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Adoption= Insanity? (Chapter 1: Only Try This if You’re Crazy)

**Four years ago to the week, this was my first post on Hypervigilant. Ah, memories…

Ever notice the words “adoption” and “insanity” have the same number of letters?

Coincidence? I think not.

It’s been almost three years since the Wednesday they arrived, dropped off by another foster parent. At the time, we didn’t know that a Social Worker was supposed to be present to “facilitate” the situation. The kids had no idea what was happening. Neither did we. Married ten years, with approximately 20 years of “kid experience” between us, we thought we could handle it. The kiddos, then 5 and newly-turned-7, had met us and seemed to like us. Surely, this would be a breeze. They were so teeny and adorable..like baby jackals.

Surely you’ve heard the phrase, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.”  That Wednesday evening foreshadowed the next two years of our lives with fair accuracy. We took them to a church spaghetti dinner. During the course of the meal, they ate pasta and sauce with their hands  (unwilling to use apparently foreign utensils), spilled six (count ’em, six) cups of pink lemonade – including a huge trip-fall-splatter that involved about a third of the floor space, and the five year old ate a napkin. Ate a napkin.

Well, ate might be exaggeration. He stuffed the napkin in his mouth, and despite (or because of) our exhortations of “Oh, honey, don’t…don’t do that.” “No, that’s not food. Take it out.” “Spit that out right now.” “SPIT. IT. OUT.” he continued to chew the paper with a “make me” glint in his sweet blue eyes. Finally, Hubby said, “Fine. Swallow it. It’ll probably stop you up and you won’t poop for a week.” The game was no longer fun. He swiftly deposited the mass of wet fibers onto the floor.

We arrived home past bedtime, exhausted, but bathing could not be skipped, as the kids were literally covered in sauce. Imagine all the cute photos of your friends’ infants eating pasta for the first time. Super cute, that tomato-basted babe. Fast forward five or seven years. No longer super cute.

We wanted to get them into bed quickly, so I started the shower, made sure it was warm, then helped the 7 year old remove her saucy outfit and step into the tub. She gave me a little smile. Then…she collapsed, screaming, on the floor of the tub. In my panic to find the problem, I left the shower running. “Are you hurt? Did you slip? Are you okay? What’s wrong?” She continued to scream. Hubby, who had been entertaining the five year old, opened the door slightly. “What in the world is happening in there? What did you do?” More screaming. What did I do? Clearly, I lost my mind and brought an insanely scary spirit-possessed child into the house.

Finally, as the decibels reached somewhere between ear-piercing and drum-bleeding, I regained my conscious mind and turned off the shower. Screaming stopped, immediately. No explanation. “Are you okay?” Nod. “Are you hurt?” Shake. “Did the shower scare you?” Another negative shake. “You have to get clean; will you take a bath?” Nod. The child then washed the remnants of dinner from her hair, calmly and apparently in her right mind.

We didn’t attempt another shower for the next year. Then, the younger one spontaneously decided he’d rather shower. Not to be outdone by her little brother, our girl braved the shower the next night, with no complications. Oh, how I love sibling rivalry.

Approximately six hundred showers later, she said casually. “Hey, remember that time I was screaming like a crazy person in the shower, on our first night here?”  “Oh…um, I think I remember.” Yes, I remember. My eardrums spontaneously tremor at the thought. “Yeah, Mama…I was just freaked out about being in a new house. Sorry about that.” Freaked out, indeed. “Oh, sweetie, don’t even worry about it. That was a long time ago. I barely even remember it.”  Liar, liar, pants on fire…

My mom says she doesn’t remember the hours of childbirth because the joy of seeing the baby’s face “erased the memory.” If you’re lucky, birth happens in hours (or if you’re unlucky, days).  Adoption, especially with behaviorally challenged kiddos, is a little different. Labor pains happen every day for years.

And believe me, I remember every single minute.

Good thing we like a little insanity around here.

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Trauma Mama

I can’t figure out how to reblog this page, so here’s the link. Her blog is fabulous and this link sends you straight to a bunch of great books and resources.

