Difficult, Important Decisions

Life is what happens. Today’s story.

We have had custody of my great nephew since he was 4months, adopted at 4 years. He is now 7. His mom (my niece) comes in and out of our lives and they have a good, but not always consistent, relationship. This week she has been in a horrific car accident and has significant injuries. Currently she is alive but critical. Her partner died.

My question specifically for adoptees. Would you have wanted to see your mother in the hospital like this? My wife thinks it would be too traumatic and upsetting for him. I think he is old enough to remember her and (though I agree would likely be traumatic) would regret not having a chance to see her. We hope this isn’t goodbye but it is very unstable and I want to make a decision before we no longer have a choice.

Reality – You need to tell him, brace him for how bad it is AND TAKE HIM. HE MAY BE WHAT GIVES HER THE FIGHT TO COME THROUGH THIS.

On the other hand – let him make the decision. It is HIS life. HOWEVER, if she is mangled, disfigured and doesn’t look recognizable to the person he knows, then I would caution against it or wait for an open casket. That way she can still look like the person he knows. As an adoptee, I wouldn’t want to see a disfigured/unrecognizable version of her. I’d want to remember her as she was in my life. There’s no need to add more trauma to his history.

A trusted voice affirms – you know the right answer. Tell him what happened and that you will take him to his mother immediately. Yes, it will be upsetting, but you can’t rewind life. If she passes, regret and guilt can be even harder. Just before you get there, prep him for what to expect – machines, wires etc.

An adoptee adds – There are no do-overs in life, only I wish I hads… do not over protect them both to the point of not allowing him to live his own truth, bear his own sadness and deal with grief in whatever way he must, but also to have whatever memory he could have, so that he has proper closure, if that indeed is what happens in the end.

And I didn’t know about these support persons but glad I do now – LINK>Certified Child Life Specialists are educated and clinically trained in the developmental impact of illness and injury. Their role helps improve patient and family care, satisfaction, and overall experience.

From direct life experience – I lost my mom at age 7, due to injuries she suffered in a car accident. That resulted in my being raised under legal guardianship. I still would have given anything to have been able to see her/say goodbye.

Taking In Teens To Get Their Baby

Disgusting !! Bluntly predatory.  Like “We wish to manipulate a vulnerable, young unexpectedly pregnant woman into thinking we care about her, then snatch what we need and discard her immediately.” or “I don’t want to post this on my personal page out of fear of being called out for what I really am.”

One foster mother writes –  I foster teen moms. My foster daughter almost lost her son due to people like this. My current placement was separated from her daughter after birth. Fostering isn’t about adopting. Taking in teens to get their babies is disgusting. Teens need support.

This one from direct experience – and they don’t vaccinate – so they need to buy a baby, um I mean… save a baby… I mean steal a baby that will be under the medical radar, because you know… we deserve our freedom of belief. So the child better be healthy & needy too. I found out that my adoptive parents for some crazy reason did not vaccinate their youngest biological daughter. Because I was foster to forced adoption at the age of 10 – they did not have a choice with me. The agency made sure that all of my personal medical records reflected doctor visits (even if they lied about the “clumsy” bruises I often displayed).

Reality – messing with the biological attachment process, when they actually could have had a positive experience in spite of the circumstances (teen pregnancy). So, they further traumatize the mother and the baby AND mess with the natural hormonal bonding process. If it was about the baby, they would teach that teen mom how to do skin-to-skin, breastfeed the baby (helps with so many things, if you can manage it with hormones/bonding/chemical hormonal processes) and help her co-parent. NOT STEAL the baby and say how much better of a life it’ll have and tell the teen mom, now you can still be a kid and ‘achieve your goals’. These lies hurt so many people. Yes, they can have good lives. And yes, maybe the mom will achieve her dreams, if that route is taken but that isn’t to say, if the mom had been supported, those things also could have still occurred. And better, no primal wound and years wondering why you were ‘given up’ or for the teen mom, “will they share pictures with you”, etc.

Been There, Doing Better

Today’s story – not my own.

I am a former foster care youth who was adopted. When my biological niece (I found my family via Ancestry) was taken and placed in foster care, I had to step up and help since I’ve been there. So, I got kinship guardianship of my niece while my brother was in a recovery program. He was making good progress. Sadly, about 4 months ago, he stopped going and relapsed. The timing was bad. The case worker and attorney are looking to switch my niece’s program to a Termination of Parental Rights goal. I’m afraid if they do this, my brother may spiral downward. I definitely don’t want to see that happen. I’m not given any specific information because I am just the caregiver. Admittedly, I’m not familiar with the termination process or addiction. I don’t know what to expect or how to help my brother.

