Dear Daughter: You’re Finally Mine

Dear Daughter,

Your adoption has been (finally) finalized, and I am so relieved. I think that you are too; you haven’t vocalized it, but I can see it. A part of me was skeptical that the day would ever come. I think the adoption process makes a person cynical. But, the day did come and then it went, and now you’re mine forever.

In the days leading up to court, I cried and cried whenever I was alone. I couldn’t believe it was finally going to happen, and I felt all of these walls coming down inside myself. Walls I had up to protect my heart in case it didn’t happen. I didn’t even know I had these walls up. I’m sure you knew. I know you had walls up, too.

Walking out of that court room… I was so overwhelmed with emotion. It was as though I’d been holding my breath for the last year and a half and finally I could breathe again!

It was so special to have our family there with us to share in our day. I’m grateful that your biological aunt and grandparents could come. I know it was important to them for you to see that they support us. It was also really cool that you requested that your cousins be there with you. They are too young to realize just how special it was, but someday they will know how much it meant to you to have them there! I am so grateful for our blended family and all of the love and support that surrounds us.

Our journey doesn’t end here, my dear. Our story is really just beginning. We will have many hills to climb in the future, but we will climb them together.

Love,

Mom

Dear Daughter, On Christmas

Dear Daughter,

It’s our second Christmas together and I’m so grateful to be creating these memories with you. Being on this side of Christmas is really new for me… the holidays are stressful as a parent! I hope I managed to get everything right so you have magical memories to look back on. I think in the future we might spend more holidays just you and me, which will be strange for me having always had my extended family around, but I want to truly enjoy and cherish my time with you while I can. You will be grown before I know it, I can already feel the time flying by.

Christmas is a time when I’ve experienced a lot of loss, and so I usually try to compensate by having as many people around as possible. I’ve tried to compensate for the losses you’ve experienced by scheduling phone calls with your biological family on Christmas. I thought it would be important to you, to wish them a merry Christmas. Your grandparents have been great, and your sister is a bit disorganized but she tries… she’s young and she’s pregnant now so she’s got distractions. But you’re biological mom, I don’t have any excuses for her, other than her alcoholism. Honey, as long as your mom is an alcoholic, her priority will always be alcohol. So I hope that you can understand if we don’t make as many phone calls to her and we don’t have visits. I hope that someday the two of you can have a meaningful relationship, but right now I’m worried she’ll spend her life disappointing you. I won’t spend every holiday seeing disappointment on your face or hearing you say “it’s okay” when I know it’s not.

So from now on, we’ll have to get used to it just being us for the holidays. I will cherish each one that I spend with you and I’ll never take them for granted.

Love,

Mom

The Young Boy I Met

In May I met a 14yr old boy at an adoption party. He was awesome, but I was holding out for a sibling group. I decided to look into him again recently and just today discovered that he’s been placed with a family. It is always bittersweet to hear about placements of kids you’re interested in – but I’m so glad he has a home now.

I’ve inquired about lots of kids over the past several months. Most of them from the public website. None have panned out yet. The trouble is that the kids on the website are the “hard to place” ones, who’ve been resorted to marketing tactics to find them homes. We don’t get to see files for the majority of the kids in care. We as adoptive parents have to leave our lives in the hands of a social worker – a stranger – and hope that they’re doing everything they can to match us with a child and expand our families.

It’s hard not to feel like you’re just another file sitting on someone’s desk. Usually, you are. I contact my social worker once every couple of weeks to ask questions and make sure we’re making strides in the direction of our end goal. What is that saying… the squeakiest wheel gets the grease.

In the meantime, I sit and I wait and I hope for a child to bring noise and laughter and life into my home and into my heart.

Confidence as a Parent and Expectations of Traumatized Children

As I inch my way closer to becoming a parent, I find myself struggling with feelings of inadequacy and a lack of self confidence. For years, I’ve been listening to my friends talk about raising their children. They’re so far ahead in the game that I’m not sure how I’ll ever stack up as a new parent. I know it’s not about comparing my successes (or my children’s) to theirs, but I feel as though I’ll struggle with the unsolicited advice and explaining to those around me how raising a child who has been neglected or abused is so much different than raising a child born to you.

