Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Adoption and Birth Family, Part 1

About 8 1/2 years ago we welcomed Ms. D and Mr. I to our home as foster children.  They were tiny little kids, both under 40 lbs. at 3 and 4 1/2 years old.  I won't go into it in detail now, but when they came to our family, they were VERY troubled.  As time went on we discovered there were good reasons why they were taken from their birth family, though we never were told all.  They had visits with the mom and two of the birth siblings that were in the area the first year and a half or so.  The other two birth brothers were out of state, taken illegally by their father who had lost his parental rights a couple of years earlier.  The visits stopped when the birth mom had a felony warrant out for her arrest, so she feared that she would be arrested if she showed up to visits or court appointments.  So she lost her parental rights eventually and we were able to adopt Ms. D and Mr. I after about three years in our home.  We had minimal written contact for the next year or two, but it was spotty since the birth mom moved often and didn't leave a forwarding address.  Then there wasn't any contact at all.

Ms. D and Mr. I had healed tremendously over the years.  Four years of therapy, time, a lot of work by them and our family, and a permanent home helped. To the untrained eye, they were like normal kids.  They still had FASD and a few attachment issues, but with calm, consistent, routine care, they were thriving.

Until this spring.

Ms. D., now nearly a teenager, started to flinch and draw back when we tried to give her a hug.  She stopped talking to us.  She stopped eating much.  She withdrew from friends and family.  She couldn't concentrate on her homeschool work.  She kept using my phone and then erasing messages.

Mr. I, at 11 years old, started having more outbursts, tantrums, and picked fights with his sister.  He ate too much.  He would cling to me like something was scaring him at times.

I couldn't figure out what was going on!  I seriously considered taking them back to their therapist, but she had retired, so I had to do some research on finding another good one who understood attachment and adoption issues.  I thought maybe the weird regression was because Ms. D was turning 13 and needed to work through adoption and her identity at another stage of development.

Well, there were adoption issues.  The birth family had come back to their lives and I didn't even know it!

One day, my phone charger broke and I told Ms. D I'd have to get another.  When I told her I didn't want to go to the store that day and I would get the charger the next time I went in a few days, she started to cry.  And cry. And cry.  We didn't understand!  Why don't we have visits with the birth family?  She doesn't belong here!  More crying.  For three hours.  I stayed by her side except for a minute here and there to check on Mr. I and get more tissues.  While I was in the room with Ms. D., I asked one of my other daughters to see if Mr. I could tell her what was up.  He told her that they were in contact with the birth family.  So knowing what was up, I told Ms. D. there is is something she wasn't telling me.  That whatever it was, it made a wall between us.  That she needed to tell me what it was so we can have a better relationship.  So she finally confessed.  Jim had come home early and so we all hugged and reassured her that we understood her need to be in contact, but this was something that we should have known from the beginning to keep them safe and to be a part of as a family.

But now that that door was open, what should we do?

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