It has been a while since I've written much about adoption here. I have had a season of being disengaged from the adoption scene while having my head down parenting the children I currently have. Also, being in Australia, where adoption (especially international adoption) is so rare, there is very little to engage with in my local setting.
Before adopting I was such an adoption advocate. I did hundreds of hours of volunteer work and internships at Bethany Christian Services. I read every book on their resource shelf, as well as everything I could get at the library, and buy on-line. I even wrote my senior thesis on transracial adoption. I was on discussion forums, and eventually I started this blog.
After adopting our son I changed my tune. Living with the daily awareness of the tandem reality of my son's mother's loss that resulted in my gain was so painful, and I felt such guilt for benefiting from her troubled circumstances. I saw in her loss, and I am witness in my son's life, how real the ongoing losses in adoption are.
As the pro-adoption message began to take root in the evangelical church, I found myself using my voice to speak on behalf of first parents, as best I knew how. I became an advocate for reform. I questioned everything. Then, we moved to Australia, and I became increasingly distanced from adoption culture (mostly centralized around American trends and practices, which outnumber all other nations).
This week I have read a number of things that have had me thinking. First there was Tara Livesay's piece Primum non nocere - First, do no harm. Without claiming to have the answers, she so bravely spoke out on behalf of women and families whose children are being adopted to families overseas. The thing about her piece that so resonated with me is how we, as prospective adoptive parents, can be so willing to come alongside and help a woman/family/nation in crisis if the end result is us getting a child, but if we have nothing to gain in the outcome, our dedication can become non-existant. I'll just leave that right there because it is challenging me in a very personal way and I need to chew on it for awhile.
Next was Kathryn Joyce's Mother Jones piece Orphan Fever: The Evangelical Movement's Adoption Obsession. Her story centers around Sam and Serene Allison, Nancy Campbell, and the Above Rubies magazine. The Campbells are personal family friends, my mother has written for Above Rubies, Nancy was at my wedding shower, I was at the welcome home luncheon our church organized for Sam and Serene's newly adopted children, and some of the Campbell girls continue to be friends of mine, so this story is very near to my heart.
Back in 2005 we had adopted Small Sun, and the Campbells were really starting to advocate Christians adopting orphans from war-torn Liberia. I was extremely concerned about a number of factors that I discussed with my mother, in hopes she might have opportunity to address them with Nancy. I felt that the types of adoptions many families were pursuing - large siblings groups, disrupting the birth order, older unrelated children, and severely traumatized children being added to already large families with little to no adoption training or resource or support was a recipe for disaster. I found myself, the die-hard adoption advocate, waving red flags right and left. I didn't want to squash their heart's response to help orphaned children, but I felt that there was not due consideration given to the actual reality of what adopting these children would mean.
Luke 14:28 says "For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?" I've always felt that principle holds true for a family embarking on an adoption journey. Of course we can never fully know what life holds, but I think when we are talking about taking responsibility for a child's life, for the rest of ours, we need to do due diligence to count the cost. Research. Pray. Seek council. As best as we are able, we need to understand what we are undertaking and access whether or not we have the resource to do it well.
My other concern was purely an ethical one. How transparent was the process of adoption in a country in distress?
I don't find the Mother Jones article to be offensive. To be honest, I don't know the true details of what happened in the Allison home. I do believe that from every level - personal, agency, and governing body, it should have been glaringly obvious that there was not enough training, resource, and support system to help those placements thrive. In my opinion, there were failures at every level.
We need the scrutiny of agencies to help us identify weak spots in our parenting resources. We need governing bodies to hold fast to what they deem is best for their nation's children.
Jonathan Merritt pushed back against the Mother Jones piece with his opinion - Mother Jones’ shameful attack on the Christian adoption movement. I have to say, I found things to agree with here as well. Adopting a child from an institution is a very sacrificial thing to do. Of course the individual or family that does so benefits from having a child in their life. At the same time, parenting a child that has experienced neglect, trauma, or abuse, is a demanding task (I speak from my experience as a foster parent, as parenting my domestically adopted son was not characterized by the same effort as my foster parenting has been). Adoptive parenting is hard. Do people do it just because it's trendy in their church? I find that hard to believe.
