I was at a meeting last week where adoption workers and supervisors from different counties got together in an attempt to find families for kids who are in particular need – kids who have no one personal in their lives at all. They are the same kind of kids who get referred to my agency for adoptive placement going back decades. They are older; many are young teens or close to it; they have psychiatric diagnoses; they have had lots of foster families and so forth. Finding homes for those kind of kids is why my agency – Family Focus Adoption Services – exists. I know the type of kids; I have heard the stories for all these years. But this time, there was a significant difference to what I was hearing. Maybe not significant for these caseworkers, but I was new to these meetings, and this was definitely overwhelming for me.
The workers present the kids verbally and thoroughly and it takes a long time to get through them all. But kid after kid after kid, they reported, had been previously adopted. Not just placed for adoption, but actually finalized in court. That means, in NY, that their birth certificates, e.g., had been permanently changed. Because they permanently belonged to their adoptive families, the names of the adoptive parents were on their birth certificates – forever. Yet, here these kids were, most of them years after their finalizations, needing families. It made me berserk.
Our kids have difficulties beyond the norm – no doubt. But our kids have been abused, neglected, and betrayed beyond the norm also. They are going to have a rocky road growing up. I certainly know this. I am an adoptive parent with some kids now past 50. I get it. But it’s not like any of us didn’t know what we were getting into. The worst training out there for foster parents gives people enough to know this is not going to be an easy road raising these kids.
And if it turns out to be harder beyond anything we ever dreamed of, so what? I had no idea – none – of the experiences I would have with my kids when I took the first of them 36 years ago. Plenty of birth parents are raising kids who turned out to be harder to raise than they ever dreamed. I am not saying one must live with a kid whose behavior would be defined as criminal, were he to be an adult. No one should have to do that. I am saying however that one must remain open to one’s kids, no matter what. No psychiatric, criminal, or any other kind of behavior necessitates closing off one’s heart. On the contrary, watching one’s child go through those kind of behaviors, should result in opening up one’s (now-broken) heart.
Our kids were targets of other people’s feelings. These kids didn’t ask for the internal consequences that that abuse, neglect, and betrayal, brought inside them, such as PTSD.
We are the adults; we took them on as our kids; and we need to hold on forever. That is the core definition of “parent” isn’t it? Holding on forever.
Or what’s the point?
Adoption is for life. You don’t give children back like a broken toaster.
Sure, there can be hard times, miserable times. But to me adoption is almost the equivalent of giving birth. Once you are parents, you’re parents.
I am an adoptee, 1 of 4. I witnessed my parents struggle with 2 of my younger siblings through booze, drugs, sex and criminal behaviour. Never once during those times did it ever enter their minds to give back their children. That was just not in the realm of possibility. My parents thought of us as gifts from God and when each of us joined the family my parents accepted the responsibility of parenting us and all that entailed. The good & bad times, the joy and sadness. Never once did I ever hear a negative comment about opening their hearts to the 4 of us. I cannot understand how a person could give up a child that they accepted into their lives except to say that the acceptance was not unconditional. Adoption is a lifetime commitment there should not be any do over’s.