Tuesday, January 24, 2012

When should I be allowed to feel this child is mine?

I'm still not sure I'm ready to talk about the failed adoption we endured four years ago, but something I read a couple of days ago got me thinking about the whole event again (not that I ever stop thinking about it, but it made me want to express a thought).  To condense a long, painful story into a few sentences, we were in the process of adopting a baby boy in 2007, and due to a number of lies the birthmother told, the supposedly "unknown" father found out about his son, and got him back after five months.  We were devastated, to say the least.  And even though we are thrilled with our son, now, and even though we knew the birth father was not at fault and had every right to have his son, it was the most painful experience I've ever endured.  We cried every day for months, and that's not an exaggeration--not all day, but at some point every day, I broke down.  I read a post on an adoption-related site on Facebook a couple of days ago that referred to adoptive parents as sometimes feeling "entitled" to a child that isn't officially theirs yet, and there was some discussion in comments following about how it's such a difficult decision for the birth parents and that we need to respect their right to take some time to make that decision.  And although I completely agree that it must be an extremely difficult decision, I have to say that I think it is unfair to think that adoptive parents should just care for a baby until the birthparents make up their minds as to what they want to do.  It think it's unfair to the adoptive parents and also to the child.  I hold no animosity towards our first son's mother.  And I have absolute compassion for our current son's birthmother (who actually passed away from a drug overdose before we even finalized our adoption).  But I think there are sides to consider all around.  In California, where we are, I believe the system weighs too heavily in favor of reunification, to the point where many children are dragged through the process for years until they reach an age where they are much less likely of being adopted.  I know of a girl who has been in foster care her entire fourteen years of life and is now struggling to be placed in a family, desperate to have parents and somewhere to call home.  During the first twelve month's of D's process, there were still chances for his birthmother to change her mind and fight to get him back.  It would have been difficult but not impossible.  Such painful decisions all around.  I think after a child has been with you for twelve months and the birth mother has made little or no effort to get him back, that perhaps you should be able to feel a little entitlement.  And I don't mean that in an arrogant way.  I have love for everyone involved, but at some point, enough is enough.  When is that point??


  1. In our first year as foster parents we had the privilege of taking care of a two year old. All too familiar story. The Mom made poor choices, the kid got hurt, the police got involved. This we saw often. But it wasn't until he and I were standing on the front porch one day, that I really understood.

    A car drove past and he called out for his mom. Then the next car drove by and he did the same, reaching out his arms. He so wanted for things to get back to normal, that he saw his mom in every passing car. If only she would stop and pick him up. The fact that normal for him seems inhumane to us was irrelevant. Looking into the teary eyes of that normally rough and stubborn kid made me realize a sobering fact.

    The separation pain we feel, the stress we endure, the sacrifices we feel we are making. They are just a drop in the bucket compared to what the foster kid is going through. That day it quit being as much about me and became a lot more about them.

    As to when we can feel a child is ours forever, probably never. May not be the feel good answer. We both know that families step up, moms rehabilitate, dads magically show up, and social workers make mistakes. A successful adoption offers the hope for the development of a lifelong family relationship, but with no guarantees.

    Helping kids when they need it most is a privilege. Whether it is for a day or for a lifetime. I'm thankful that I got the chance.

  2. I totally get that and completely agree as a foster parent. I think when you are going into it as a foster parent, then you go in with the idea that this is probably temporary, and that you are doing what you can to help reunify this child with the parents he or she so desperately wants to be with. But, I think when a parent places a child for adoption, and then waffles back and forth as to whether they want to get that child back or not--I just don't think that's right. I think those are decisions you weigh out before you place a child. And if a child has been taken, then I think there should be a window of time to do what you have been asked to do to get that child back. If a parent is trying, then I say give them time. But when they abandon a child and don't make much effort, and the process is dragged out, and perhaps the child is placed for adoption---somewhere in there (and I don't know when that is exactly) it needs to move forward.

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