Thursday, February 25, 2010

Differences in Adoption

Otherwise titled:

"The one where I lose half of my followers"

I am going to make a disclaimer now: I am not a parent. Not through biology, birth or adoption. I get that I may not be able to fully grasp all of the emotional layers that goes into this subject. I look at it from all the points of view - but I usually make my decision on a subject with the child's best interests in mind. That means that sometimes, I decide that how the parents' (any type) feel not the most important. Please don't' misunderstand - everyone's feelings are important. But I generally err on the side the one person in the adoption triad that never got a choice about anything - and that is the adopted person.

I know that I've talked about how I use certain terms before - how I use them on the blog and how I speak about them in real life. But this post is more than just a discussion about names and labels. It is about the differences between the worlds of domestic, international, and foster care adoption. I read a lot about all forms of adoption - their joys, tragedies, and ethical issues cover a lot of the same bases. But I do notice some interesting differences - especially when it comes to the differences between international & domestic infant adoption vs. foster-to-adopt adoption.

Recently I read a blog post by a parent who has adopted children from foster care. (I make the distinction that her children came from foster care because I think how the children come into a family makes a difference in how adoptive parents feel about their children's biological family.)

The following is some (edited for space, emphasis mine) of the blog post:

I received a notice about upcoming conferences and was happily reading away when I noticed that one of them had a caution that certain words are not to be used at the conference ... currently objectionable terms included “birth mother” and “biological parent”... and were to be replaced with “first parent” and “natural family”.

But, what about others not using words or phrases that hurt me? I thought “natural family” went out 20 years ago. We all know what the opposite of “natural family” is – right, it’s *unnatural family* ie the adoptive family.

And, let’s face it, those people who might be considered “natural family” were, for many of the children we adopt, the same people who beat them, starved them, raped them, and permanently harmed their brains with pre-natal exposure to alcohol. I don’t lump these people in with the women who chose, either because of emotional coercion or economics or youth, to place their babies for adoption, but there is clearly an expectation that the terms that are being bandied about are to be used for all genetic parents regardless of how their offspring came to be available for adoption.

I also react to the word “first mother” in reference to the one who gave birth. Does that mean I’m to be referred to as “15th mother” because I was the 15th to one of the my children, the 14th to another, the 11th to another, and I was, at the very least, the 3rd mother to others. Well, I don’t like that.

Truly...my family is not the opposite of “natural”. I don’t normally care how others see that, or what they want to call me, but this time, it irked me to the extreme. I’ll do my best not to use words that hurt others...but darn it, I want the same in return.


I think part of the problem with names and labels is the tendency to look at them all with their opposites. If one person is the "natural" parent - the other must be "unnatural", if one is the "first" (ie winner), the other must be "second" (ie loser). Though, if strict rules in opposites were being followed, adoptive parents would be the "last parents" which I actually like the sound and meaning of!

But we only really do this in the foster/adoption community. We don't look at two biological parents and think - "If she's the "mom", he must be the "non-mom", do we? Of course not! We give fathers their own name, completely separate from "mom" - we call him "dad".

It seems pretty obvious to me that just because we use the word "first mom" or "natural father" doesn't reflect anything about the parents who adopt that child. The term for these parents hasn't changed in years as far as I can tell - we call them "adoptive mom" and "adoptive dad". It is a term that explains how they came into their role in the child's life. I haven't heard anyone say that they feel put down or stigmatized by it. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that if you use the words "adoptive parent" around most of the general public, their response would be 100% positive.

"Adoptive parent" describes someone who was selfless, open hearted, and willing to love a child who was not born from their body.** Most people look pretty favorably on that title. There is not much reason for adoptive parents to want to change it right now.

But the terms "biological parent" and "birth parent" can carry a prejudicial meaning. When most people think of a "birth mother" in a domestic infant adoption, they think of someone too young or too poor to parent their child. At best it is just the "too young" or "too poor" part! At worst, a "birth mother" is someone who shamefully got pregnant out of wedlock and needed to cover up her mistakes. In international adoption, "birth parent" may mean someone who died, which is terribly sad, or someone who could not provide for their child due to the poverty or pandemic illnesses of their home country. **

With domestic and international adoption it is easier to imagine calling a woman who "loved her child enough to give them more" the child's "first mother". It feels okay to give her that place of honor - even though most still agree that the baby is "better off" with his new family.

