Tag Archives: Adoption Support Groups

When They Don’t Believe Us

Earlier this month, I sent Hope for private comprehensive testing. I hoped to document a diagnosis that appeared in her disclosure documents, as well as to determine if there were any other conditions that needed to be addressed medically and behaviorally. This week, I met with the psychologist for the preliminary report.

I’d prefer not to specifically disclose her diagnoses, but I would say they are very common findings for foster kids and adoptees.

So, yeah, fun times.

Honestly it explained a lot of what we experience. I definitely intellectually understand why somethings I do work great and some things send us screeching towards disasters. I think I get it now.

I’m finding that most of the folks I talk to regularly are also adoptive or foster parents. At this time in my life, it’s just easier. I never have concerns about being judged. I don’t have fear about my daughter being judged. These relationships are invaluable to me; that said, they don’t completely fill the holes left by my pre-Hope life.

I do still have some friends whom I confide in and of course my family, but sometimes, I find myself being so cagey. My fear, defensiveness and over-sensitivity around feeling judged and being unable to articulate the depth of our issues holds me back from deeply confiding in folks. I am always worried about being able to fully overcome the syrupy sweet adoption narrative that bounces in the echo chamber, “You’ve been a family for two years, what could possibly be wrong?” Or, “Oh that’s not a *real* issue, my kid does that all the time (you just don’t know any better).”

My daughter’s issues are real.

My issues with my daughter’s issues are real.

It takes real effort and strategy to be my daughter’s mom and full-time case manager. It’s real. It’s not that I don’t know what I’m doing, it’s that some folks don’t believe our issues are real.

We hear a lot in the media about the need to destigmatize mental health disorders; I’ve concluded that they don’t mean all disorders. They don’t mean the stuff that actually leads to suicidal or homicidal ideation. They really mean, “let’s wait until you’re actually learning how to tie the noose before we scream, ‘See something, say something!!!”

Those efforts to destigmatize mental health disorders don’t talk about how we need to manage severe disorders in children. Those efforts certainly don’t speak of the challenges of managing neurocognitive disorders that are often along for the ride, making treatments difficult to tease into meaningful chunks for parents.

Those efforts don’t consider the reactions that parents get from friends, colleagues and family members who offer comforting bullshit like, “Oh I think that diagnosis is just an excuse for a kid to act up!” or “Gosh, they are just diagnosing everyone with *that* now; it’s trendy.”

It’s hard to maintain relationships when folks don’t believe science, aren’t willing to listen and insist on unwittingly shutting down conversations with folks who just need to talk about their ish.

As I was sitting talking with the psychologist, I was wondering beyond the “team” of professionals that keep me and Hope duct taped together, who would I share this information with. Not that I would tell a bunch of people, but I found that number of individuals within our closest circle with whom I would confide in hopes of getting support for ME was pretty small. Really, really small.

I’ve been burned too many times. My trust bank is low, and in real life, I often feel really alone when walking/talking/living outside of the foster/adoption community. I’m so blessed to have cultivated some great friendships within the community, but the revelation that sharing my struggles with some people with whom I have a long history and genuine affection isn’t worth my time because I already know it’s not going to end well…well that hurts.

And it just reminds me of loss. Just more loss.

I have been spending a lot more time in recent months working on diversity stuff, and I’m increasingly sensitized to the way that this journey has affected me in ways that make me other myself or make me feel othered. Being Hope’s mom is a beautiful, amazing thing. But it’s definitely not an easy thing, not at all. No parenting is easy, and for me, this journey isn’t either.

I’m the same person as before, but I’m not, I guess.

And folks who expected this journey to turn out differently are also the same people. I’m just seeing them differently, and sometimes it’s really disappointing. Sometimes, it just really hurts.

It would be nice to feel like I could share with people actually believing that my daughter’s mental health issues are a real thing that requires real attention in order to get her healthy and happy in a sustainable way. I don’t ever want to find myself in a situation side-eyeing folks because tragedy befell us and then folks wondered why I never shared.

I won’t be responsible for my response in that scenario.

So if you know someone with a kid who has mental health issues, please don’t be dismissive. There are so few safe outlets for support. Recognize that destigmatizing mental health disorders means supporting folks long before the drama becomes tragic. Listen, learn and believe that this stuff is real and that it is some hard ish to wrestle with and really, really hard to wrestle with in a meaningful way alone.

Please believe us and support us.


Support Group Side Eye

It continues to stun me how myopic folks can be. I left a support group yesterday because grown folk could not have a civilized conversation amongst adoptive parents, birth parents and adoptees views on adoption. (I did reluctantly rejoin the group and immediately hit the “silence notifications” tab. #whoneedsthedrama)

Adoption makes for a bunch of interesting bedfellows, some of whom have big voices and a lot of privilege in the narrative. As a part of the triad, I’ve learned so much about how the diversity issues I work on professionally permeate the world of adoption. I was naive to think they wouldn’t, but I am repeatedly stunned by how things play out.

