Reuters recently released a series of articles on parents who take it upon themselves to “re-home” their adopted children. The media is calling these children “unwanted” and implying that they are being thrown away without thought or care.
Children being passed on to a new family with less effort than someone re-homing the class hamster is certainly a disgusting practice that needs our attention.
However, there is a whole other group of people Reuters failed to mention.
The majority of families who disrupt adoptions do everything possible to raise their traumatized, mentally ill children until they just have nothing left to give. Sometimes the most loving option is to find a new family for their child.
XOJane wrote that parents who would find a new family for their adopted child are “evil” and “scum of the earth.”
There are exceptions to every scenario, but for the most part she is just plain wrong.
I’m part of the adoption community. I’m in contact with hundreds of adoptive families through blogs and message boards.
My husband and I adopted our daughter from the foster care system three and a half years ago. She was nine and we were her 12th home.
There is nothing that can prepare you for parenting a traumatized child. A simple, “No, you can’t have cookies for breakfast,” can lead to screaming, raging, violent meltdowns that last hours.
It doesn’t matter how educated you are, what you do professionally, the number of hours you spent in training or the piles of books you read on trauma and attachment disorder. You can’t possibly understand until you’re living it.
Trauma changes the way the brain operates. In many cases, the damage to the brain is permanent.
It’s not the child’s fault.
They are terrified. In many cases, they’ve never had someone respond to their needs. No one cared if they ate at all before. Now, they suddenly have someone telling them what to do. They might not even speak the same language.
It’s scary, frustrating and overwhelming.
In most cases, their parents are scared, frustrated and overwhelmed, too. Yet, they are trying desperately to make it work.
These are parents who have given up everything for their children. They’ve quit their jobs, depleted their savings and alienated themselves from friends and family. Their relationships with their partners and other children have often been pushed to the breaking point.
They’ve tried everything. Their days are spent researching ways to help their violent, mentally ill child. Because even though this child attacks them physically, threatens to kill them, destroys their property, lies, steals, runs away, screams profanity, poops in their shoes and makes life an absolute living nightmare, they are committed to helping this child heal.
The child they adopted and pledged to care for, love and support.
Many traumatized children refuse to allow that to happen. They literally think if they let themselves love or be loved that they will die. It is a life or death fight for them.
They do not stop.
Trauma alone is overwhelming. Then you add in mental illnesses and cognitive delays that many adopted children have and…well, just getting through the day seems like both a miracle and punishment. There isn’t hope for many families. They know they have to get up and fight the same battle again tomorrow.
The majority of the children parents are seeking other placements for have been diagnosed with attachment disorder, often reactive attachment disorder (or RAD).
Here are a few of the symptoms of attachment disorder:
- Views relationships as threatening, or not worth the effort
- Destructive to self, others, and material things
- Cruelty to animals
- Cruelty to young children
- Lying about the obvious or "crazy lying"
- No impulse controls
- Intolerant of rules and authority
- Temper tantrums
- Lack of empathy and remorse
- Preoccupation with fire
- Triangulation of adults
- Controlling and manipulative
- False allegations of abuse
- Targets the adoptive mother for abuse
Here's a parent checklist of RAD symptoms.
If you haven’t lived it, you can’t imagine the type of abuse many parents are under 24/7.
It’s because of trauma that occurred before they even knew their child existed. It isn’t their fault.
It’s not the child’s fault either.
But what do you do when you’ve exhausted all of the limited resources and have nowhere else to turn for help?
How do you keep the other children in your family safe?
How do you keep on going when you’ve got nothing left to give?
Sometimes….they just can’t do it anymore.
They make the painful decision that they aren’t the best option for their child. Can you imagine how devastating it must be to realize you can’t give your child what they need?
They aren’t throwing their child away. They’re desperately seeking an option that has a higher chance for healing.
Are their issues with some of the ways Reuters found children are being “rehomed”? Oh, yeah. Big ones. It certainly needs to be addressed.
But there is a much bigger group of people who are only seeking safety and healing for everyone in their family. They need a voice, too.
Do you know what happens to parents who call the Department of Children and Families and say,
“I can’t raise my child any longer. We have alarms on all of the doors. We have video monitoring. We’ve been through over a dozen therapists and psychiatrists. We’re doing everything we can to keep everyone in the house safe, but he/she killed the family dog , tried to stab me with a knife and sexually molested his/her little sister. Our house was foreclosed on, our savings drained and credit cards maxed because we’ve spent so much money on evaluations, therapy and residential treatment. We’ve tried everything to make this work and just can’t do it anymore.”
That parent is usually charged with child abandonment and is at risk of jail time and losing custody of their other children.
Plus, the child generally goes back into foster care then, which often was a big contributor to the trauma and attachment disorder to begin with.
While the situations Reuters described need to stop, it’s important to understand that these other families exist. Most of the parents using the Internet to try to find families who can better meet their child’s needs are doing it the right way – with lawyers, background checks and home studies.
My daughter has made significant progress and I’ve fortunately never hit the point where I wondered if she’d be better off with someone else. However, I’ve watched many loving, devoted parents have to make that painful decision. They aren’t villains. They made the only choice left on the table.
If you know an adoptive or foster family, check in with them today. See how they are really doing. Ask if there’s anything you can help with. They need support. It’s a rough road.
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