However, when someone thinks of the "biological parents" of a child in foster care it is obvious what goes through their mind - irresponsible, uncaring, abusive, mean, angry, monster.

We certainly don't think they deserve any positive recognition do we? So, we strip them down to the bare bones. Only necessary in the "biological" aspect or responsible for the child's "birth". In child welfare, the term "biological parent" becomes prejudicial because it is used for every parent that comes through the system, irregardless of circumstances or outcomes.

Most people don't even think about the real reasons that the child comes into care - addiction, poverty, mental illness, generations of broken families. I even see it on forums and blogs that are "anti" adoption - they are generally anti domestic and international adoption. But they totally understand the need for adoption in the cases of children that have been abused or neglected by their biological parents.

And let me tell you - it makes me pretty furious sometimes.

Because the truth is,

I don't believe that the parent who willingly signed away her rights at birth is a more loving parent than the ones that kept their children and abused or neglected them.

I truly don't.

I don't believe that those parents discovered they were pregnant and decided to keep the baby with the intention of putting them through hell. I've never met a mother who told me, "I hated that baby from the minute I laid eyes on him". I've never heard of a father who said, "We decided to have our daughter, but decided not to feed her or hold her". I've never met a family whose children were removed, and their first reaction was, "Great, we never cared about them anyways".

In fact, most of the parents whose children are removed, fight to have them returned to their care. Some don't fight as hard as others. Some are not able to change their circumstances enough to have their children returned to them. Some go about things the wrong way - they can't get past their anger or accept their part in a situation - and lash out. Some appear to not care- they don't participate in services or visit regularly - but they hang on, they won't relinquish their rights.

Why?

Because they want to make their child's life miserable?

I don't believe so.

I believe it is because, despite their issues and limitations, they love their child.

Why do adoptive parents, who understand that "love isn't enough" to cure the problems that their foster children come with, believe that it should have been enough for the parents? Loving their child doesn't cure a parent's mental illness, doesn't erase their own horrific childhood, doesn't negate their addictions and pull them out of generational poverty. Just as many adoptive parents discover that loving their adopted children won't cure, erase, or negate their children's issues or past either.

So, why do foster/adoptive parents make the names of biological/birth/first parents about themselves? Who does it harm to give their biological family an extra benefit of the doubt and a less prejudiced title? Does it really hurt anyone to call them "first" or "natural" - even if you don't feel they deserve it? Does it make your adopted child love you less? Does it make you love your adopted child less? (Why do we try to quantify "love" at all?!?) Just because we call them "first parents" doesn't make you less of a parent to the child in your home - especially not in the eyes of the child. They don't call you anything but "Mom" and "Dad"- isn't that what is most important?

I'm not immune to feeling frustrated and angry about the things that children are put through. I have seen the marks on children's bodies. I've heard the atrocities from the child's own lips. I've witnessed the never ending struggle to process, accept, and move past the hurts. But to be brutally honest, most foster children weren't just hurt by their natural families. They were hurt, neglected, and abandoned my many well intentioned foster parents too.

And every foster child I have known has been very identified with their natural parents. They take on the issues of their parents - especially their struggles. The child already believes that they are the problem, and likewise must be the solution, to their parents' issues. And if we tell a child that their parents are 'bad' - they incorporate that into themselves as well.

As an adult, an adopted person will decide what value they want to ascribe to their first family. Some will insist that they don't think about them or need them at all - their adoptive parents are their "real" and only parents. Others will want and need to establish their place and meaning within their biological families. They will decide if "first", "birth", "biological", "natural" or some other term describes their feelings and relationship with their original parents.

Until then, I will try to use whatever term is deemed most "neutral" or "positive" or "PC". Because it gives the benefit of the doubt to parents who I believe love their children despite their limitations. Because I believe that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, even when I don't like their actions. But most importantly, because at the end of the day I hope that it will help the children who are caught in the middle of a situation that they did not ask for and can not control.