I don't have any answers. There is alot to think about, and maybe I'll get back to talking adoption around here a bit more in the future. We'll see.
This term both Small Sun and Sprout are studying "Families" in their classrooms. Like an idiot I immediately put my hand up to come in to talk about adoptive and foster families. I've done it for years, and even though it makes me nervous every time, I think it is important, so I press through my nerves.
This year is different.
This year I am talking about adoption AND foster care.
Previously I've always framed my discussion around a baby's needs, (physical and emotional) and talked about how sometimes a mother can meet some of the needs (taking care of the baby in the womb, giving birth, giving love), but is unable to meet the other ongoing needs (shelter, medicine, etc).
Personally, I dislike talking about it because I see all the holes and "what ifs" and grey areas and I want to explain it all completely, but you can't. Not to a class of six and seven year olds.
I am not confident about how to introduce the idea of foster care into the mix. Many of these kids know our family, they play with B in the playground. Some of them might know he is our foster son, I don't know.
How do I simultaneously introduce adoption as a loving and permanent choice on behalf of a child, alongside foster care which involves forced removals, abuse, neglect, and temporary placements and unknown futures?
When I talk about adoption I say that the first family has a "big problem" they are trying to work through, and they are so busy working on that problem they can't take care of a baby, so another family adopts the baby to love and care for forever. Maybe the first family doesn't have a house, or maybe they don't even have enough money for food, but it is a grown up problem and the baby is perfect no matter what.
I could say that in foster care a family is having a crisis, and another family takes care of the child(ren) while the family is working on their crisis.
I think the thing I worry about there, is suddenly Small Sun wondering why some family crisis can be resolved, and others can't. Or why his family's crisis led to them making an adoption plan for him, while B's family is fighting for him even though they have "big problems".
It's so tricky. Any ideas? Any suggestions? I've read so many articles and tutorials, but I still feel stressed every time!
PS-I also find the discussion hard here in Australia, where there is such a big safety net for issues of poverty, access to healthcare, etc. The reasons children get placed for adoption in the U.S. and around the world, hardly sound legit here, even to kids.
Between five and ten years ago I felt so international, so multicultural, so accepting and embracing of other cultures. I'd lived abroad, travelled to over 15 countries, studied several languages, and invested time "over the tracks" in my own backyard. I was (and am) in an intercultural marriage and pretty much felt like I was so connected to the world, and I could bridge any cultural barriers I came across. I had some apprehensions about my ability to successfully parent a child from a different ethnic background than mine, but I imagined that if I applied myself, I would be able to do a good job.
At that time, I feel like I had a hyper focus on culture, nationality, and ethnicity. I was interested in a positive way, and very focused on facilitating my own child's connection to his African American heritage.
Now, twelve years into my intercultural marriage, and four+ years into my third stint of living abroad, so much has changed.
First of all, I have completely given up on the idea that I can ever become Dutch like my husband. I will never be Dutch. I could live in Holland, I could study to gain a Dutch passport, I could grow in my understanding of Dutch culture, but I will always be an American Girl. The more time I spend in Holland, the more American I feel. I love Holland, and I love my Dutch family, but that doesn't make me Dutch. I never will be.
Coming to this realization, this understanding that I can have a personal and intimate guide into another culture, the ultimate "in", and still not fit, or gain credibility by osmosis, has really made me rethink my entire perception of multiculturalism. I really thought that I would eventually be part Dutch by association, but I'm not.
I have Dutch loyalties, and interests, and I consider my children to be half Dutch, but I am American.
This has really impacted my perspective on transcultural parenting. I no longer believe that I can contribute to my children's Dutchness in any significant way, other than to value it as part of who they are, and reinforce my belief that they get to choose their identities. If they identify as Dutch, they are, and no one can take that from them. They have the passports to prove it.
