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Friday, December 7th, 2012
Last weekend, my family was visiting our cool Hollywood friends for casual festivities, having a few cocktails with a few creative couples when one dynamic duo (and I mean that seriously) launched into a heart-warming holiday tale about their Echo Park neighbors who finally adopted — after a brutal three-year wait — a lovely Ethiopian toddler who is perfect and quiet in every way.
They will celebrate a son, newly named Ben. Beautiful Ben. Can’t help but dream of his pretty face, long eye lashes. I feel scared for myself at how easy the images burn my eyelids. Did they travel across a desert for him? Were his family nomads in Ethiopia?
I lose track of the conversation and five minutes later, I blurt out loudly:
“Is there something wrong with him? Can he speak? Why is the little boy so quiet?” I ask, the ever-present adoptive mother questions. Too loudly, almost rudely.
My husband raises an eyebrow, like, “I cannot believe you just said that.” Thankfully the adopted kid and his ecstatic parents have not arrived yet but my husband gives me the death stare, and our mutual friend wonders out loud, ” Why does there have to be soothing wrong with a happy adopted 2-year-old?”
Without thinking, I launch into my tired adoption diatribe about reactive-attachment disorder, “so many kids nearing three years old have reactive-attachment syndrome and blah blah blah blah.”
“…and if he’s only two then there’s a bigger chance he was…blah, blah”
Party pooper. I’m sick of myself — are you? Everyone is shuffling around the cheese plate looking suddenly uncomfortable. Uh, yeah.
I stop in mid blah and nibble a few appetizers. Have another cocktail I may not need. Adoption envy ensues. I am quiet and helpful in the kitchen for the next 15 minutes and the new adoptive loving gorgeous perfect family never shows anyway because the little slow, quiet little Ethiopian son (kissing!) has a horrid cold.
Are you in the process of adoption? Are you filled with hope and longing when you meet other parents waiting too?
Tell me your own story in Comments below.
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Friday, September 7th, 2012
That’s the line Audrey wrote to me last month that totally got my attention. We sent a few emails back-and-forth and here is the story of abalanced adult who was also a happy, healthy adopted kid. She tells it better than I can.
Audrey said, “I am living proof that adoption works. I was only in foster care about five months before placement, adopted as an infant after my birth mother made the wonderful decision to give me up.
My birth mother was an honor college student in nursing school in South Carolina. I commend the social worker who placed me with my parents, an elementary school teacher (Mom) and a grocery store owner (Dad now deceased) in a rural community near Charleston.
I grew up an only child, wanting for nothing, with lots of love and firm discipline. My parents were very open with me that I was adopted, and explained this to me since the age of four. So, I grew up knowing that I was adopted. I was a member of the National Honor Society, the marching bank and my 10th grade class president.
I went on to graduate from high school with honors and attended college majoring in psychology. In 1985, during my senior year of college while at the University of South Carolina, I went to the adoption agency that had my records and obtained non-identifying information regarding my own adoption. I had a longing to know who I looked like. My parents were awesome, but there was still a missing piece to my life puzzle.
I was able to locate my birth mom and able to meet my biological dad. My maternal grandmother died last month and I am one of 22 grandchildren! During the years I got to know my own grandma, she shared so much wisdom with me. She also explained the household circumstances why I was placed for adoption. It was very evident that I was always loved. It was an economical decision and one that would give me the best life possible.
The end? I am so richly blessed. I also have two wonderful, beautiful, loving, educated and spiritual mothers.”
Thanks for your awesome adoption story, Audrey. Please Comment below if you have another one!
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Friday, July 20th, 2012
LA County’s child protective services can be scary from the outside looking in. My family is worried about adopting from local foster care and inheriting a sick child with issues we don’t want to handle. That’s the truth.
When you’ve been through foster resource family orientation and filed paperwork to be a foster parent or a foster-to-adopt family, you must take 24 hours (four consecutive Tuesdays for six hours each) of lessons, seminars and what if situations.
In these 6-hour sessions, you play-act with your mate (if you have one) so you’re better prepared for a foster toddler who may have seen some sad situations, or been neglected or abused.
