Processing Grief

From my all things adoption group –

Posting for a friend who does not have Facebook. We are both adoptive parents. Her adopted daughter is 7 years old. My friend just found out that her adopted daughter’s mother passed away before Christmas. It was a fluke that she even found out as they did not have regular contact. Her adopted daughter has experienced 2 great losses this year (biological grandmother and adoptive grandmother) and is still struggling with these. They are very open about her adoption and biological family but her adopted daughter does not want to engage in any conversations about her adoption, so they tread carefully between offering information and following her lead.

The question is… when and how should they approach the conversation about her mother passing away. The adoptive mother and her husband have a bit of a different view. She feels sooner than later is best but also acknowledges the fact that their adopted daughter is already struggling with lots of grief and loss (naturally) and some other new challenges that have recently popped up. Her husband thinks they should wait until the adopted daughter asks about her mom but she doesn’t feel that’s appropriate. I would love to be able to offer some specific information and ideas, if possible. Though I told her about this group, she asked that I post this on her behalf.

First response was this – Her husband is 100% wrong. This child needs a therapist and a safe space, if she doesn’t have one already. They need to tell her.

From an adoptee – Life doesn’t operate at a pace that is necessarily easy for any of us. We can’t control that. But the thing that all parents can control is whether or not they prove to their children that they are reliable and transparent. I understand, wanting to protect this child- but it’s not going hurt any less to find out later. It would just complicate the issue with a lot of questions about the delay. I would treat this in the same way that any other death was treated. She has recently learned about two people dying, why should her first mother’s death not be an immediate conversation ?

From another adoptee – Transparency is extremely important in building and maintaining trust between adoptees and their adoptive parents. Further delaying this information can damage this trust.

Why ?

*** TRIGGER WARNING

I know these things happen but still my brain cannot wrap itself around the idea that an adopted girl as young as 3 has been sexually molested – her behaviors graphically illustrate that it is the reality. My heart hurts just trying to think about it.

One recommendation is related to Sex Ed Rescue – finding a better way to talk to your child about sex. Cath Hakanson is the person behind Sex Ed Rescue. She is an Australian and a qualified sexual health nurse, author and speaker. She believes that kids need help to thrive in this sexualized world. Sex Ed Rescue can help parents with … giving age-appropriate answers to tricky questions about sex, starting conversations that feel natural and guided by your personal values as well as becoming an ask-able parent.

There was a warning about virtual therapy places (specifically mentioned Better Help). They don’t all vet their “therapists”. There are horror stories out there of people being paired with people who outright say they aren’t licensed. I’ve seen people say they were matched with open white supremacists, counselors who were just telling them to leave their spouses over trivial arguments, and even therapists who were doing sessions while buying groceries – meaning that anybody in the store could hear your personal issues–a major HIPAA violation. The person went on to say – if you can find a legitimate virtual therapist it’s fine, but it would probably be difficult to find one willing to work with sexual assault victims virtually. She shares that when she was in foster care, she had to see a therapist and one of the topics that came up was child sexual abuse. One of the ways they questioned her was through games to make it more appropriate to what a child could understand. If a kid is old enough to just talk things out, virtual therapy would be great, but it would be increasingly difficult to be effective the younger the child is.

Tiffany Hamilton aka Never Alone Support was recommended. She is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of my step-father. She says that her goal is to provide this type of support to any victim who is seeking it. She says, “I want to help them where they are with whatever they need. This is my passion and my hope is that I can make a positive difference in the lives of sexual abuse victims and help to save them from a life of addiction, self-harm, and suicide. She has a podcast on Apple.

Most important – from an adoptive parent of children who have been sexually abused – I know that for a single parent, keeping her world and physical contacts limited is not easy but in my experience it is absolutely necessary. 4 years in for us and we’ve had a lot of progress with consistent therapy and boundaries.

I would be extremely cautions of any child or adult you leave her alone with, until you have some significant progress in these behaviors and she understands that it is not okay for others to touch her private area other than diaper changes. And also that she cannot touch others. I would also limit how many people can change her diapers. Children that have been sexually abused and have sexual behaviors are more likely to be abused again, and it’s more likely that someone close and trusted would abuse her. If she goes to daycare/school they need to have a designated person to change her, not just who ever is available. She needs to have healthy boundaries with others and a limited number of people who can have contact with her genital area for her care and hygiene.

