Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Adoption Disruption

No, we aren't thinking of disrupting our adoption. Actually, it would be a dissolution since our adoption is final, at least in the eyes of Haiti. Disruption would be before an adoption is finalized, like during the 30, 60 or 90 days the state requires between when the child is placed in your home and when you go to court. But we aren't thinking of that either. However, there has been a lot of talk and bashing on blogs lately. And although no one asked my opinion, I'm going to give it. After all, it's my blog : )

Asking would you do that if it was your birth child is not an applicable question. If someone hadn't given up their birth child, a child wouldn't have been adopted. Children are given up at birth and children are given up or taken from birth parents at older ages too.

And if the question is, "Would you send a birth child to another family?" that would depend. When you give birth to child, you already have a bond and the child quickly learns to attach--we are talking the normal family here not a mom with mental health issues or addictions etc. You have many wonderful memories of first steps, first words, birthday parties, handmade cards etc. So if your child goes a little crazy in their preteen/teen years, you still have a strong bond and many years of shared happy times.

This is not true when you adopt. The child may come in literally kicking and screaming. He may hate you on sight. He may resent you for taking him away from his home or culture. He may tell you every day that you aren't his real mom and his real mom is so much better. He may spit on his food, throw it on the floor, kick your cat and pee on your couch. This is your first exposure to the child, so there are no early years of happy times to remember. There are no shared memories. Often there are no good memories at all.

So the birth child versus adopted child question makes little sense. For me, if my birth child suddenly started going the wrong way, I'd get counseling. If that didn't work, I'd look for an out-of- home placement to get help with the understanding that he would return when he had dealt with the issues that made it impossible for him to live at home. I'd do the same for an adopted child. But if the problems start young, there often isn't that option. And insurance does not normally pay for long term help. So you are looking at thousands a month.

Most of you know that we got Jeff from Haiti at almost age 5. We kept him in home until a couple months short of 13 years old. Then we sent him to a farm setting for kids with problems. We assumed that he would be there 1-2 years and then return. And I really thought it was probably my fault because I just didn't know how to reach him. He's been there over four years and still has issues. They don't feel it would be best for him to come home. It's hard because I think that now I could do so much better with him. I was horrible at separating the child and the behaviors. He'd steal from me and I'd take it personally. I was often angry. It started escalating right before his 13th birthday and at that time his "friends" started coming over and threatening my girls.

Dissolutions were not readily available when we made the choice for Jeff and changing homes would have only helped if he was an only child in a therapeutic home. But we lived with storm clouds constantly over us. He is staying there now because he is so close to graduating under their ACE program but would be a year or two from it under our county's requirements.

The point is, for those who have ended adoptions, it's not really accurate to compare it to a situation with a birth child. It's more like a mail order bride. You read a description. It sounds like a good match. So you send for the child. You might get to visit, but visiting at an orphanage isn't really a true test of how the child will fit into your family. And the description may be inaccurate or totally false. What parent would adopt a child if they were told the child may have health issues and probably has serious mental health issues. They hate authority and haven't shown any signs of attachment. Or parents aren't told that the parent used alcohol and drugs during their pregnancy so they child most likely will have problems understanding right and wrong and consequences. They may conceal the fact that they child was sexually abused in his home or used sex to get enough food to survive in her village. They don't tell you that your birth children or younger adopted children may be abused by this child.

Instead, a cute photo is posted with a description something like, "Johnny is near the top of his class. He has many friends among his peers and is considered a leader. Johnny is sad because so many of his friends has gotten families but he hasn't." Who wouldn't want to give this little guy a chance at a home? So you bring him home expecting to have a son to play catch with, to give a chance to be in gymnastics and soccer and scouts.

But instead you have an angry child who resents you for taking him out of the only life he knew. He turns his anger on you and tries to hurt you by hurting your other children and destroying your things. He manipulates people and often you look like the bad guy. After all, you keep him with you at all time. You don't let him attend birthday parties or sleepovers. You don't let other people buy him things to make up for all he missed in life.

