Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for not sending me back when I was bad

Last week I ordered a dress online, and when it came, it wasn't quite right. A little tight across the back, and the neckline made me look like a nun. Bummer. I returned it for a refund.

You know what I wouldn't send back? A child. Lately, I've been hearing so much about these evil Russian children adoptive parents just *have* to return. Or send to Bad Kid Camps, which is a much better option, but still, sad. I feel so awful for these kids, especially being an adopted child myself. CNN seems to disagree with me. (I was looking for the first half of this clip, but I couldn't find it online. It was heavily slanted in favor of adoptive parents, IMO, and failed to mention the 15 kids who died from U.S. parental abuse.)

Look, I know. I wasn't there. These parents didn't sign up for a troubled kid, and troubled kids are tough. Maybe every one of these kids really were psycho (though I haven't yet read about any arson aside from burning papers in a garbage can or any real injuries--only threats--but I'll reserve judgment until the facts come out.) If my kid drew pictures of our house burning down, yep, it would be a problem. Possibly shrink time.

Once, my then three-year-old daughter became so enraged at her older sister she screamed like a wildcat, jumped on her sister, and shoved a harmonica down her throat.* She went nuts. Beet-faced, bug-eyed, I'm-going-to-kill-someone nuts. It took forever for her to calm down.

And I was mad. MAD mad. She choked her sister! The naughty chair was well-utilized that day, my friends.

But.

I wouldn't send her away. Because she's my daughter. When you adopt a kid, he's yours. Just like he popped out of your own uterus.

At least that's what my parents told me (they didn't actually say "uterus," but, you know.) I might've been better behaved as a child if I thought there was a return policy. At 5, I scratched my name on the lid of my parent's piano with a safety pin and let's not even speak of the many, many tween and teenage mistakes I made. No, let's not.

Many of these kids suffered a history of abuse, both from bio moms and from the orphanages from whence they came. Is it so shocking when anger issues arise? Everyone seems so surprised! This most recent adoptive mother only gave her new son seven months until she flew the seven-year-old back to Russia and hired a stranger from the internet to pick him up from the airport. Didn't even bother to accompany him herself. Disgusting. Even if she was misled about his mental health, there is no excuse for this. At the very least, get him there safely.


What do you think? Maybe the answer is to better set expectations, not stop all Russian adoption completely. Dissenters welcome, as always.

*Seriously, don't piss her off.

28 comments:

fullboz said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
WendyCinNYC said...

That was spam. What's with the spam lately?

sue laybourn said...

I think it was heartbreaking. No matter how damaged that lad was, why the hell didn't she get help from someone instead of packing him back to the shop like damaged goods? I really don't blame the Russian Government for planning to put the brakes on adoption to the US. Not if prospective parents are going to treat adopted kids like merchandise.
The whole business sucks and I can't stand the whining coming from that family. I can only hope karma bites them in the arse big time.
/rant

bryngreenwood said...

That's what blows my mind. Yes, there are seriously dangerous children out there. That's why we have things like psychiatrists and therapeutic homes and medications. So you can get help for a child who may have serious problems. You know, instead of shipping him to a Russian consulate. And what the hell is that about. When you adopt a foreign-born child, doesn't he/she become a US citizen? How could it seem reasonable to ship them back to a country of which they are no longer a citizen?

M.R.J. Le Blanc said...

I'm of two minds about the issue. The way the mother sent that child back was totally unacceptable, I agree 100%. Even if what she said was true about the boy, you just don't do that. Get someone else to take him if you can't.

But just as well, we don't know the whole story. We don't know if she was in fact misled about the boy's mental condition, we don't know if he actually threatened the family or if she was abusive. We don't know if she tried everything she could think of before deciding this adoption wasn't going to work out. Children shouldn't be treated like merchandise, I agree with Sue, but at the same time a parent shouldn't be expected to care for a child they can't handle. Not everyone is meant to be a parent to a child with unique needs. And if this woman truly didn't know about his mental state and didn't feel she could be a good caretaker to him she shouldn't be thrown under the bus for wanting to send him back. Sometimes it just doesn't work.

WendyCinNYC said...

You're right, we don't know the whole story. I'm hoping more comes out--say, for instance, her pediatrician chimes in, evidence the kid saw a mental health professional, etc. for the seven months he was there.

We don't know how violent he was. But I also think that *any* seven-year-old from *any* country who is taken away from his abusive, alcoholic birth mother is going to have issues, disclosed or not, and a parent should be prepared.

Anyway, I hope it works out for this kid.

jubi2U said...

