Monday, March 21, 2016

It isn't either/or...

So, I'm often asked lately if I now oppose the adoption of older children. NO, of course I don't. I will never be convinced that it's in any child's best interests to be denied the opportunity to grow up in a legally permanent family. 

What I do oppose, however, is the abandonment of the adoptive parents once the placement is finalized. I oppose leaving adoptive parents to manage on their own as they adapt to neurodiverse children and youth who will take years and years to reach a point of emotional regulation, if ever. And, don't let anyone tell you otherwise - all of our children are neurodiverse. Their negative pre- and post natal experiences of drug & alcohol exposure, of hearing and witnessing emotionally dysregulated adults, of neglect and abuse etc...... it doesn't leave them with neurotypical brains regardless of how sweet they look or how much attachment therapy they receive. 

I also oppose the continued use of therapies and supports that have not proven to be effective in actually helping the children to develop emotional self-regulation and relationship skills. And I oppose the lack of ongoing supports that are free and available to parents so that they aren't brought to their emotional knees when the relationship, or the potential for a relationship, with the children becomes a source of daily pain. And, I oppose the shortsightedness of the adoptive industry that revels in the early years of the adoptive family but fails to provide age and stage appropriate supports when the child hits adolescence and begins the natural process of de-taching when their brains haven't even developed to a point where they can a-ttach. 

Truly, I don't understand why people think in *either/or* terms - such as - the children either remain in foster care or they get adopted. 

How about continuing to place children and youth for adoption AND providing adoptive parents will relevant and effective skills and supports so that the parents don't develop neurodiverse brains from the years of stress and chronic conflict that is almost inevitable with our children. 

Where is the ongoing or *use when needed* respite care? Where are the courses for foster parents on the unique factors of providing respite care for adoptees? Where is the training for adoptive parents on how to manage chronic conflict - in fact, where is the chronic conflict even acknowledged as a normal part of adoptive family life?

I know that agencies and government departments who place children will site lack of funding for such services. Okay, well, first these same places have to admit that the services and supports are needed and then they can begin sourcing the finances. You can't have a goal until you have correctly identified the need. How basic is that?

Most adoptive parents pay exorbitant fees to therapists (like me) and do so by forgoing any hope for retirement savings or sometimes even for their own health care. They also don't have access to respite and if they do find it, they are too often accused of *dumping* their child, albeit temporarily. 

There are some workshops and some therapists  who provide parent support - but most often it's about increasing parenting skills, as if that will do the trick. They are presented as if learning how to manage conflict will end the conflict - or if learning how to manage a rage will end the raging - or if understanding that the child's grief that provokes the negative behaviours will resolve the behaviours. Well, if you are reading this, the you likely know that these things don't end during the child's growing  up years. With some of our children, they never end. 

What to do about this - well, the first thing is to start talking about it and that's what I'm doing here. The second thing is to start advocating for services that we need and are provided - and we need to reject the same old same old that have never brought about change. We also, as adoptive parents, need to stop being afraid to tell people how hard this path we've chosen is. We are not failures simply because our child or teen can't respond well to therapy - we aren't failures because our child or teen hasn't bought into our version of family. We aren't failures because we lead parallel lives with our children. We just are what we are - parents who are doing our best and struggling - and we are parents who need better and more appropriate help. 

So, have your best day possible - you are entitled to a better one.  Animated Blooming


  1. Yes! Yes! Yes!

    It has been my (unfortunate) experience that it's always easier to blame the foster/adoptive parent for not being able to handle the childs behaviors than to acknowledge that this beyond most of our scope of expertise/experience. This was just a warm up for the next decade of therapists/teachers and psychologists zeroing in on my shortcomings.

    Getting "GOOD" respite care seems to be a pie in the sky dream as well. I desperately searched for someone to take my son while my husband was going to be out of town for work for a week. Being stretched out financially already - therapists, co-pays, meds that insurance wouldn't pay for but the dr. was convinced would help, tutors - all things we don't think about overwhelming us when we adopt - made it really hard to find someone I could both afford and trust. I have done respite for several families and it's been a good experience overall - just knowing I can relieve a little bit of the stress. That is the one thing I regret, not getting respite on a regular basis during the worst times. Maybe we could have looked at things differently (more calmly, felt less like a failure) if we had gotten a break from the constant rages. The few times we obtained respite were when we were so burned out that it really didn't make a difference - we had become zombies on autopilot - just trying to get thru the next hour.

    I think every child deserves a home somewhere. What that looks like is going to be very different for some. Trusting us with these kids and then tying our hands behind our backs when we try to get help only cripples the entire system. I know so many people whose lives have been destroyed by kids who are much too mentally ill to be living in a traditional home setting with other children. Well, the kids were the catalyst, but the legal and cps systems did absolutely nothing to acknowledge that a child can and does need intensive services to overcome their chaotic and abusive pasts. In our zeal to protect the kids, they have thrown the adults to the wolves - the same adults that were just so great a few years before when applying to adopt. I have a wonderful friend whose home was viewed as the "last stop" before a child would be sent to a residential treatment facility. All of her kids were extremely disturbed (yeah, great idea, lets put a dozen of them all together in a house where the parents got minimal support but were expected to work miracles) but the workers all acted like she could turn things around. Truthfully, every one of the kids should have been sent to residential first to work on their severe issues before being placed in her home. She didn't have the training or physical support/resources to fix what had been broken for years. The kids would continually get into trouble until they'd end up in residential eventually anyway. Then the probation officers and police would judge her and her husband as people who had no business with so many kids. As if, her having a houseful was THE PROBLEM. So unfair to everyone involved. So, yes, identifying the problems and needs are the first step to getting them funded.