** I realize that not everyone will agree with these generalizations, nor are they 100% percent accurate. My point was that if asked, a majority of the general population would agree with these definitions or assumptions about the players in foster care and adoption.

29 comments:

  1. I have conflicting thoughts about this subject. Unfortunately most of my thoughts are scattered about amid raging hormones so let's see if I can be coherent for a moment.

    I just need to say this. What is wrong with the simple title of parent? Of mom? Of dad? I disagree 1000% with the choices that The PreTeen's mom made in her life and especially with her children. Yet I often find myself starting a sentence with "PreTeen's mom...." and then having to elaborate when someone who doesn't know our family looks at me strange. It doesn't make me any less of his mom to also call her his mom. It doesn't make me any better to call her the "biological parent". Yes, she made some horrible decisions. Yes, she was incapable of caring for her children. That in no way means she did not love them. She loved The PreTeen as much as I do, she just did not have the resources, the education, the knowledge or the support to be able to care for him properly. None of those things have anything to do with love. Disrespecting her disrespects my son.

    I will fully admit to having more harsh feelings in child abuse cases. I've seen some things that I just can't forget. For those parents, the term biological parent seems appropriate. I just cannot see the love in abuse, I can't do it. I can't see the mothers love in the 4 month old with 22 broken bones. Maybe I'm just jaded now, too cynical and too burned out to see past the abuse. It was easier before I was a parent. Easier to distance myself and do my job. Now I just see the pain of the child.

    When you ask "why do adoptive parents, who understand that love isn't enough for their children, believe that it should have been enough for the parents?" I cringe. Having a child is a biological thing, raising a child is something altogether different. No, love isn't always enough but it sure as heck would be a good start in a lot of cases. When you have a child, you should take upon yourself the responsibility to care for them, to raise them appropriately and to love them. If you cannot do that youself then it is your responsibility to find a family who can do that.

    I hope that wasn't too scattered to make sense. It's been a long week. LOL

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  2. Wow - you sure did not lose my following! Very well said. As a parent who adopted through foster care I applaud you for saying it. In my heart of hearts I have two conflicting feelings. One is that I WISH MY SON'S BIRTHMOTHER HAD GOTTEN HER ACT TOGETHER AND BEEN ABLE TO HAVE HIM RETURNED TO HER!!! The other is that I AM SO HAPPY THIS BOY IS MINE. I LOVE HIM SO MUCH!!!
    "I believe it is because, despite their issues and limitations, they love their child." I totally agree with this statement. My son's birthmother loves him. He loves her. He also loves me. How odd this must be for him. He is not even five years old yet!
    Keep blogging. Your blog keeps me thinking. It's inspiring.
    -Kerry

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  3. SnarkyMom: Your comment made sense to me! :)

    I edited my post a little above to address your last point. But now that I re-read it, I probably didn't need to after all.

    I understand wanting to believe that along with the rush of hormones that comes with giving birth, should be a rush of maternal love that is so strong it wipes out everything else. But the truth is that it just doesn't happen that way for many people with trauma histories, substance abuse issues, and/or mental illness. And I believe it is that expectation that keeps many social workers (and people in general) from being able to truly help parents who have children in care. They are seen as lacking some inherent, vital piece of being worthy of "motherhood" - instead of being seen as someone who is trying to fight through all the other issues in their lives, so that they can be the mother they ultimately intended to be when they first found out they were pregnant.

    Trust me, I get jaded too. I have known children who have died at the hands of their mothers... But I knew their mothers too - and the love was there, it just wasn't enough.

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  4. I do see what you are saying, but I disagree with you. Birth parent is not a putdown. It's not an insult. I have referred to my kids as my birth kids when someone asks.Birth parent means exactly what it says. The parent who gave birth. That's not a negative thing. Natural parent...I have a problem with that. The whole natural thing. It became a very un-natural thing if cps became involved. It's natural to live with your birth parents. It's not natural to be fostered to other parents. First parents? Again, I don't like it. One time my husband of 20-some years introduced me as his first wife as a joke. I took it as an insult because it implies there will always be more. I like birth parent. I like foster parent. I like adopted parent. They're nice clean blameless descriptive words. I like your post though because I didn't realize how strongly I felt about the whole thing, so thank you, it made me think.

