Thursday, December 16, 2010

It Keeps Going On

One of the sadder things in our adoption experience is that our children often seemed to have kept only our bad habits, without the good ones taking firm root. For example, I love learning in many different areas, yet only one has followed that path, and he is heading into a spiritual direction that is completely opposed to what we raised them under.

I am also amazed at how many of their current traits they seem to have from their birth family. While a few things could have been caught at an early age, as some were in the birth home for a few years, I wonder if much if this doesn't have some genetic component, however wild that idea seems.

I am not sure what to do or say to continue to help them, as my role as a father is not completely accepted. Being offended or saying its all fine is the normal response. I do realize that parents have to step back from adult children, but knowing I missed out on so much parenting in the late teen years, due to their non-receptiveness means they need more than usual now, though are almost as resistant.

The point of this is to just keep pushing forward and showing unconditional love as much as possible. No matter how much I am rejected, I am still the one that raised them. I made the decision to love them unconditionally a long time ago and that will never change, whatever my relationship with them is!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another Boomerang

Our youngest, her husband and daughter are all back in our home. After several bumps, this seemed the best thing for them to do and they were ready for it.

It is tough going from a nice quiet "alone" house to one with others in it and not just for a holiday time. While it is worthwhile, it will require sacrifices for my wife and I as well.

More comments on my thoughts on things, colored by this, in the near future.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

No Guarantees

I get tired of hearing phrases like, "you have no promises with birth children either." While the intent is good and it holds some truth, it is not completely accurate. Birth children can stray and go bad, but none have another individual who can rightfully have a claim to your role. I have to constantly deal with the fact that another man claims the role of "father" to my exclusion, in spite of my attempt to be open to him.

This has greatly contributed to my alienation with 2 of my children, but is unavoidable. I believe the father is still the one who raises a child, but I have to content with someone else. That is not true when a birth child "goes bad"!

It is a rough path and words that minimize the negative impact don't really help, they just trivialize things and leave people in or open to more pain. It would be much better to deal with the reality that many of the children in the foster care system will never bond with a "good" family, no matter how much they need it.

Tough truth, but better to deal with the truth and learn how to work past it rather than to deny or ignore it and be sideswiped!


Stirring Up Buried Hurts

My wife and I attended a large local adoption event encouraging those attending to adopt children in the foster care system. While they presented more open-eyed view, I think many still don't realize how rough that path can be.

While I could probably adopt another individual child or sibling group, in spite of our past troubles, I am not sure my wife could do the same. This raised the question of what value the time had for my wife.

While it seemed rather silly, I believe it was part of our ongoing healing process. We have been through a lot and will likely go through a lot more.

She could not handle so much discussion of it at the end of our time there, but I think God used it to help heal a bit more in her life, especially. I probably got sum, but I am often ready to plow ahead whatever happens! :)


Sunday, August 01, 2010

Stopping Comments

I prefer to have comments open in case anyone wants to do so, but it looks like the only ones I get now (except for one a long while back) are from some Chinese spam engine. :(

I am going to be turning them off for at least the short term.


After investigation, I have some options to limit comments to registered users. Sorry if you want to make an anonymous comment, but I am going to try this to limit the spam links.

I would just delete this post, but I can't find an option to do so. :(

The Need is Great, But the Likely Results May Not Be Good

I heard on the news today about a local "couple" that were sentenced to jail for locking the woman's 3 children in a hotel bathroom for up to 9 months. While I agree that the man and woman involved deserve whatever results they get, I have to think of the adoptive parents of these children.

They are guaranteed to be very confused and messed up and bonding with even an outstanding adoptive family may be incredibly difficult. In addition, they probably will feel a tight bond with their mother and her "boyfriend", in spite of the cruelty the mother allowed and the boyfriend inflicted.

I wish I had idea on what to do about situations like this. Blindly jumping in is not a good idea though, as I would almost guarantee their family will have serious problems when they are teens.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Birth Fathers can be a Mess Too!