Click below for the

Super Resource List by one of my favorite trauma mamas.

Help a Girl Out?

At some point, we’ve all searched for parenting or adoption or mental health resources.

I’m compiling a list…please forward me links, book titles, etc.

If everyone sends 2, we’ll have

over 1000 resources

on our list!

(I’m assuming there will be some overlap.)

People need help. Let’s be the community where they find hope, healing and health. 

Add info in the comments or email me: Casey@hypervigilant.org

*Commentary on the resource is helpful but not required (e.g., “great guide to first-year parenting,” or, “this agency provides post-adoption support in Cambridge, UK”).

We Don’t Need No…

I just read a post by a mom who hopes to stop using an IEP for her special needs son.

Read her article (here) and then add your thoughts below.

Here’s my response:

I see your point, but I think I’d have to side with your hubby IF your boy is like ours (and the description is all too familiar). Here’s my reasoning: I’m not looking for legal protection against bad behavior; you’re absolutely right about consequences. Kids need to experience cause and effect.

However, the IEP forces people around him to consider his differences and be more understanding. I’ll give you an example.

At a theme park, I waited in line with everyone else to get my food. A young man (late teens) walked up, pushed past me, grabbed the food he wanted and pushed me out of his way again on his way back. He didn’t apologize; instead, he called happily to his mother, “I got the last one before anyone could take it!”

His mother, looking mortified and frazzled, told him to apologize. When he just stood there staring at the plate, she said, “I’m really sorry. He doesn’t realize.”

Having personal experience with Autism, I was fairly certain of the situation. Without that experience, I would have seen an incredibly rude young man whose mother obviously did not rear him with manners.

BUT his mother’s reaction confirmed what I suspected. Instead of being annoyed, I felt very happy for her that she could bring her son to a place like amusement park. So many kids on the Spectrum would be too overwhelmed to function in the chaos.

Of course, an IEP won’t help in public, but it will release some of the pressure in other settings. Asking people to treat a kid with differences as Neurotypical is unfair to all parties. He needs at least one safe place where people will attempt to understand.

My boy has made great strides but any teacher who expects a model student will be disappointed.

Unmet expectations = frustration.

The IEP allows reasonable expectations.

I don’t excuse inappropriate behavior and our school staff members know that. But there’s a difference in motive to be considered: a belligerent kid snapping pencils in half vs. the overwhelmed kid trying to deal with too much sensory input. Both look the same on the outside.

An IEP gives the teacher extra insight regarding whether this kid who refuses to stop snapping pencils should be sent to the principal or given a few minutes in a quiet corner away from chaos.

So anyway…that’s my two cents.

What do YOU think?

#MicroblogMondays

 

I’m not the most dedicated blogger in the world, mostly because I am a perfectionist and like to get my posts just right before I post them (which takes a loooooong time).

I think Stirrup Queen’s Microblog idea might help.

What is Microblogging?  Click the link to find out. 😉

I’m also pretty bad at consistency, so this might be my only one.

Short and sweet blog post, once a week with up to eight sentences. Maybe you should try it, too!

And…that’s eight.

 

About the About Page

I updated the “About” page. Is this better, or worse?

(And yes, I found the Text Color button…to save your eyes, I tried not to get crazy.)

Trying to make the site more readable; I appreciate your feedback.*

*Like, seriously. If you hate the page, please tell me how to make it better.  🙂

 

Nutshell if you’re in a rush:

Hi, I’m Casey.

Hubby and I adopted two very traumatized kids through foster care. Our social worker called me hypervigilant (because I wanted her to do her job*) and now I write at Hypervigilant.org.

Resources for families of adopted children proved difficult to find; once we were right-side-up again, Hubby urged me to share our experiences. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Find HOPE here. And also lots of cyber-hugs. 

*No offense if you’re a good SW. I know good ones are out there and we appreciate all you do.