(I am not talking about our own story here in any of this except what I shared about Jeff. This is just generally how things can go wrong. And we did face some of it, but not the worst case scenarios.)

It gets to the point where you dread getting up in the morning. No one realizes what you are going through. And you are faced with the question of what to do.

Okay, so this is really getting long. So go get the clothes out of the dryer and fold them. Grab a soda and come back : )

That brings me to another point. There is a big difference between a family who isn't prepared for the issues an adopted child brings with him and one who is blindsided by the child they receive. A family may be the perfect family with obedient children. They have a great family life so they decide to adopt to give a poor orphan a home and let them experience that wonderful family life. No problem with that. But all adopted children will test you. Some less than others. Parenting is hard. Adoptive families need to realize that. If you want your life to go on the way it is with things running smoothly and a schedule in place, adoption may not be for you. You may want to help by donating to an orphanage or sponsoring a child instead.

It is hard to see a family give up on a child after just a few weeks home because they have challenging behaviors or a personality far removed from anyone else in the family. I think that parents should try an extended period of play therapy, family counseling and just allowing the child to adjust before making any changes. At the same time, if a family comes to resent the child, the child will know. He will know the family doesn't love him or cherish him. And every child deserves to have a family who thinks he's worth the work. I'd rather see a child have a new home than live with scorn and rejection.

Sometimes there just is no choice though because of safety issues. On the one hand you understand that the child is hurting your other children because of things done to him in the past, but at the same time you know that you absolutely must keep your other children safe and now deal with his or her trauma because he or she was abused right in his/her own home. Well, for one thing, that must be reported to the state, and that child will probably be removed from the home for the safety of others.

The problem is that he will be thrown into the foster care system. That's not always bad if there is a therapeutic placement available and the child will really get the help he needs. But the parents will have little to no say on where the child removed from the home will be placed. It's up to the state. Sometimes the adoptive family is investigated even though they had nothing to do with it. It all goes back to early abuse the child suffered. Often good adoptive families are dragged through the mud and their business made public in these situations.

Sometimes a parent will find a new family on their own for the child so they can pick the kind of family their child needs. They can arrange to keep in touch or visit. And there are some families who are excellent at dealing with children who have serious issues. They also have the advantage of knowing in advance what they are up against.

So, what am I trying to say? I have no idea.

I'm just seeing a lot of judgment going on online. And until we have lived in someone else's circumstances, we don't know how it feels. I catch myself watching a parent grabbing a child while in the mall and marching them out and I think, "Oh, what a cutie. Look how that horrible mom is treating him" and I remind myself that that same cutie probably has already had several warnings and has been pushing his mom's buttons for the past hour while she's tried to do errands and that I've done that same thing. It just looks different when it's a child you haven't had to deal with.

If you are thinking of ending an adoption, make sure you've tried everything. Even see if someone can take the child for a few weeks so you can get a fresh perspective on things. Remember that something has happened to make that child act that way. If you need to end the adoption, know that you will have a vast number of emotions-- guilt, relief, guilt for feeling that sense of relief, confusion about whether you could have done something else, grief that the child has had another hurt in his life and that your family has been hurt, anger at being lied to about the child and for the money you spent only to turn around and have the child leave and so on.

And if you are someone who knows a family who has had to end an adoption, be careful how you judge. Often you see what the child wants you to see. That little angel in your Sunday School class who cuddles up to you and says, "I wish you were my mommy" is playing you. Don't feel flattered. It's a game. That same child is probably being totally spiteful to her own mom.

Okay, okay. I'm shutting up now. So now it's your turn to talk. You know where the comment button is. What has worked for you in dealing with rough adoption transitions or kids who came with lots of baggage? What advice to you have for pre adoptive families? Families who are thinking of disrupting?


Who Asked You? said...

I agree with most of what you said. I hate to see parents give up after only a couple of months. But if they just hate the child, it's better to give him a chance with a family that will love him unconditionally.

