Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives.
By Rikki Daniels
Ten years ago, I wrote a piece for this series, Portrait of an Adoption. In that piece, I focused on how adoptions are not always happy endings, neither for the adoptee nor the adopters. My own adoptive parents divorced, and I was abused and emotionally neglected by the adopter who “raised” me.
I currently have relationships with very few of my adopted family members. I have emotional attachment problems and have worked very hard in therapy to overcome some of my own trauma. My closest relationships are those I formed with my childhood babysitter and her family – those with whom I spent most of my childhood.
This essay has a different focus: Moving Forward.
In 2012, a family situation presented itself in which an infant family member was placed into foster care in another state. My husband and I were asked if we would be open to becoming a “resource family” for this family member, whose permanency plan was adoption.
For me, this was an opportunity to correct the wrongs that I perceived in my own adoption. It was an opportunity to provide a home for a child who needed one rather than allowing him to be used to fill a void in someone else’s life – which is the case for most infant adoptions.
It was an opportunity to maintain connections in this child’s family, where mine were irretrievably severed. I held no expectation that I would be able to fill the emotional needs or fix the trauma that had already been done – but I hoped that I could support this little human in all of the big emotions, that I would be able to understand the conflicting emotions and confusion, and I could offer *unconditional* love, not based on reciprocity or the expectation of a specific kind of bond.
I knew that I would not be emotionally triggered by any of the big feelings. I didn’t know if reunification would be possible, but I knew I would support all of the family connections to the best of my ability.
The placement and subsequent adoption proceedings took several months. By sixteen months, this little person had been in three homes, and the third was a foster family who was fostering for the sole purpose of adopting.
They had been assured that this was going to be their child, that the adoption was going to happen for them. For this reason, the entire process was even more stressful. The foster family wrote blogs in which they demonized me for wanting to take “their baby” away from its family and its rightful home. They did many things that made this process even more difficult for a little person who had no way of understanding what was happening.
Eventually, this little person was placed in our home. Eventually, the adoption happened. It was not easy, and I was prepared for that. This little one was angry. It was five years before they would spontaneously come to me for a hug or snuggle with Dad on the couch watching a movie.
We had three other kids, who he seemed to bond to more than he bonded to us, and that was okay. We were there for him, not the other way around. I was happy for the strong bonds he built with our other children.
We kept in contact with the other part of the family. They were out of state, so it was more difficult, but a sister came to visit, and Mom came to visit. We went to visit them. There is a baby book with pictures from infancy, including birth family and foster families.
There are questions and honest answers. Every decision is focused on what is best for the children – individually and as a group – and not what is best for the adults or what the adults want on a whim. (I don’t think we can count puppies in that statement. If we can, I’m guilty as charged).
Recently, there were changes and hard decisions due to COVID. As two working parents with four kids at home, one of whom is a COVID-RN, we had to decide on priorities.
We needed help, and our adopted child’s mom was in a position where she could offer the support we need right now. She moved in with us. I’m not going to say everything is perfect, but it is working out really well.
This is probably not forever, but we will cross the next bridges as we come to them, with focus on the well-being of our kids – as it should be.
I feel like there is a lot that needs to be discussed regarding adoption in the U.S. Financial and racial disparities, for one. Allocation of resources – like how we as a foster/adoptive family get monthly payments and free medical care for our adopted child when our adopted child’s parents could not access resources that would have prevented this situation from ever happening in the first place.
The adoption industry and our society’s focus on making adopters into heroes and vilifying the women who are pressured and coerced into giving up their babies. The ability to “guarantee” a foster family that they will get a child to adopt. The crime of poverty.
The movement that wants women to give babies up for adoption instead of aborting but does not offer support for those women who can’t afford the time off for prenatal appointments, giving birth, or maternity leave.
The double standard that allows prospective adopters to fundraise for adoption but shuns anyone asking for help to keep their family together. I don’t have the time or energy to delve into all of the issues, but I do want to put this out there for anyone who needs help.
For women who are contemplating adoption due to situational reasons and not because you genuinely don’t want to parent, please visit these sites for information and support:
Rikki Daniels is both an adoptee and an adoptive parent.
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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter
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