I tend to be a person who sees things in stark black and white, and my measurements for success are so rigid, they are most likely not realistic.
When it comes to parenting my transracially adopted son, I have an extensive list of expectations for myself as his parent that I am currently failing at. Somehow because he is African American, and I am American, I don't hold my husband to these same expectations. I feel that it is my job, as one who shares this national history with my son's ancestors, to carry the weight of helping him successfully gain an identity as a African American man.
When I imagine what success looks like, I imagine that a transracially adopted adult should
-be a walking encyclopedia of their birth culture's history and important people
-be completely comfortable in their birth AND adopted cultures, in settings that span class and socioeconomics
-be completely fluent in his or her birth language, or be able to navigate linguistic differences that exist in english
-be able to maintain a dual national identity if born in a country outside the one they are adopted to
The list of things that indicate success go on and on in my head, and is largely based on what I've read adult transracial adoptees describe as what they wish they had, but based on my own ability to achieve the kind of cultural fluency I want for my son, I don't really think such a thing is possible any more.
I am still thinking about adopting from Ethiopia. Last night I asked my husband, "do you think it would be wrong to adopt from Ethiopia if I don't know if I can maintain a permanent dedication and connection to the country?" "Are you permanently dedicated and connected to [the state our son was born in]?" he replied.
Always so matter-of-fact. So Dutch.
Here's the thing. In reality, living in Sydney is affording me a much more diverse and culturally connected life than I've ever had. My friends come in many hues, and hail from many countries. But ethnicity and "culture" has never mattered to me less than it does now. These are just my friends. Sometimes we get together and share food from our homelands, or once in awhile we discuss the way our heritage impacts our life or decisions, but mostly we just get on with living life and being friends.
I used to think about "my Malaysian friend" or "my Sri Lankan friend", but those mental descriptors fell away a long time ago, and now these are just the people that I do life with.
In the same way, when I look at my son, I see the to-do list of perfect transracial parenting superimposed over our interactions less and less, and just see him.
Is he doing well? Does he feel confident in his skin? Does he know he is capable and kind, and able to achieve? Does he know he is handsome, and loved, and that he belongs wherever he is?
More and more discussions of his ancestors, and his/our heritage are naturally entering our conversations at his initiation. The more I give up on my expectations of what I think I should be doing, the more free I am to focus on where life has actually brought us, and how free we are to just be more, and define less.
We are Americans, caramel and vanilla, we are Dutch, we are Aussie. As my three-year old Finch said with a grin, "we're all mixed up!". All mixed up, and so proud of all the pieces.
As a parent is there ever a time where you are just coasting along, everyone in the family is perfectly well, and you can just cruise? In my experience those times happen, but not very often. They are mostly moments, rather than seasons.
Right now I am spending a lot of time thinking about each of my children (permanent and temporary). While B's needs are loudly in my face, and tugging at my clothes, there are things happening with my other children that I am also preoccupied with.
Today I want to talk about Small Sun and adoption.
We are registered to attend the training seminar for Intercountry Adoption in November. Upon arriving home from Holland we learned that the Ethiopia program we were intending to pursue (even though it was temporarily on hold), has been officially closed. The Columbia program we considered (some Columbians have African heritage), has let us know we do not qualify for any of the programs. The local adoption program through foster care has discouraged us from applying because we are unsure we will be able to maintain the 4-6 a year, first family contact visits they require until the child is 18.
We still have adoption options, mainly Taiwan and Hong Kong, but none that seem to include a child with African heritage.
When I sat the children down to explain this turn of events, Small Sun burst into heart wrenching sobs. Having a sibling that shares his ethnicity in some capacity is deeply, profoundly important to him. He is seven and has felt this way for years.
What do I do? How do I know, on the level of important things in his life, how important this is?
I wish we could more easily see all the details of a child's heart to know what specifically they need, and how to provide it, assuming their needs are even things we have some measure of control over.