I think most people don't really know what to expect. I sure enough didn't with my first two adoptions. I thought the kids would be appreciative of a better home. But they were happy where they were and didn't realize it wasn't a good situation at all. It was all they knew.

It was hard work and it still is but I hope one day they will be good citizens and maybe even give back to their home country.

Who Asked You? said...

PS I really think adoption agencies and placement workers should tell perspective parents the truth and not keep secrets that could affect the adoption or the safety of the new family.

One Crowded House said...

I agree- there should be no judging unless someone has been in the exact same circumstances (and what are the chances of that- slim).

We have 4 adopted kids- and our son from Haiti is our biggest "challenge"...

I think parents need to lower their expectations (and like you said not take things personally).
Why should these kids feel grateful- appreciative- or anything of that nature? The reason they are being adopted is because they went through trauma- they were separated from their birth families for one reason or another- and suffered neglect at some point.... why should they thank us?

I know our son would be perfectly happy living with any other family... I can't take that personally. He had to learn to be flexible and "go with the flow", having his birth parents place him in an orphanage- and then being moved between two orphanages- and then we swoop in and tell him we are his mommy and daddy?!

As far as disruptions/disolutions- there are certainly instances when other children in the home are being abused, that it is best to remove that child from the home. Otherwise- I agree that everyone needs to go through lots of counseling and therapy....
the adoptive parents need to see things from the child's perspective... how would you feel being taken from what you thought was your home, moved to another country, expected to learn another language, to "love" their new parents and siblings, to learn "manners" and be respectful... it is a LOT and takes years. Our son is 7 and been home 2 years and just this weekend he had an episode where he regressed back to toddler behavior of kicking and screaming and crying so loud he was drooling on himself.
We loved him through it (even though we were *so* frustrated with him) and he had a great next couple of days.

It is hard.

Maybe the adoption agencies and advocates need to just be more blunt with adoptive parents and say "forget the rainbows and butterflies, this is REAL LIFE, these are hurting kids, they will bring joy, fun, but also burdens and sadness to your family... they come with a HISTORY, some parts of it may be good, but more often than not it will contain a lot of hurt... can you deal with that? can you deal with the hurt? the pain? the sorrow?... if not... then adoption is not for you"

Nadia said...

the biggest problem is the wait...wait to see this specialist, wait to see that therapist, and by that time 2 years has gone by and you've disrupted long ago because there was no where else to turn.
then you get to deal with "friends" and family judging you and gossiping to the world.

Pihl Pastures said...

Thank you for posting this Kathy. I know we were pretty blind-sided both by behavioral issues and with mental/physical issue were were either lied to about or completely unaware of. Turning for help can be just as risky as trying to go it alone. With the ineptitude of the government and those put in a position to help, turning to them can easily make matters worse when the child is skilled enough in manipulation. There was definitely no lack of love on our part (I still think about and miss them), but, as you pointed out, sometimes parents have to make impossible choices. So, thank you for posting about something that is so taboo and enlightening your readers that there is always more than one side to a story.

"Are These Kids All Yours?" said...

I LOVE this post because- well it's an honest opinion. Kids are tough sometimes ...add in issues...and it can throw your whole life in the toilet. We feel that we would love to say - not us, but what if? I don't know. I would love to say never, but I have not walked the road of many- of the really tough stuff....

Kathy C. said...

Thanks for sharing moms. I know everyone has a different story. Adoption is never easy and it's compounded by people who haven't been there judging. Like has been said, agencies need to be as open and honest as possible and they need to prepare parents for when something goes wrong. And when the state gets involved and doesn't know the family, it can get messy.

kayder1996 said...

I would like to believe that the majority of judgement that comes down on adoptive families who disrupt/dissolve adoptions is from sources outside of the adoption world, by people who really have no idea about what type of behavior is going on. Yes, families made committments to a child but part of parenting is giving a child a hope and a future. And in the case of both birth children and adoptive children, sometimes you can't provide that. Perhaps you are just a stopping place, a safe place to rest until that child gets to the place they need to be.

