Fear of Abandonment is Real

Stephanie Drenka and genetic family

I went looking for a topic for today’s blog and found this story by Stephanie Drenka. She writes that – “I was struck by the pervasiveness of adoptive parent-focused stories. Where were the adoptee perspectives ?” The photo is from when when she was reunited with her biological mother, two sisters, and a brother.

She notes that “abandonment issues do not end in adulthood. Though I haven’t experienced divorce, I can imagine it might be similar. If a woman’s husband leaves her, even after remarries the perfect guy, she may always deal with a persistent fear that he will leave her as well. Fear of abandonment is real, and has to be acknowledged in order to resolve it.”

I have personally witnessed this issue playing out in a loved one and it had not been resolved previously. It came out at a very inopportune time but never-the-less had to be dealt with in its extremity.

Stephanie notes – Even the most well-adapted adoptee still faces moments where the trauma resurfaces. For me, that meant small things like every time a doctor would ask me for my family medical history or now, post-reunification, not knowing when I will be able to meet my biological sister’s new baby boy. And adds – I won’t go into the trauma experienced by birth mothers and families, because that is not my story to tell. Suffice it to say, from my personal reunification experience, adoptees are not the only ones who struggle with the aftermath of adoption.

She says – I love my (adoptive) mom and dad to the moon and back. They are my role models, biggest supporters, and best friends. I feel blessed to have them in my life– but please don’t presume to tell me that I was “lucky” to be adopted. Like many adoptees, my parents told me that I was special. While meant with good intention, being chosen is a burden. It puts pressure on us to be perfect and grateful. It can be incredibly emotionally taxing and negatively effects your self esteem in the moments where you can’t live up to that perfect picture. These expectations can prolong mental illness without treatment, because it may seem like asking for help is being ungrateful.

Choosing to adopt is an expensive proposition and as Stephanie notes – one mostly related to white privilege. I agree with her stated perspective – Can you imagine if the money people spent on adoption services went instead to supporting single mothers or low-income parents? Or what if adoption profits were used to benefit adoptees themselves in the form of post-adoption services like counseling, genetic testing, mental health treatment, or birth family search costs?

She ends her own essay with this – The truth about adoption is that there is no Truth. Adoption is many different things for many different people. It is love, loss, grief, abuse, hope, despair. It can sometimes be celebrated, but should always be examined through a critical and compassionate lens.

Evolving Approaches

Why are so many foster parents uneducated about trauma ? It’s 2021.

Yes, training is lacking but it’s frustrating to keep seeing things like the comment below from a foster parent. If I have a biological child with special needs, we change to accommodate her. We change for biological kids. Why not do the same for a foster child ?

The question above was raised by one foster parent, after reading this comment below in quotes from another foster parent.

“I don’t know. This is sad because the foster family shouldn’t have to change everything for a child. It’s give and take. Obviously the child should feel accepted, but that’s also a choice on their part. Half this stuff (sleep in the bed, no TV after bedtime, eat what we’re eating, bond with us, doing chores) is not unreasonable.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t bend rules for the ‘undamaged’ kids in my home, not everything changes for the new arrivals. Foster kids need to understand the world doesn’t evolve around them. In the real world people don’t care if you’re in foster care. They don’t care if you have trauma. You do what your boss tells you to do. They don’t make accommodations for you.”

“We need to stop making excuses for foster children and stop letting others feel sorry for them. Being in foster care shouldn’t be used as an excuse. Everyone is treated the same in the real world. So why should we bend the rules to foster kids? A foster child shouldn’t force you to change your household or your rules. You’re the boss of your own home.”

“They should follow the rules and the values that the family that decided to open up their home to them has in place. We can’t keep allowing foster kids to take and we always give. It’s unfair. It doesn’t teach them anything about giving back or teach them anything about following the rules in life”.

So why wouldn’t foster parents want to provide specialized care when traumatized kids need this so critically ? Why do they choose to be foster caregivers ? Oh right, it is the money, the stipends foster families are paid to take in stranger’s children.