All the stories I read about in the past referred to the birth mother reconnecting with her children, yet in our case it is the birth father. Ironically, he pushes for all the involvement to be for he and his current wife, completely excluding the birth mother (as much as he controls things), believing in "blood" when it is convenient and ignoring it (such as for his wife being "mom") when it is not.

He is the one my oldest calls "daddy" and that probably hurts the most, since that was the role I thought I would get to play when building a family. I wasn't even allowed at her wedding because "her father" (her words in a text message) didn't want me there.

It sucks, but it is life. No one really understands, especially not the other children. They don't want to deal with it, so any attempt on my part to get them to consider their own role in things gets me labeled as the one stirring up trouble.

You will have to learn to keep quiet in a case like this. I am not sure exactly how I will walk it out, but it is so ironic that I cannot have the open relationship I strongly seek with my children because another has gripped their heart and minds. Ironically, though he proclaimed to be committed to "letting them make their own decisions" in the past, he is very controlling and will definitely "buy them" or do anything in his power to get them to move near him.

Nothing I can do but sit and watch. Make sure you know what you may be signing up for!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Tough Challenge for Adoptive Fathers

Fathers have a really tough job in our society already. They have many expectations placed on them, yet have limited abilities to enforce anything they do and are often not supported when making the harder decisions.

This is even more of an issue for adoptive dads. It is quite easy for his children to reject him, instead desiring a "perfect dad" vision they have in their minds. At least that was true in my case. Ironically, my children's birthfather helps them do things that are very destructive to their life. My wife and I tried to teach them to restrain their impulses and that is now being actively undermined.

It is not surprising and many children rebel against their parent's rules when they become adults, yet factoring in a birth family makes it even more challenging and an extra way to reject the parents.

Happy Father's Day to the true fathers! May you find something to anchor yourself to whether the rejection!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Why are You Adopting?

I would strongly encourage anyone starting down the road to adoption to really evaluate why you are taking this step. Make sure you know what you are planning on.

What do you hope to get out of this?

How do you want things to be in 10, 20, 30, or 50 years?

What will you do if things turn out as you expect?

What will you do if they turn out differently?

The adoption route is not "just the same as giving birth to children. While it may seem like you are picking your children, you will almost certainly end up with a lot less input on this than you think and you will likely end up with a lot different child than you may expect up front.

These questions don't have a right or wrong answer (at least none that I am going to cover now), but they are worth some time to think deeply on before you proceed.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Point of Things

This blog faces a challenge beyond that of just writing things steadily. Knowing what to write about is a bit more challenging than I thought going into this. My own experience has been very frustrating, to put it mildly, but what is the point of just noting the problems and troubles endlessly? While venting may help for a bit, ultimately that is not a good strategy.

This is not meant to be a general guide to adoption either. Many other sources cover that in far more depth than I could. This is meant to present my thoughts, from the perspective of an adoptive father of 4 siblings that came from the US social services system.

I have done a couple of "here's some ideas" posts, but I am not sure what more to say. I suppose just writing about my thoughts as I continue to work through things with my adult children is the point. Hopefully this will help someone else down the line. Perhaps its value will be in many years, when all the posts can be viewed as a stream, rather than as a specific "I have to actively track this" forum.

Many other adoptive fathers are sure to go through this. I do those starting out the process to really think through the issues. Get good reference books, like Adopting the Hurt Child and Parenting the Hurt Child. Those books cover many of the things we faced. As bad as things were, I don't think they were that bad, but I can certainly relate.

This is not the easy road many will proclaim and the "you're a saint" encouragements will only last for a while, while the trouble will go on. These children do need help, but it takes a special man to provide it and to still keep his marriage intact.

Build your life on prayer as well! I could not have survived this without a deep relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ. This sucks far too much for that.

You will have some successful times, but you will also have many tough times. Have something more than you to rely on!

