Friday, June 7, 2013

Would you do it again?

Someone on a support board asked everyone if they would adopt again, having adopted a child with trauma and attachment issues and knowing what that entails. I said no. Let me be clear, I in no way blame Flower for any of the things that led me to that answer. I blame the system, I blame myself, and I blame her birth family. I still love Flower and want the best for her, but if I knew before I met her what I know now, I think she would have been better off aging out and going back to her birth family.

Here is why I wouldn't do it again, knowing what I know now.

My husband and I recently discussed that our reasons for adopting in the first place are not even valid with the child we ended up with. We wanted to help (not rescue) a child in foster care who had no one to take care of them and help them once they turned 18. We had seen all the awful stories and scary statistics of what happens to the majority of the children who age out of foster care. We wanted to try to prevent that kind of outcome for at least one person. We wanted to give someone a chance at a better life. We were not expecting love and devotion, everlasting reward in heaven, or even any acknowledgement. We knew there was a good chance our efforts would be wasted but we wanted to try anyway. The problem is, this child has a family. She never should have been placed in foster care to begin with. Yes, there was some abuse, but only with her father. When she was placed with her mother the only issues were poverty. Her mother was given help to alleviate that and she was too lazy to follow through, but we really need to come up with a better solution than dissolving a family. I wish I had the link to it, but I read an article recently that stated kids would be better off going hungry every once in awhile than growing up in foster care. The damage done to my child was not done by her bio family directly. It was done by the foster care system; the system that would lose her for months at a time and shuffle her from home to home where the parents were incapable of dealing with her special needs, sending her back to be shuffled around again when the placement became too hard; the system that never bothered to address her learning problems because they always assumed someone else would; the system that let a family member adopt all the other siblings and not her, even though they had an abuse complaint against them; the system that didn't train us to handle her issues and outright lied about their severity. If it weren't for the 9 years in foster care I believe Flower would not have half the problems she does. She may have grown up uneducated and poor, but she would be able to have a relationship and be capable of learning. Now her future is looking extremely bleak. Because she has learned to have no empathy for people she will most likely end up in jail. This happened because she learned in foster care that no one would ever be there for her, no one would love her, and she has absolutely no control over her life. All she wants is to go back to her bio family so she refuses to attach to anyone else. I know that her problems will follow her there as well, but I think it would have made her happier in the end if she just aged out and went back to them. We are certain that is what she will do the minute she turns 18. I don't think it's the best choice she could make with her life, but I also don't think it would be catastrophic. Her mom is not any different than any other self absorbed, lazy, and enabling parent. Lots of people grow up that way and don't spend their adulthood in jail.

The other reason, and this is where I blame myself, is that I should have listened when people told me not to adopt out of birth order. We adopted an older child when we already had a young child in the home. We were told this was a bad idea because "those kids are bad, they will abuse the kids you have". I was appalled by this argument because I knew that not every kid in foster care was so messed up that they would hurt other children. I was right with Flower. She is not a bad person. She cares very much for her younger siblings and I don't think she would ever intentionally hurt a child. What I didn't realize is that there is other damage that can occur when you have an older child with truama and attachment issues. Because Flower operates emotionally at a much younger age we have to parent her differently than we do our bio children. A good example is that we don't make her do homework. We do make our 7 year old do homework and she doesn't understand why she has to follow different rules.  In addition to that Flower has a lot of very counterproductive behaviors that the  7 year old is beginning to mimic. Sunshine is about to get kicked out of her after school program because of this. It never occurred to me that we would be dealing with those behaviors in both kids. I thought we had done a good enough job with the 7 year old that she would know not to behave that way. Apparently I was very wrong. She sees Flower getting all of our attention when she throws big tantrums. I have yet to find a way to make Sunshine realize that Flower's behavior is not getting Flower what she wants. So now we have two children with behavior problems. With both parents working I can tell you that that is nearly impossible to manage.

We signed up for this and we will see it through. We won't give up on Flower, even when she gives up on us. We won't give up on each other either. Hopefully the progress we have made on our marriage these last few weeks will last and we will come out stronger. Hopefully Flower will one day realize we were just trying to help her. Hopefully she will decide she wants to have a better life and start doing what she needs to. In the meantime we will continue to find help for our family and do our best to protect the two youngest, who really had no say in all this. I know it is useless to look back; I just wish I could have been a little less stubborn and spared Sunshine and Little Bird all of this.


  1. I was wondering, is going back to her birth family now (instead of when she turns 18) a possibility? I mean, with assistance from you so she doesn't go hungry, need shelter, etc., would it work? If being with her birth family is her heart's desire, can she be given the choice to either go back or stay with you (and she will have to work on her issues so she can attach to you)?

  2. the strength echoed in this post is remarkable