Details of our story if you have a minute:

Hubby and I adopted two wild hyenas and lived to tell about it (and so have they), and now I’m sharing the saga with you. I share personal experience and thoughts from adult adoptees (some of the best resources EVER for figuring out how to help kids). 

I started writing for anyone involved in adoption, but adoptive or not, consider yourself invited.

Stay a while; speak your mind. I love hearing your perspective. Some of the best parenting advice comes from people without kids, because their brains aren’t fried on square pants and the Lego movie theme song.

If you have no personal connection with adoption, but you read this blog and think “Geez, why doesn’t she just try _____,” please share suggestions. It takes a village to raise an idiot—I mean, child.

Similarly, it takes a blogging community to keep the child’s parents from singing EVERYTHING IS AWESOMMMMMMMMMMMME to the bank teller.

Everyone needs hope and the occasional laugh. I try to provide both by sharing the truth about adoption with an honest picture of our wins and mishaps. I also write a little fiction on the side. These are my favorites.

Alternately, you can read Adoption = for the same reason Hubby watches Cops: “Well, at least we’re not THAT crazy.”

Find hope here, whether you are in a beautiful moment of triumph, in the middle of ongoing battles, in the throes of a nervous breakdown or wishing you could just give those kids back to someone. Anyone.

(No, this does not make you a bad person. You WILL get through it. Please do not give your child to the grocery clerk with the kind eyes.)

I don’t have all the answers, but I’m happy to give you what I’ve got. If Hubby and I can endure HellonEarth and keep two kids alive (which is sometimes a bit harder than it sounds), so can you.

If you are in the circle of an adopted child or adoptive parent, sometimes you will feel like walking away. Please don’t. They need all the help they can get. You’ll see what I mean. There’s a LOT they aren’t telling, because they don’t want you to run away screaming.

Adoption can feel very isolating. Almost like Witness Protection.

If you’ve read this far, thanks for hanging in with me. Tenacity is an excellent quality for dealing with adopted children. Also, you’ll need patience, empathy, and the ability to open a big ol’ can of whoop-a—oh, sorry…I mean…the ability to guide darling children through extremely difficult emotional ups and downs.

Actually, the can of whoop will likely be necessary for the social worker or other adult standing in the way of what your child needs. Keep it on hand.

Our kids will choose our nursing homes. I, for one, do not plan to end my days living in a storage unit with a bare bulb for heat. Especially now that we have to use those energy-efficient ones.

Let’s get this right.

Happy reading,

Casey

Casey Alexander writes and lives with her amazing, talented Hubby and two wonderful (and sometimes very weird) adopted children, along with three dogs and six outdoor cats. And also a hawk, who hangs around hoping to steal a cat (as the kids have grown too large). 

List of Great Adoption Blogs

I recently learned something cool:

along with a bunch of other awesome sites,

Hypervigilant.org is included in a “Best Adoption Blogs” list!

Looking for new reads and fresh perspectives? Start here:

 

Home » Adoption » Best Adoption Blogs

Best Adoption Blogs

Great list of adoption blogs

The sheer number of adoption bloggers online is overwhelming. We have attempted to help you out by weeding through and selecting our favorites. Please let us know via ourcontact page any of your favorites that we’ve missed.

+ Adoption (General)

  • Adoption Toolbox – Mom who adopted from China whose kids are now teens. Writes about general adoptive parenting, being an “older mom, parenting adopted teens/tweens.
  • Extraordinary Moms Network – This faith-based group provides support, love, encouragement and guidance for adoptive mothers and foster moms, mothers of special needs children, and all women who invest their lives in other people’s children.
  • Land of Gazillion Adoptees – Highlighting the expertise, accomplishments, programs, projects, and stories adoptees. It aims to be “adoptee-centric by: challenging the adoption status quo; challenging the traditional adoption narrative; challenging adoptees; and being challenged by all.
  • Stirrup Queen’s Mega Blog List – This is the mother of all blogrolls. Every blog on infertility and adoption ever created, or just about, is listed on this magnificent collection of blogs. The blogroll is actually searchable, which is wonderful.
+ Foster Care Adoption

