enough without family making things harder. Today’s story –

My daughter will be 18 on March 11th. My aunt adopted her. She had the money and a judge sided with her for custody.

My aunt told her bad things about me. That I was a drug addict for 10 years (became sober in 2014).

The aunt has not allowed me any space in my daughter’s life. But at age 18, she is mature enough to make her own decision about contact with me.

I know my daughter has had some mental health issues. I don’t want to make things worse for her but I do want to reconnect now that I can.

How do I do this well ?

So, there comes this advice from a woman who just finished a clinical rotation at a women’s recovery center and worked on this topic a lot! It was recommended to many of them to have these types of conversations with a family therapist as a 3rd party if possible, or have the child/adolescent have at least a session or so with one following the information. This can help alleviate some of that “she said – she said” type of stress from the conversation. A professional has the empathetic perspective to guide regarding the right things to say.

I understand having a professional can be financially difficult and complicated by COVID. Many therapists are doing TeleHealth appointments now. Please know that there are a lot more affordable options than there previously have been!

If that’s not something that’s possible – just remember that this is confusing for her, and to be gentle with the approach. She will likely be able to tell if anything doesn’t feel genuine because she’ll likely be on high alert in her nervous system expecting a difficult conversation. Be careful not just drag your emotional feelings about your aunt’s behavior into your conversations (I know that will be difficult but it is important). Come from a place of love, positivity, and most importantly, showing her respect will go a long way.

Congratulations on your sobriety, that’s a HUGE accomplishment and I truly hope you’re proud of yourself. Best of luck! Your daughter is lucky to have you!

Someone else had similar advice – I suggest you find a therapist with experience working with adopted teens. Your story has many layers and you may find working with a therapist will help guide you through the coming years. It’s hard to walk the path of reunion alone or alongside others who are struggling. A therapist is trained to guide your journey.

From another adoptee’s own experience – I was back in contact at 17 (almost 18) with my mama. Very much like it has been for your daughter, I was told horrible things about her growing up, some were true, some were not. She was a drug addict as well. When we first met, she wanted to clear her name. She really laid it on thick – how this and that wasn’t true, and this excuse and that excuse. The entire time, this made me very uncomfortable and nervous. I remember just feeling like she was talking to me – not with me. What I wanted was for her apologize, to tell me she loved me, to ask about me, to show interest in me… the main thing I wanted was just to be near her, and feel important to her. My advice, from my adoptee point of view is – just apologize, go by her lead, answer questions honestly but don’t put too much on her at one time. Don’t play the victim card (even if you truly are). Everything doesn’t have to happen in one day. It takes time for separated person to regain trust in one another and build a new relationship. Go slow. Adoptees want the truth but it is also true that we cannot always handle all the weight of the truth at one time… Good luck Mama, you already are taking a great first step in reaching out for guidance, before going forward.

Another woman amplified this message – your actions will show who you are over time to her as she grows a relationship with you. Give her baby steps and gentle love – without a ton of defending yourself, or defaming auntie. You can only prove yourself with time and character!! Invest in her and listen to her. You got this, momma.

Teen Mom

Many natural mothers who give up their babies had very inadequate counseling, they are pressured and coerced.  They never feel any worth related to motherhood. They have difficulty experiencing that their child is “real”. She has no opportunity or encouragement to mourn her loss.

Most of these mothers are in some stage of unresolved grief their entire life.  A mother who has surrendered her child cannot undo what has happened.

If a reunion occurs, it brings with it the realization that the mother can never recover those lost years.

Breaking the silence of a secret pregnancy or surrender, means that the wounds have to be opened for everyone.  This is healthy in the long run – secrets are one of the most debilitating aspects of any person’s life.

It is a DOUBLE LOSS when the pregnancy also brings an end to the relationship between the original couple – mother and father.

The source for these perspectives come from the book – The Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier and resonated with me from personal observation in my own family.