There could also be another aspect. Some foster parents are there for the glory and accolades from other people. This person’s perspective is simply justification for a rigid response. In reality, what should motivate anyone to be a foster caregiver, would be to help the child heal from whatever trauma has put them into the system to begin with. Just removing the child from their parents and home and being put into foster care IS trauma to begin with.

Think about it – if the injuries were visible and the child was then refused help to heal because of BS excuses like, the “real-world” is unsympathetic to your pain and suffering, many people would judge such a foster caregiver (like the one quoted above) as some unfeeling monster who neglects the children in their care. There should be zero tolerance for an attitude like this.

Truth is, parenting should be individualized to the unique person each child is. As parents, we should give more to children who need more. Parenting is not about one’s self or selfishness. A parents job shouldn’t be to make the kid’s lives crappy, even if we ourselves feel we have it crappy.

Finally, this foster parent writes as though fostering wasn’t a choice they made freely. A child who is unwillingly placed in your home doesn’t owe you gratitude or deference. And “everyone is treated the same in the real world”….what a sad excuse for having closed off your heart. One gets the sense that this foster parent has come from a middle to upper class white family and has not experienced a whole lot of the “real” life they speak so freely of upholding.

Difficult Conversations


Regarding transracial adoptions . . . the legitimate question was asked –

Do you honestly feel that you are competent enough to explain to your Children of Color what is happening right now in the World?

I have been on the phone all morning with P’s Momma & Daddy.

Checking in… LISTENING… Crying… Asking how I can support them… Admitting my inabilities because I am WHITE… & Handing over the reins to the best Parents to navigate this situation because it is what is RIGHT for a Child we all love!

My heart is so broken…
Broken that this is a reality.
Broken that there are people in this world that can be like this.
Broken that I cannot truly empathize with a part of my family that I love & hold dear.
But I am also extremely grateful that a relationship exists where these very important conversations & interactions are able to happen.

One foster parent answers –

I am not competent and I know that. If anyone has some advice I will gladly take it. I have been letting her view and search for information without obstruction. She’s had questions and I’ve answered to the best of my ability but I’ve also let her know when I don’t know. We went to our local protest on the first day (and early) before they started teargassing. But when we got home we watch live what was happening in the same place where we were just standing. I myself have been reading and trying to learn so that when she has more questions I can do better. But yeah, if anyone has other advice, bring it on.

Another responded with this –

It’s better done by a person of color with whom kids have a safe relationship. I don’t need to whitesplain. Of course I can be there but I am not a POC. I defer to POC.

Yet another perspective was this –

The most aware and capable white person will never be good enough to raise a child of color. This is why I’m absolutely against TransRacial Adoption. Black kids belong in black families. If they aren’t prepared to live life when they are no longer under the umbrella of white privilege, it becomes a matter of life and death.

I would have to say I agree . . .



High Demand and Low Supply

The demand for healthy white babies among infertile married couples began to rise at the start of the 1940s.

This shifted the focus of adoption from providing homes for truly homeless, orphaned babies to providing infants to childless couples.  (My parents were both adopted in the mid-1930s and I grew up believing they must be orphans, which of course, was not the case at all – as I now know.)

A number of reasons were used to justify separating mothers and their infants.

Punishing unmarried mothers, preventing a reliance on public assistance, planned removal of white infants from white unmarried mothers who adoption social workers deemed unfit for whatever reason – included a perception the mother was neurotic.

Unmarried mothers were sometimes viewed as breeding machines when demand for these infants was highest.

A high demand coupled with low supply created pressure on unmarried mothers to surrender their babies.

This also created abuses around a mother’s relinquishment of her child.

~ The Baby Scoop Era

It is interesting that this was a “white privilege” problem.  In communities of color, the mother was encouraged to keep her child and had familial support even if there were equally abysmal financial resources for them.