Living here, Small Sun is isolated in his adoption experience (we still don't know any other adoptees that could be his peers), and his ethnicity (he has one Jamaican/Caucasian friend who is three years younger than he is).
Our life is very diverse, but it does not reflect Small Sun's ethnicity. There are lots of children in our lives with brown skin, brown hair, and brown eyes, but to Small Sun, that doesn't matter because they don't share African heritage. They don't count in helping him feel surrounded and upheld by the community he identifies himself with.
I know I am opening myself up for criticism concerning our choices, but while your situation may contain different dynamics, I think this balancing act of parenting choices is one we can all identify with in some way.
How do you know how badly your child needs something, and how far do you go to meet that need*.
Small Sun wants more than a friend. He wants a sibling. He wants someone permanently in our family to share his experience being biracial with African roots in a white family. He can articulate it, he can ask for it, he can talk about it, he can voice it as a need he feels intensely.
What should we do, I wonder? Would working harder to find friend and role models who share African heritage or adoption address, if not satisfy this need?
If nothing changes in our adoption status and this need isn't met, how much will it impact him?
If we were able to adopt a child with African heritage, would Small Sun's expectations and anticipation of them meeting this need in him set them up for a strenuous sibling relationship?
If we did something extreme like moving back to the U.S., and could pursue adoption much more easily, and instantly be exposed to African American culture, have access to adoptee support, and proximity to birth family, would the net gain of those things outweigh leaving behind a happy life here? For Small Sun? For all of us?
What should we do?
That's what I'm stuck on.
So as I'm putting B in the Ergo carrier on my back for the morning effort of getting us out the door, I'm also thinking about Small Sun and what should we do, what should we do, what should we do?
Last night I lay in his bed with him as he fell asleep, cocooned as usual in a pile of pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals, with his face turned towards a picture of his birth family and his hand clutching a small soft blanket his birth mother made him. It is in those moments, nurturing your vulnerable child, that you feel you would do anything to make their world more happy, more secure, more right. If only the how was as clear as the desire.
*I think it should go without saying, that we WANT to adopt another child, period. We are not planning on adopting FOR Small Sun. Our decision to adopt is positive regardless, it is in WHO we adopt that we are really taking Small Sun's desires into consideration. I don't think it is ever fare to adopt a child to meet another person's needs. We want to adopt a child because of what we feel we can give them, by the grace of God, a life of love and security they might not have access to otherwise.
I think we are becoming those people that I never understood. Those people that were going, going, and going next to me while I was moving in slow motion.
We arrived back from Holland on Thursday morning (more on our trip later), and The Captain went to work Thursday afternoon and Friday. Saturday morning he left the house as six a.m. to fly to Melbourne for a colleague's wedding, returning home Sunday afternoon, just in time to help me do a quick house clean before Little B came with his carer to become familiar with our house again.
This morning we had a play date with three friends, and now we have an hour of downtime before going to pick B up to bring him home to stay with us. He'll be with us until his case is processed through court and he goes back to biological family, or finds a new forever family.
My MIL arrives at six a.m. tomorrow so The Captain will leave home at five to pick her up, bring her home, and head out to be at his 8:30 a.m. meeting in the city.
Before adopting Small Sun, and again before having The Sprout, the whole world came to a complete stop in anticipation of welcoming this little life. With Finch we slowed down, but had to just jump back onto the carousel with him.
With Baby A (foster child #1), we didn't even know he was coming! The preparation included running through Big W (Walmart) on the way home from school, tipping the entire contents of the baby aisles into our cart. He slept in a carseat next to our bed for some time!
For the girls (foster children #2,3), we made up their sleeping spaces, and laid out their clothes, and put appropriate baby food in the cupboard, and sterilized the bottles. As for life slowing down, it couldn't with two children in school! They just had to roll with us!