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  5. Brenkachicka - Thanks for your support! :D

    K...Mom - I appreciate and understand that ALL of the terms have variable meanings to each individual. I know some mothers who have relinquished their children in adoption and they call themselves "birth mother" too. However, it seems to be the current trend in adoption that many take offense to "birth mother" as meaning that giving birth was ALL they did for their child. Especially in cases of open adoption, where parents have an ongoing relationship and role in their child's life. Thus, "first mother" or "natural mother" seem to be favored by more parents.

    I generally call a parent whatever they ask to be called. I lean to the side of "first parent" because it is the most "PC" term that I can find right now. Just like with racial labels - they can be hard to keep track of, but as a person with some amount of privledge, I feel its my place to be careful not to offend.

    As far as talking to kids, the word "biological" or "birth" isn't as readily understood as "first" - all kids get chronological order! :) So, I feel its a safer term to use for children in foster care who have no set plan for the future. But again - usually I just use "mom" and "dad" for every one!

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  6. I see where you are coming from....in fact, I am often criticized for believing that people are usually doing the best they can do.

    However, I do think that we should value some behavior more than other behavior...so, the mom who leaves her baby alone while she goes to a party may not be deliberately neglecting her child - she might cry out that she "loves" him - but how can we value that behavior as we would value the behavior of a mother who tells her friends - no, she can't go out, she has a baby, and sacrifices the pleasure that she might have otherwise had? I believe in love - not as a feeling, but as action.

    Sometimes you don't feel a lot of love for a person - even your child - but to act lovingly, and in the other's interest rather than in your own is good. To allow harm to come to another so that you can please yourself is bad. Simple as that.

    Granted, many parents who have their children taken away were never taught these things, or are too damaged in some way to act on them.... But, their claims of love are as confused as the rest of their behavior.

    I think all of us "claim" values we do not really hold. I had someone challenge me one time to compare what I SAY I value with what I actually do. I say I value prayer - how much do I really pray? I may say I value learning, so do I read and study? (I did get full marks on that one.) I say I love my child - how do I show that love?

    As far as words go - I disagree. I do cringe when I hear "adoptive parent" because very often that does connotate "second best"...either as you sometimes seem to believe - not good enough for the child....or more often implying that the child is substandard in some way to a bio child....or, more horrifically when there has been a lot of media coverage of some crime on the part of an adoptive parent - a sicko, out to take advantage of innocent children. I've seen people's faces go sour when I mention my children are adopted.

    And in Catholic talk, "first mother/father/parents" refer only to Adam and Eve....so it meaning anything else struck me as funny.

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  7. It seems to be a much trickier subject than I ever would have thought!
    I can tell you this, I am both a "birth mom" and an "adoptive mom" and I don't object to being a biological mother, or birth mother because that is a fact.
    When it comes to our adoption, my daughter has a birth mother in Ukraine, first parents who adopted her from there, and us, her parents.
    I don't know that language can ever be washed of all meaning in order that someone somewhere is not going to find something wrong with it. Lawyers spend years writing 1000 page contracts in an effort to use non-committal language and defer liability.
    Great post, interesting points.

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  8. I don't believe that every mother experiences a maternal love so strong that it wipes out all their obstacles. That's not realistic. Love doesn't cure substance abuse, domestic violence, mental illness...Heck, that rush of maternal love doesn't happen immediately for a lot of mothers who don't struggle with those type of issues. I guess I'm just split down the middle a little bit now. I think parents should be given every opportunity to reunify with their children but I also think that a child shouldn't be made to linger in the limbo of foster care for years while the parent tries to find a way to become the mother they intended to be when they first found out they were pregnant.

    Everyone always talks about the parent's rights. Everyone tiptoes carefully around the parental rights, nobody wants to impede those rights. When does a child's right to be safe and secure and well adjusted become more important that the parent's right to be a parent?

    This is why I left CPS. The answer to that question became way to ambiguous for me at the end. Too many children going home only to return to care half a year later worse off than they were at the beginning of the case. Too many parents with the best of intentions falling off the wagon, unable to handle the stresses of everyday life who lost their temper and almost killed their child in a fit of rage. Just too many.

