Busting The Myth

It’s painful to realize you have been lied to by the adoption agency you turned to in a moment of desperation. Even my own self, in leaving my daughter with her paternal grandmother for temporary care, that turned into her dad raising her and then a remarriage for him to a woman with a daughter (they then had a daughter together), could be perceived as abandonment as well. I have admitted to my daughter that there are similarities in her experience growing up with that which adoptees experience in being separated from their natural mother. At the time, I thought one parent as good as the other (even though I didn’t intend for her dad to get her). I really intended to recover her but it did not work out that way and to this day I struggle with what I did in ignorance.

In my all things adoption group, one woman writes – and then when your baby is *one week old* and you come out of the fog of the agency telling you it’s the right, selfless thing to do and realize what a terrible, life altering decision you just made – it’s too late and you have to spend the next several years in court and hope your family can lend you around $100,000 for legal fees to get your baby back from the wonderful, brave, selfless adoptive parents that have your kid.

Another wrote – this comes off extremely harsh and unproductive to me because these women do not understand the ramifications of the decisions they’ve made. And that is true for me as well. I was 22 years old at the time I left my daughter with her paternal grandmother. Life altering indeed !!

Someone else said – bottom line is regardless of intentions, the infant brain perceives it as abandonment. I’m fiercely defensive of my momma; I believe that the despicable social mores of the Baby Scoop Era and sheer desperation drove her to surrender me. My baby self was damaged either way. That’s what I believe this graphic is trying to convey.

And I agree. Sheer desperation has caused at least 3 of the 4 adoptions that are part of my childhood family (both of my parents and then each of my sisters gave up a baby). One of my sisters simply thought it the most natural thing in the world – I believe – because our parents were adoptees. Unbelievably, my mom who struggled most with having been adopted, coerced my other sister into doing it.

One noted – Just once, why not talk about how the fathers were nowhere around and went unscathed in everything. To blame a mother who was . . .

In my own parents’ case – first, for my mom, her mother was married but he more or less (whether intentionally or not) abandoned her 4 mos pregnant. After she had given birth, she brought my mom back from Virginia (where she had been sent by her own father out of shame) to Memphis. She tried to reach my mom’s father but got no response. Though there was a major flood occurring on the Mississippi River at the time (1937) and he was in Arkansas where his mother lived and his daughters were. He was WPA fighting the flood there in Arkansas. His granddaughter (who I have met) does not believe he was the kind of man to leave a wife and infant stranded. Georgia Tann got ahold of my mom and exploited my grandmother to obtain a baby to sell. My mom was 7 months old when her adoptive mother picked her up but she did spend some of that time in what was believed to be temporary care at Porter-Leath Orphanage. That was my grandmother’s fatal mistake because the superintendent there alerted Georgia Tann to my mom’s existence.

In my dad’s case, the father was a married man and an un-naturalized immigrant. I don’t believe he ever knew. My paternal grandmother had a hard life. Her own mother died when she was only 3 mos old (the original abandonment if you will). She was a self-reliant woman. I don’t believe either of my grandmothers intended to abandon their children. After giving birth in Ocean Beach, near San Diego California in a Salvation Army home for unwed mothers, my grandmother then applied to work for them and was transferred to El Paso Texas. I believe they pressured her to relinquish my dad. He was with her for 8 months.

Finally, here is one person’s experience with being adopted – Abandonment is exactly right. And it directly leads to abandonment and attachment issues later. Even with therapy and understanding what happened and learning coping strategies, I still feel this horrible gnawing black hole inside of me when I feel like someone might leave me. And it can get triggered by such inconsequential things. The worst part is that it’s a self fulfilling prophecy, especially before learning how to lessen the effects on others, because the behaviors I’ve done out of desperation drove the people I was scared of losing away. And sometimes that’s felt deliberate, like it won’t hurt as bad if it was my idea and I left them instead of them leaving me. It hurts just as bad.

Why Did You ?

Some adoptive parents say they never intended to adopt. Unless you’re kin, why did you have your name in the ring so to speak ?

One answer – people become foster parents with no intention of adopting. Then kids get placed with them. They do everything they can to help reunification and rights are still terminated. Social workers give them the option to adopt or kids will be moved. Foster parent didn’t get into fostering to adopt but think moving the kid(s) would add more trauma. So people shouldn’t become foster parents at all if they don’t want to adopt.

