Sunday, April 18, 2010

One big happy community

IMG_4624 copy As an adoptive community we are large, and no, we don’t all know each other (I’m sure some of you reading know exactly what I am talking about—how many times have you been asked if you knew this person’s aunt’s step-daughter’s step-child that also adopted from China), but the actions of one parent impact us all, some directly and some in-directly. Adoptive parents always receive more scrutiny, more curiosity and we become used to having people ask us personal questions about our fertility, how our families were created and about our children’s birth families. IMG_4659 copy

I have been following the story of Torry Hansen and her returned Russian son with the same morbid curiosity as the rest of the country. None of us want to hear something like this. As adoptive parents we fight to have a legitimate role as parents when too many view as “not real parents” because we are raising children not biologically related to us. The media and government remind us every day that there is a difference between us and all other families. From census forms to taxes to filling out medical forms we are reminded that we are different. When an AP does something so out of the norm, so villainous, we all feel it. We are all expected to respond.IMG_4714 copy

For most, we will agree that it was a dastardly deed. The thought of sending your child alone to another country, well, it defies logic. Most of the non-adoptive community won’t understand this, can’t understand this. To them this is just further proof that adoptive children are not as good as bio children.

I am not defending Torry’s actions, but I do feel sorry for her. I feel sorry for the child that was her son. I feel sorry for the children in Russia and for their American parents that they will never meet. I feel sorry for all of them.IMG_4825 copy2

But I view this as a cautionary tale to all adoptive parents and to be perfectly honest it may not be such a bad thing to finally put it all out there and talk about it. I don’t know Torry. I don’t know her past. I don’t know if she watches TV at night or volunteers in a homeless shelter. I do know she found herself overwhelmed. I know she didn’t make a wise decision, but whether was out of anger, stupidity or out of feeling helplessness and exhaustion, I just don’t know. I don’t know the child and if what she said is true just as I don’t know if what he said about her is true, but having some familiarity with children that have come out of the Russian orphanage system and out of the US foster care system, I would not be surprised if that child had some degree of attachment disorder. If so, parenting and loving a child dealing with attachment disorder is a challenging thing. I personally know a mother that adopted out of the US foster care system and didn’t realize the child had RAD. This child lived with her for a year before she finally understood that something was wrong and the child was finally diagnosed. For her, she never considered disruption. She takes her daughter (and usually the rest of the family) to a RAD specialist 1-2 times a week. She drive 2 hours each direct for these appointments. She quit her job and became a stay at home mom because her daughter could not safely be around other children and could not be in the public school system. She sleeps with every door in the house locked and there are no sharp items any where in the house. There are also no matches, no lighters, no candles and no lit fireplaces. They use plastic utensils. IMG_4902 copy

We look at the decision that Torry made and can’t fathom any parent returning a child. But they do. International adoptions are disrupted with alarming frequency. I remember feeling shocked the first time I heard of it, but now I hear about it several times a month. This isn’t limited to adoptive parents. Bio families disrupt also. Some of you may remember the safe haven law in Nebraska that had to be changed in late 2008 because so many parents were bringing their children, most between the ages of 10 and 17, to hospitals and claiming safe haven. In some cases the parent(s) was just too poor, but in others, they truly could not deal with their child. I used to work in a hospital with a psychiatric center. We saw adults and pediatrics and nearly every time I was floated to that unit a parent was coming in trying to unload their child onto their system. We look at the faces of our beautiful, sweet children and can’t picture a violent child, but they are everywhere. A nearby town recently made national news when the police Tasered a 10 year-old boy. His caregiver called the police twice that day to ask for help. IMG_4656 copy

As a society we believe love conquers all, but it doesn’t. If you’ve ever had your heart broken, you know that love does not conquer all.

Those of us watching this drama unfold in the comfort of our living rooms may feel slightly smug. It seems so obvious to us. You get counseling, you involve your social worker and as a last resort you disrupt the adoption in the US (you do NOT send your child back to the country of origin!). But when you are in deep and you are exhausted and you see no other options you fall into survival mode. As a teen-ager we had a number of different girls living in our house and they all shared a room with me. We had a couple of foster kids and after the last one I said NO MORE. She a year older than me, a year behind me in school, 7 inches taller and 50 lbs heavier than I. I don’t know her back-ground and I have no idea why she was placed in foster care, but I quickly learned to make sure she always fell asleep first at night. I learned to never turn my back on her and I think that is when I began to always make sure my back was to a wall and I could find my way out of a room, a life skill, unfortunately, that I still practice today. I was in survival mode. I was scared. I never told my parents about it, I just told them never again. IMG_4895 copy

I don’t know Torry. I never met her son. I have no idea if what she is saying is true or if what he says is true. I just don’t know. But I do know that there are many sides to a story and I know how hard it is when you find yourself in deep and overwhelmed. I know that some adoptive parents are amazingly unprepared and falsely believing that faith and prayer will relieve them of any future hardship.