Do not shame her for masturbating, it’s not something she has control over, but you want her to be safe – so be sure to keep her in the clothing that prevents her from inserting anything. But touching herself is an appropriate response with a child who has been sexually assaulted. Gentle redirection without shame is what you need. So don’t say “you can’t touch,” say “oh look at this toy! It is okay to redirect her to an appropriate activity that occupies her hands – “Let’s wash your hands and play with playdoh!” Gentle redirection, if she tries to have anyone else touch her. “It’s not appropriate for so and so to touch you there.” This is why it’s important to limit who can change/bathe her. She needs to know that only those people who are safe can touch her when they bathe/change her.

This is an extremely urgent need. Contact her pediatrician, see if they can expedite referrals. Also, DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. Keeping logs may help you find patterns in her behavior that can identify possible triggers, and could also identify abusers. For instance if she spends time with a family member and is sexually acting out every time following a visit that is a red flag. Contact your local children’s advocacy center and see if they can do a forensic interview. A forensic interview could identify the abuser and knowing the nature of the abuse could be helpful.

Never Good Enough

I’m going to let this person’s words stand on their own merits and be “enough.” Not being “enough” in whatever way is a common experience for adoptees.

I’ve always been the black sheep of the family with how shitty my mental health has been since I was young. Always getting in trouble for being ‘too sensitive’. Yelled at, shamed, ignored or bullied into silence. My adoptive parents had high expectations of me and gave me such a great life. I tried to live up to that, but always fell short…nothing was ever good enough for them. I have burned myself out trying to please them and ultimately turned to addiction to self-medicate.

I was diagnosed with ADD at 14, so I could be put into a private school because I was ‘too difficult’. I wasn’t…I just had a hard time coping in school and understanding everything…It was very expensive and they hold it over my head a lot, because my mental health never recovered enough to attend a university or college…my step brothers also had mental health issues as well, but they’ve both turned out financially successful. They compare us a lot. One brother won’t even acknowledge me anymore, even in family settings, ‘because of how much I’ve put the family through’… the shame is soul-crushing.

It’s been just over a year in recovery, but they’re always quick to point out what I’m doing wrong. They think ‘I should be fixed by now’, yet still tell me I need to improve because no one likes to be around me. This is a long time in the making, but I’m officially exploring an Autsim diagnosis. I’ve kept this to myself, because in the past, they’ve gotten very angry about it…they tell me somethings wrong with me but REFUSE to accept that it’s likely autism, because ‘that would make them,’ a bad parent…it’s not about THEM. It’s about understanding ME. My meltdowns, my mood swings, my ‘weirdness’, how I relate and have relationships with people and the world itself. I’ve been involved with different psychiatrists since childhood, because I was ‘too sensitive’. I feel like I have to argue this diagnosis to them for them to accept and try to understand me.

They tell me I’m a hypochondriac for trying to find something that’s wrong, yet they’re the ones TELLING ME there’s something wrong with me and that I need to seek help. I’m on meds, in therapy, I’ve been on disability long term, which pays my rent and food. I feel I’m doing EVERYTHING I can to make things work…but they’re not doing anything to help this situation, then tell me I’m the problem. I was told recently after an interaction, when I attempted to put up an emotional boundary and explain it, that life isn’t fair and I have to do things I don’t like. I calmly told them, ‘I don’t like much in life, but still I’m rising to meet the task’. The fact that I was stating my needs right then – caused a blowout and I was kicked out of the car.

Honestly I’m so hurt and tired. The self-hatred and shame never goes away…I don’t mean to sound like I’m blaming others and not taking responsibility for my actions. I was so blinded by wanting to stop the pain through addiction, I didn’t know how it affected everyone else. I was trying to self-destruct, instead of hurting anyone else’s feelings. When self-medicating, I’d isolate, so others wouldn’t get roped into my misery. I didn’t steal or beg family or friends for money. I wanted my parents to know that I respected them enough not to take their things, even when I was self-destructing.