    I just love how you just cut right to the heart of the issues and how you express them here. I know you are saying exactly what so many of us reading here are thinking!!

    1. Quoted from above post: "it's always easier to blame the foster/adoptive parent for not being able to handle the childs behaviors than to acknowledge that this beyond most of our scope of

      This is one of the (many) ways in which the adoption industry is moving backwards, not forwards. Once you are the "parent" everything is your responsibility. Additionally, now that adoption has "progressed" to being a professional industry, the concept that it should provide a service is simply set aside.

  2. I'll simply clip a little piece of the response I just posted on a different blog: "There is a lot of push back against angry adoptive Moms. Apparently, we are only permitted to be sweet, smiley, and - this is the most important part - silent." and yes I did just quote myself. :) such a breaker of rules am I.

    I would very much welcome the opportunity to sit down together as a group, face to face, and brainstorm where to start. How can we go about making that happen?

    1. You are completely correct, Amy, that we are not supposed to be angry and we are supposed to be silent. Somehow the adoption industry has decided that if we complain about how bad our lives can be then that means we don't love our children. Well, I love my children but I am not going to be silent any longer. I only have 6 years till my youngest finishes high school and I retire from my professional practice, so I'm doing what I can to use these last working years to make a difference for all of us. As for your idea that we get together - well, how about a video conference? I use Zoomus to do distance mediations and distance counseling and can accomodate quite a number of people on that. Does that interest you?

    2. It should interest me, but I dislike (understatement) phone and video conferencing. I actually hate it. I'm a face to facer, in person, small group sitting around a table eating cookies kind of brain stormer. and I'm just paranoid enough, after everything our family has been through, to only speak freely with a confidentiality clause in place. How's that for challenging to work with? lol! But I'd be happy to travel if needed for that face to face if I can find others of a similar mindset. Or host. and I will try to drum up the gumption for phone and video. gah. What are your thoughts on the ATTACh organization? The last conference of theirs I attended was 2004 or 05. I haven't looked it up, but heard it is in St. Louis this year. There are others as well, NACAC and such, and of course AdoptUSKids and the Department of Children and Families, on and on. Just thinking about the vast resources devoted to adoption support raises my ire.

  3. Skilled respite providers, especially for teens, are desperately needed but rarely available. Nobody has any real answers or solutions and adoptive parents often get blamed for a youths' escalating problems. some of these troubled young people Issues stabilize in their twenties but the teen years are a nightmare for many families. FASD, childhood trauma and mental health problems is a terrible background for any child and it bites hard by age 13 or so.

  4. I cannot describe how wonderful validation feels. Thank you for speaking out on these issues. We are all so alone in this. "Smile, silence, you're doing God's work". That is the role of the adoptive parent. We are not permitted to speak of the unspeakable. Thanks again.

  5. I highly recommend working with ATN Attachment & Trauma Network to get this message across. ATN is a parent organization. They are organized and established. And they are great people in my experience.
    And BTW... I live in St. Louis. :-)

  6. Excerpted from the above post ~ "I oppose the lack of ongoing supports that are free and available to parents so that they aren't brought to their emotional knees when the relationship, or the potential for a relationship, with the children becomes a source of daily pain."

    Oh this. This is a big big trouble. $$. Over the years, I have donated countless volunteer hours to various organizations. I was happy to do so, still am. There are not enough hours in the day. Too many people competing. Posturing. Too many tasks in our daily lives. Too few folks willing to genuinely collaborate. By the time adoptive families experience the level of difficulties our families share, they are cash poor. Many of them started out cash poor to begin with. Providing services that must be paid for out of pocket, or that take exceptional levels of time and energy, well it does keep people busy. Which fulfills the goal of keeping them quiet. It seems like an endless loop, and in many ways we have gone backwards not forward.

  7. Brenda, how would you rate your personal comfort level regarding delivery of services via web? The project I'm currently working on might offer some carefully selected, limited services through web based delivery methods. It is one of the possibilities currently being tossed around. Providers will be compensated at the professional salary level, services will be provided at little/no cost to identified organizations and individuals.

  8. I was trained and certified in online counselling and online mediation and half of my practice is delivered online either as counsel or mediation or webinars. I am very comfortable with this type of delivery and I think it's going to be the norm very soon.

  9. Good to know. My brain is tired tonight. I agree with you that online is becoming the norm rapidly, particularly with coaching and the more basic getting people on track type of counseling. Which is the majority of where the need is. Things get trickier with the more complex stuff.