Monday, September 14, 2009
Assuming A New Identity
After a particularly stressful church service in which JoJo was absolutely awful, in total contrast to Paloma who was being nearly angelic, I practically stormed back home, loudly dragging out my big black cast iron skillet for burrito therapy, forgetting how soothing I also have discovered painting to be, such a mindless activity, like using crayolas in a coloring book, either way I'm not that great about staying within the lines.
Chuck has now added window alarms, exterior door alarms - this for a girl who hates shut windows and locked doors - but has found it sadly necessary.
Yolie and I started painting the hall walls with a polyurethane over the wood, while listening to the Braves-Cardinals game, a combined super-soother for me especially, so emboldened by the immediate and positive turn of events that we also knocked out the first coat of paint in the Bubba's bathroom, both of us conversing about the adoption class she was teaching and transposing thoughts over our own family here.
A right brain/left brain kind of thing with Yolie, Sarah and I. My conversations with either girl would bore the snot out of the other one. Deep environmental, food production discussions with Sarah; deep psyche, adoption/foster care behavioral issues with Yolie. A common denominator would be that of human behavior overall and Sarah'd called with a fascinating New York Times Magazine article about how our friends affect us in so many ways, even the sizes of our bodies and if we have optimistic outlooks in life.
I have thought, thought, and thought for a week or so about my friend, Amy, and a post she wrote. Twenty-five years ago it would've alarmed and saddened me, now after more than 20 years of being beat up emotionally and sometimes physically, I'm starting to understand and agree. These are the kinds of conversations I have with Yolie all the time as she's been re-entering the adoption social worker world professionally.
I met Amy several years ago in Toledo at AAN, we'd known each other in an internet group for a long time, and this was right before both she and I ended up being plunged into some terribly despairing, soul-destroying years in the adoption world, a very different planet. The article about happiness explains how we all form new normals at some point, especially after traumatic events. Eventually adoptive parents have to work on their own emotional recovery, trying to regain normalcy.
Amy's allowing me to reprint her entire post and I'd add a possible thought as well. Maybe PCAs - personal care attendants - might be a possible remedy or intervention in a birth family home? My children, once original sibling groups, mainly from Texas, overall could not have remained in their birth homes, but I've read a ton of cases over the years in which the possibility might have been there for other children if more help had been provided.
Yolie and her two siblings needed to get out of Texas for their own future survival as did some of my other children. I wonder though about Edgar's sibling group, could the birth parents, with massive amounts of aide, supervision and inhome attendants, could they possibly have parented their seven children? Or would the inherent, deeply ingrained violent tendencies have destroyed everyone? What about my other children with their severe mental disturbances? Did foster care and emergency shelters, institutions and programs further exacerbate an impossible situation? I have no answers.
The bottom line though is that I've been resented for YEARS for not being the birth mom, an emotionally crippling resentment for many of my children. Yet when they grow up, leave home, and don't have me to kick around every day, I've not seen a lot of improvement in their living circumstances.
This severe, primal, possible unhealable break with a parental figure, Amy's coining of the phrase 'assuming a new identity' in adoption verbiage, stayed on my mind all week. Overall Yolie found these thoughts to be alarming at first, later agreeing in quite a few cases.
My husband and I have adopted 14 children from state foster care (in addition to the 5 biological children we have). We began adopting over 13 years ago. Because of this decision we have had many heartbreaks and many challenges. We have had social services turn on us and investigate us because of things the children have done and then tried to blame on us by lying. We have had to remove children because of extremely harmful behavior. After living with these children and their heartache, we had come to realize a few things about the foster/adoption system in this country-mainly it doesn't work.
Here are my thoughts on this:
1. Children are removed far too much. Many of the children in my home were removed because their parents were drug addicts and bad/neglectful parents but they were not physically harming the children. They should have been left alone. The parents should have been prosecuted for the drugs but other that the kids should have remained. Yes, their lives would have been hard and they would probably pick up some really bad habits. However, no where is there a guarantee against bad parents (aren't we all from time to time). These kids fared worse being pulled out and then at an older age expected to assume a whole new identity and be happy about it. If you were taken from your home and put in another one and then were told this is your new family and that you had to like it- would you? No, you would rebel which is what all these kids have done. Further, after having been put through the social services nightmare and realizing that the only way we could win was by hiring a big, bully lawyer we understand how these parents get their kids taken, even if they try to clean up their act. If you don't have money to fight them, you cannot win once they have it in their heads to destroy you. Social services answers to no-one and they are way too powerful.
2. If a child is physically being harmed, remove them to a safe place (ie foster care) and allow them to remain until the situation is no longer harmful or until they reach adulthood. Do not expect them to take on a new identity-even if they are very young. Don't expect them to call you Mom and Dad but let them understand that you are protecting them until such time as they can hopefully return home. In addition, the parents must be prosecuted and jailed if they are harming their child. This will send a message to others that harming a child is a crime!!
3. In the best situation, the church and community should step in to care for children being harmed so a child does not have to move from their own geographical location.
4. The only children who should be adopted are true orphans - children who have been either abandoned by their biological parents or whose parents have died and there is no extended family who can take them in.
These are of course my opinions, however, almost all adoptive families I know are living lives of extreme difficulty because they tried to help a child, usually a child that just wanted to stay with their own families, despite the parents bad behavior. The system is broken and children and the families that attempt to help them continue to be damaged because of it. Their is so much more to write about this subject and i hope to do so in the future...