If we hope to build community with others, we have to be willing to feel some discomfort, even pain at times. I had a therapist that used to tell me that growth never occurs without some level of discomfort. We have to learn to exercise our muscles of compassion and empathy and to talk/type less and listen more.

The voice of the adoptee is an important one.  Man, when Hope speaks I’m like old skool E.F. Hutton—I shut up and listen. Why? Because nothing else on this journey compares to her voice, her needs. She is not just the center of my world; this adoption is about what she needed/needs. Oh sure, I wanted to be a mom. But honestly, I didn’t need to be one. I can’t say I feel like I was born to do this. I can’t argue that my maternal instinct couldn’t have been satiated in other ways besides becoming a mom (an all expense year of luxury in Bora Bora might’ve done it…). Hope needed a family. Hope’s family needed her to have a stable family and a stable home. I was available and a good match. I fit the bill.

I got a great kid; I got to be a mom, and she is getting her Mazlow’s needs met.

During the last two years, I’m sure I’ve done and said some stupid things about my adoption journey, about birth parents, about supportive folks in and around my life, about Hope and other adoptees. I’ve had to stretch, not just to understand what might be Hope’s perspective, but the general perspective of adoptees. I get that it’s hard for adoptive parents not to take some of the sadness and grief personally; but really, it’s not about us.

Except when it is, and it is when we are dismissive and silencing to the adoptee voice. Then we make it about us, our feelings, our narrative.

We are entitled to our feelings, we are. But we aren’t entitled to them at the expense of our children. It ain’t fair, but thems the brakes.

It infuriates me to hop onto an online support group that is supposed to welcome all members of the triad to the conversation, only to find that APs are whining about everyone being too sensitive. Yo, check it, everybody in the room typically has lost something, is grieving something, is struggling with something. Let’s get over ourselves. Most of the public narrative about adoption is about us anyway, what we want, what we’ve endured to finally become parents, what we feel then and now. It really is okay to pass the dutchie to the right and let someone else take a puff on the mic.

When an adoptee tells me something is offensive—especially something I, as an adoptive parent, have said is offensive—I take them at their word. End of story.

I don’t do/say any of the following because they are inappropriate:

  • I know this other adoptee and they are okay with it. What’s your problem?
  • Hey, it was just cute/a joke/darling! You are too sensitive!! Lighten up.
  • You always makes everything so negative!
  • You always make adoption about you!
  • Hey, why are you so angry?
  • You must be anti-adoption.
  • You must hate your adoptive parents!!
  • You aren’t grateful for being adopted?

This is just a sampling of some of the things I read on a support group thread yesterday. Now, this might be hard to connect, but much of this is offensive to adoptees much the way that the following is offensive to me as an African-American:

  • I don’t see color.
  • You’re just an angry Black Woman!
  • All/Blue Lives Matters as an “opposite” to Black Lives Matter.
  • You must hate White people.
  • The upside of slavery is that you were saved from the savagery/poverty/etc of Africa.
  • 400+ years of institutionalized, legacy driven racism and genocide has no bearing on today now that you’ve been “free” for 152 years—even though the last of the slaves didn’t even know they were free for about 2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

And if I need to explain why any of these bullets are problematic, please feel free to drop me a private email, and I’ll happily send you a prospectus about my diversity consulting and the attending fee scale.  I still have dates for private consulting available for 2016. #sideeye

To all of this BS, I say…

GTFOH.

It’s crap. Just crap. Let’s all spend more time respecting one another and listening to one another. Let’s all remember that adoption is really, really about the adoptee, despite all of our personal roles and feelings. It doesn’t mean those latter things aren’t real and important, but ultimately, adoption isn’t about us APs. It’s just not.  Yes, I know…we wish it was.

If a support group is going to be true to its moniker, then actually offer support by taking time to listen to all of the voices, giving them equal weight and taking them all at their words. Otherwise, just be honest about it and rock it like an old skool treehouse. Name it something clever and post a sign on the e-door that says “No adoptees or whatever” allowed. Let folks know whether they are truly welcome. Don’t waste anyone’s time, and finally, don’t be a jerk. Honestly, it’s not hard.

Rant Over.

#FliptTheScript

ETA: I will not be using the hashtag above in future posts or on Twitter.  Despite very much supporting the movement, a wonderful adoptee brought it to my attention that the use of the hashtag by a non-adoptee–even for purposes of support–is a form of attribution. I should’ve considered that, but I didn’t. My bad.

