Rarely do I stop in the moment & think about the impact another person’s actions have on my own life, given what they choose to do with theirs. It’s not that I don’t care or that I’m not interested either, it’s just subconsciously, I don’t think we as humans consider all the effects unless we’re personally affected by those actions. Sometimes we’re fortunate enough to understand them before they take place, other times it’s not as clear & we don’t truly realize the impact until after the fact.
I don’t remember the first little girl’s name that my aunt got, just that she had been in the foster system for a few years & that she had lived with a few other families. I remember that she had a few behavioral problems, that came in the form of temper tantrums & hitting other children at school, as well as my aunt & grandmother. I remember being told that this behavior probably stemmed from just being in foster care & switching different households. Regretfully, I also remember my aunt shaking her head saying to herself, “I’m not going to be able to keep her”. It wasn’t that my aunt didn’t want her, but being fairly new to this, in addition to this young girl’s age, which was older than my aunt was expecting, along with the behavioral problems & her hitting my grandmother was kind of too much. For those who don’t know, my aunt & grandmother live together, in which case my aunt helps take care of my grandmother. My aunt is also a 1st-grade teacher. She has taught & seen a number of children throughout the years (25+), none of which were her own. So around the time I was on my way to start college, my aunt was embarking on her own new journey of becoming involved in the adoption process. Although she preferred an infant, with her being newly approved, I don’t think they really gave her much leeway & even though things didn’t quite work out her first attempt, it wouldn’t be her last. Her next few go-arounds would prove to be different…
Not Your Typical Rollercoaster
If you’re aren’t the prospective parent going through the process, nobody will tell you about what to expect next. You can read up on it if you’re curious or talk to a friend/someone who can provide insight, but if you’re not really close to the situation you won’t know. Even with that knowledge, nothing prepares you for the emotional & psychological experiences you will encounter. Nobody told me about the mothers who are strung out on drugs that are considered a liability & can’t provide acceptable living conditions. How she often has other children, some of which are with other foster families, while others might be stuck in the system. They don’t talk about the sorry excuse of a man, that for whatever excuses isn’t man enough to step up & take custody. Nobody mentions the distant family members of the mother/father who have so much to say, but won’t adopt the child themselves to give them a real opportunity, that the biological parent can’t. They don’t talk about how the child cries every time the social worker comes to get them for planned visitations with their parent or their siblings, as you say, “I’ll be right here, she’ll bring you back” & how you have to deal with the aftermath of the situation upon them returning. You know, the child having their head filled with false statements from relatives who tell them to misbehave when they return, because they don’t really want you to have them (& because you’re not allowed to spank children in foster care). Or how the child is upset at you for letting the social worker take her in the first place, though you had no control. Also, whoopings aren’t the only means of discipline, but knowing this, in reference to the first little girl I mentioned, children will act out knowing they don’t have to worry about physical discipline. There are no pre-pregnancy checkups to alarm you of pre-existing health conditions & help you better prepare. They don’t tell you how every time the court is getting ready to terminate the mother/father rights, how they magically show back up to prevent you from adopting her. There’s a lot more too, this is just what I personally saw via my aunt’s processes, in which case I was able to experience some triumphs & heartbreaks. Everything is sort of just thrown at you all at once. The unfit parent possibly wanting custody, their family, the behavioral problems (more like cry for help), the health issues, the unpleasant visitations, helping the child(ren) adapt to a new environment they’re in, the new school/daycare, the opportunity you’re trying to give this child, etc. & at the center of this is the child.
I don’t think the amount of gratification one feels after enduring & navigating the unknown obstacles of the adoption system can be described. Nothing prepares you for the bond that develops rather quickly. The feeling of seeing a child who has been neglected & feeling unwanted, go from being nervous & cautious around new people, to a room full of laughter & seeing their mouth full of teeth grinning from ear to ear at you. The relief you feel knowing they will no longer have to experience the foster system (if at all), the sense of abandonment or having to think to themselves “why doesn’t anybody want me”. The feeling of being able to adopt an infant & knowing that you will be the only parent(s) they will ever know growing up (until a day comes when you might choose to tell them). You start to envision all the opportunities you’ll be able to provide for them & the chances they’ll have. The ecosystem of support you have from having your mother, sister & brother-in-law constantly around to help you out, as well as other relatives & friends. Not to mention your niece & nephews, one of whom is already planning to take care of their college education (SURPRISE), though I know they will probably get scholarships. The list goes on & on, but the most important thing is that they have a family & don’t have to worry about that, they can focus on enjoying their childhood.
I saw a post on Facebook a few weeks ago, which broke my heart, to say the least. As I watched the video, I couldn’t help but think how that could have been my little cousins. The video prompted me to do some further investigating which led me to a website. Being reminded of how impacted I personally was, this caused me to write what you’re reading now. It wasn’t to bash unfit parents either, but to shed light on how I was positively impacted by my aunt’s actions & share some of the experiences (good & bad). While I’ve only scratched the surface, I hope that you have a better picture of what that experience is like. Also, while I may not have my own children (lol it will be a while), I can’t help but think that one day, I too will adopt in addition to having my own children. I understand that it isn’t for everybody either, but for those who are curious, there are plenty of sites filled with information. In closing, I just want to say that my aunt inspires me for a number of reasons, but her act of selflessness & unconditional love are just two of the reasons she is one of my sheroes.
A few notes: For the technically uninclined (lol insider), the red words are links that you can click. Also, for those with disposable/extra income, I would suggest clicking the “planning to take care” link above as you might find some useful info there. Lastly, below are just a few of the moments I’ve been blessed to share with you & what a few more go-arounds can lead to.
For Karol… the 1 that got away.