To be perfectly honest, I was scared to become a parent. It felt right and it felt like something I was supposed to do, but I was scared. I have experience with attachment disorder. I know how scary and hard it is and there was a part of my brain that wondered if my personal experience was somehow preparing me for parenting a child with attachment disorder. The scariest moments of my life were on December 18, 2008 around 1:30 pm. I was preparing to meet Duc and I was freaked out. I was excited, but I was freaked out. The entire way to the orphanage I began to question myself—just what was I thinking? My life was good, I was happy, I didn’t need to do this, did I? What if this was a huge mistake? I went into the adoption with my eyes wide open, preparing and expecting the worst.

When people ask me if parenthood was everything I thought it would be, I tell them it is better. it is easier. It seems strange, I know, but I was really prepared for something very different. Of course, Duc is young and signs of attachment disorder may not arise until years from now, but at least I know I am as prepared as I can be. I know who to call and I have a plan. IMG_4829 copy

****Reminder: I am not defending her actions. I hope this will be a place for positive discourse***


Special K April 18, 2010 at 10:46 AM  

Thanks for saying it out loud. That you were scared, I mean. I am, too. I know in my heart that I'm ready to be a mom. I didn't wait all this time and fight so hard to turn back now. But there are days when I ask myself if I really should rock the boat. YKWIM? This motherhood thing, this adoption thing is walking out into the unknown. And I absolutely know it'll be hard. I expect more freaks out as I get closer to referral. LOL! But I know it'll all be worth it. I just have to focus on that.

a Tonggu Momma April 18, 2010 at 3:54 PM  

As Stacey said last week, parenting a child who is wounded, traumatized, with attachment difficulties IS vastly different. And many, many children who join their families through adoption are wounded and traumatized... not only due to their previous life experiences, but sometimes even by the adoption process itself.

Kay Bratt April 18, 2010 at 5:16 PM  

A very well written post that made me really think. I have known many children who I watched grow in the orphanage and wondered how they would react once dropped into their adoptive families laps. One specific young girl I still think about and almost guarantee that she has wreaked broken hearts because of her survival skills she honed while in a SWI. Of one thing I am almost positive, that she displayed many RAD behaviors. I only hope that she was placed with a family who knew/knows how to reach out and ask for help, and that someone is there to answer.

Lost and Found April 18, 2010 at 7:38 PM  

Rather than give my opinion I'll simply comment on the stunning photos.

Dave and Teresa April 19, 2010 at 1:49 PM  

I don't want to be too judgmental about her because we are not in that kind of situation, but I can't understand how she could just send him back to Russia by himself, and I just don't think she gave him enough time. I also understand that she was in the process of starting a second adoption with another country and another agency. I just don't get that.

Something I do know, though, is that I love the Duc-in-the-box picture!

Kelli April 20, 2010 at 8:59 PM  

I do feel sorry for her too. And boy, was I scared- still am some days!

That picture of S and D running? Duc looks like he's about 4- yikes!

Shea May 1, 2010 at 12:37 PM  

Yes, Duc looks very old in these pictures!

The Russia story is sad on so many levels. While I have great sympathy for families coping with RAD I can't believe she put him on the plane back to Russia. That's unforgivable in my mind, especially as more details have emerged about this case (the agency may not have been contacted about the difficulties, counseling may not have been utilized, and she was reported to have started another adoption). My heart aches for this boy, and what will become of his life.

I think this has been great discussion to point out the not-so-rosy picture of adoption. People need to be prepared for so many possibilities, and I put this on personal responsibility. We can point fingers at agencies not preparing us properly, or orphanages not being totally honest with information, but above all it's the family living with the child 24-7. I think people need to prepare for the worst and not assume that love will conquer all, because we can't assume a birth mom didn't drink, or that neglect or abuse didn't happen.

I'll admit that as a young adoptive mom I thought disruption was horrible. But as I've read and learned more I no longer judge families who make that difficult choice, especially after exhausting other options. But to put a little boy on a plane after only a few months together? That doesn't seem right. I teach kids his age, and while I understand behavior challenges can be immense, underneath it all he's in need of serious help and I doubt he'll ever get it.

dreamer May 3, 2010 at 8:24 PM  

I really appreciate the post without the harsh judgement. I no more condone what she felt was the right thing at the time, than I condone what likely was a lot of people not helping when they could have.

I hope never to walk in those shoes. But should I wind up on that path somehow, I hope to God my friends, my family, my community smothers me with support.

we should all be so fortunate.

Best post I've read about this anywhere.

Jena May 15, 2010 at 10:40 PM  

what a great post on this... I had many of the same thoughts...


About This Blog

This started as my story, but has evolved to OUR story. This is the story of life as a single parent to a wonderful little boy while we wait for baby sister. China LID 2.12.07.

But these things I plan won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, be patient! For it will surely take place. It will not be late by a single day.
Habakkuk 2:3

  © Free Blogger Templates 'Photoblog II' by 2008

Back to TOP