From experience, someone commented – As the current legal custodian of my niece and myself, a child raised under legal guardianship – Would you be willing/able to remain her legal custodian under kinship as a long term permanency plan? Being raised within my family was in some ways very beneficial for me. There was still a lot of trauma. But if your niece is safe with you and you can raise her long term, that may be very beneficial for her.

In response, the original commenter said – she has been with me a little over a year now. she was in foster care 5 months before she came to me. She will always be welcome here. I did not know there were long term kinship options. The only options I am aware of come from the caseworker. His perspective is if my brother does what he should, he will get her back. If I take Article 6 Custody (from termination of parental rights) that drops the case for both my brother and the baby’s mother. (I have never meet her. She checked out of the hospital early and never set anything up with Dept of Social Services to have visits or anything.) I didn’t want the final option, which I was told was my willingness to adopt her. I don’t know where this will go but I definitely don’t want to see my brother fall down the rabbit hole.

And then there was this (people can really care !!) – Addiction is a disease that can be treated. This child has a genetic risk of inheriting this gene. I want to share with you that I’ve been in recovery for over 23 years – completely clean and sober. I can share some things with you and resources, as much as you want. Please feel free to ask me ANYTHING either here or privately in private message. There IS hope and as long as your brother is still breathing, he can still clean up. There are resources for you, for the child, all sorts of things. It’s ok, and my heart goes out to you and I am sending prayers to your brother, you and all in this situation. There IS hope and he CAN recover. I think you are doing the right thing by keeping your niece with you in a kinship capacity. Please feel free to reach out, now or later, ok? xo

To Separate Or Not

An interesting question from an adoptive parent showed up today – two children had to be removed from their natural parents. They have the same mother but different fathers. Each father has a sister willing to care for both kids until they can be returned to their parents. Is it better to keep the children together with one aunt ? In that case, one child will be related to the aunt caring for them but the other not – biologically. Or is it better to separate the children, in order to prioritize having each child be cared for by an aunt who they are biologically related to ?

Under these unfortunate and traumatic circumstances, is it better to be in the same home with your sibling, if you are being cared for by your sibling’s aunt (who is not biologically related to you) ? Or is it better to be in a separate home from your sibling, so that both of you are cared for by an aunt you are biologically related to, even if it means not living with your sibling ?

The originator of these question is one of the aunts. If placed with her, the toddlers will also be placed with their two older brothers. This she feels is an important aspect for all 4 of the kids. She does not want the kids separated but she does not know if being cared for by an only indirectly related adult matters, if that keeps the siblings together. She notes that their goal is reunification. The other aunt and this woman do not live near each other. If they are separated, their sibling contact will not be as often as might be desirable. Either aunt relocating is not an option. These kids are toddlers, so not old enough to establish their opinion. Their parents have not expressed a preference in this situation.

A response from a domestic infant adoptee – If the siblings get along, keep them together. Make sure they have opportunities to spend time with other family members as well. These siblings staying together should be your top priority.

Another adoptee shared – this actually happened to my nieces and they both ended up with the oldest one’s aunt and it worked well for them. I think it’s best to keep siblings together whenever possible UNLESS the relative would treat the non-biological child differently or keep them from seeing their family.

A former foster parent notes – in my experience it was best to keep siblings together. Sometimes the county would split up siblings and it was so hard for the kids to understand why they can’t be together. They missed each other. Are the toddlers more familiar with one of you, than the other ? They should go to the one they are most familiar with-in my opinion. (Response was that they are familiar with both aunts equally.) They are already being ripped from their home, their parents and everything they know (even if it wasn’t ideal, it was still what they know), so please don’t take them from each other.

A former foster care youth says – from experience, sibling separation is torture on top of trauma. Siblings are truly the only ones who are going through the same situation and having that support is invaluable. They can visit the other aunt.

Another adoptive parent to foster care siblings suggests – is it possible to do a shared custody – one aunt becomes primary home and the other aunt has lots of phone calls, takes care of the kids for long weekends, helps if there is an emergency, is a place that kids also know well as their extended family.

Another affirmed – I grew up in this exact situation, but it was my grandmothers. I am thankful for their supportive friendship that gave me stability. Always welcome at either house, open communication, always invited to things. At least once a week in Elementary School, my brother and I would get picked up by the grandma we didn’t live with, would have dinner at her house, she took me to dance class, I spent weekends and breaks with her. One took guardianship of me as a teen, so that she could make medical appointments for me since I lived with her. Absolutely a great solution.

