Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Open Adoptions in Foster Care: Part 2 "Our Story"

Here is our story:

The boys had been going to 2x weekly visitation since they came to me in July.  I had developed a fairly good relationship with mom, dad, and grandma who were at the visits each week, although mom was iffy as to whether she would show up at any given week.  We would meet at the visitation center and have to wait in the waiting room together before and after the visits.  We had our typical awkward situations, like when the boys called me mom or the baby couldn't be consoled by anyone but myself.  I worked really hard at keeping them in the loop as to what the boys were doing and showing I respected their role as these children's family.  I went into those visit days like I was merely a babysitter, I kept my distance when the baby cried, I redirected the boys back to their parents when they came over to me,  I asked questions about what they boys liked and didn't like (even though I already knew and the answers I was given were wrong).   It was difficult to put up those barriers and then after the visit go back to our own little world, our own little family.

When it was becoming apparent that my boys case was heading toward TPR (Termination of Parental Rights) and there would be no turning back things started to get REAL.  Those weeks before the trial date were a roller coaster for sure.  My feelings of wanting to claim the boys as my own grew and the fear that if TPR was lost they would be gone forever began to cripple me with fear.  Keeping the emotions out of visits became harder and harder.  I had a feeling that birth mom was in denial, there was no discussion of anything at visits, they were acting as if this was not happening, still telling the boys they were coming home.  The caseworker was telling me that mom was not going to sign her rights away,  that the trial was going forward.  

One week before TPR, mom said to me after a visit "If you adopt the boys will you still let me see them?"  My heart stopped, I had run through the possibilities endless times and yet I could not formulate any thoughts.  I responded that we would need to sit down and discuss what that would look like, that she should talk to her attorney and see if we could discuss something. I went home and made pros and cons lists.  I wanted some level of openness, but how much was I really comfortable with, and more importantly how much would my children want.  You see, there was no real attachment or bond with mom and my children.  They didn't ask about her, they were indifferent to visits, the signs of attachment disorder were there from the beginning that first day I met them and they asked to call me mom.  They had suffered some severe trauma, abuse, neglect all while under the protection of their mother, the woman who was supposed to do anything to keep them safe.  They were never put first, their needs always coming in last after whoever mom was dating at the time.  Despite all of that, I actually kind of liked mom, I saw that she loved the boys the best she knew how.  She was stuck in a cycle that had repeated itself for generations, this was normal for her, she was never shown another way.  I also knew that despite the boys current attachment difficulties this person was a vital part of their story, they would have questions, they would want to know more.  their life.  At this point I was so concerned with losing them forever, I would have agreed to anything!

I sat down that evening with my "list of demands" if you will.  Above all I wanted stability for my children, I wanted her in their lives, but that meant she had to BE there for them.  This wasn't about me or her, they were the only thing that mattered in this decision.  I never got to have that discussion with mom.  The week passed and nobody called to set up a meeting.  The day of the TPR I went to the courthouse expecting a trial.  Five minutes before the trial mom and dad decided to sign away their rights if I agreed to adopt the boys. It was a confusing day with every emotion you could think of hitting me all at once.  To be honest there was relief, not just at the fact that I knew the boys were staying with me forever, but relief that I could cut them out of our lives and not feel guilty about it since I hadn't agreed to anything.  Looking back that relief grew out of insecurity and fear.  Matthews therapist and I discussed with him what this meant, that he would be seeing mom one more time at a goodbye visit and then he would not see her anymore.  Matthews therapist was adamant about him not seeing her again and so I agreed, she must know what is best right?! 

It was done, it was all over, we could go on with our life as if none of this awfulness ever happened.  We could pretend that we were a happy family, not a family scarred by early childhood trauma and attachment issues.  At least that is what my delusional self told me.  As the next week unfolded and the emotions settled in it just didn't feel right.  It didn't seem to be in the realm of possibilities or even fair for me to make the decision to cut her out of their lives. So as the Goodbye Visit approached I prepared a photo of the boys with a PO Box and email address written on the back.  The boys had their visit, things happened that were inappropriate and damaging.  But I figured we wouldn't have to see them anymore.  Maybe we would communicate with the token pictures and yearly updates and that would be enough.

Two days later, mom, dad, grandmom, and 3 aunts showed up to Matthew's baseball game.  Imagine my surprise, horror, and overwhelming gripping fear when I walked up to the stands and saw them running our way. There were no caseworkers or police officers present like there was at the visitation center, it was just us and I was sorely outnumbered.  Then a surprising thing happened, we all just sat around and watched the game.  As if nothing had happened, we sat together like we were friends or family and just watched Matthew play.  Don't get me wrong I felt slightly awkward, but they welcomed me with open arms, they were grateful and loving.  I was dumbfounded and confused and kind of having a good time.  Maybe this could all work out, maybe we would be the poster family for open adoptions in foster care.

My son didn't handle the surprise visit well, in fact shortly afterwards he was admitted for inpatient psychiatric care for a week due to his threats of self-harm.  I realized then that the decision to see her was not about me and what I wanted or wanted for him.  The decision wasn't about what mom wanted or needed.  This decision had to solely be about what was best for my children, what they wanted and what they needed in order to be at peace with their history. My responsibility was to my children. 

For the first year after the adoption I didn't hear from anyone, other than one birthday present sent to one of the three kids.  I found mom on facebook and added her the Christmas following the adoption.   I have kept in contact with mom, we message each other often, although her communication is sporadic and coincides with her relationship status.  I will occasionally mention something to Matthew about being in contact with his birthmom, he still has difficulty handling that information appropriately.  Mom has asked to see them, and although I would love to have that happen, I don't think we are at a place of healing yet to make that healthy.   Mom responded in an understanding and selfless manner, characteristics that I didn't see during the time the boys were in foster care.  I hope that one day we can expand our openness to visits, for now we both continue to share in the joys of OUR children through face book.


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