This is way more complicated than most people can imagine. Unless you live with a child that has an attachment disorder, you can't begin to understand what it does to a family. To make things worse, even if the mother sought help there is none (at least in MO). The cost involved is astronomical and without state help, you are left in the wind. Now, here is the great part we parents face. You have to relinquish your parental rights to the state. Sound easy? Not so fast. You are then slapped with a child neglect and abandonment charge because the states don't have funding and they don't want them. If you are a doctor or lawyer, guess what, you lose your license. If you have other children, they can take them away. I know this, I live this nightmare everyday and there have been many times that I have wished I could do the same. It is a horrible feeling to have as a mother, but I understand it. These places do not give the information you need to raise a child like this. If you need proof, just take a social worker to lunch and have them tell you a couple warm fuzzy stories. They won't even tell you if a kid acts out sexually until you find that this little bundle of joy has been raping your daughter (this was not us, but a friend of ours). I'm glad this happened. It may bring these topics to light, because I tell you, these families live in great isolation and now they may get a voice.

WendyCinNYC said...

jubi2U--Wow, thanks so much for responding. Yes, it does seem like a complicated issue all around. I just hope, hope, hope this whole thing doesn't dissuade people from adopting altogether, because it can be such a wonderful experience. Still, everyone needs to know the risks, and have the help they desperately need so that this kind of thing doesn't happen.

WendyCinNYC said...

I guess my concern is this: when does an adopted kid considered a "real" family member and no longer someone else's child? And I say "real" not to be provocative, but because I've heard it so much over the course of my life. (Truly, people, don't say that to an adoptive kid or parent.)

This is a general question, not aimed at jubi2U, who sounds like she's had a tough time.

M.R.J. Le Blanc said...

My two cents, I would imagine when it feels like they've always been there, and you can't remember what life was like before.

jubi2U said...

I think that people are not aware of the damage that abuse and neglect can really have. It's our nature as mothers to love and nurture and that with enough love, we can heal anything. I have 4 kids, all special needs and 3 are adopted. I would have to agree that there is no difference in how I feel about my adopted children. I do love them all and it is a joy to watch them as they fight so hard to overcome their issues and develop into their full potential. I see where people are mortified of this woman's actions. She made some uneducated mistakes. They renamed the boy at a late age (kids recognize their names at a very early age). They jumped into an all English language program at home. How scary was that for him? It's amazes me that people don't bother to learn the simplest phrases of a child's language to help them adjust. He must have felt like he was living on the moon and very alone. I spoke Spanish to my kids when they got home (I still do, because I think it's important). I don't think that they should stop adoptions, but parents should be required to do some research and make sure they are not entering this with the 'love cures all' idea and God will get us through. A child like this can be very rewarding to parent, but you must be prepared for the very ugly things that come with it and the possibility that you may not be able to do it no matter what you give of yourself. For someone who has never been a mother before, it can bring a great sense of failure and helplessness. Unfortunately, there is no back up plan or services to help these families in need. It is sad for everyone involved. You also brought up a very good subject about "real" family. I hear it and my kids hear it all the time. "She's not your Real mother". "That's not your real brother" or my favorite from strangers...."which one is your real child?". In front of all of my kids! Burns my biscuits every time and I never get used to it. I'm tempted to tazer the next person that says that. LOL! No, really....

WendyCinNYC said...

Good points. Honestly, it's the way this mother sent him back that keeps me from giving her the benefit of the doubt. He's lucky he wasn't abducted. Anyone should know better than that.

The "real" thing: people would say that to my mother in front of me as well. My favorite? "You're such a saint to be raising someone else's child. I could never do that." Hey, thanks! This is probably why I'm sensitive about it. "Real" kids have lots (and lots and lots) of problems, too.

WendyCinNYC said...

Sue and Bryn--Didn't mean to leave you out up there. Thanks for commenting. I agree about the US Immigration laws--um, what? I wonder when he'd obtain his own rights.

deegarretson said...

I'm seriously worried about the U.S. adoption agency and social workers who facilitated this adoption. There should have been hours and hours of counseling before they even filed paperwork to Russia, and also while they were considering adopting an older child.

When I think of all we went through to adopt a baby, we were well-prepared for all different possilbities. You know you aren't going to have complete information, but throughout the process you are supposed to come up with how you would deal with various issues if they arise.

And Wendy, I agree about the appalling nature of how she sent the child back alone. It's shocking.

JLC said...

Wow! This has been a facinating discussion. Perhaps some programs need to be in place where future adoptive parents should be educated on the ups and downs of parenting a child from abusive backgrounds, and each state should provide some form of support. Better matches need to be made. I also feel that returning a child should result in no longer allowing that person to adopt.

jubi2U said...

Grrrr. I Get that all the time. "You are such a saint for adopting all those special needs children. Where would they be without you?" Well, I don't know where they would be, along with the other millions of kids that don't have homes or decent parents I guess. I on the other hand, I would not be the same person without them (even my nightmare child. LOL!) It sounds very corny, but I can't imagine my life without them and they have taught, and continue to teach me about what is really important in life. Family. It's not about blood or adoption. It's about connection and the raw feeling that you know that you will always be there for each other no matter what happens. Yes, I have a child that needs to be placed in a facility that could better meet his needs, but would I just walk away? No. That child is my responsibility for the rest of his life and we are all that he's got. We are his family. We are lucky though. We have the resources to take care of a child like this. If I didn't, I don't know what I would do. People don't realize that you just can't go on with normal life when you bring home an older child. Russia does recommend staying home for at least a year and the responsible adoption agencies will make sure you understand the resources you have before bringing this child home. People don't realize you are changing everything in their lives. Everything they know, even if it was horrible has changed. Those horrible things were their home. That is why abused children have such a hard time adjusting to a healthy home. The abuse is what they know, and sometimes the only coping mechanisms they have are with abusive situations. Take them and drop them in the Cleaver home and it is like dropping them on the moon and they cannot help but sabotage it. I think adoption agencies should require classes at the very least. Then we may be able to curb some of these issues. I'll tell ya this though, there are a LOT of those parents out there facing these issues that this woman faces and it is just sad. Maybe some of these issues will be looked at now, or at least make people educate themselves on older child adoptions so that they can create a successful family situation.