Obviously the most "blame" goes to the circumstances that created a horrific childhood for a child, one where they learned to distrust rather than love, to protect self rather than be protected.

As to families knowing the risks of adopting, I think there's enough blame to go around. As you said, what family is going to line up to adopt a child who is described as manipulative, defiant, controlling, or mean? My personal favorite are the foster care listings you can view online which have some type of secret code. They say things like "so and so needs a structured family" or "so and so would do best in a family with no younger children." What on earth do those things mean? Like this child cannot function without structure or this child may harm younger, more vulnerable children? Or are they just giving you an opinion based on the settings where a child has been most successful? Orphanages and adoption workers do need to be as upfront and honest as they can.

But adoptive parents are also equally at fault, not in a "you brought this on yourself" sort of way but more in a "we want to see what we want to see" or a "we can't know what we don't know" type way. (Not in a judgement way...know I have a tremendous amount of respect for any parent that has had to make a decision like that.) I cannot tell you how much I have learned in the last 4-5 years of my life. Yes I understood what things might be a challenge but i'm not sure I understood what that practically meant for a family. Like that if I adopted an older child and if I had children younger than them in the home, that might be a prime situation for abuse perpetrated by the older child. Or that attachment is not just about a child attaching to you but about you attaching to and loving a child. There are also adoptive families who deliberately disregard the advice given to them by a social worker because they didn't like the advice. (ie adopting out of birth order, the amoung of time that the worker recommends between placements, sleeping arrangements for a newly home child, etc.) I'm not saying that the social worker is the authority whom parents must bow to. Just that sometimes that passion to adopt can cause us to ignore what might be valid advice.

Of course some of the blame also lies in the people who prepare you to adopt. Our social workers have not really "educated" us; we've done it ourselves. It is too bad that the true life stories of adoptive families who post online and give authentic voices to adoption are not given as required reading for people thinking of adoption. So I guess Kathy, i'm like you. I don't know exactly what I'm trying to say. Just that there's a lot of places to point fingers when it comes to why disruptions happen. And the reality is placing blame is pretty useless unless someone is in a position to orchestrate change.

Bill and Christina said...

Great post Kathy. I have so much to say and not sure how to put it all into words. We have adopted older children and yes it was out of birth order as far as chronological age but in other ways they are way younger and there are a lot of reasons for that. There has been a lot of issues that we have addressed are addressing but there has also been a ton of growth,on my part and theirs. But I know this for sure if not for Jesus and the leading of the Holy Spirit I could not do what I need to do or parent the way that they need to be parented. I think that my adoption walk is just as much about my walk with Jesus as it is their walk in being adopted. Support I think is a huge need for adoptive parents. Judgement doesn't help anyone. I am always ready and willing to support others and to share what I have walked through if it will help someone else.

Heather said...

Thanks Kathy for posting this and for always being a support to others. I have so much to say on this subject but emotionally am just not ready yet. Thanks for your post of encouraging others not to judge. Nobody knows the entire story of the adoptive family. There are many things adoptive parents choose not to share.

Anonymous said...

Really great post. I think you said everything I feel so perfectly.

Nadia said...

sadly MUCH of the judgement has come from the adoption community...MOST of it actually.

Kathy C. said...

Unfortunately you are right Nadia. I've notice criticism for other families from:
other adoptive families
the church
your own family
people who don't have any children but start their comments, "If I had children I would never...." Uh huh. How do you know what you would do? None of us do.

Tracy said...

Great post, Kathy. I admire your ability to tackle the hard topics and create a positive discussion about it. I have to say that even though our agency sent us a box full of books to read, no one (i.e. social worker, agency, etc.) every truly explained the reality of adoption. In some ways it has been way easier than i thought and in other ways, much harder. None of which were accurately described by any of the people we paid to help us with our adoption. To this day we are in the dark about our little one's first 2 1/2 years of life...all I know is what I saw the 3 days I spent in Haiti 2 years ago.

kayder1996 said...