Now that I’m realizing I was trying to manage my autism, PTSD, ADD – I have started talking with my doctor and therapist about making positive changes to help me. But I’m at a loss with my family. They won’t be receptive to this the possibility of autism and will think I’m ‘trying to find something else to blame’. I’m not…I’m just trying to understand myself, so I can function in this society. Like they’ve wanted me to all along. I’ve been killing myself trying to make them happy and it never feels like enough.

A Tough Way To Go

From direct experience (not my own) –

He was in the foster care system from age 3-18, with a failed adoption from the ages of 4-8. This is how broken the foster care system is and how adoption is not always rainbows and butterflies. Excerpts from his story – For a portion of my life my identity was ripped from me, changed, and those who were looking for me could not find me. I was in plain sight living under a different name. After 20 years of silence, I am finally ready to tell my story.

Trigger Warning – What you’re about to read is graphic, disturbing and may be triggering.

I was adopted – Twice. In my personal opinion, I lived a better life with my second adoptive parents than I would have ever lived without them. Yes, I am thankful for the opportunities I do have because of my adoptive parents. Yes, I have chosen to see the good in my life and be grateful for everything I do have. But this is the mature, 27 year old man speaking, not the boy who endured so much trauma that causes the 27 year old man to still go to therapy on a weekly basis. Today, I am what most would consider a successful man.

I was adopted the first time at the age of 4 to what the world thought was a loving home. From the ages of 4-8, behind closed doors I was brutally beaten daily. Some nights I would be locked outside at night in the cold rainy Washington state weather nights in nothing except my underwear. I would be stabbed by forks at the dinner table to the point I was bleeding because I would gag on and throw up my food, then be forced to eat my throw up. I would be told to stick out my tongue, just for her fist to slam up under my jaw, forcing my teeth to slam together and viciously bite my tongue. I would be tucked in at night not with a warm hug or a loving kiss, but rather a hand over my face suffocating me until I stopped moving. Her eyes turned into a cold, chilling midnight black, and she would grit her teeth together and say “I will not stop until your body is done moving. Once you stop moving, I will stop.” I would be grabbed by my neck and choked and slammed to the wall with my feet dangling, my entire 30lb body off the ground and glued to the wall from my neck. She has this super strength, black eyes, and could hold me off the ground by my neck, not letting go until she was satisfied knowing she held the life of the little boy between her palms, against the wall.

I would cry when it was time to line up for the bus at the end of the day in kindergarten while all the other kids would be jumping with joy to be picked up by their parents. I would cry because of the home I knew I was going to. Kids would ask me why I was crying. It’s the end of school and I should be excited. But I wasn’t excited, I was jealous because I knew the first graders got to stay the whole day, but I only stayed half the day, and I was going back to a place worse than hell. I would be asked by not only teachers, but doctors as to why I had bruises all over my body, just to tell them they were from my siblings to avoid my abusive adopted mom from ever finding out I told anyone because I knew if I told anyone I would be brutally beaten. I can go on and on, but I’ll end it here for now because as I type this I am getting dizzy, sick and shaking.

I also had to hear the muffled cries of my brother as he would be choked, beaten and abused while fear and adrenaline would shoot through my veins as I listened to the muffled cries of my twin as I watched his body stop squirming, and almost peacefully slowly stop moving knowing I was next. I quickly learned that once the hand covered my mouth and nose, the quicker I would lay limp, the quicker she would be satisfied and leave the room. I would run away at the sound of punches, slaps, screams and terrifying, gasping cries of my sister knowing my 30lb self had no ability to protect her.

My biological mother gave me up to this family because she trusted them. At first she didn’t give me up. At the age of 3 we were taken from her because she was an alcoholic. We were placed in this home but still visited our mother often. My mother would end up signing away her rights so the family could adopt us. My mother died never knowing the truth about what she signed her rights away for and where she sent her three young children. My mother thought I was going to a home that could provide more love than she could, even though she was an Angel and nothing but comfort to me. I didn’t know what money was, nor did I care she didn’t have any. I didn’t know what drugs or alcohol was, nor did I care that she used/drank them. All I knew was what the warm motherly feeling of love, compassion and dedication was, and that is what I felt in my mothers arms, and only in my mothers arms.