You May Never Reach Your Goal

While the goal of many in adoption is to build a family, I want to remind everyone that you may never do so. I took a trip to see my mother, picking up my youngest daughter and my granddaughter along the way. My wife and I gave my daughter and her husband some things to help them out as well, making me tow a trailer to where she lived a few states away.

My daughter and her husband said they appreciated the items (especially the older washer and dryer). The three of us (myself, daughter, and granddaughter) went to see my mother. This was a quick trip and I drove them back a couple of days later.

On the way back, I loosened my internal restraint against talking about anything serious and being a "father". Unfortunately, I ended up bringing out a lot of hostility from my daughter, showing me that she still holds a great deal of deep anger, blaming me for many things. (Some of which were my wife's doing, not mine.)

This showed me that it doesn't really matter how many "good things" I do, I will almost certainly be judged by her perception of what I did or didn't do when she was growing up. These views she holds may or may not be true, but they definitely color her view and keep her from establishing a normal relationship where the other party (me in this case) can make mistakes, but be worked with to correct them.

One of the complaints was that I talk through things too much. That is one of the ways I work through issues and I think it is usually better to work through things than to just stuff them, even if you have to take a break from talk to let people get focused again.

This meant that I was unable to even resolve any issues. Talking about many things was "bringing up the past" (especially hers) even though that had a definite impact on where we were today. I am not perfect, but I want to work things out. I am not allowed to do that.

Perhaps I am wrong, but this shows me that I cannot be a father. My own father and I had plenty of disagreements, but I would never treat him like I have been, because he was always still my father. Yelling, yes. Holding him guilty of all my problems, no. In fact, I would have loved if he would have worked through many issues with me. He never did want to talk much out.

Ah well. I am sure I will refine my views over time on this and find I am off in a few areas, but the clear point that any good I do can be swept quickly away because I annoy her seems pretty discouraging. I realize some of this sounds like normal teens, but this is built on a base of being rejected by all 4 of my children and having someone else step in to claim the "father" role even though he is a "Disneyland dad" at best - all gifts, no discipline or encouragement to do what is right.

Don't plan on being a father, if that is your goal. You can definitely have an influence, but you may never get to be a father. That is an unfortunate reality.

Monday, March 08, 2010

It is a Journey, not a Destination

One thing I keep reminding myself on my journey is that my travel is just that. I am taking part in a journey, one that may not have an end in this life. It is really rough to be alienated from any of my adopted children, but I cannot control that so I must just keep walking forward.

I do wish I could find a way to reconnect. I want to have an adult relationship with all my children, but I can't do anything to even advance that, so I must wait for them to make the moves.

Make sure you are in this for the long haul if you start down the adoption trail. You may avoid all these problems, you may not, but you need to be committed if you want to make it through successfully. Your children need that from you even if they seem to reject it!


Saturday, February 06, 2010

Shopping for Children

Though it has been a while, I still remember the distaste I had when flipping through the books listing children that were available for adoption. Part of me enjoyed looking at the listed children and wondering if my wife and I could make a positive difference in their lives, but I also remember how much it caused us to rule out many children.

Fight this concern if you are going through the process. You need to be a very "educated consumer" if you are going to adopt, especially if you are adopting children from the system.

Some random thoughts:

- While the listings may note some things, learn to read between the lines. They are often like home listings, which hide the flaws or make the flaws seem like bonuses by misnaming them.

- The child(ren) on the page will need a lot of work. You will not find a "perfect match" that doesn't have any problems you can't handle. You won't be able to handle everything, especially since you won't be able to think of everything up front, but you need to make sure you believe you can handle what is listed!

- The system will not tell you all the problems. Children are removed for a reason, so the birth home had to have some strong troubles and those are often caused by things like mental illness, intense anger, etc. Don't let anyone downgrade serious concerns like these. Mental illness issues can cause far more trouble in your life than physical ones. I think part of this is because they aren't always noticeable.