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  9. To me birth mom doesn't neccessarily have a negative connotation, nor does adoptive parent neccessarily have a postive connotation. There are good and bad birth mothers and there are good and bad adoptive mothers. I have no animosity toward my oldest foster son's birth mother, however I have great animosity toward my oldest foster son's former adoptive parent. The birth mother wasn't able to parent him because of substance abuse and other issues. The former adoptive mother never intended to parent my foster son; in fact expected the him to die in childhood and told him so repeatedly (along with telling him he would never be loved and other lovely statements; long ugly story). However, I do have a problem with the term natural mother. To me a natural mother is one who is capable of parenting their chid; can parent their child naturally. Birth mothers who give up their children or have them removed because of neglect or abuse do not have the skill to parent their child naturally. Even if the parents intent is good, their parenting style or lack thereof is unatural, which is why the child ends up in the system.

    Personally, I think the simpler one keeps the terms the better. A rose by any other name is still a rose.

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  10. SnarkyMom: I totally know that you are more realistic (and have a social work education!) than to think that all "good mothers" have that rush of maternal love that conquers all - that was a broad generalization. Its something I hear from A LOT of people who don't understand the multiple issues that contribute to families being involved with CPS.

    We agree on the rest of your comment. While I believe in respecting first parents and giving them the support and understanding to allow them to change their circumstances if possible, this should not be done to the detriment of the children in care. I believe that the 12-18 month timeframe should be enforced more regularly than it currently is. And I loathe when parents are given years worth of oppurtunities while their children suffer the consequences.

    The ambiguity will probably do me in one day too.

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  11. Disagree, Disagree. 12 -18 months is too long if you are only 12 - 18 months old and have only met your "mother" a handful of times. I'm tired, bitter and cynical tonight. But give birth? yeah that was all she did . . .other than every drug known to mankind. I still call her his mother, but he certainly doesn't.
    You mention the most important person in the equation - the most important person in this equation knows exactly who his Mother is, ask him. Although I understand that for you to do your job properly, u must think as you do, it angers me today. This child only has one Mother, he has already had 5 caseworkers. I am his Mother, that is all. She WAS his mother.
    You might think all this means I dont' want for him to some day know her, I most certainly do. He will have questions, he will need answers. I hope she has some for him. I hope she is someone he can look at with love. But I am his Mother.

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  12. TTBoot: Welcome to my blog! :) I understand that to individual people terms will have different connotations. But the general public - especially those who aren't involved in FC or adoption - do have stereotypical views of words such as birth parent, adoptive parent etc. Just as terms change in regards to racial identity, generally in order to try to distance a group from the negative aspects, so will terms change for other groups. I think it is just the way of our society.

    As far as a woman choosing not to parent, or being unable to parent due to various reasons, I don't think it is "unnatural". As SnarkyMom pointed out before - many women do not feel that immediate connection to their child - even those that go on to be loving and attentive parents. I think perpetuating the idea that a mother is naturally "good" at mothering is exactly what causes so many parents to feel inadequate and too hard on themselves. I know many mothers, and none of them are perfect, patient and loving all the time - I think that is completely natural. Being good at parenting isn't a matter of nature at all - I don't think anyone is born being able to parent well. It is learned through their experiences being parented and made better by a number of other factors (education, socioeconomic status, support) and the absense of a number of stressors (poverty, mental illness, etc).

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  13. Lyttlethingsmttr - welcome to my blog! Sorry that tonight's post struck a nerve.

    While I can understand your frustration as you look at your son's situation, I stand by my timeframes. I would never recommend that a baby who is stable and securely attached to their foster parents be moved if they haven't had frequent and consistant contact with their natural parents. However for an infant, 12-18 months is a reasonable time frame to allow the parent to change their circumstances. Although it is hard to think of a baby having to leave the parents he is familiar with, research has shown that children who have established a secure attachment to one caregiver are able to successfully transfer that connection to another caregiver. If a parent is able to gain insight and improve their situation during that baby's first year of life, and the baby has been in a stable and loving foster home, there should be very few long term consequences.

