Kids are Not Dogs, and the Adoption System Shouldn’t Treat Them Like They Are

I’ve “adopted” many rescue dogs in my life. None was more traumatized than Sunflower, a 2-year-old pit bull. She was missing an ear and had scars all over her face, including a slashed throat with scar tissue underneath, impacting her breathing. When we met her at a Petco adoption event, she was a shivering ball of fear. We had no idea what her personality would be, but we felt sorry for her and took her home.  She quickly developed an insecure attachment to me. If I were out of her sight, she’d shake and cry. When I re-entered the house, she’d practically mall me with excitement. She was deathly afraid of men, even my husband. She was also afraid of anything that looked like a weapon, such as brooms.  However, within six months of her adoption, she had settled in and decompressed. She was loving, cuddly and playful. She earned her Canine Good Citizen certification and is now an all-around great dog who loves all members of our family.  Foster care adoption of human children is “sold”

Thoughts on Nature vs. Nurture

I wanted to write a blog about the differences in nature we can have with our adopted children. In researching, I came across “ The Three Faces of Adoptees ” by The Primal Wound author Nancy Verrier: “Although at one time there was an effort to fit some traits and interests of the birth mother to the adoptive family, the sensory aspects were largely ignored. Now there seems to be little effort to have the birth and adoptive family fit …” I’ve often heard adoptees say they felt they didn’t fit into their adoptive families. Prior to adopting, in my naïveté, I took it to mean outward appearance or feeling they were treated differently than the family’s bio children or missing the connection of living with their blood relatives.  Before we adopted, I never thought deeply about fundamental differences in nature and personality. Sure, I knew we have inherent talents and predispositions from our birth family, but the idea that our very natures can be so different as to not understand one anot

Ramblings on Reactive Attachment Disorder

RAD – three little letters that strike fear into the hearts of adoptive parents.  Bonding is so important to developing brains that disruptions to normal attachment can create major issues for life.  When it comes to adoption, I think attachment issues are far more common than officially diagnosed.  Take this stat from the American Bar Association page on RAD: “While RAD is rare in the general population, it is common in abuse cases. In one study of toddlers in foster care who had been maltreated, 38-40% of the children met the diagnostic criteria for RAD. Many older children who have delayed disclosure of their early abuse also suffer from undiagnosed RAD.” In Born for Love by the famous Dr. Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz, they write about the hormones involved in bonding: “In children whose infancies involved normal parenting, oxytocin rose in response to being held by their mother—but this response wasn’t seen in orphanage children held by their adoptive mothers, even though they

Changing the Adoption Paradigm

I am just one voice—that of an adoptive mother and writer. But in my opinion and research, the United States is way out of whack compared to other developed countries when it comes to our booming adoption industry. Take a look at this article from Musings of a Birthmom: “A Comparison in Adoption – The United States Vs. Europe.” Certainly, adoption can be the best option in certain circumstances, perhaps in the case of true orphans, especially those who can find a good kinship placement. But I believe adoption in the United States should be a lot less common than it is now. Adoption is based on loss and trauma and should therefore be thought of as one of the last options not the best first option.   Let’s start with foster care adoption. Most children end up in foster care due a charge of neglect, which often has ties to poverty and addiction. I believe families should receive help for addiction and poverty without first removing their kids. In addition, early intervention programs, su

Let's Blow This Place Up

My biggest fear in starting this blog was making all sides angry.  I’m generally a person who likes to be liked. I’m afraid that birth parents and adult adoptees will want to face stomp me for running my already privileged voice. Do we really need to hear from one more white adoptive mother? And I’m afraid the pro-adoption adoptive parents will hurl rainbows and unicorns at me until I bleed red—orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink.  A therapist I know ran a youth crises center for 20 years. She’s always encouraging me not to be afraid to do or say the hard stuff—not to fear conflict. She would tell her staff to do what needed to be done even if it upset others: “Let’s blow this place up.”  So to birth parents and adoptees, I know you are the least heard and have the least power in the triad. I know I did not experience the trauma of being ripped from my birth family as an infant or child. Likewise, I did not have my infant or young child taken from me. I came to adoption as an adu

Favorite Books by Adoptees and Former Foster Youth

A Piece of Cake: A Memoir by Cupcake Brown Amazon summary: Orphaned by the death of her mother and left in the hands of a sadistic foster parent, young Cupcake Brown learned to survive by turning tricks, downing hard liquor, and ingesting every drug she could find while hitchhiking up and down the California coast. She stumbled into gangbanging, drug dealing, hustling, prostitution, theft, and, eventually, the best scam of all: a series of 9-to-5 jobs.  A Piece of Cake is unlike any memoir you’ll ever read. Moving in its frankness, this is the most satisfying, startlingly funny, and genuinely affecting tour through hell you’ll ever take. Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island by Regina Calcaterra  Amazon summary: Regina Calcaterra is a successful lawyer, former New York State official, and foster youth activist. Her painful early life, however, was quite different. Regina and her four siblings survived an abusive and painfu

How It All Began: Deciding to Adopt

I decided to adopt children from foster care when I was in elementary school—I’d guess around age 8. I thought, “Why bring more kids into the world if there are kids here without permanent homes?” I guess I was a budding white savior? We were definitely raised to be do-gooders.  For most of my life, I thought nurture was the most important part of parenthood. I never cared whether I’d be blood related to my future kids. I wanted the experience of raising them.  To her amusement, I’d tell my big sister, “I don’t want to do what you have to do to have kids.” She thought I meant sex, but I meant childbirth. That alone was another reason adoption sounded good to me as a kid!  Growing up white, middle class and with highly educated parents, I had a lot of privileges. I didn’t fail at many things. School came easily to me. What I put my mind to, I’d usually achieve. I’m organized and driven.  I check boxed my way forward—career, marriage, house. Then it was time. Home study, AdoptUSKids inqu