At the beginning of summer, we postponed the mandatory 24 hours of foster family training because our schedules were so busy but also because of stories like these:
According to the LA Times, a 5-year-old boy, known as Johnny, was rescued from a San Bernardino home in 2009, burned with a glue gun and hot spoons. He had been starved and sodomized, punched and forced to crouch motionless.
Foster parents Martin Roland Morales, 35, and Juan Carlos Santos-Herrera, 22, were found guilty of torture, child abuse and sodomizing a child less than 10 years of age. Another adult, Crystal Rodriguez, 35, was convicted of child endangerment after failing to protect another young victim, according to reports.
Child welfare officials in Los Angeles County determined the allegations that he had been abused were unfounded and the officials determined that the “child [was] not at risk.”
An internal review concluded that the finding was wrong. Johnny, now 8, lives in an adoptive home and is academically gifted.
All across American, little lids are abused in the foster care system and beyond. I don’t think I can personally handle scary emotionally abused child who could light my house on fire. Poison my dogs. You know?
What are my odds? Does this sound terrible?
Tell me your adoption story in Comments below.
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Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
I surfed a bunch of sites and called an adoption resource line to research how the actual practice of adoption even started. I thought it began in the olden days between extended families very casually, but that’s only one part of the history of adoption. How did families and neighbors begin taking each others’ children?
Ancient adoptions can be traced back to the Roman Empire where wealthy, aristocratic families without male heirs would adopt older boys or men from within their community, extended family or local village in order to continue the family lineage and name.
Adoption declined during the Middle Ages when pure bloodlines became more important for inheritance and land owners.
Until the 1850s, informal adoptions — from family to family — would take in the occasional orphaned neighbor child. As informal adoptions increased, the need for legalizing the process became law.
In 1853, Charles Loring Brace, a protestant minister who founded the Children’s Aid Society of New York, conceived the idea to relocate and find homes for orphans from the Civil War. Some documents claim that orphaned and adopted kids ended up as servants or worse but the era after the war shaped America’s foster care system.
Through the 20th century, states passed adoption legislation to protect and serve orphans. President Theodore Roosevelt recommended moving away from institutional orphanages and placing children in family homes.
From closed adoption in the 1940s and 1950s, gradually the industry has progressed to more “open adoptions” without the stigma for birth mothers.
Adoptions reached their highest point in 1970, and have leveled off.
In the last two decades, international adoption is popular too, providing homes to children that have been orphaned by war, disease and global poverty.
Read more about The History of Adoption, and tell me your adoption story in Comments below.
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Monday, October 24th, 2011
Last week, the NY Times reported on a couple suspected of abducting their eight children illegally out of foster care during a family visit. Lawyer Norman Steiner says he met with both parents, 34-year-old Nephra Payne and the mother 28-year-old Shanel Nadal. The children were placed in foster care in 2009 after charges of parental abuse and neglect.
Police found the couple in their parked van with seven sons and an infant daughter safe inside. The children were described as being disheveled but in apparently good condition. He said the couple wanted to unify the family amid fears their children had been abused during the last two years in foster care.
Steiner says the abuse and molestation complaints for the children while they were in foster care are documented. He said, “I expect the parents to be fully exonerated and cleared of all charges,” he said. “Their actions were not only justifiable, but expected; it is exactly what any biological parent would do.”
This news story got me wondering: Large families with multiple siblings who love each other have a very hard time being separated into twos and threes when they go into foster care. How do these multiple siblings maintain contact over the months or even years they spend sadly apart? How do they communicate and commune and play and bond through the years?
I found one (of a few) well-credited organization that take in foster siblings so they can spend a week or two of summer vacations just being with each other again. A camp in upstate New York offers siblings who have been separated in foster care a chance to spend precious time together.
Nearly 30 children from New York arrive for a week or two each summer loaded down with swimsuits and bug spray to spend a week with siblings who live in different foster homes. Founded in 1995 by Lynn Price, a former foster child who was separated from her sister growing up. It seeks to create healthy sibling relationships for foster children, who often have difficult family lives.
In developing the camp, Price said, “There were no memories of birthday parties, sharing clothes or helping each other with homework or talking about boys. I thought about the kids who will miss out on something that is so critical to their growth and feelings of unconditional love.”
My heart bleeds for these separated sibs. If you are considering adoption or fostering, could you adopt a sibling group?
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