First off, I want to explain why I’m using the term “re-homing” when I told you I hate it. It’s simply for views. That’s the buzz word getting attention right now, so I’m throwing it out there hoping to attract visitors via Google searches.
Nearly five years ago Hubster and I started the process to adopt. We went into this wanting an older child. Hubster hates babies and we both felt a pull to be there for a child who really needed someone on their side.
We heard stories in our adoption classes of kids who had adoptions fail and we thought, “We’d never do that to a child!” We judged. We were enraged that someone would take in a kid knowing the trauma they’d endure and then toss them away because it was hard.
Of course, I now know there’s more to the story, but back then….people who disrupted adoptions sounded like selfish beasts.
We pledged that when we were able to commit to a child, it would be 100%. No going back. No matter what.
We have a big advantage here in making that promise. There are no other children in our home to worry about.
We declined being considered for many children because we knew we weren’t the right fit to parent them. I was desperate to be a mom and having to say “no” to a child who needed a family was heartbreaking.
When Princess was presented to us, it just clicked. She looked scary on paper, which I’m sure is why she waited on a forever family for so long. Two disruptions in pre-adoptive placements – one just two months shy of finalization. A history of lying, stealing and aggression. Five years in foster care. Twelve placements before us, including two psychiatric hospital stays. She was actually in the psych hospital during our matching process.
We saw through all of that, though. She was a child who was slipping through the cracks of a broken system again and again.
Hubster and I both read her whole file. We said, “Yes, we can do this. This is our little girl.”
Then we waited an agonizing six months for ICPC paperwork to clear.
We were her parents months before she even knew we existed. We were committed to her from the start.
I didn’t start blogging until nearly a year after she was home. That’s because those first months were so hard. The kindest, gentlest “no” would send her into hours of screaming. She didn’t sleep. She needed me within reach at all times. There were the big D’s – destruction, defiance and disrespect.
She’d also shut down sometimes. She’d put her hair over her face and just retreat.
She broke my heart nearly every day.
We were in a constant state of extreme stress and overwhelming exhaustion.
Nothing prepares you for parenting in general. And then you add in being a first time parent to a 9-year-old with significant emotional and behavioral needs? Yeah, it was a lot to handle.
She had to live with us for six months before we finalized the adoption. We NEVER ONCE considered not doing it. It just wasn’t an option for us. Finalization was just paperwork to us. She was our daughter – permanently – the moment we said yes to moving forward – long before we even saw her sweet face in person.
If you’re a regular Last Mom reader, you know our journey has gotten easier. Princess has made huge progress. I’m crazy proud of her. The work isn’t over. It will probably never be over for her. Trauma will impact her whole life. But we’re all determined to not let it define her.
Through this journey, I’ve built a large support group of other mothers parenting traumatized (mostly adopted) children. I admit, I still didn’t understand how someone could give up on a child until I met mothers who had disrupted adoptions.
Then I realized they didn’t give up at all.
They wanted desperately for their child to have the best chance of healing, even if that meant it wasn’t with them.
I heard the heartbreak as they told their stories, even years after their child went to a new home. The guilt that they couldn’t make it work. The shame. The sadness and longing.
These mothers had been physically and emotionally beaten bloody by their child and even though they were no longer in their home, they loved them immensely.
They realized that just because their child was stuck in violent, predatory and/or dangerous behavior at their home, doesn’t mean healing wasn’t possible. They didn’t have the resources to make it happen, so they sought out other options. In some cases, this meant the child entered the foster care system and in others a new adoptive home was found.
Of course, not all children who are “re-homed” are dangerous. Sometimes attachment just isn’t happening somewhere in the scenario. I was bonded to Princess before I even met her. I distinctively remember seeing her face on the computer screen and saying, “I could be your Mommy.” right before I submitted our request to be considered as her parents.
Hubster took a little longer to become attached to her. He had to actually meet her and spend time with her first. The same was true for Princess. Her attachment to us grew over time.
But we all bonded and attached.
That doesn’t always happen.
There are several reasons a different family might be just the ticket to healing for a child regardless of why disruption is sought.
They new family might live in an area with more resources or have more experience parenting special needs. Their family dynamic might be a better fit, like we were for Princess. Both of her failed adoptions were in families with other children, despite her entire team repeatedly stating she needed to be an only child. She’s thrived being an only child in our home.
Traumatized children often unleash all of their pain,anger and confusion on the family that adopts them. They aren’t able to cast the blame on their abusers, so they lash out at the people who are there. Sometimes they are able to leave the big displaced feelings behind and start fresh with a new family.
I’ve had some really big mixed feelings myself about the families that promised to adopt Princess before us. On one hand, I’m so grateful they didn’t because I get to me her mom. But on the other hand, I’ve felt such anger for the additional pain and rejection these failed adoptions caused her. So I’m trying to let go of my judgement when it comes to them, too, even though it blows my mind that someone would give up the chance of being my sweet girl’s mom. (But again, I’m selfishly oh, so glad they did!)
They decided they weren’t the right fit for her needs. We are the right fit, even though it isn’t always easy.
Just as a I urge you to look harder when your instinct is to harshly judge people who disrupt adoptions, I also suggest not closing your mind about adopting a child from a disruption if you’re in the process of growing your family. Be cautious. Do your research. Go into it with eyes wide open. But evaluate the circumstances, too. Just because a child didn’t thrive in one family, doesn’t mean they won’t in another.
(I’m talking about people who go about disrupting their adoption in legal and ethical ways. This is not in reference to the people the Reuter’s series described who “re-home” children through Internet ads without doing any background checks.)