  • Seeds of Hope – Great blog by a mom who adopted a singleton at 19 months from foster care in 1999, then a sibling set of 3 under the age of 6 in 2009, then another sibling set of 3 under the age of 8 in 2013. She mentors other foster/adopt families. Her experience covers lots of different age ranges and diagnoses.
  • Three Pink Diamonds – Mom of 3 siblings adopted from foster care in the UK. She blogs about becoming an instant family of five after years of struggling with infertility.
  • Journey to Josie – Mother to two children adopted as infants through foster care.
  • Fosterhood in NYC – Written by a younger woman who has fostered multiple children, and now is in the process of adopting a daughter that she is currently fostering.
  • Popp Life – A mother of five – three biological children, and two that are in the process of being adopted through foster care.
  • Foster Parenting Podcast – This is a podcast, not a blog, but it has helpful information about foster care adoption parenting. It is not currently adding new shows, but all past shows are available to listen through a computer or download to phone, tablet, or iPod.
  • Barren to Blessed – The author of this blog had a hysterectomy at age 11 to save her life from a bacterial infection. She now is a mom of two kids through foster care adoption, and is in the process of adopting a third child. She writes about her experience with both infertility and adoption.
  • The Lewis Note – Mother of two – one biological, and one that is being adopted through foster care. She also suffers from secondary infertility, and is going through the process of getting tested to figure out the cause.
  • From Instant to Forever – This lady is a veteran of dealing with the foster care system. She fostered a sibling group of six (chronicled on Instant Mama), and is now a mother to a sibling group of five through foster care adoption.
  • Word from the Wallaces – Family adopting from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Also foster parents to two kids and bio parents to two young kids. She’s a good writer and a prolific blogger. She also blogs about her faith and what God is doing in her life through adoption.  She also blogs at Light Breaks Forth.
  • Blogging for Baby Shayla – Mom of three by adoption from US foster care and China
  • Millions of Miles – Adopted a child from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and are beginning the process of becoming foster parents.
  • Hypervigilant – I love this blog! She blogs mainly on fostering, but she is also adopted from foster care and talks about that experience as well. This is a must read for those considering foster care or foster care adoption. Blog by a mom who adopted a 5 and 7 year old from foster care. She doesn’t hold back in sharing the joys and the challenges.

 

THANKS to https://creatingafamily.org for including Hypervigilant!  Check out the site directly for additional blogs and information. 

Reddit.com/r/Adoption

If you’re part of an adoptive family (or know one), I highly recommend checking out https://www.reddit.com/r/Adoption. The community has almost 4500 members (birth parents, adoptive parents and adopted children are all welcomed).

This is a recent interaction I had with one of the members. If you have experience with RAD, please chime in!

How long did it take to bond with your child before she started to really see you as parents? What are your current struggles?

Join the conversation on Reddit!

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Photo Credit: Martin Lafrance

I Can’t Hear You…

I ask the usual question as the kids clamber into my truck.*

*Yes, I drive a truck. It’s big and black and bad@$$ and NO I’m not a redneck. I just like my truck. And also Hubby thinks it’s hot. So there’s that.

How was your day?

All the parenting books encourage me to “ask open-ended questions!” in order to elicit enthusiastic and long-winded answers from my children. Obliging my curiosity, they answer with enthusiasm and long-windedness:

He: “Mmmph.”

She: “Ehhhh.”

“Come on guys,” I wheedle, “I know something happened today.” Then it hits me. Ahhh.

“Did your teacher have to speak to you about behavior?”

“It’s all Ellie’s fault,” he explodes. “Stupid Ellie made me have silent lunch!”

I try to catch his eye in the mirror. No dice. “So…how did Ellie make you have silent lunch?”

“I knocked a magnet off the desk,” he says, “and I tried to catch it before it hit the ground and my hand whacked it instead of catching it and it flew across the room and then Ellie said I threw it but I DIDN’T throw it and it was an accident, just an accident. And then I got silent lunch BECAUSE OF ELLIE. IT WAS HER FAULT!”