From a foster parent – We only ever planned to foster… we didn’t even seek out fostering, we were contacted to take a previous family member and started taking other kids once we were already licensed. We ended up with a 15 year old and didn’t even know she was free for adoption until after she was living with us. She wanted to stay and we wanted her to stay as well. We didn’t officially adopt because that’s what she wanted but she chose to legally change her name to ours at 18. We have been fostering 13 years and she has been the only permanent additions to our family. For us, we would only consider adoption for instances like this where the kiddo had no one else.

Another way it can happen – We were not pursuing adoption at all but a family friend knew I was adopted, thought I might be open to it, and then was asked to adopt her baby. I was totally in the fog at that time. (The Fog – is the state of believing all the positive narratives about adoption – the truth is much more challenging and difficult. One adoptee writes this – I just want people to see our trauma and our pain and stop rubbing ‘happy adoption’ in my fucking face all the time.)

Another perspective – We fostered for five years mainly teenagers and adopted a sibling group of three teenagers. They have always had contact with their family but no one was able to support them. They asked us to adopt them and it felt wrong to say no. I didn’t know guardianship was an option. My mom is adopted but has never shared the isolation and pain she felt with me in her adoptive home, so I had no idea adoption wasn’t the “right thing to do.” There’s a such a strong campaign to adopt in our society.

Then, there is this true saga –

This is in no way an attempt to justify as I still fight with myself over adopting. But I’ll explain how we ended up here.

When I decided to foster, that was all I wanted to do, I did not at all want to adopt. Fast forward a few years, and I had 3 foster kids who would be going up for adoption. I was not adopting, and so they were moved to a pre-adoptive home. They kicked the oldest girl out after 2 weeks and she came back to me. The goal was to give her more time to get to know them before moving her back in. That home removed the other 2 just a few weeks later.

At that point the Department of Human Services (DHS) decided to keep the other 2 kids together and leave the oldest girl with me and work on getting her into the same home as her siblings. Over the next 6 months the other 2 kids were removed from several potential adoptive homes due to behavior. Brother ended up in a home to be adopted. Little sister was there and we tried to move the oldest girl. After 2 days, they didn’t want the oldest girl back in their home, and a week later the youngest girl was removed from that home due to her behavior and at that point, DHS allowed her to come back to me. So then I had both girls.

After so much heartbreak for them, and so much rejection, I decided to pursue legal guardianship of the girls. It was a fight, but the judge was in agreement, until their mom died and then, I was told I had to legally adopt. They didn’t want to be adopted, they wanted to be with their mom, but they also didn’t want to move anymore. So, it’s not like they had much of a fucking choice. Stay in foster care and keep being passed around and rejected or be adopted and stay in the one home you’ve been loved in since being taken from your parents.

PS – My desire to foster was definitely fueled by selfish, savioristic motives. I wanted to help families, and I did, but I also wanted all the ass pats and recognition I could get. So even though I didn’t intend to adopt any foster kids, I did insert myself into the system as a whole out of partly selfish motives.

What Gives Me The Right ?

This is a tricky issue that I have encountered here on this blog. What gives me the right to talk about issues related to adoption or foster care ? Am I an adoptee ? No. Have I spent time in foster care ? No. I do have a connection to adoption – Yes, I do. Both of my parents were adoptees and both of my sisters have given up a baby to adoption – but these are not the reasons I have become passionate about the subjects I write about in this blog. I am almost 67 yrs old and honestly, until about 3 years ago, I was in what is called “the fog,” not seeing anything to be concerned about when it comes to adoption. And I needed enlightenment and educating.

So I joined a group where the voices (thoughts) of adoptees and former foster youth are “privileged,” meaning given the most deference. However, in the group are adoptive parents, foster carers, hopeful adoptive parents and oddballs like me. And so, I have read and read and read there. I have bought books to inform me from the perspective of adoptees and former foster youth. And I get it and now I care about family preservation. I know that most parents actually DO want to raise their own children and those children want to be raised by their natural parents. Most of the time, children are removed from their parents over issues of poverty or solvable problems. Many an unwed woman who finds herself pregnant ends up convinced and coerced to surrender her baby – often to her lifelong regret. That happened to both of my natural grandmothers.

So the issue came up in my all things adoption group today. The woman identified herself as being a hopeful adoptive parent when she was younger. currently a teacher and someone who would like to become a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) when her own kids are a bit older. She admitted that she no other links to adoption. Her question was – Should I stay out of discussions of adoption ? Or should I share opinions that I’ve gained from listening to the members of this group ? When I see posts in other groups or have conversations in real life, I’d like to amplify the voices of adoptees and former foster youth, but I’m wondering if that’s not welcome. She noted in closing – Obviously, you can speak for yourselves on posts like these, but I know it is with emotional labor and at the risk of being gaslighted and all of that.