The one who originally posed the questions confirmed – this is currently how we live. I’m one of the aunts and I have the toddlers’ two older siblings and what you describe is the relationship that we have with their immediate and extended family. The other aunt will be part of this village, without a doubt.

What’s In A Name ?

A major topic for reform in adoption is in regard to the adoptee’s name. Today’s story is complicated and long and so I’ll try to summarize it. There was an oops when bi racial boy/girl twins were born to supposedly white biological parents. When they were born, their mom put her husband’s last name on their birth certificate. However, it was determined that he was not in fact their dad. So, the twins last name was changed to their mom’s maiden name. For rather obvious reasons, her husband did not wish to parent these children and so they were put up for adoption.

They are now 7-1/2 years old and their adoption will most likely be finalized in the next couple of months. The soon to be adoptive parents are in contact with these twins older half siblings. One of the twins is the only one of all the siblings without a double letter in their name but they did not want it changed. The issue of what their last name will be has been handled delicately. One twin wanted to keep their last name but add the adoptive parents’ last name, the other twin just wanted the adoptive parents’ last name. Recently, one twin asked, “since the adoption is coming up, can I change my name?”

This is the same child that didn’t want to change the spelling of their first name, now they want to change the name completely. When the kids (both the soon to be adoptive parent’s biological children and these twins) play dress up, they have alter egos. They go by their alter ego names while playing pretend. The twins will even go by their alter ego name when they change their hair style from natural to braids, twist, finger curls, etc. for a day or so. This child is asking to change their name to their alter ego name and they said, “you can spell it anyway you want.”

Almost every child, at some point in their childhood, will go through a phase of trying a different name. So the almost adoptive parents said it takes a judge to change your name, no matter the reason. There are situations where names are changed – when you get married and you can change your last name, if you correct your gender you can change all of your names, at adoption names are often changed and you can keep all of the names your first family gave you or change parts of your name, and at the age you are grown up if you just really dislike your name, you can change it then.

Another adoptive parents said –  I wish no one brought up name change at adoption. It makes it seem like something that should happen, and I no longer think it should. I also think it’s a lot to ask a kid to make a decision about this, especially a kid with adoption related trauma.

A domestic infant adoptee said – I think giving a kid the opportunity to make a decision about their huge upcoming life shift that is completely out of their control, gives them a tiny bit of control back when things are so rocky. However I still believe the first name change can happen as a nickname, let her go by that but let her choose her last name for the adoption finalization. Then, when she is older, if she has kept that nickname for years, then as a teenager let her consider changing it legally.

Another adoptive parent shared – In our case, I screwed it up in the worst way. We changed all her names with her “choosing” from several names we were considering. But keeping it the same wasn’t presented as an equal choice. She was 4 years old at the time. She is 8 years old now and sometimes she wants to change back, sometimes she wants a friend’s name, sometimes she’s happy with what it is. We are now in reunion with her birth family, through a relative who adopted her younger siblings when they were born and we have discussed the name changes we made, our reasoning, and how we feel now. Both of us independently decided that we will support any changes the kids want, when they are adults but we will pay the court costs. I don’t think there are any right answers but my main regret is that keeping the name at birth was not presented as an option. I’ve heard adoptees say that with so much taken away from them, their name should remain the same.

Another adoptee said – I’m a non-binary trans person who has changed the name they go by as an adult. Let them go by the name they want to legally change it to – immediately. Start calling them by that name. Don’t give the legal name change a deadline (the legal adoption finalization date). These are two distinctly different things and while they are connected, each needs its own timeline. You can help them by discussing if they like the name. If they go by it for a long period of time, then you can discuss legally changing their name. I recommend this because of their young age and the already overwhelming situation of the adoption being finalized. Names are a GIFT, and if that gift no longer works for them, they can give it back and find one that meets their needs now. Changing the name during adoption seems to layer on trauma but for an older trans person I think it removes trauma.

Yet another adoptee shares – I was different because I’m neurodivergent. I wanted to change my name to fit in, rather than have a name no one connected to. When I grew up, I changed my name. Always Always go with what the kid wants. It just doesn’t have to be legally changed until they’re older and had a long time to think about it. Kids are still discovering themselves.

The Foster Care Problem

Today again, for the umpteenth time, I learned of 2 children being removed for neglect when that neglect was fixable! It’s criminal these kids are removed.

Being part of the Foster Care System in a non-kinship capacity makes you part of the problem:

If being a foster parent is such a good thing, if they are doing right by these kids, then why do we have these statistics?