I wait for him to breathe. “Your teacher seems very fair. I don’t think she’d give you silent lunch just because Ellie said you threw a magnet.”

He wails in rising crescendo as tears fill his eyes.

“If Ellie would stay out of my business 

I wouldn’t have had silent lunch.

IT’S ALL HER FAULT because she gets IN MY BUSINESS ALL THE TIME!”

I try to hide my smile. Good thing I’m driving.

“So,” I say, “your teacher told you, ‘I’m giving you silent lunch because Ellie got in your business,’ is that right?”

“Mmph. No.”

By this time, we’ve parked at the house. I turn around. “Look at me.” He does, defiant. “I think you’re not telling me the whole story. Tell me from the beginning.”

He sighs. “I knocked the magnet off and it went across the room. Ellie said I threw it. I said I didn’t. I called the teacher over, like you said to do when I have trouble.”

I nod. “And what did the teacher say?”

“She said it wasn’t a big deal and not to worry about it.” He leans back, arms folded. “But it WAS a big deal because Ellie keeps getting in my business!”

Ah. Lightbulb.

“And did you tell the teacher Ellie was ‘getting in your business’ after she said it was fine?”

“Yes,” he growls, “and then she gave me silent lunch. See? It’s Ellie’s fault!”

“You told her about Ellie just once?” I ask.

“Well…no. I wanted her to do something about Ellie and how she gets in my business so I kept telling her about it.”

I see he’s beginning to comprehend the problem. “How many times do you think you told her about Ellie?”

“A bunch of times.”

“And what did she say?”

“That I should forget about it and get back to work. But Ellie ALWAYS does it. And then I get in trouble,” he grumbles.

“So, let me make sure I understand. You hit the magnet accidentally. Ellie said you threw it. The teacher said not to worry about it. And then you kept complaining about Ellie to the teacher and wouldn’t stop when she told you to let it go. Does that sound about right?” I scoot around further in my seat so I can see his eyes.

“Yeah.”

“So,” I said, “look at me. Tell me—and be honest—whose fault was your silent lunch?”

He glares. “Hers,” he begins, then falters. “Mine. My fault.”

“Why?”

“Because I wouldn’t stop talking when the teacher said to stop.”

“Exactly.” I sigh. “Why do you care so much about what people say about you, anyway?”

“Because they’re in my bus—” he begins.

“Stop.” I say. He looks up. “The last five or six times you’ve been in trouble, it’s because you’re pitching a fit over someone ‘in your business,’ but if you’d just let it go, you probably wouldn’t be in trouble, right?”

He nods.

“Do you actually get in trouble when kids tell the teacher you’ve done something?”

He shakes his head. “Nah.”

“Right. Because you guys are in the FOURTH GRADE. Everyone knows that fourth graders are some of the biggest tattle-tales ever. The teacher isn’t going to give you a consequence unless she—or another adult—sees you. Right?”

Eyes wide, he says, “All fourth graders are tattle-tales?”

I nod, solemn. “It’s true. Everybody knows it. So why do you care what they say? You know, you should care about the people who can affect your life. Do you know who those people are?”

He shakes his head.

“Your teachers. Of course, you should be nice to the kids in your class, but when it comes to what they think of you…the teacher is where you should focus.  No matter what grade you’re in, don’t worry about what other kids say. They’re just kids. And a bunch of them will end up in jail, anyway, so who cares what they think.”

Eyes wide, he peers around my seat. “In jail?”

I grin. “Well, that’s what happened to some of the kids I knew. On the other hand, some of them ended up in government. Almost as bad. But don’t go to school telling your friends they’re going to jail. I don’t need a call from the principal.”

Laughing, he says, “So. I should just worry about what the adults think of me.”

“More or less,” I agree. “Be kind to all your classmates, and if they accuse you of something, just ignore it. Make your teacher happy. You’ll get into less trouble. And seriously, a teacher might even give you a job reference someday.”