    However, even if that baby is adopted into that loving family, they will have to deal with the meaning of that relinquishment or their first parent's inability to care for them, for the rest of their lives - as they process what those factors mean to their lives. I also believe that a baby is less affected by the uncertainty of their future than an older child who is better able to understand concepts like "return home" or "termination of parental rights". For older children, speedy permanency is even more important. All children need nurturing, stable, and secure foster placements - they are vital to the child being successful later in life, return home or adoption.

    As far as what your son calls you, you made my point perfectly. You son knows you as "Mother" - in the sense that he is securely attached to you, knows you love him, and knows you will provide for him. So, what does it matter TO YOU what anyone calls his biological parent? But it may matter to your son one day, when he has to sort out how much of his identity has to do with his nature, genes, and biology and how much is due to your love and nurture. If everyone refers to his first mom in negative terms, he may internalize some of that about himself.

    This is why it matters - not because it changes the love between the child and the person raising them, but because it matters to how the child incorporates ALL of their parental figures into their own sense of self.

    It is a difficult concept, with many layers and emotions on all sides. I just believe that giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, and being as kind as possible, will serve everyone better in the end. I hope this makes sense and that you will continue to read more of my blog. New points of view strengthen our ability to do the best by all of the children involved!

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  14. Social worker 24/7 your point is well taken. I am guilty of confusing learned behaviors with biology. What would be helpful is if all emotion can be stripped from the terms, but as evidence from the comments that will be hard.

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  15. TTBoot: I agree - taking the emotions out of a lot of things in adoption would be helpful, but it is very hard! I hope this post helps some to look at their own emotions and see if they reflect reality, or simply fear or anger. Thanks for commenting again!

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  16. In the UK we use "birth mother", "birth father", "birth grandparents". They are the ones who were the child's family at the point of birth.

    I help out with the "birth mothers group" for women who have had their children taken into care. It's likely the children were removed many years ago and they're only just coming to terms with what happened. Some of them have learning disabilities and during the 1980's that's probably all it took to have a child taken away.

    However, I read the reports about children who have been removed because of a categorical series of abuse of all kinds and I sort of agree that "mother" and "father" is too far a stretch for some of these people. In which case, I refer to them by their first names.

    We associate "mother" and "father" with being loving and nurturing and these people have been anything but that. I understand that in adoption I am seeing the lowest of the low cases & that many families are able to stay together through adequate support. However, in the cases that end up in an adoption plan those people either haven't wanted to change or just plain cannot change (at least, not right now).

    Whilst the adoption order is being granted and the child is in their adoptive placement I'll call the parents the "adoptive parents" but once the order is granted they are the "parents".

    We try and maintain indirect contact between children and birth families but unfortunately a lot of birth families are just not interested in this.

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  17. The particular nuances of "natural" that I think make it not quite fit are these:

    natural - functioning or occurring in a normal way; lacking abnormalities or deficiencies; "it's the natural thing to happen"; "natural immunity"; "a grandparent's natural affection for a grandchild"

    (A natural, normal situation without deficiencies is exactly what the situation is not--adoption is necessitated by abnormalities or deficiencies in the first parent/child relationship--I think "first parent" is ok, BTW. Every relationship has its abnormalities, but to seem to refer to it as the relationship most free from these is strange)

    natural - free from artificiality;
    "a natural reaction"

    In describing words, the dictionary often refers to things as "not (their opposites)". When someone is being natural, they're acting in a comfortable, free, and easy way. This somehow seems to imply that the adoptive family won't/shouldn't be that--free, easy, and comfortable; that it shouldn't feel natural. Is that serving the child well?

    I disagree with the point you were making about the dad not being the opposite of a mom, but no one thinks of a dad as a substitute for a mom the way that an adoptive mother can be that for a missing or completely dysfunctional first mom.

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  18. Thanks for making me think... we are about to start the process of adopting our foster daughter, and I never thought to call her birth mother anything other than "birth mother"... We do plan on staying in contact with her, and I know that the term "birth mother" will offend her...

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  19. Everyone always talks about the parent's rights. Everyone tiptoes carefully around the parental rights, nobody wants to impede those rights. When does a child's right to be safe and secure and well adjusted become more important that the parent's right to be a parent?

    This quote from your commenter above puts it so well.

