My husband and I believe that every single child deserves the right to have a “forever family“. We believe every child has the right to have parents that love them. We believe that family is one of the most important words in the entire world. We also know family means different things to different people, but what’s at the center of family is: a child; children.
The face of that parent (s) in the family could be male, could be female, could be one person could be two; could be biologically related 100%; could be biologically related 50% or not biologically related at all. What is 100% in family is: a child;children and an adult that loves them. What’s 100% is that it is never, ever the fault of the child that they have been placed for adoption.
That is why my husband and I chose long ago to adopt. We have been married 22 years, and even before we were married we talked about how we wanted to someday adopt. Neither of us were adopted, nor did we have family members that were adopted. Adoption was just something we both knew we someday wanted to do.
Years later, we chose to adopt a child from foster care. Specifically we chose to become “fost-adopt parents”. For us, we chose foster care because we learned that every day there are a half a million children in the United States that are in foster care; 118,000 can never go back to their biological families. It seemed to us that every day a family from the United States goes abroad and spends a small fortune to adopt, and no one adopts from within the United States. While not a statistical research study, when I had asked other parents why they adopted from outside the United States they usually said:
- We want a baby, and you can’t adopt a baby in the United States easily.
- We heard you can easily lose a child you adopt from the states.
- Most children in foster care are of minority race.
- It’s just as expensive to adopt a child from the states as outside the United States and it’s not guaranteed.
- It takes years.
We learned first-hand from our experience that these assumptions were wrong.
While foster care is in place for the purpose of reunifying children with their biological children a “fost-adopt” couple is a couple (or person) who will have the opportunity to adopt only the children, if they so choose, that have been deemed by the court NOT to be able to go back to their biological families. The biological families have in most cases been found to be unfit; a danger to the child; or “inappropriate”. (Inappropriate is not a word I came up with to use to describe an unfit biological relative. It is a court-sanctioned and utilized word. I am repeating words used by lawyers, counselors, case workers and social workers with my husband and I.)
My husband and I love children, but we knew our weakness. We’d never have the strength to allow a child to enter our home; care for them; bond with them; then be happy they were reunified with the family that lost custody of them. We knew our other child(ren) would be hurt when they left. Kudos to all the families that do foster children. My gratitude and heart goes out to you.
We learned that it was extremely, extremely rare that a fost-adopt child ever went back to the biological family after the court found the biological family “unfit”.
My husband and I adopted through a private adoption agency: Lilliput Children Services. There was no fee. The investment we had to make was in time, identity verification and a background check. (A very nominal fee.) We had “date night” for 10 weeks where we went to training classes at Lilliput to understand more fully what we were committing ourselves and our family to by adopting. We learned that over 60% of the children in foster care were Caucasian due primarily to drug use and abuse by their biological parents. Asians were rarely, if ever in foster care. Blacks and Hispanics followed the Caucasian race. We weren’t concerned about race I mention this information just to dispell what seemed to be a stereo-type. We were only thinking: Where is our child now? How old will they be when they join our family? What room would our new child sleep in? What would he or she look like? What books would they love to hear and learn to read? Would they be in diapers or potty trained already?
There were 8 couples in our 10 week class. Married couples, single parents, same-sex couples. Three of the couples adopted infants. All were placed with children in under twelve months. Our adoption was final ten months from our fost-adopt approved date.
During our training we learned that the recommendation for our child was to have a relationship with their biological family in some way, shape or fashion, as long as:
- The social workers and/or court found that person(s) appropriate.
They refer to this as: open adoption. Open adoption can include everything from a relationship to the biological parents to aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Again, only with those that are “appropriate”. We want the best for our child, so we chose to do what was best, according to the experts. Allow that interaction with one person in our child’s case.
It meant three to four time a year visits at our house with a great, great, great aunt. Aunt isn’t old and senile. (She’s in her young 50’s and old enough to know right from wrong. ) Visits included supervised outings to sporting events and dinners in our home or invitations to parties in our house. The relative always took pictures. Our child enjoyed their visits. Because bio-relative still had a relationship with bio-family, we never allowed visits at the aunts home. We should have paid attention to the red flag that arose immediately after our child joined our home, when “accidentally”, the bio-family found out we lived in the city we do, and what our last name was. We didn’t.
Enter Social Networking through Facebook.
I received a “friend request” from bio-great great great grandmother even after explicitly relaying to the aunt that we had no desire whatsoever to interact with a single person as the court had already found the biological family and extended family unsuitable. Plus these individuals were the same ones that never did anything when my child was in need. Their lack of action told me everything about who they are.
So when I received the “friend request” in Facebook, I thought:
- You’ve got to be kidding.
- We’re you not told we want nothing to do with you by your sister?
- Thank goodness I had access to the family tree. I could identify this person.
At the urging of my “want-to-be” my Facebook friend, I “checked out her profile”. Sadly I found a warped sense of perspective specific to how close the biological family thinks they are to my child.
Disturbingly, I found the relative that was “appropriate” (Great great great aunt) had exploited my child and my family’s privacy. She entered my home, took photos, and shared them with the biological family on numerous occasions. “Grandma” even had the audacity to post my child’s photo next to “bio mom’s” photo in the “family album”. How sad.
Upon further review of the “family network”, the invasion of my family privacy extends further. The bio-family network that again, did not come forward to help in my child’s time of need – and when they did in a few instances were found “unfit” by the court – boasted photos taken from my home by the relative I allowed in.
Shame on my husband and myself for our stupidity and openness.
Shame on the aunt.
The chapter of openness in our lives is closed. As I tell my children: we all make mistakes. What’s important is that we learn from them. We have learned from this, and that is why I have chosen to share something so personal. I want to make other adoptive parents aware.
My message to you is:
- Adoption is a blessing. My family is blessed.
- Adopt a child if you have the room in your heart. (There will never be enough money, or time, so go with your “gut” and the room that’s in your heart. The rest will work out.)
- Protect your and your child’s privacy.
- While ties to biological family are supposedly beneficial to your child, at this point I can tell you my family has been burned by opening our heart and our home to one bio-relative. While we can forgive; when it comes to safety it’s important not to forget.
- If you allow a bio-relative into your home, realize that what they hear, see and learn (and the pictures they take) will go straight back to those in the bio-family. If you understand that, that’s what is important. We hadn’t fully considered this.
- Don’t post photos of your adoptive child if anyone in the biological family knows where you live and you don’t have, or want an open relationship.
- Don’t post where you live if you are an adoptive family and you don’t want to have an open relationship.
If you have a story or other ways to help others protect their privacy please share.