He hops down and opens the driver door, squinting up at me. “No kidding?”

“No kidding,” I say, as he climbs up next to me. “In fact, I saw my tenth grade Biology teacher just last month. She told me she remembered a science fiction story I wrote. That was over twenty years ago. You never knew what someone might remember; make sure it’s good.”

He hugs me. “I’m glad we talked about it. Can I put my fingers in my ears and say, ‘I can’t heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeear youuuuuuuu’ when they bother me?”

I grimace. “No, please don’t.”

“I’ll try to do more ignoring. But I’m not very good at it.” He shrugs.

“Yeah,” I say. “Sometimes I have a hard time ignoring people, too. You know, when they found out we were adopting, some people told us not to do it. What do you think we did?”

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Photo Credit: Luca Prasso

“You ignored them,” he crows. “Good thing, too. Huh, mama?”

Yep. Good thing.


 

So. How was your day?

 

 

Care for Disrupted Families: Part 2

Our experience would have been easier if I’d had time (and awareness) to research disruption five years ago.

We entered the foster-adoption realm with no idea of the mammoth task we undertook. Helping disrupted children find peace, security and closure is no picnic.

Actually, maybe it is a picnic. One with a Mad Hatter. An insane, unbelievably weird picnic. Pretty much the only way we differed from Alice: we weren’t on drugs.

NIKON D700, AF Zoom 24-70mm f/2.8Gf/8, 1/250, ISO 500, 70mm

Photo Credit: Sean McGrath

Our kids were 5 (he) and 7 (she) when they came to us through a foster placement. They expected to be reunited with their biological family. In their minds, we were temporary.

If we’d had the following information, our first two years together might have been very different.

Caring for Children who’ve Experienced Disruption

1. If possible, maintain consistent care for the child immediately after a disruption, keeping the same daycare, childcare, school and teachers.

This particular point still makes me grit my teeth; our kids had three families, three schools and three home environments in forty days. If social services had honored my request to enter them in our school district with family #2, we could have at least cut out the school change. (And if they hadn’t lost our fingerprints, we might have eliminated family #2 altogether…but that’s another story…)

If at all possible, collaborate with your social worker to limit the number of environments to which your child must acclimate.

Think of the last time you switched employers. The stress of learning all-new expectations, routines and ways to perform tasks. Imagine how much deeper the “newness” anxiety affects a  child.

2. Just as children need to be prepared for each step of the adoption process, adults need to explain each step of a disruption in a way that children can understand.

Social services didn’t tell the children termination of parental rights (TPR) was in process. Instead, they cut off all visitation in anticipation of the TPR and moved them to our house with no warning or explanation to the kids. Although we hoped to adopt, we agreed to foster them even if reunification was still the goal. Within six months, TPR was complete and adoption with us was the new target.

We were new to the foster-adopt situation and followed the directions given by the social worker (“don’t tell the kids anything”). She sprung a “last visit” on all of us after the TPR was complete. We weren’t allowed to tell the kids it would be the last time they saw their biological family.

And yes, looking back, I realize that keeping the kids in the dark was not the way to go, but the social worker made it clear that if we rocked the boat they’d take the children from us because she already felt we “couldn’t handle” them (they have severe behavioral issues).

We’d already seen them moved twice and knew they’d had 7 placements in just over 3 years. Not wanting to take the chance of having them removed, we went along with what the SW told us to do.

Every facet of the above situation exacerbated the stress and negative feelings already pulsing within the two small, angry creatures residing in our home.

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Photo Credit: Angry JulieMonday

3. Engage a therapist well versed in adoption and in disruptions.

Our first counselor, referred by the social worker, was very sweet. He did a great job of encouraging Hubby and me to continue survival. He recognized that the children were angry and behaviorally…challenged.

He gave us behavior charts and tried to help us address the behavior issues. Unfortunately, he didn’t do much to address the feelings BEHIND the behavior.