    I also wanted to say that first parent is a term that will confuse a lot of people. When I first heard it, I had no idea if they were referring to- their bio parent, first foster parent, first adoptive parent, what? That is the worst descriptive term I have heard so far, and hope that it doesn't go much farther.

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  20. Miss Social Worker 24-7

    I do believe I understand the point that you are trying to make here. I'll even admit to somewhat agreeing with what you have to say here, but at the same time you have to realize just how generic some of these terms and labels have become. By becoming generic many labels have been reduced to the same meaning. And quite honestly, from the perspective of a real or biological parent these terms are not only offensive, but harmful on many levels, spiritually, emotionally, legally, you name it. They are not harmful on any level for an adoptive parent to be called an adoptive parent.

    When you are looked upon by society as an abuser of any kind, you are seen as a monster. You are not seen as someone who needs help. You are not seen as someone who has problems. You are not seen as someone with psychological problems. You are not seen as somebody with a disability, or drug addiction or poor, or unemployed. No you're an abuser. Why else would Child Protective Services even bother with you? Right?

    And if you have your child removed, and this my dear comes from discussions with lots and lots of parents, you are viewed as an abuser and looked down upon quite often by the foster parents. Some even blog about it. Some bash the parents, others don't.

    You may have to go to a meeting where you are viewed as an abuser by several people in a room. You may be told how inadequate of a parent you are or how these people don't think that you're capable of raising your children.

    Meanwhile the workers provide all these hoops for you to jump through, and once you complete these, we'll identify some more issues for you to work on. Of course you don't see it that way, after all, you're just trying to help, right? Some people just can't handle the psychological beat down, which is the way that they view it. And believe it or not sweetie, for many many parents who have been involved with the child welfare system in any way, a psychological beat down from many of the people who are supposed to help, is just what you get. So the perception is not always inaccurate.

    So back to your original point, no real parent is going to care how an adoptive or foster parent feels about having a label applied on them that identifies them as a non biological parent. Especially when they have your kid.

    But hey, we deserved it right?

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  21. i for sure agree what ever term is used it has nothing to do with my motherhood, and will not threaten me, I am in a very open relationship, and actually just texted my daughters birth mom before I spoke and she said she still really wants to be refered to as birth mom, that the other terms seem weird and off to her. but in the other worlds of adoption I will respect whatever anyone wants....

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  22. I have noticed that many people have objected or pondered the appropriateness of using the word "natural" in relation to a child's biological parents.

    I think for most, they are really opposed to applying that term to the SITUATION the child is in, rather than the relationship between parent and child. No, being in foster care isn't "natural" - but the relationship between a parent and their biological child is "of nature".

    In fact, when I looked it up today, the Webster Dictionary lists this among the various definitions of "natural":

    Main Entry: 1nat·u·ral
    Pronunciation: \ˈna-chə-rəl, ˈnach-rəl\
    Function: adjective
    Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French naturel, from Latin naturalis of nature, from natura nature
    Date: 14th century
    1 : based on an inherent sense of right and wrong
    2 a : being in accordance with or determined by nature b : having or constituting a classification based on features existing in nature
    3 a (1) : begotten as distinguished from adopted; also : legitimate (2) : being a relation by actual consanguinity as distinguished from adoption

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  23. I appreciate all the comments above and would like to add my final (for now!) thoughts:

    I think the most important thing for foster and adoptive parents to remember is that a child is ALWAYS permanently linked to the parents they were born from. Whether removed or willingly placed - the child will internalize any and all messages they recieve about those parents.

    Those parents have made hard decisions and/or had life experiences that most can not comprehend.

    They have lost a piece of themselves, that they once carried within their bodies.

    Those parents deserve respect.

    Be sensitive about how you refer to them - it can only help your child.

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  24. Great post! You know I believe that everything in life is about perspective. We all bring our own experiences to the table which is why every person is going to see a different color of blue in the sky. For me, working as a CPS worker, I notice most people say mom and foster mom prior to any adoptions etc, and mom (referring to the adoptive mother, and "other mom" referring to the birth mother"). It really is a difficult topic.