- Watch out for "mild" things like variants of autism (such as Asperger's Syndrome) that don't seem like a big issue, but need to be understood and addressed. I have read that highly skilled technical people (including Bill Gates) may be an "Aspie", so it is not as bad as the autism label makes it seem, but it can lead to many challenges raising a child. In our case, I wish I had known it before. I have many of the traits that fall in the category, so I know someone can be fully functional with them, but it certainly made raising at least one of our children more challenging than it needed to be.

- Step back from any "deal" you have qualms about. Your job is not to save the "tough cases" and you need to remember that. We are not talking a hurt pet here, we are talking a human being with many issues that must be worked through. You cannot work through them with the child if you don't have the ability to do so. Love is not enough, all by itself.

I may write more on this later.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bonding is Vital!

One of the most important things adoptive parents must do is actively bond with their children. This seems to come easy for some parents, but is more of a struggle for some of us. We don't get the normal infant years where we carry a nursing child and do other things that helps make a deep bond with our child. Even if they come young, we will have missed out on much of the early bonding that most families take for granted.

Some of this is time. Some is physical contact. Both were a bit at odds with how I was raised. While my parents spent time and weren't afraid of appropriate touching, they were more private individuals and we definitely were not a touchy-feely family. My own personality is much more of a loaner, so I tend to isolate myself more, something that is not as helpful when raising children.

I mentally wrestle with how much impact this had on my children. While they definitely had many convinced that I was the source of their problems and would certainly blame any shortcoming, I am not convinced that this was the entire issue.

Still, I wish I had wrestled on the floor with them more when they were young, focused more time with them, etc. As with most parents, I would redo some things if I could and I would put this at the top of the list.

I am not sure if it would have provided the bonds I wanted though. They had enough things keeping them in their own little world, but I do wish I could have tried it more.

As I noted before, don't wallow in this. You can't change the past, but we can try to help others do better in the future. That is my aim here.

So work on bonding, even more than you would with children you had given birth to. Getting through the walls your children erect will be a challenge, but it is worth it, for their sake!


What Can We Do?

While I may write more on my ongoing journey, I want to start writing some thoughts on what we can do to help avoid at least some of the struggles I faced. While the problems won't all go away, some things may help the process. I have to admit that these are just my feelings, but this is my blog, so I will write them!


Monday, January 25, 2010

Looking Past the Past

I have definitely gone through the stages of grief with my adult children, at least most of them. I think I am at acceptance now, but I know that this is a journey, not a destination. The family I was attempting to build definitely didn't turn out according to my plans, but I have to continue on from where we are now, not where I wished I was.

I do have signs for some hope. My wife is regularly talking with our youngest, who gave birth to our second grandchild (first for her) a month or so ago. We also have regular contact with our oldest son, who is living in another part of the state with his wife and our oldest grandchild. They have challenges and I want to give more input, but I need to sit back and just pray for them.

The other two children will have nothing to do with us, especially me. My youngest son has decided I am not family at all and feels I am wrong when I tell him he will always be my son and that he is going to change that. While he is almost certain to take the legal steps to remove any connection, I do know that my wife and I are the only ones that raised him and he cannot change that fact no matter what he does.

I expect that he will go through some pretty rough times, given some of the things he is pursuing right now. I do have a spark of hope that he will eventually change, but only time will tell if that is more than just wishful thinking.

Either way, my wife and I can be certain that our children are better off than they would have been if they had been left in the system. While I wanted more, that is definitely a worthwhile goal, even if it is not as personally gratifying.

I still would like to see more support for those earlier in the process. I have a feeling some things could have been different if we had better, more understanding support. That is tough, since the issues involved go against common sense, but that support is desperately needed if we (as a society) are going to provide a good environment for these children to grow up in.

More on that later.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

Breaking Up Siblings

When I started the adoption process, I didn't see how anyone could pull any child away from their birth siblings. It seemed very cruel to not allow them all to grow up together, even if it was in a completely different family.

I have gradually changed my views on this over time and while I admit that separation will be tough to handle, I am convinced it is a much better way to help the adoptee heal, especially those with a solid memory and attachment to their birth family.