Three years in, we finally found counselors appropriate for the kids. These therapists are very familiar with Reactive Attachment Disorder, PTSD, grief and, of course, behavioral issues.

I can’t give strong enough encouragement here: find a counselor for your children. Ignoring the underlying grief will not make it go away. Be sure the counselor has specific experience with RAD, PTSD, grief and any other issues you’ve seen.

4. While the first tendency is to sever all ties between the child and the family, consider if this is the best practice and if it benefits everyone involved. Contact may be advisable in some cases to take care of unfinished tasks.

In our case, the social worker denied any access to the family. When the final visit was scheduled, we were instructed to hand the children off to a social worker in a grocery parking lot. We were allowed no contact.

On one hand, this is probably for the best. Knowing what they did to the kids, I might have done something regrettable. Or, if not regrettable, at least illegal.

However, the kids left an apparent treasure trove of toys behind This caused a great deal of angst; to this day, they talk about those toys. Supposedly, the social worker asked the family for the toys and they refused to hand them over. I have a feeling we’ll get a different side of that story eventually. Either the SW never even asked for them, or there were never toys to begin with.

We also requested pictures of the family and of the kids as babies/small children; the SW said this was denied as well. Again, I wonder if she really asked. Having those pictures would have been great. Our daughter frequently mentioned a photo of herself as an infant and wished she had it, especially when her class did a project using everyone’s baby pictures.

5. Consider holding a ritual around the unraveling of the adoption, after consulting the child’s counselors and therapists. If indicated, carry out the ritual in a way that the child can understand and can participate.

Our kids are under the impression that the foster family (where they lived for 18 months) was happy to be rid of them. They don’t understand what went wrong. One reason for the move was their behavior, but it wasn’t the only reason. The family had already adopted one child and decided not to adopt further children. It wasn’t “just” our kids—they haven’t adopted any others.

Because we took the kids to the same dentist (trying to find some ways to keep continuity), I found a note in their file. The parents told the dentist that the kids needed a family with no other children willing to take them on and give them stability long-term. They weren’t able to do it. (Why they felt the dentist should know…I’m not sure.)

We weren’t allowed contact with the former foster family, either. I wish we’d been able to communicate; we might have learned that the placement ended for a completely different reason. Regardless, being able to talk through the reasons, grieve the loss and move on would have been better than having no information whatsoever.

6. Therapist Vera Fahlberg suggests that a child’s placement history be reconstructed, identifying a person to whom the child was able to attach and working cooperatively with that person in planning the child’s future.

In our case, the unfortunate truth is that there was no individual with whom the kids had attachment of any kind except possibly the grandparents. However, according to the SW, they were unwilling to get involved or help in any way. If the disrupted child does have someone in their life with some attachment, I imagine this could be very helpful.

7. Some school age children may need permission from a significant attachment figure in their past (face-to-face,  via video or audio tape or in written form) before they feel free to join another family. The task of building a bridge for the child from one placement to another can be invaluable.

I wish we’d known to ask for this. A letter from a family member—especially from the grandparents—stating that “it’s okay” to settle in with the new family would have been extremely helpful. Our girl, in particular, still feels very loyal to their biological family. Attaching to us seems like betrayal. Permission to be happy might have ameliorated some of these feelings.

8. Just as parents need to describe their personal experience in order to move towards healing, so do children, often under the guidance of a trained professional during the adjustment period after a disruption.

As mentioned earlier, we’ve found a pair of excellent counselors. Our guy rarely talks about the past; I assume that will come out in teen years. Our girl, on the other hand, raves about how angry she is at her biological mother.

She’s still angry but has made great progress in talking her feelings through. We’ve even worked through some of that anger in positive ways (journaling, focusing on not allowing negative feelings to precipitate actions).

As I mentioned above, it’s possible that having some of this knowledge would have saved the kids—and us—from experiencing such high levels of heartache and stress.

I hope you’re able to use some of it to bring strength and healing to your family and the children you love.

Did I forget anything? Add your advice in the comments below!

*All quotes directly from the MNAdopt.org Fact sheet.

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