I have struggled with abandonment issues and identity issues my entire life. As a young man I cheated on the mother of my daughter because if I got a glimpse of love or attention from a woman, I did not know how to turn it down. I yearned for love and affection. I dealt with losing my sister. No, she didn’t die, I was ripped away from her after the first adoption failed because the next home simply didn’t want 3 children. I would live in the same town as my sister, the only piece of my mother I had left, just to be denied the ability to see her for years at a time. I have matured immensely and have learned from my mistakes, but the trauma is still rooted deep within. I have used my childhood as motivation to stay strong and push foward to obtain a simple, successful, happy life. That’s all I’ve wanted and that’s all I work towards every day, and to make sure my children have the most loving, stable home I can possibly provide for them.

Even when the hardest part of my childhood was over and I was adopted for a second time, this time to the most amazing, most loving family I could dream of who did everything to love and protect me, I had identity issues. Not with sexual orientation, but with who I was genetically. Where I came from ancestrally. I knew nothing about ME but I lived inside me every day. I never understood why I wasn’t enough for my biological mother and father to change so they could take me back. Why was I never good enough? That’s what I asked myself every day. I asked myself this every time I was told to pack my bags and given a trash bag. I would be moving to yet another foster home. I was told I had no biological family, but I did. Dozens of biological family members existed in the very state and county I lived in, and they were looking for me. I love my second adoptive parents very much, and I am the man I am today because of them. My parents mean absolutely everything to me.

A song I associated myself with, and feel with every fiber in my body is “Concrete Angel” by Martina McBride. As a young boy, I would listen to it and it would resonate with me as if the song was specifically written about me, and just for me. There’s no reason why an 8 year old boy should hear that song and feel such a strong connection to it and understand it so perfectly, but I did. No one knew what was happening, and if I told people who knew the family, they wouldn’t believe me. Even one of my adoptive sisters who lived in the home during the abuse denies it and claims it never happened, despite it being my whole world every day living in abuse, because only my brother, sister and I were abused. But it was hidden so well, that some of my abuser’s own biological children weren’t aware – although I know one was, and unfortunately, she inherited the abuse after the adoption failed.

Typical Adoptee Struggles

Today’s story – As much as I love the holidays coming up I usually struggle through them. This year seems to be hitting me harder than usual. I always knew I didn’t belong in the family that adopted me and I was blessed to be able to start my own little family but still I struggle. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that my divorce number 2 will be finalized right after Christmas or that my adoptive mom was diagnosed with dementia and gets mad any time my adoption is brought up or my adoptive dad disowned me for my birthday this year or that I will never get answers about who I am because my biological dad is unknown and biological mom passed away about 5 years ago. I just feel so lost this year. I feel like I’m failing as a mom to a very awesome 13 year old. I know I’m not because I see how strong she is, but I still feel lost. I know my adoption caused a lot of trauma and I have worked really hard to overcome a good portion of it.

An adoptee asks her –  have you by chance tried something like 23 and me? When I did it helped me and brought me so much joy because I got to see where my ancestry is! Maybe you’d find some close relatives on there? I just had to reply – 23 and Me really helped in my case. They are all dead – my adoptee parents (yeah both) who died knowing next to nothing about their origins, the adoptive parents and the birth parents all dead. However, a cousin with the same grandmother (my dad’s first mom) did 23 and Me and not only could she tell me about my grandmother but that led me to another cousin in Mexico who had all of my grandmother’s many photos (including a bread crumb hint about his father).

Someone also suggested Ancestry DNA and I have done that too and it does help with people who never knew you existed to prove that you actually are family. Like her, I have found I have an overwhelmingly HUGE biological-tree and it happened suddenly. Only a few years ago, I only had some names for my first grandparents that didn’t reveal much.

Another adoptee had a sympathetic response – is very understandable and appropriate considering you currently navigating a divorce, a parent with dementia and being disowned by the other. Any one of those things is a lot for a person to handle individually, but you have a stack of upsets. It’s ok to feel lost for a while as long as you don’t forget things can and will get better. I say this as a person who also had a stack of life in their hands for a 4 year period (my mom passed, we moved my dad, who then had a major health crisis, and I also had discovery and reunion and estrangement with parts of my biological family in there as well). It got better. It continues to do so. One day at a time. Be kind to yourself. Don’t forget to slow down and breathe sometimes. You’ll make it through.