I will likely have lower expectations of my children then I would a biological child. For a traumatized child, even the basic acts in life can be a challenge. My expectations need to be reasonable and achievable. There simply isn’t any comparison between a child who has been adopted and one who has not. For an adopted and/or traumatized child, feeling secure in a family, managing emotions and trying to understand why “this” happened to them take up the majority of their plates. At the end of the day, there isn’t much time left over to be the star basketball player or humanitarian of the year. Making it through each day without a meltdown is a success.

I will need to learn to trust my gut. To keep my confidence as a parent high, expectations of my children reasonable, and to shut out the voices of the people around me who think they know how it should be.

Lack of Advocating, Oversights or Outright Lies?

There’s this diagnosis a child can have called “Reactive Attachment Disorder” and it has the potential to be pretty terrifying. RAD is typically found in traumatized children and may result in a defiant or dangerous child (as with anything, there is a spectrum of seriousness); but this post isn’t really about RAD – directly.

I’ve heard a few stories now, one in person and several I’ve read online & in blogs, about social workers (government representatives) not being entirely open or honest about a child’s potential diagnosis’s or history. In pretty much all of these stories, adoptive parents were told that their child did not have RAD or FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) when they very much DID. In another instance, adoptive parents were told that one child did and one child did not have FASD. As it turned out, it was the complete opposite. This misdiagnosis or lack of information has provided in some really difficult situations for parents who may have chosen not to parent a specific child had they been given full disclosure.

I want to believe that this misinformation isn’t on purpose. I want to believe that perhaps the diagnosis had not been formally given yet, or the tests were inconclusive or perhaps the social workers weren’t well informed enough about that particular child. But, shouldn’t they be? If a test hasn’t been done yet, or information was unknown, would that not be disclosed as a possible risk or something that needed evaluation? Wouldn’t the child’s behavior in foster care be noted regardless of any diagnosis and especially if it was not in line with a given diagnosis?

I mean, if a child has been tested and determined not to have a particular diagnosis but still shows signs of that diagnosis, wouldn’t there be further testing or some form of second opinion? To the opposite end, if a child does receive a diagnosis but does not show signs leading to it, wouldn’t that be mentioned to the prospective adoptive parents?

Shouldn’t information be shared openly, regardless of its potential to “scare off” or change the mind of a prospective adoptive parent? Wouldn’t it be better to allow a parent to make the judgment call on what they’re getting into, instead of “tricking” them into it, only to find out later that their child is really nothing like what was described to them, for better or worse?

I’m concerned about this. Being new to the game, I don’t know the right questions to ask or the right people to talk to. The social workers are supposed to be the people who I can trust to guide me through the process and provide me with the tool’s I’ll need to make the best decisions and be the best parent I can be to the right child. If I can’t count on them, then that leaves me in a pretty vulnerable place.

Already, I’m seeing some breaks in an evolving system. I’m hearing rumours of efforts to improve the process but thus far what I’ve witnessed is poorly executed aboriginal training, months on end of waiting just for a phone call, discrepancies in information provided by social workers, and a lot of excuses for disorganization. It’s pretty clear already that I’ll have to stay on top of things to ensure my file doesn’t fall through the cracks. Now I’m concerned over what I’ll need to bring to the table when a match is finally made.

Reactive attachment disorder is a rare but serious condition in which infants and young children don’t establish healthy bonds with parents or caregivers.

A child with reactive attachment disorder is typically neglected, abused or orphaned. Reactive attachment disorder develops because the child’s basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren’t met and loving, caring attachments with others are never established. This may permanently change the child’s growing brain, hurting the ability to establish future relationships.

Reactive attachment disorder is a lifelong condition, but with treatment children can develop more stable and healthy relationships with caregivers and others. Safe and proven treatments for reactive attachment disorder include psychological counseling and parent or caregiver education. – “Reactive Attachment Disorder” as defined by the Mayo Clinic.