So although I have used it before with no complaints from adoptees, I recognize how it can be an inappropriate use of my AP privilege to use the hashtag. So, I won’t in the future.

See how easy that was?


When Support Groups Jump the Shark

So, for about 4 or 5 months I’ve lurked a FB older child adoption support group.  I posted a few times, didn’t really get much notice.  The group is dominated by older child adoptive parents, usually women, and overwhelmingly international adoptions.  I never quite felt I “fit” there.  Only saw only one or two other non-White faces in the group members’ FB photos.  Couldn’t relate to some of the issues unique to international adoption.  Still I found the group to be generally educational and supportive of posters who reached out to seek advice, camaraderie, support or just to vent.  It was a fine group to just hang with the pack and lurk about.

Until the last 24 hours.  Jeesch louise!  Some people have way too much effing time on their hands.  Way too much.

A woman posted yesterday that she and her husband found themselves with a CPS case investigation concerning a bruised adoptee.  The couple had used corporal punishment and things had gone badly.  It was a sad story, and the woman was seeking prayers and support to help her navigate a very tragic and sad situation.  It was really sad.

I was raised with spanking; I don’t intend to spank Hope, nor could I since my state makes you sign a form saying you won’t.  Had I had biological kids, I might feel differently.  I don’t know all that happened in that family; it’s not my business.  They had a horrible moment that they may pay dearly for in more ways than one. Corporal punishment is a ouchy-touchy subject that I won’t debate here because it’s just not the point of the post. (<<<<See what I did there?  Stay on topic!)

What I found curious about the post was how many supposedly supportive, compassionate fellow adoptive parents WENT IN HARD.  Oh I get it, spanking, beating, corporal punishment is a controversial subject.  The mother posting knew that–I can’t imagine she just landed from the planet Zoron–but she was scared and in need of some help and prayers and compassion.  Now maybe it’s hard for some folks to have compassion for such a parent.  I can dig it, but you know I would’ve expected a couple of judgy comments and for folks to just move on.  You know the adage, if you can’t say something supportive for this mother and father who lost their ish then pass this post by.

These folks tore this mother a new one, and when she was online begging for mercy, they went in again.  She deleted her post, posted something more conciliatory, and these folks went in again.  #wheretheydothatat?

Seriously there ended up being FB blockings, accusations of harassment and bullying and all sorts of mayhem.  It was crazy.  This morning there was a grateful post thanking those folks who just said they would graciously pray for the family.  This afternoon came a post from a responder that raised the issue again and went on to shame the mother and the family without calling them by name.

No really, that happened.  Seriously, people have so much effing free time.  If we could refocus half the energy that some folks spend doing dumb ish on social media the world would really be a better place.

This shaming post went on for hours more.  As I watched it unfold, folks were debating Christian parenting, the nuanced distinctions between beating and spanking, and a bunch of “who shot John” foolishness.

As I mentioned, I usually lurk but decided to post a message about how I, as a group member who has learned a lot about parenting and was on the precipice of my daughter’s arrival, was just offended by the overall tone, lack of empathy and compassion for a family in need on the forum.  Finding support among fellow adoptive families is so important because there’s so much that other people just don’t get or understand.  So to see folks tear down each other with the nastiest posts, all in the name of “dialogue” mind you, was just sickening.  That’s not support at all.

Some motor-fingered poster decided to try to school me on what happened over the last 24 hours along with her two cents about corporal punishment.

#girlbye.

For reals?

I saw the meanie posts, the passive aggressive language, and just overall disgust that she tried to coat with the air of authority of a frequent group poster, also known in this context as a bully.  I politely responded that I saw what was happening and was disappointed in this kind of “dialogue.”  Then I went to the group settings bar and “ungrouped” myself.  Did a quickie search for another older child adoption community and sent a member request.  Let’s see what they’re serving across town.

This journey is hard enough, does there really need to be public shaming?  I mean really?  I already felt like I was way out on the periphery of this support group, why would I ever feel safe enough to post how hard life might be with Hope on some low days?  God forbid I make a big mistake and need to find someone to just send me some positive energy.  I got enough stuff to muddle through without watching a support group be anything but.

I’m all for dialogue but e-yelling and e-screaming is still yelling and screaming.  For all of the judging going on of the original poster, I can’t help, after seeing some of the nasty things parents said to each other ,wondering what’s going on in their homes.  “So, are you raising your kids with those poison fingers?”

Lesson learned:  Find a group where I can feel safe and truly be a part of a community of adoptive families.  Sure there will be disagreements, but there isn’t a need for lack of grace or compassion.  Life is much too hard and much too short.

I suppose this lesson is also more broadly life applicable.

So disappointing.

 


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