Half of foster youth will never graduate high school

One in five will enter the homeless population

One in four will be involved with the criminal justice system

The False Belief: Neglected, abused children are pulled from their home and placed in welcoming environments that are stable and safe

The Reality: More than 1/3 of youth in foster care have documented abuse in foster homes. The act of removal adds additional layers of trauma

So you, who are wanting to become a foster parent, are thinking you are one of the good ones right ? You would not abuse a child – so fostering is the right thing to do because you’re a good guy.

Awesome, but to fight for these kids, you often have to really fight and you are at the mercy of the state. You really have no leverage. You are a glorified babysitter in many cases.

That means your fighting for these kids could be one mis-step away from crap with the caseworker that will cause you to lose that child to a home that WILL abuse them considering how high the likelihood of abuse in foster care is.

So before someone else says it – let’s talk about “what’s the alternative, just let children be abused by their parents ?”

The False Belief: Children removed from their homes are removed “for a good reason”; otherwise they would not be removed

The Reality: “Neglect” is cited in 76% of the cases but what is considered neglect runs the gamut: lack of proper supervision, food insecurity, housing/utility issues, medical challenges, safety issues, assumed neglect due to poverty level, assumed neglect due to the race of the family.

What would solve the “Neglect” issues cited above ? These are ALL solvable issues and addressing them would reduce the number of removals by 76% !!

Why do so many NOT see how the money, time and energy, that goes to Foster Parents and/or the Foster Care system, could be put to programs for family preservation. Doing so would vastly reduce the number of removals and keep children with their families.

What is it going to take for John Q Public to get this and advocate for change ? What is it going to take for foster caregivers to do better and put their time and efforts behind helping families keep their kids out of foster care.

Often It Isn’t Intentional

Short again on time today. Seems to happen too often in this holiday season. Learned about a new “adoptee related” Facebook page today – The Healing Adoptee. Sharing some wise insight from there today.

There are lots of ways that humans experience loss. Most humans are allowed to grieve those losses. Those of us on the adoptee side of adoption have generally not been allowed to grieve the loss that we experienced in infancy and childhood.

Ungrieved loss causes trauma. When a person experiences trauma they develop coping mechanisms which generally are not healthy. One of these coping mechanisms is deflection. When we hear something that we don’t like the idea of (our self) having done (that) we will think, “No, I didn’t do that.” I know that I don’t like hearing that I hurt somebody else because it causes a loss to my sense of self respect, and how I want to present myself to the world at large.

When we use deflection immediately upon hearing that we caused somebody else pain it causes that person more pain, And then they lose respect for us. Me personally, I prefer to be respected by other people. Therefore when I was told recently, that I caused someone pain I took a few deep breaths and accepted that my words had been hurtful to that person, whether I intended those words to hurt or not. Having decided to use a coping skill of deep breathing instead of a coping mechanism, deflection, I saved my self-respect by not continuing to hurt the person that I had been having the conversation with.

I apologized for unintentionally using unhelpful coping mechanisms in my conversation with her. It would be nice to see the online adoptee circles benefit from taking a moment to stop when we feel as though someone else’s pain is triggering our grief, take some deep breath, recenter and move forward with the intention of being gentle with one another, by not maintaining the use of the deflection coping mechanisms.

Beyond Cruel

Sometimes it is unbelievable –

Would it be good or bad to acknowledge to the young adoptees or the natural mom the day they got separated? Not a celebration at all, but like acknowledge a death date? I don’t think either one is consciously aware of the date, but I know their bodies remember. We have done nothing throughout the years, but we are in a much better place with the natural mom now and the children are older, and just wondering if reminding them would be cruel or like recognizing the elephant in the room.

Some replies –

Would YOU want to be forcefully reminded of your relinquishment/choice to relinquish every year?? No. This seems cruel to think of and remember. 

Seems an odd thing celebrate. I lost 4 kids to child protective services. I have two of those I am now able to parent and am in reunion with the 2 oldest, who are now mature. No one among any of us has ever mentioned the date they were taken, or the last good bye visit date etc and I certainly do not know it, People don’t tend to want to remember/celebrate negative events. If someone dies, you may remember their birthdate openly but not the death of their date (other than perhaps privately in the sorrow of your heart – definitely not as a celebration). My daughter had our reunion date tattooed on her arm, Find something positive to celebrate, if you must.

Being forced to surrender my newborn was the worst, most traumatic day of my life. I have C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) in part because of the experience. The last thing I would want is some sort of remembrance or it made into an occasion.

