Sometimes I get a little pissed off with memes and pictures floating around social media about adoption and a birthmother’s love and care for her child. Her care and intentionality in the plan… how amazing and selfless she is in thinking of another above herself.
Not that some or all of these character traits may not be true, but more so that in cases where children are removed by the Ministry (CPS, etc) it’s generally NOT because the birthmother is a kind and gracious, selfless person who has gone above and beyond. It’s generally because of a complex mix of societal, generational, and economic factors – combined with other potential complicating issues from abuse to addition to mental illness.
No one shoe fits all, but what I can say from OUR experience (as an adoptive family – adopting an “older child” sibling set, in Canada, from foster care) is the following:
1) Adoption is actually not about their birthmother. Adoption is about us a family unit, and about our kids. Removal, temporary/permanent custody, foster care, visits, termination of rights, etc., were the parts which actively involved her. The only thing about adoption that she was involved in was being informed and then us signing an openness agreement (morally binding – not legally binding)… but ADOPTION wasn’t and isn’t about her. She had no part in that. She had no part in that placement. Our sons’ Guardianship Worker (social worker who acts as their guardian on behalf of the Ministry/province) was the one who made the decision/recommendation for placement/adoption. Her rights were terminated two years before that.
2) My children feel rejected by their birthmother, not loved by her. It doesn’t matter what the social workers have said, what their foster families have said, what we have said, what she has said or done during visits, etc. The reality is that her behaviour and choices which got her into the position of having her parental rights terminated after two years of them being in temporary foster care are what speak to them of rejection. Those choices and behaviour say to them that she doesn’t care enough to put in the effort – to do what needed to be done to get them back home and to keep them there. It all feels like rejection and it has shaped their worldview and their senses of self. I say this past tense because it’s a reality we work with… it’s difficult to figure out how to explain abstract concepts to children whose minds are still at a point where they think in black and white. I think we’re doing a pretty decent job of it and we work together with our counsellor (who is an expert in working with adoptive families post-placement) but it’s not a surprise that rejection may likely be a lifelong struggle for our kids, as is common for many adoptees.
3) Every time I explain that we adopted our children there comes the second implied question about which type of adoption we experienced. Most people gravitate to thinking of local infant adoption, or to international adoption. When we say “children” or “sons” their minds tend to move toward international adoption, with the presumption that it’s unlikely that we adopted twin babies here in Canada. Therefore when their first question comes out “Oh! From where?” and my response is “From here.” they seem quite confused and reply “… but from where originally” and so I reply the name of the nearby city where the delivery hospital was where they were technically born.” They tend to still seem confused. This is the point where I need to intervene. “We adopted them through the foster care system.” “….Oh! Oh, good for you guys!” These sort of memes annoy me for the sheer surface-level factor that there’s so little known about the concept of adoption from foster care and that I can’t make a mirror meme; “Adoption isn’t about rejection of the child by the birthmother so much as it is about the psychological incapacity of the parent to provide minimal caregiving required by the parent for the child to reach the minimum potential required by an adult in today’s society… but she still loves you!”
*sigh* Not going to get as many shares on Facebook is it? 😛
Time to go take my anxiety meds and my sleep meds and pretend that I’m a normal person whose brain turns off at normal times.