Now, with B (foster child #4), we've had some time to plan for him. We've made him his own bedroom with art on the walls, handmade crib bedding, and drawers full of toys. The diapers, wipes, and clean clothes are all in the cupboard. We are on school holiday for the rest of the week so the time will be his to adjust.
All these placements are temporary, and according to The Rules, none of these children will end up staying in our family. Even so, I have this feeling each time that I have to savor every moment. What if, somehow, this child eventually became mine and I hadn't given due gravity to the meeting, the transition, the entrance to the family?
It kind of messes up my head and my heart. Yesterday we were hurried and tired, and felt like taking naps, but I kept thinking "what if this is 'the night before B joined our family'". Talking to his carer, my ears strained for details and I thought "what if these are the clues I have about his history, and his life before us?"
I have to hold these children very loosely in the hand. They are not mine. I do not make the decisions for their futures. They are coming and going and experiencing many things that I would not be comfortable with if they were "my" kids. I can offer an opinion when it is requested, but I defer, I support, I love and let go.
If they were my children I would fight, I would circle the caravans, I would go on lock down to make attachment the priority, I would recognize the awe of all the"firsts" within the family.
How do you plan family vacations when you don't know how long a child will be staying?
Do I imagine B's presents under the Christmas tree? Do I get him a stocking?
Do I let him all the way into my heart?
I never know how long they'll stay. I never know what loving them will require. I never know if I'll be able to do it. I never know how hard it will be at goodbye. I never know what happens next.
All I know is that in twenty two minutes we'll get in the car, and I'll rearrange the seats to put one more car seat in, and tonight there will be a highchair at the table, and a new little boy sitting in it. Past that, I just don't know.
I came upon a fantastic resource this week and I couldn't wait to share it with you.
Empowered to Connect has a website with resources, training opportunities, study guides, and amazing video resources. I have already watched several of these videos and am so thankful to have found them.
Over the years I've gone from being a vocal adoption advocate to always being the one to raise the challenges in adoption in every conversation. I think I probably come across as anti-adoption to many people.
These resources really help articulate what I want people to know. The videos are powerful.
I SO believe in adoption! I love our son (through adoption) with every fiber of my being. I want to encourage other people to adopt if that is what they feel strongly they should do.
I also love truth. I really, really think it does potential damage to a child to let people go into adoption without knowing that parenting a child through adoption is different than parenting a child you have given birth to, and that difference has to be embraced, not ignored.
I am so excited to find a resource like this that lays out the challenges with absolute clarity, AND with absolute hope and confidence that every child can be helped to heal from early challenges, and lead the best life possible. Please go check it out, and watch the videos!
I love boating. Canoes, kayaks, pontoons, speedboats, ferries, I love them all.
Sometimes when you are on the water you can look down and see everything you're passing over with crystal clarity. Other times, it is just a shadowy blur, and sometimes you can't see anything at all.
Even when you can't see anything, you're still moving. You are still passing markers.
Sometimes in life you have a goal and you are cruising towards it. You can measure the distance and plot a course. You can figure out how long it will take you, given different variables.
Sometimes you drift and end up somewhere unplanned.
January 1st I filled out our request for a NSW Adoption Information Package. January 2nd, the Captain went to the bank for the $40 handling fee you're required to submit with it. January 3rd I took the dog for a walk to the nearest outgoing postbox (a brisk 10 minute walk) to drop it in.
Just like that, we moved the first bit in the direction of adopting again.
If I look over the edge of the boat we are travelling in, I can't see that any progress has been made. Maybe 2-3-4-5 years from now I'll look back and realize "that was the start".
I definitely feel like I'm crossing over from "can we do it? should we do it?" to "our kids are out there somewhere. They might even be born already and they might be living through some really tough stuff. They need us to get to them."
It seemed like the most important thing to do at the dawn of 2012.
This is my fourth time to become a mother. Each time has been completely different. Adoption is not the same as giving birth "naturally" is not the same as having a c-section is not the same as foster care.