I remember that day as if a national tragedy occurred (for me and my child it was). I remember the last day I held him, I remember the day the adoptive parents cut contact. Now it is a season of deep depression and sorrow every single year when it rolls around.

Beyond cruel. Borderline evil. This is the damned problem with y’all (y’all being adopters). Y’all are so out of touch and lack a drop of understanding of anyone else. It was a happy day for you. You got to steal someone’s child, erase their identity and claim to be their mom. You aren’t, btw. They have a mom. It’s not you. But what on earth would make you think they want to be reminded of the day their family was permanently destroyed and that some random stranger decided they were now mom?

You’re trying to make the mom acknowledge the date too ? Its a very traumatic time for both and referring to it as a time of their bonding death is just …..I’m not sure I have words in my vocabulary for what that is. It’s like you’re saying they are dead to each other now and you would like to remind them both of that.

Have this information written down for the children because they may want to have that information some day, if they have an interest in piecing together what happened to them. That is all. If you happen to see that the kids or their mother is struggling around this time give them space for their grief. I’m not sure that poking this wound would be beneficial for anyone – however well intended.

It got through and she said –  I will back off. I will definitely not be bringing it up.

Being forced to surrender my newborn was the worst, most traumatic day of my life. I have CPTSD in part because of the experience. The last thing I would want is some sort of remembrance or it made into an occasion.

Ancestral Reverence

It is the final Dia de los Muertos and my thoughts are on my ancestors. The image comes from LINK> Christiane Pelmas site for Women’s Ancestral Reverence Group – Weaving Our Radical Roots In These Darkening Times. It is an Autumnal Equinox Kiva. I have scattered roots of American, Mexican and Native experiences in my life having been born in Las Cruces New Mexico and growing up in El Paso Texas. My family often vacationed on the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation campgrounds in Ruidoso New Mexico. Once my sons, husband and I spent Christmas Eve at the Acoma Sky City Pueblo.

My ancestors include my deceased parents, their original parents and their adoptive parents. Therefore, I have 8 grandparents instead of the usual 4. The original grandparents are people I never knew but that I now know had lives – information that was kept from me until after my parents deaths. I like Christiane’s site because when adoption is part of one’s core self there is trauma. It can’t be helped but it can be healed. I believe much of what I have been doing since I set off on my genetic roots journey in the Autumn of 2017 has been to heal the broken threads.

So for today, I will share some excerpts from Christiane’s site. I would add that I am aware that many people have uncomfortable relationships with one or more of the members of their family. She writes – “Nearly all human cultures (with the exception of western industrial, capitalist culture) practice complex rituals designed to foster on-going intimacy with, and healing of, their ancestral lineages (deceased relations of our blood lines). In western industrialized culture (and increasingly around the world, as Patriarchy colonizes more, and more, of the globe) we suffer from a devastating orphaning.”

Christiane writes of 3 intentions for practicing Ancestral Healing –

[1] to make connections with people of our blood and bone; those ancestral relatives who are vibrantly well and eager to provide us with their support, love and guidance as we journey through our lives. And in the case of my adoptive grandparents, I will add the people of my heart.

[2] to heal the significant trauma burdens woven deeply into most human lineages today; trauma burdens caused by endless war, poverty, social and economic injustice, environmental devastation and the diaspora it causes, racism, sexism and all forms of intolerance and violence toward the multiplicity and diversity of Life’s expressions. So much pain. In this healing process, the brilliance and medicine of each lineage is excavated and brought forward into its present-day expression, which is my very life, the life of my daughter and the lives of my grandchildren. We all live because they lived.

[3] to do the intimate ancestral healing work necessary – so that we are capable of turning our attention to the tremendous harm we continue to cause the ability of the Earth to sustain us all. I remember within my online social networking community there was developed what was called the Gaia Minute. A daily communion with the Earth (I often did mine in the darkness at night under the stars). From that practice I came to see the Earth as my deepest core mother. Not to leave the Sun out, I acknowledge the father energy that sparks all life with existence.

In my Science of Mind magazine Daily Guide for today written by the Rev Dr Dennis Merritt Jones, he shares this affirmation – “Everywhere I go, I see only the sacred presence of the Beloved One clothing itself in a multitude of divine disguises.” He also writes that Ernest Holmes dined with a vase of weeds on his table. A reminder that the only difference between a weed and a rose was the value we place on one over the other. Through a long reckoning in my own heart, I am balancing my genetic grandparents with those who adopted my parents.

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.