Finally another adoptee acknowledges that the layers of loss are surreal for most to understand. She is parenting 2 daughters and not with either of their fathers. Seeing her 11 yr old’s abandonment/ trust issues pulls up her own feelings at that age. She finds that she is reparenting herself while she parents her daughter. Finally able to understand emotions she’s never been able to sort out before.

What To Do ?

Today’s question – A woman adopted 2 kids years ago and has raised them since they were very young. Now that they are older, some truth came out that the situation that caused the adoption wasn’t as bad as she had been led to believe.

1) She wants to know if there is a way for their birth certificates to revert back the originals? She thought she had to change them in order to adopt the kids. (This is a common misperception that adoptees are trying to change because it almost always matters to them.)

And/or

2) Can she help their birth mother regain custody so that she can finish raising her own children ? Or un-adopt them, is that even possible?

A complication is that the kids say they don’t want a relationship with their biological mother or even to meet her. The woman is not certain they are telling the truth. Maybe they don’t want to hurt her feelings?

Some responses –

1) She probably did need to change the birth certificate to adopt, that’s still the case in many jurisdictions. It’s why guardianship is often preferred, though what that means also varies from one jurisdiction to the next, sometimes it is viewed as not allowing for stability.

2) The first step is for the kids need to get to know their mother again. If they refuse, I’m not sure what she can do other than to gently encourage it and never speak poorly of their mother. If they get to that point, what comes next varies widely from one jurisdiction to the next.

The mother may be able to re-adopt her children. However, if the allegation was neglect or abuse determined by Child Protective Services, that may not be possible. Same with guardianship. She might be able to take guardianship of her children, or not, depending on the situation.

These options may fail. It may be possible for the adoptive mother to give the original mother a power of attorney, should the children move in with her, and/or unofficially she could share custody of them, just like some separated/divorced parents do.

The woman definitely needs to consult a lawyer, so that she can determine if the court might view her as a possible risk. This assumes that Child Protective Services removed the children from her care. If her Termination of Parental Rights was a private relinquishment (that would make all of the above FAR easier.)

Another possibility is an adult adoption, which could restore the information that was originally on their birth certificates (by again changing the documents to finalize an adoption). If these children are already teenagers, that makes this option easier, as long as they are in agreement.

And this is the most important point, from an adoptee – It’s very possible that they don’t want a relationship with their biological mother, if she hasn’t been in their lives. Listen to what they are saying. I would never have wanted to leave my adoptive family to go and live with my biological family. It would have felt like a complete rejection of the life I had lived. I wouldn’t want another name. I am the name I have been for a long time, not baby girl “x”. These kids need to be the ones leading. Everyone else needs to just sit back and listen.

Therapy. Individually. Let them heal their own traumas. Create a space that’s safe and secure enough that they know they can speak honestly about how they feel about their biological family.

Another adoptee admits that she wanted so badly to have a relationship with her biological family. “It was freaking awful. The worst.” It’s not always what the adoptee thinks it would be like, either way.

The most important thing is their healing and security. The rest will come, if that is the right direction. They don’t deserve to have the process of reintroduction rushed, if they say “no” for any reason. It should be their lead.

Lament and Repentance

From an adoptive parent’s perspective –

We became foster parents to “help the whole family” and adopted our son (met him at 5 weeks in the NICU, brought him home at 6 weeks, adopted him at 2 years). He was our 8th placement- some families we were able to be helpful towards more than others, I can see my failures or ignorance too.

We have kept a private Facebook page to keep biological parents updated with pictures and an ability to message. Some family members have a recent relationship with our son, and I feel like we have all gained family. BUT, the biological parents aren’t safe (actively using drugs).

I hear you adoptee’s. I hear how you hate adoption. I hear your lack of control, choice, autonomy. Hating that your name was changed, lost culture, lost history, lack of belonging, desire for real change in the system and legislation. I hear you. Your feelings are valid and real. Thank you for sharing with us and allowing us to learn and gain understanding and mourn with you.

As an adoptive parent, I sit in lament and repentance – over my ignorance (even after lots of books and trainings), my savior/rescuer habits and mentality, my selfishness and self centered ness. And I’m just sad with you, and sad with my child.