Someone who tried to speak up was told that she needed a reality check because some adoptees value life and don’t dwell in the past, and that the only trauma is for birth parents who are found years later and have privacy violated. And this is old misinformed thinking. It is the adoption agency line as to why adoptions should be closed and kept secret and it has been proven to be abundantly false by many adoptees who have had successful reunions with their natural parents. Yes, some of these fail or are awkward or come at an inopportune time in a mature adult’s life, especially if they are now married with children from that current spouse. It happens and it is painful and heartbreaking when it does but fear of rejection (which honestly happened to some degree when the child was given up and they know this) is no reason to prevent the effort.

One adoptee shared her own experience – Most first mothers want to be found. Mine was terrified of it but I think she’s glad I found her.

Another one encouraged the effort – Preach it…..pffffftttt on those who fuss ….. remind them that they can not speak for anyone but themselves. The truth will ruffle feathers. That’s ok. I personally don’t mind a dialog about differing view points….but many adoption focused groups don’t want that and delete/block a naysayer.

The one who originally posted the question shared – the adoptive parent I was communicating with felt comfortable speaking on behalf of the child’s birth mother. It bothered me. To which someone else noted – Remind her that it is okay to share her own story but NOT the child’s story! Then it is further revealed –  She also brought up racism her daughter has experienced, so it’s a trans-racial adoption on top of everything. And clear that they are living in a very white neighborhood.

And so, in this particular case, it had become clear that the adoptive mother is wrapped up in some heavy adoption issues. Someone like that becomes so enmeshed, their only recourse is to carry on with adoption speak and in favor of what they created…..a big case of, pretend. That last word is an adoptee’s perspective on what adoption is – someone who pretends to be the parent who birthed you or that they have somehow saved you from a fate worse than death – called saviorism when it is trans-racial adoption.

So, this is partly why I write this blog. To spread some light in the darkness that has been adoption practice for decades as well as share my own personal stories, illustrating one or the other with one or the other. Yes, it has become a cause (family preservation) that I am admittedly passionate about.

A Different Story

Maybe you are here to be uncomfortable and dig deeper. When you find yourself uncomfortable, that is a sign you need to consider what I share here more realistically.  Triggers tell us where our issues are.

The fact that society has crafted adoption as this great, positive, wonderful thing for everyone adopted as well as those who adopt is the very core of my concern with adoption. It’s the very reason adoptees can’t speak freely in general society without being dubbed ungrateful or hateful or negative. It’s the very reason expecting moms feel unworthy to parent their own child.

Adoption isn’t negative or positive. It’s complex. It’s not simple at all. How someone feels at 5 may not be how they feel at 13 or 30. It is not wrong to fight to change the narrative as I seek to do here everyday

It is not wrong to want those that cannot be raised by their parents to have the tools and the right to understand how adoption works, what it means for them now and in the future.

There is no shortage of places you can go to hear how great adoption is.  I am here to be as real about adoption as I have developed the ability to understand something that is rampant in my family’s life even though not as directly my own experience as others in my family.  Even so, I wasn’t able to raise my own daughter and she grew into an adult guided by others and with no small amount of shame and guilt in my own self to deal with for not being a “better” mother to her.

If you want a space where adoptees will tell you how wonderful their adoption was and how grateful they are because that feels really validating to you – then there are other places that will do that for you.  Don’t expect to find much of that here.

Adoptees can have a loving and caring adoptive family and still not believe adoption is the answer. No one’s story is identical to another’s. I try not to say that here.  I certainly don’t expect a one size fits all explanation of all things adoption.  In fact, that is why I can always find something new to write about this  topic every day.  Each adoptee and/or former foster care youth will have a different viewpoint about their own story.  This is as it should be. I certainly know this. There are a variety of “stories” and a variety of “outcomes” among my own family members who have been impacted by adoption.  Bottom line – there is no single story.

With my own blog I seek to educate my readers on the harder parts of adoption, not the rainbow and unicorn fantasy parts (even if those are actually mostly true for the one experiencing it as such).  You can find plenty of happily ever after stories related to adoption if you only go looking for them.  My own daughter said to me once – you seem to be on a mission – and I didn’t deny that.  After over 6 decades in the dark about something so immediate and personal as adoption is in my own family, I came out of what is often referred to as the fog.  It is the concepts and beliefs that society puts out there about adoption.

Being uncomfortable isn’t bad thing. That includes adoptees too. If you never allow yourself to be uncomfortable, you miss learning about a larger reality.  Pushing through discomfort and emotional reactions can yield any one of us so much personal growth and character development.