I am not little baby Ant's mother, but he needs me to act like it. I am acting like I am. I am feeding at five a.m. I am cuddling a thousand whimpers as they turn to cries. I am anticipating needs and meeting them. I am praying in the night.
For so many reasons this mothering experience is markedly different than my previous ones. One way that is really impacting me at the moment is the expectations I am placing on myself.
With my babies I always gave myself permission to step away from life for those initial intense months. With Small Sun I wrapped us up in a cozy bubble and spent months working on our bond and attachment. It took the highest priority and I was okay saying no to anything that interfered with that effort.
With The Sprout I was forced to only focus on myself and my babies (Small Sun was 18 months when Sprout was born so I did have two babies), because my delivery ended up being traumatic and it was weeks before I was up and about. After I started to heal physically, I could only manage the tiny circle of my two little children. Caring for the two of them took just about all the energy I had.
It wasn't until Finch that I discovered I was nearly anemic and started taking iron supplements. Doing so really did change my life. Now I can start to clearly identify when my iron is low and I need to ramp up my intakes. Then, with Finch's birth via c-section, I was forced to take it easy again until I healed. As with my other children, my mothers (my mother and my mother-in-law), and other relatives came to help. We are so blessed to have family that surrounds us with help when we need it.
But this time? This time I am going solo, and I am going hard.
Don't get me wrong, we have an amazing community that has brought us meals, helped us move, taken our children for play dates, and helped us out in a myriad of ways. Our community is amazing: I'm not writing this about our community because they are everything we could hope for.
I am talking about myself. I have not given myself any permission to take it easy or to let things go. I am busting my tail, and nearly losing it some days, trying to keep everything just like it was before the little Ant arrived. Once in awhile when I am explaining why I forgot my money for playgroup/haven't volunteered at school/attended the second playgroup/run out of bread and milkagain/forgotten to return a phone call/forgotten my own phone number, I say "well, can you call it baby brain if you're just caring for a baby and you're not recovering from childbirth?"
Just caring for a baby.
Like it is a little thing I do on the side.
I am trying to do this like it is a little thing I do on the side.
I am always apologizing to everyone.
I am always feeling guilty.
I feel like a failure in a million ways.
(I'm not trying to write a downer post - blame it on the Captain, he's playing melancholy music.)
No, this is not a sob-fest, I am just trying to get it out there. I am trying to reveal the chokehold on my throat that has grown tighter and tighter until I'm fighting for breath.
Why can't I just spread the "no, can't - new baby in the house" excuse blanket out like I have in the past?
Well for one thing, I have a child in school now, and I am more invested and committed in a variety of activities than I have ever been before. There is more to keep up with, period.
Also, I wonder if the fact that this mothering relationship is temporary plays a role in my approach to it? I don't want to clear my life's schedule for something that won't last. I want to do my solid best by this baby, but I don't want to give him my heart completely like I did with my babies, because he won't be staying here.
How do I do it? How do I love him enough that he knows love, and not so much that my heart breaks when he leaves?
I'm trying to tack him onto our life like a post-it note. I am trying not to let things change for my children, while also trying to let him be the center for some space in the universe, as babies should be.
I'm trying not to let anyone down, or come up short anywhere.
Now, more than ever, I am trying to get dressed for me in the morning. I try to be fresh and energetic when I go out into the world. And other than the days when all four of my children end up standing, crying on the uphill walk into school, revealing the fragility of our balancing act, I think I look like I am pulling this off. People call me supermom and admire my cape.
I am mostly honest about how difficult this is. I tell people that it is hard and we sometimes struggle, but I don't know that people believe that when my hair is done, my lip gloss shiny, and my children adorable.
I'm not sure what I'm writing about in this post (the moody music is pulling me all over the place!). I think what I am trying to say is that I'm pulling this off, mostly, but I feel like a failure a lot of the time. I sometimes suspect that it that lousy Evil whispering lies like a bad song that you hate on the radio until you've heard it so many times you begin to sing along out of familiarity.
