If you heard screams echoing out of the mountains on September 9, it was me. Along with most other parents of adopted children, I was horrified with the news about "rehoming." Once again, members of a group we belong to were becoming infamous. Once again, we were as shocked as those who don't belong to our group. As always, we knew we would be answering questions about why people in our group do what they do.
As adoptive parents, aren't we supposed to be the vanguard for saving children? Aren't we supposed to be the forefront of child protection? Those misconceptions are part of the problem. I have written before about how motives of adoptive parents -- and those who build families biologically -- begin with selfish reasons, and then evolve. I guess now I need to tell you that both groups parent the same. That is to say, everyone does it differently.
We who rank among the group of parents who have adopted raise good kids and bad kids. We have prom kings and future scientists for children. Some of our children will grow up to lead their generation while carrying ours. Others will rot in prison. Some of us are very involved as parents; some are over-protective. There are those from our group who are notorious abusers. Others abandon their children; just like every other demographic that makes up a group of parents.
The challenges that face adoptive parents are often different from those that plague biological family builders. I know because I have built my family both ways. Even though challenges are different, they are tough, regardless. Is it easy for biological parents of children who are born with severe autism? Of course not! Do they abandon their child? Here's the point: A few of them do. Most of these parents pull themselves up by their bootstraps and go to work on being the best parents and advocates they can be for their challenged child. Others will walk away. Some of the children of these parents will spend their childhood and youth on a carousel in and out of different foster homes. Just like what happens when adoptive parents don't put their responsibilities before their own personal desires.
Adoptive parents who walk away from their children do so for the same reasons as comparable biological parents. In both cases, I find it despicable. Some adoptive parents of children with very difficult circumstances say that people who haven't adopted don't "understand" how difficult it can be, and they should not point fingers unless they have "been there." Well, I have been there. I have a daughter from Russia that we adopted when she was 15. My oldest daughter from Russia had (and has) severe challenges. She is plagued by Reactive Attachment Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Borderline Personality Disorder in addition to other difficult conditions that have been considered without actually being diagnosed. She had not been in our home for two years when the local Division of Child and Family Services in our area refused to give her any assistance for these conditions as long as she was in our custody. Eventually, to keep our daughter and the rest of our family safe, we were forced to prosecute her for a felony and turn custody over to the state. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
Still, my wife and I never stopped being mom and dad. We never stopped advocating for her. To this day, we have never stopped visiting with her and taking her on excursions whenever it was safe to do so. She has always been a member of our family and we have always loved her, especially when we couldn't understand her. When she screamed that she didn't want to be our daughter anymore, we went back to her. When she said she no longer wanted a family, we kept giving her chances. Some of the saddest days in our lives were times when it wasn't safe for her to visit with us at home. Thankfully, those times have passed. My adopted daughter loves us and we love her, even though we travel a rough and rocky road. I think there is something very important that is often overlooked. When all we can do isn't enough, we still need to do everything we can do. As a dad, I don't get to take the easy way out and walk away. My daughter has promised me that she will always keep trying, too.
Attachment problems are absolutely not limited to children who have been adopted from other countries. My brother and his wife adopted four children through the foster-to-adopt program in the United States. They have experienced some of the same attachment issues that my wife and I have faced with our international adoptions. The reasons for these attachment issues are the same. When children are taken away from caregivers after attaching, it causes severe trauma. The more times it happens, the worse it gets. And just like other forms of trauma, each individual processes and handles it differently. My four daughters are biological sisters who lived their lives in identical settings before being adopted. Each one was affected differently by trauma. Each processes it in a different way. Is it easy? Of course not. Would I do it again? Hell, yes.
I do believe there is a reason we see disruptions in overseas adoptions more often than we do from domestic ones and it isn't what you think. My wife and I had three biological sons when we adopted an infant with Down syndrome in the States. We weren't allowed to finalize his adoption until he had been in our home for six months. Most states in the U.S. have similar waiting periods. During our waiting period, we could have turned our son back over to Social Services at any time. In foster to adopt, the parents can also send the kids back to the State's care. Another caveat with foster to adopt is that the State can also put a stop to the adoption intention at any time. I simply wasn't comfortable with so much that was unsure.
The biggest reason I leaned on my wife for an inter-country adoption was that as soon as adoption court was over, the children were ours. It was final. An adoption in the U.S. (with very few exceptions) would allow either party a time to back out. For me, I do my best when I make a commitment; I stick to it whether I like it or not. Other people do better with trial periods, where they can make sure that there is a tailor-fit before commitments are made. That is one reason we hear more about attachment disorders with children who are adopted from other countries. When the adoption is final from the beginning, a parent is "giving up their child" if they walk away. If this happens during the waiting period in the U.S., it means absolutely nothing to the public. It's just another troubled kid in foster care, off to another temporary home. We'll hear about the broken adoption on the news, along with all its gory details. Not so for the other disruption.
I don't think we can tailor-make laws to govern adoption that will work perfectly for every family that adopts. I think there needs to be latitude that allows parents to do what they think will work best for their families, but rehoming is a monstrous act. When our laws allow a parent to turn over their child to a stranger with less paperwork and legal work than it takes to dispose of a car that doesn't have a title, then something is broken and it needs to be fixed. The recent report horrified me. I'm with you. If a child is going to be leaving a home, the government needs to be involved. No parent should be able to dump their children willy-nilly.
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