Thursday, February 23, 2012

One More Reason I Love Openness in Foster Adoption

I keep coming back to this post by SocialWrkr24/7. If you read my blog regularly you already know that I love this piece; I can't seem to stop mentioning it and linking to it. Today the part of it that is on mind is the following:
[Children who were adopted from foster care] deserve to know their parents are okay - even if that just means they are still alive and have enough to eat. They deserve to know that their parents do think about them and want contact with them - they weren't thrown away and forgotten.
This passage is personally poignant for me because those are in fact two very important things that my daughter Ashley has received by way of our open adoption arrangement with Erica, her first mom. A few months ago, during a visit, Ashley herself brought up the second topic, asking Erica, "Mom, did they say I couldn't come home or did you not ... um ... um ..." She couldn't bring herself to finish the sentence with "did you not want me," but Erica knew that's what she was asking. She quickly reassured her that she had always wanted her but hadn't been able to get well in time, and an important (albeit age-appropriate) conversation about addiction and recovery ensued. (Erica writes about that conversation powerfully here.) 

As an adoptee, I got to hear my own mother say "I always wanted you" and explain the factors that came into play in my adoption when I made contact with her as an adult. It was a powerful, healing moment. I'm so glad that Ashley didn't have to wait as long as I did to get her question answered.

But the part of the passage above that has really been pulling me back is the part about deserving to know that the parents are okay. This is something people probably don't often think about in foster-adopt situations. I didn't think about myself, until something happened that made me look back and realize that this had been a concern for Ashley.

After one of our early visits with Erica (back when we were still meeting in public places), Ashley said to me with great excitement and emphasis, "Mom, she lives in an apartment. Did you know that? I asked and she said she has an apartment." And suddenly it dawned on me that prior to that day's visit, she really had no idea where Erica was, and it had been on her mind. And it's not just that she didn't know specifically where she was; she wasn't even certain that she had a home -- a roof over her head.

Her concerns were not unfounded; there was a period of time during which Erica was homeless. Someone -- a social worker or former foster parent -- may have said something about this to Ashley. Maybe she asked "Why can't I live with my mom?" and was told "She doesn't have a home for you to live in." I don't know how long she was carrying this worry, and I hate to think how long she might have carried if she hadn't been able to ask Erica the question.

Kids come into foster-adoptions carrying so many burdens; one of the reasons I love open adoption is that it gives them the means to set some of those burdens down. 

5 comments:

  1. This is so interesting. I never thought about it that way before. I came from a closed adoption like you, and I bought into the crack-whore birthmother myth. Whenever I would picture her, it was never in a house. I guess I never thought about her having a stable home in which she could have raised me. I didn't realize that until I read this post.

    I love your insights...

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  2. I really like this post to- when I found my mom she was for the first time in her life in her own apartment she was 42 at the time. It is very comforting to me that she has a home and she is a great homemaker. Before that she always lived with other people, friends or boyfriends, etc.

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  3. I had never thought of this particular benefit, but yes. Yes they have the chance to know and put down that burden.

    I wonder, though, what the impact is when the birth parent isn't OK? I suppose Truth is better than Untruth or not knowing, in most cases.

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  4. I had never thought of this either! My heart breaks for these children. Especially the ones that are so sheltered and kept from knowing anything about their parents. Heartbreaking.

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  5. I'd say I've usually seen children feel a sense of peace about knowing their parents' situation, even if it isn't as positive as one would hope. Its the not knowing that is harder. At least in my experience. :)

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