WendyCinNYC said...

deegarretson--I have no idea how international adoptions work, or if all adoptions are under the same rules and regulations. Seems like the more stringent about the parental capabilities, the better, and *not* worry so much about if the couple is the same gender or whatever.

JLC--I so agree. You shouldn't be allowed to trade up!

jubi2U--You sound like a very good mom. Good luck to you.

VToldie said...

One of my really good friends in graduate school adopted a 18 month child from Russia. The process was really hard on the parents because there was an 18 month pause in adoptions. They had to be re-interviewed, re-submit a huge amount of paper work and the endless waiting for your little one.

Their daughter came about four years ago and she is perfect... well not kid is perfect, but she is loving and smart and full of energy. I have sort of adopted her as my unofficial grandchild since I have non. She is totally accepted as part of their family. I love her with all my heart and hope that Russia does not stop these adoptions because of some problems.

One of my other friends adopted a baby whose mother had drug problems... he has been a huge challenge for the family, but is starting college next year. They had counseling and special schools and got him through most of his problems.

I agree with others who have written here. Adopted children should always be "our kids" and strangers who don't understand should keep their mouths shut.

The woman's actions make me so so sad. VT Oldie

Purple Cow said...

What an interesting post and brilliant discussion that it has sparked. Motherhood really requires lots of love, especially when adoption is involved. Its sometimes disappointing for people to want children so bad and to go to such trouble and then for things to not be perfect.

sanjeet said...
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Watery Tart said...

I guess I'm of the mind that you have no business adopting if you aren't willing to do WHATEVER it takes for the kid--you go through the process, the child is irrevokably your responsibility.

At the same time, I feel like agencies screening families need to be clear, especially with some of the older kids, that the results of neglect and abuse earlier in life make it more likely than not, that the child will be troubled. Anybody who isn't prepared for that, should probably just get a fish, or at the very least WAIT for an infant, for whom those issues are less common.

I get that some kids really are hopeless cases--psychosis is real, but MOST just need the world to stop dumping them off at the pound, so to speak. They need unconditional love, treatment, and TIME. And I think until there has been many years and many types of attempts to help, it can be hard to tell the difference.

Allie said...

I watched a show on this subject last year and was completely disturbed. Some of those parents seemed to think they were ordering robots or live dolls, not adopting children.

What doesn't get discussed often is that the US foster adopt program has something like a 98% success rate, and most states have really good support systems in place to ease the transition - in some cases there's a long period of meeting the child, taking day trips together, etc. before the adoption, and it's often free or minimally expensive to adopt, so adopting a child from the foster system isn't as stressful financially as adopting from overseas. But I've had friends tell me that they would never adopt from foster care because 'those kids are disturbed.' Any child who has a disrupted family situation is going to need extra patience, care, and a willingness to learn how to help them excel. And kids who live with their birth parents need that too.

WendyCinNYC said...

VToldie--Best wishes to your friends.

Purple Cow--Indeed.

Water Tart--I agree. My parents had no out of the ordinary trouble with me, but the situation might well have been different had I languished unhappily in the foster system for years before adoption.

Allie--True. I used to volunteer at a day care for foster kids--many of whom were abused and/or born addicted to crack. Some were normal and loving, some difficult, some VERY difficult. All deserving of love and support.

Debra L. Schubert said...

A bit off topic, but the part I didn't understand is how this child was able to fly w/o adult supervision. When I used to send my kids to CO from CT for summer camp & to visit my parents, I had to jump through a million hoops in order to get them on the plane w/o an adult. And, out of the country? After 9-11? I just don't get it.

Melanie Avila said...

Great post Wendy.

Frances said...

jubi2U: re the question of which is your "real" child.
I knew a mother who became pregnant while her application for adoption was in process, so she ended up with 2 little bos about 7 months apart.
I knew them when they were about 8 years old, and they would happily say, "One of us is adopted, but Mum can't remember which one it is."

MeAgain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MeAgain said...

I personally think we should send Abando-Mom to Russia and bring the kid back. I'd bet they'd trade. I'd rather have a naughty kid than another bad parent. We have enough of those all ready. I'm just sayin...

By the way, LOVE your site. I'm now an official stalker :)

PS: sorry, deleted my first post do to typoitis caused by sleep depravation :/