My question…What were things said to you/done/moments of clarity or understanding that helped you bond and attach to your adoptive parents? I understand it’s a journey and a process, but I still want emotional health and intelligence for my teen.

PS – have been in therapy with an adoption specialist for 3 years.

From an adoptee in response –

Do you have any idea how hard it is to love yourself as an adoptee ? F*** your bonding. Kids will bond to others when their brain says it’s safe. And some don’t at all. At the end of the day, the child may never naturally attach to you but that isn’t saying they won’t naturally attach to others. Trying to have those children identify non-biologicals as being the traditional family roles, when they do not actually fit (mom, dad, etc) is not helping make the kids feel like part of your family. It’s an attempt to replace the family they already have. It’s easier for you but it’s harmful for them. Look into support groups for kids of addicts. Keep learning more about active addiction and what is a threat and what is not. Actively support and promote a bond with the original parents, while teaching your adoptee boundaries and healthy coping.

No Win Situation

An unwed mother is pregnant with her 2nd child, due in early February, and the dad has no plans to be involved. She has a 5-year-old that she had the same heartfelt struggle with making this decision. She has spent almost every day of his life, wondering if he would’ve been better off if she’d just put him up for adoption. That is what she wanted to before his dad stepped in and said he wanted to keep him. She has limited to no support from her family and friends.

Where she is now . . . “The only consensus I managed to come to is that I’d be traumatizing my baby if I put it for adoption, but if I don’t have support, I’m going to ruin the baby anyway. So many of those adoptees have such a jaded, negative view of their birth families for putting them up for adoption, but they also resent their adoptive families for ‘stealing’ them, so I’m right back to square one of no matter what I choose, I’m evil and ruining my baby’s life.”

From an adoptee – I’m an adoptee of a closed adoption. A DNA test for Ancestry revealed my birth parents. If I were you, I wouldn’t adopt and as an adoptee, I regret being adopted. I don’t necessarily think my birth parents ruined my life by not keeping me because I don’t know what my life would have been with them. Having another baby won’t ruin your life. It won’t ruin your son’s. You can get your mental health back either way, because either way it’s going to take work and probably therapy. I just wouldn’t make the decision out of fear that you’re not capable because I think that’s when we get into decisions we regret.

So often, when unwed expectant mothers come into my all things adoption group seeking insight, it is almost universal that they don’t feel capable of parenting. It is most likely true in all of these cases that those who do decide to parent still have a difficult and challenging situation to navigate. With some mothers, the group goes the extra mile to supply things the mother will need once she has her baby, if she decides to parent. These women often come back when the baby is older saying how grateful they are to have been encouraged to keep their babies.

This group also sometimes helps a parent who has become embroiled in a custody situation where adoptive or foster parents want to keep the baby they managed to get. The legal process is daunting, fraught with challenges and no certainty of being won. Better to at least give parenting a try. Worst case, there is always the option to surrender to adoption . . .

My favorite saying in life is from the Lemony Snicket movie – A Series of Unfortunate Events. I can’t find what I remember anywhere but it comes down to no matter how dark or bad things look, there is always a way out of that situation. It has often inspired me to hold the line until I see the way has proven to be so . . .

Baudelaire Kids from Lemony Snicket A Series of Unfortunate Events

It Will Take A Lot

I often wonder if I will ever run out of things related to adoption to write about here but everyday I seem to find something and so, until I can’t seem to do that anymore, I suppose I’ll persist. Today’s inspiration comes from this admission from an adoptive mother –

After adopting our daughter and experiencing some pretty clear effects of her being separated from her mom, I have changed my mindset on adoption. While I know realistically that there will always be a need of some sort for a program to care for relinquished children, I don’t believe in the current system and think it needs a complete overhaul.

She admits – I did not do enough research before we went through the process and relied too heavily on the agency to provide me information. Now I realize their bias, pursuit of financial gain, etc. I did everything wrong – did a gender reveal, had a baby shower, did a GoFundMe, ick ick ick. After placement, I could just FEEL that my baby needed more than I was giving.