Tomorrow I'm going in nearly an hour before school starts to have a meeting with Small Sun's teacher. Then I'm taking the dog to the vet, then Sprout to catch her carpool to preschool. Next I'll head with the two little boys to a fabric store to get supplies to sew a dress for a friend's birthday gift this weekend. I'll get home in time to prepare the Ant for his contact visit with his mum. She wants to bathe him tomorrow so I'll have to pack all his bath gear. Then I'll clean the house while Finch is sleeping, and bake a cake because we're having friends over for a play date after school. I'll wake Finch up from his nap, run the preschool carpool, get Small Sun from school, pick up the dog from the vet, then rush home to receive the Ant on his return and host the play date. I imagine I'll make something for dinner sometime in there, and there will be the necessary homework and bedtime routine.
I never would have attempted a day like that in the past. The very thought would push me over the edge. But I know a day like that is just an ordinary day for so many mothers, so I rally. I take my iron, I drink an increasing amount of tea, and I just try to make it happen.
Fostering is challenging my capacity and I can't always tell if I'm growing or cracking.
I feel like an old cowboy, trying to swing my leg up over the saddle and getting stuck half-way, in an awkward standing splits. After about three years out of the adoption/child welfare conversation, I've got some new things on my mind to work out here.
After adopting Small Sun, I went deep, deep into adoption-blog world, reading all three angles of the triad (First/Birth parent, Adoptee, and Adoptive Parents). I really took in so much from the first parent and adoptee perspectives (which are as varied as the number of people holding them). Ultimately, I gained a much higher appreciation for the first parent-child bond and the need to honor and maintain that whenever possible.
With that said, all my personal experience is in a positive open adoption that was a voluntary placement. While people have their fears, I can't imagine NOT having Small Sun's mom in our lives, separate though our lives are. She is amazing. I admire her. I like her. If we lived closer, I can imagine us spending so much more time together, and maybe even being friends outside of the bond we have over our son.
Enter our first experience with foster care.
I am part of a team that works towards restoration first, before moving on to consider other options. I am expected to interact and eventually play a part in mentoring parents who are on the track to having their child restored. This was all very clear in the agency's materials. "Perfect!" I thought. "The agency is as committed to preserving the family as I am. We're a good match."
Hypothetically, I still maintain the sanctity and value of the first parent-child bond.
Yet, the more hours I spend holding and nurturing this tiny life, the less I can comprehend the reasons he ended up with us.
When other people say "I could never!" or "Can you even imagine a mother who could..." when discussing placing a child for adoption, abandoning a child, or even neglecting or abusing a child, I've kept it clear in my mind that no, from a position of privilege and resource, those choices don't make sense. From sound mental health and freedom from addiction, they don't make sense. However, most children don't leave one family and end up somewhere else in circumstances that can be described as "stable, wealthy, healthy, sober, full of choices and resource" etc.
It takes drama and trauma for a parent to surrender their child, or lose their child against their will.
I can find empathy if I know some context of struggle for the first parent.
At the moment, in this, our first foster care placement, I don't know that contextual information. I know why the baby was removed, and what DOCS is requiring of the parents to consider restoration. I don't know their history. I don't know what compels their choices. I only know the choices themselves, and let's face it, whatever choices that end up with the state taking your child away from you are some rotten choices.
I'm wondering how I proceed from here? How do I proceed with empathy and respect and a truly helpful attitude? How do I suspend judgement?
Here I am, up all hours of the night, and putting in those lonnnnngggg newborn days. I am feeding, dressing, bathing, burping, changing, and LOVING this baby. I am giving him everything I've got, and I'm supposed to be completely neutral towards the people who were meant to do that and failed. Beyond neutral, I'm meant to be cheerful! supportive! and helpful!
This is a tough thing. If anyone knows of foster parent bloggers, or book recommendations, I need to get through this learning curve if I'm going to be any good at this.
Isn't it amazing how a little reality can throw such a spanner in our belief systems?