Christina-I think you're so right in what you say about your adoption walk being more about your walk with Christ than a lot of things. In general, I think parenthood is an experience that provides you with such insight into how selfishness and sinfulness impacts our lives. And adoption magnifies it, especially if you are dealing with a really tough situation.

And the whole judgement thing I so don't get. Seriously, we have no idea what goes on behind closed doors. If someone is saying this is the best choice, then the people who are not intimately involved in it ought to just leave it alone. Having been through quite a few tough things not related to adoption but related to caring for terminally ill or aging family members, sometimes you just get to a place where there are NO good options, only ones that are slightly less crappy than the others.

Kathy C. said...

Kayla-Your comment "there are no good options, only ones that are slightly less crappy than others" really sums it up well!

agyrlt said...

I was so happy to read this post and find some supportive people online who understand what we are going through. We adopted siblings over a year ago, our little girl is now 2 and our son is 4. Our son was from a previous disrupted adoption and at the time we were asking to be considered for our daughter (who at the time was going to be placed with her sister 1 year older) our sons first adoption fell apart. At that time we were asking to be considered for our daughter and her sister all of the sudden the CAS changed plans for the family and their decision was our little girl and our son instead and the other sister would remain in her current foster home who wanted to adopt her ultimately.

We asked of course what happened in the previous adoption and were told that it was a bonding issue but not for our son, just for the adoptive parents and as well they were apparently having marital issues. We did our preplacement visits and everything was going pretty well. Once they were placed with us on AP and everyone started to adjust, we seen so many things going on with him. Food obsessions that can send him emotionally over the edge, periods of extreme highs and for no given reason it swtiches to extreme lows and blankness in his emotion. He has to be taught what is an appropriate response for a given situation quite often, and dicipline as simple as a time out can send him into a complete emotional melt down, drooling bawling uncontrollably etc. I really could go on and on however this is where we are now.

We have let the CAS know that we are not moving forward with finalization. Our house in in constant stress and upheaval and we really are struggling to have the patience for our baby girl and our older son who is 9. He is adopted as well, almost 7 years ago, he had preexposure to drugs and alcohol and suffers from delays however our bond with him was so immediate and solid and his struggles with his delays have never been anything that we ever think about beyond attempting to get the best help for him and his future. He is the most amazing little man and having a bio daughter of my own who is now 20, I can say without question that my love for him is no different from my love for my bio daughter. Our bond with our 2 year old was so immediate as well. She was in the same foster home as our older son and because of our great relationship with those foster parents over the years we go to know and love our daughter before she was even ours. We love her and can't imagine our life without her in it, she is sociable, happy, engaging and just a princess. Our 4 year old however is exhausting, hyper, he has no regard for consequences, when your back is turned he does whatever he wants when he wants to. We run a tight ship at home and the firm guidelines mean nothing to him if he isn't in the mood to follow them. There are so many days that our energy is drained and our stress is at such a all time high that we really feel that our other children miss out on what they deserve. I know many people would say "well just don't take it out on them" and "whats wrong with you" but we are only human. My husband is a police officer and I work part time shift work as well and we have felt so much dread in our lives for the past year, where work is a blessing most days and the feeling of coming home is something that almost brings you down.

We have let the CAS know that we are willing to provide long term foster care so we know we will have the support we feel he will need over the years and the support we know we will need. They however have let us know that they believe he will be better off in an adoptive home and we are now waiting to hear how this process will take place. We are hoping to hear from other families who could aid us in this emotionally devastating decision that we have made. Please any feed back would be so welcome.

Kathy C. said...

It's hard when one child's needs take away from the needs of the others. It sounds like he needs a therapeutic home with much older children or no other children. It can be overwhelming and emotionally exhausting.

You will find lots of support online. Just look for blogs of families who have had to disrupt. Unfortunately there are a lot because families aren't always told the truth about the children they are adopting.

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