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  25. I have to say I disagree with you when you say that a Mom signing over rights at birth loves her child no more than on that abuses them. I feel they do love their child and that they are not "giving them up but giving them more. In our situation Little J's bio Mom, first mom, natural mom whatever you choose to call her came to the realization that she knew she could not provide for him, take care of him, stop her drugs without lots of help and so she did love him enough to waive her rights.

    I received the sweetest letter from her just today telling me how proud she was to have us raise him and that she felt God place us in her life for this very reason and that she does love him and that is why she choose to do this.

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  26. Hey Paula, thanks for commenting! :) I think you may have misunderstood my post - or I'm misunderstanding your comment! :)

    I believe that some mothers demonstrate their love for their child by voluntarily surrendering their rights to the foster parents - its obvious that Lil J's mom felt that she was doing the right thing for him! I'm glad that she felt she could make that decision and trusted that you would love him and maintain some contact with her during his life.

    My point above was that many people find it easy to say that mothers who place their children at birth (generally in domestic or private adoptions) "love them enough to give them more" - but most people believe that if a parent hurts or neglects their child, they don't love them at all. I disagree with this way of thinking. I think that almost every parent loves their child - but that a number of life circumstances, from poverty to mental illness, can cause a parent to abuse or neglect their child. Its not a lack of love - its a lack of support and resources that cause abuse and neglect.

    So, while people feel it is okay to respect some first/birth/biological mother over others, I would argue that ALL mother (and fathers!) are deserving of respect and the benefit of the doubt. They should be allowed to be called whatever term feels appropriate to them - and not called by a term that makes them feel bad about their role in their child's life.

    Hope that makes sense! Thanks again for stopping by! :)

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  27. "However for an infant, 12-18 months is a reasonable time frame to allow the parent to change their circumstances. Although it is hard to think of a baby having to leave the parents he is familiar with, research has shown that children who have established a secure attachment to one caregiver are able to successfully transfer that connection to another caregiver. If a parent is able to gain insight and improve their situation during that baby's first year of life, and the baby has been in a stable and loving foster home, there should be very few long term consequences."

    This kind of comment is typical justification for SWs to move children and disrupt the bond which DOES cause attachment problems. I hear it from younger, inexperienced, childless workers who have never fostered. Many who don't really consider where a child is developmentally at 12 to 18 months.

    Should a child at that age be reunified with the parent that gave birth if at all possible? Yes. But there should have been consistent and frequent visits for the entire 12 to 18 months.

    If a 12 to 18 month old hasn't had visits and has been with the foster parent since birth or shortly thereafter, then s/he views the foster parent as his/her mother/father. Period. The attachment is to the foster parent. You take an 18 month old away from Mama and place him/her with someone viewed as a stranger by the child and it is TRAUMATIC. It is as traumatic as the child being removed from the person who gave birth and placed into foster care in the first place.

    Best interest of the child my ass.

    How can someone with no experience parenting/fostering say what is the best interest of a child that they see an hour a month? You don't really know that child. You know what your textbooks (and boss) tell you to do, but you do not know what is best for that child.

    Getting off soapbox now.

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  28. M4M - thanks for your comment and I understand how hard these situations can be.

    I think we agree more than you realize - my whole point was that children need frequent, regular contact with their first parents in order for that transition back home to be successful and minimally traumatic for the child.

    Also, I wouldn't dream of saying that such a move would not be traumatic on some level for the child. However, attachment problems come from MULTIPLE moves and disruptions. A move from their birth family to a stable, nuturing foster home and then back to their parents care (assuming stablity with the parents) would NOT cause attachment issues.

    Yes, the baby would experience loss and disregulation - absolutely! But the long term concequences would be minimal. This is no different than when a child is adopted at these older infant/toddler ages - as is so common in international adoption. If the child has had a stable, nuturing environment in their home country, they are usually able to attach fairly quickly with adoptive parents.

    Being a parent makes you an expert on many aspects of YOUR children - but not a expert on all child related issues. That is why we have professionals who research everything from illness to attachment. I'm not saying I'm an expert - but I take offense to comments about my lack of parenting making my opinion useless.

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  29. Very well said 24/7. I'm really surprised someone could be so judgmental when after reading their blog, I would think sweeping off their own porch would be better than sweeping yours.

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