I have heard that those who catch crabs can keep them all in an open bucket, without a lid, since the crabs in the bucket will actively pull down any crabs that start to escape their confinement.

While I am not certain if this is true for crabs, since I don't catch them, I know it was true in our family. In fact, more and more of the "pulling down" gets exposed as all my children are adults and more and more leaks out about what happened when they were children, both from them and as I analyze things from a different perspective.

None of them could really heal, since they all had each other as their "family" and could actively keep out the "interlopers" who would break up the family and keep them from their rightful parents. Sure, the adoptive parents might keep them for a few years, but they would all be adults soon when they could return to their proper family, at least that is what they likely thought. Of course I am extrapolating their thoughts here, but this is what they all have done, to one extent or another.

Even the younger ones, with less of a connection when adopted, have joined back in. Our youngest says she is not interested in the birth family, but she ended up living up there for a while and could possibly end up going back at some point, in spite of all her proclamations to the contrary. That pull is so strong, nothing can break it, especially when it is reinforced during the entire growing up time.

While I may not have convinced you to break up sibling groups, perhaps you can be a little less harsh on someone who does that. Keeping them together is unlikely to get them to like you any more. In fact, doing so is more likely to get them to gang up and have them all reject you, instead choosing even a dysfunctional "family" they return to if they can reconnect with those who gave them birth.


Getting Truth to the Heart of the Adoptee

This is a question I plan on thinking a lot about in the coming years. I think it is a key part of having success in this area. The stakes are high. Too many children are currently stuck in the social welfare system. While many are there for completely valid and necessary reasons, turning them into families is a serious challenge most people are definitely not ready to face.

Anyone who has read my previous posts should quickly know that I do not believe that success is simply a matter of having enough love. Two things work against that. First, these children are often connected deeply to the family they were removed from. That is ultimately a good thing, but it complicates their ability to join another family. It may even prevent it completely.

The connection they have to their birth family also can develop a fantasy tone over time, as they only remember the good things about that family and even add other things, making what they don't have "perfect" while they face the many challenges of living in a real family, one that holds them accountable and pushes them to grow and heal. Even being honest about things with them, especially as they get older, can seem like only badmouthing of the birthfamily and can end up stirring up resentment instead of understanding and healing.

Complicating this is the fact that all the paperwork by social workers may not be completely accurate. Even items that are may not fit with their fantasy memory of their birthfamily, further convincing them that you are making things up to harm their relationship with their birthfamily.

Add to this the lack of truth of what happened they may face if they do reunite at some point with their birth family and you can have a real mess. Few birthparents will want to admit to the material you received about what happened (from CPS and related sources). They may very well tell the children that all the things said about them (the birthparents) were made up lies, putting even more strain on the adoptees connection with the adoptive parent.

In fact, many adoptees already distrust their adoptive parents, so such proclamations of innocence on the part of their birth family can reinforce the view that the adoptive parents are really a part of the problem rather than the solution.

I wish I knew how to get past this. Hopefully I can figure some things out in the coming months, but I definitely believe what I have written here and it is consistent with my own experience.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

More Ups and Downs

We made it through another holiday season. One son came home for a birthday party for our granddaughter and a few hours on another night. Our youngest called my wife, a couple of times, though the contact seems very abbreviated. My wife did very well until the end of the holidays, when the strain finally started to leak out. She is fine now, but the rejection is hard to handle.

You certainly don't start the adoption process expecting this, but you really need to prepare for it. It is almost worse than the struggles we faced when they were teenagers. What happened to being the "forever family" that everyone promises? Adoptive parents need that as much as children do.

As a Christian, I don't anything happens by chance. God was certainly not surprised by what happened. Evidently, He feels I can make it through this, so I will. Even if I never get the family I expected, I will know I have changed the lives of four individuals for the better. They would have had a much tougher life without the involvement of my wife and I.

That doesn't make this easy. We still have to walk through the emotions and rejection. So be it. We can honestly say we did the best we could and that is all that can legitimately be expected.