On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Irony thy name is Adoption Awareness Month

Let me first start by saying that I'm jaded. My experience with adoption as a whole has been very difficult for many reasons which includes but is not limited to raising a class 5 RAD [1]. Plus my bra is ill-fitting today which makes me irritable. And then there's the issue of the board that clocked me squarely on the forehead at a customer's home today so I'm not entirely sure but I think I suffered a minor concussion...

I digress.

From happy-go-lucky cheerful interviews on the local christian radio station to news articles to commercials and billboards, I'm getting an earful of adoption "noise" and it's making me a bit nauseated (although it might be the knot on my forehead.)

Yes. There are amazing adoption stories. Yes. I'm still a blessed woman to have three children when without adoption, I wouldn't be parenting at all. Yes. The general populace needs to be reminded that there are children still needing appropriate home environments. It's the misnomer, "adoption awareness" that makes me cringe. Because what exactly are people being made aware of? And what details are being omitted to prevent potential families from turning away from adoption?

In all of these stories I've heard the past few weeks, there is only hope, joy and happiness. In what universe is that a reality for ANY subgroup in the population? In fiction, perhaps but that's not reality. I know, I know. Writing an interest piece for the local paper that includes the harrowing details of RADs that pee on the floor ON PURPOSE at the age of 10 is not likely to make the phones ring. But as a parent that was never "made aware" of the potential challenges my child and family would face adopting a daughter from the system that had suffered abuse, I want to puke a little. It is an injustice to paint such a rosy picture, for all parties involved.

Today's local paper had a front page article that detailed two family's adoption stories. In the side bar it reported census data about the state's numbers. 13,965 children are in foster homes. 2370 are available to adopt. Most of those children would be african-american males, the least adoptable category of children. The front page article of section B of the same paper, contained an article about an african american father who could face 110 years in prison for the years of abuse he made his sons endure. One child was so battered he suffered severe head trauma and irreversible brain injury. Their mother also faces secondary abuse charges.

The irony is palpable. A feel-good piece about two white families with adult biological children adopting Haitian and Chinese children that had already suffered neglect, abuse and orphange stays followed by a piece about three more LOCAL boys in the system because of abuse. I read both articles several times. Not one of them mentioned the challenges the children or families faced attempting to raise or support these children. RADs? What's that? It wasn't in the articles. Both pieces were written from a "save these poor children" point of view.

Yes. Save these children.

But let's really make people "aware" first, shall we?

To pretend that the realities of trauma don't exist or that early childhood trauma causes a lifetime of struggle and hardship for even the most cognitively capable child is to neglect to inform someone that the water is too shallow to dive into. I wish for all the world that we had been better informed of the challenges we would be up against for Sissy. I think of the time we lost in getting her appropriate care and I cringe. Could she have been more attached today and less volatile if we'd been better prepared and made aware of her challenges before we got custody? I'll never know for certain but the fact that we were denied that opportunity really burns me. And when the newspapers and talk shows only tell the fictitious, pie-in-the-sky tales, it continues to be a slap in the face to the intent of making people aware. Point of fact, they aren't doing any such thing.

Here's how I would make people aware about adoption:
#1 - rally and support birth mothers. I know some adoptive families have challenged birthmoms or difficult relationships with first families. I know for some people, she is a "womb" and nothing more. But somewhere in space and time, a woman gave birth to our children and like it or not, she walks the earth knowing her arms are empty regardless of how that reality came to be for her.

#2 - give adoptees a voice. To ignore their grief and story is akin to the advocacy group Autism Speaks which has no autistic persons on the board. Exactly who is "speaking" for autism? Apparently not the autistic people! So who is making people aware of adoption? Currently it is NOT adoptees.

#3 - Educate adoptive parents of EVERYTHING before they even look at photos of waiting children. No sugar coating, no fictional feel-good stories, just raw, cold, harsh, clinical truths. Adoption is not an altruistic, charitable contribution to a food bank at Thanksgiving. It is assuming the responsibility of raising another human to adulthood, attempting to educate them and arm them with the tools they need to be functional in society, socially, emotionally, physically, financially, environmentally, spiritually, and mentally. Reciprocated love is a bonus.

The reality is that next year's front page adoption story SHOULD be that the three abused boys mentioned in Section B have found homes, have been diagnosed with RAD, are getting attachment therapy, are challenging for their families on a good day and that their new parents need ongoing support from the community too.

Eh, but I'm an idealist because my reality is too harsh, my head is killing me and I really need to take off this bra.

[1] A class 5 RAD?!? That's not a legitimate diagnosis. Here's the deal, the only thing Sissy doesn't score for on the RADQ is arson. So I'm making it up. She's class 5. And that's my story and I'm sticking to it. LOL


waldenbunch said...

Well written. Those are my thoughts, too, and I believe education is everything.

Angela :-) said...

Trash the bra. It's not worth the discomfort. Totally agree on the rant. I struggle to find the balance between reality & the true need when I am educating people. But, at least you got a neat card this week... LOL

Angela :-)

sweethoneydoo said...

you are having just as bad of a day as me.

GB's Mom said...

Level 5 RAD sounds right to me.

Bren said...

Sorry but a "woman" (and I use that term loosely too) who whores her 3 year old out to give oral s*x for drug money is nothing but a womb and there is no need to rally around her or anyone like her. Her arms are empty because she would likely kill any child left in them.