I also know that a woman who is struggling with fertility issues that desperately wants to start a family is going to be mighty difficult to dissuade – the flood of savior stories and toxic positivity that is shoved in hopeful adoptive parents’ faces is overwhelming. And despite all of the very valid points that have been made by those who know repeatedly, it will take a lot of education and dedication to overcome the propaganda and the emotional response a woman experiences in order to make a decision that is best for the child and not for her own desires.

So what to share with a woman who is struggling with fertility issues, who desperately wants to start a family ? I often see the very first suggestion is therapy to reconcile her infertility issues and realize that adoption is never a replacement for a natural born child.

Read The Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier. I have read it myself and I still see it turn up recommended as the very best possible perspective into adoption trauma from a woman who is both an adoptive and a biological mother as well as a therapist to adoptees and their families. She has tons of insight about all of it.

It is very important to listen to adoptee voices. Here is an analogy – We would never do open heart surgery without an expert surgeon who performs that surgery every day. While a patient (adoptive parent) is part of that process, they are not the ones (adoptees) who know what it feels like to walk in those shoes. A hopeful adoptive parent is inherently biased against hearing any truth about the pitfalls of adoption. They often only listen to the voices of other adoptive parents who have benefitted from adopting. You will rarely hear these discussing the risks, only the positive aspects of adopting a child into their life.

It is important to explain what a for profit enterprise adoption is. The coercion of birth mothers, our society’s lack of focus on family preservation, the option of being a foster parent who strives for family reunification over fostering simply to adopt, explain the guardianship option, share the loss of identity and anything else that a mature adoptee knows about it all.

Remaining connected to those genetic mirrors that the child’s original family is of vital importance. There is occasionally a need for long term care, when the parents could not or would not parent their child(ren), and the extended family members were unwilling or unable to be a placement resource for those children. Adoption is much more nuanced than most people realize and many adoptees feel negatively about their adoptions. Many who choose to be foster parents are actually trying to help and actively trying to support families in crisis to reunify. That said, the training and support is abysmal. 

Issues Change With The Times

Original birth certificates and name changes have been an issue for adult adoptees. Many adoptees still can not acquire their original birth certificates. My parents were adopted in the 1930s. In adulthood, both learned the names they were born as but nothing about their original families. I do have my mom’s original birth certificate which was very helpful as all she knew about her birth parents’ names was Mr and Mrs JC Moore (which reveals very little). I never could get my dad’s original birth certificate because California is one of those states that won’t release it without a court order. I did learn his birth mother’s name thanks to a handwritten note on a letter concerning the changed birth certificate in the state of Texas that his adoptive mother wrote down. Turns out she was unwed.

We still have new members come into my all things adoption group with questions pre-adoption about how to handle the birth certificate for pre-school children and name changes. In today’s modern society, most are over thinking what a more open and progressive society have made a moot point. While conservatives and evangelicals may not like these changes to marriage and family units, the changed nature of society is a positive development for adoptees.

Divorce, remarriage, blended families, single mothers and same sex partnerships, to name just a few of the complicating factors, have resulted in what once might have been a legal issue with schools and medical records, no longer matter regarding the child’s name. What does still matter is identity and true family origins. Keeping the original birth certificate intact still matters. Not sealing adoption records matters. Today, an adoption decree is all the legal documentation an adoptive parent needs to establish their responsibility to the child. A birth certificate and the child’s name no longer need to be changed. Some adoption agencies and social workers, perhaps even some legal authorities may still try to make changes a requirement but in reality, there is no longer a basis to do that.

There is one issue that did come up that could matter. That is where violence or some kind of public notoriety could follow a child throughout their life. One adoptive mother with just such an issue shared that she was able to get mentions of these events, where the child is also mentioned, removed from public access. She asked the kid’s attorney, the judge, assistant district attorney and the district attorney to send letters to the news outlets that covered the original story. They did that and it worked for this family. So, with some help, even news coverage can be buried. That said, as the child matures, they are still to be fully informed in an age appropriate way about these circumstances and if necessary, with the help of a trauma informed therapist. Never hide the truth from the child who it concerns.

One other adoptive parent of an older child mentioned that their child legally changed their name for reasons of their own. In their experience, the name change did not cause any problem with passport and Real ID, and even the change of gender did not cause a problem either. All that was needed was the proper documentation about these changes and they simply followed the rules related to those changes.