Michelle’s Story

Our daughter was born a month after my husband and I were married, hundreds of miles away from us, to people who sowed the seeds of abuse and neglect. During our daughter’s early years, my husband and I were traveling, hiking, biking, remodeling a house — and not planning to add anyone else to it.

We became a cliche, and changed plans as we neared 40. After learning about foreign and domestic adoption options, we decided to invest in the U.S. foster care system. I am compelled to tell this story because many friends told us that they contemplated adoption, but were afraid of “bonding problems” from social services kids.

Stories of foreign orphans being sent back to their home country or to a ranch in Montana should send a clear message that attachment disorder is not unique to U.S. orphans.

Our adoption search began with the Adoption Exchange website, which posts pictures and profiles of children in foster care, who are available for adoption.

It took a year of looking and a couple false-start inquiries before a 10-year-old girl sounded like a match for us. After interviewing us, the social workers agreed and chose us for Rachel (not her real name). Rachel had been a “system kid” for over half her life, and frankly, her history and file scared the heck out of me and my husband. However, Rachel had my husband before we got to hello.

He said solution-oriented, man things like, “Look, she’s 10, and we’re 40. Plus, there’s one of her and two of us.”

We did not romanticize adoption or anything about this process. Completing a home study and working through the social services requirements will try anyone’s patience. Gestation is faster.

We also did not expect Rachel to be grateful for her new life. These children have lost everything, and if they have bonded with their foster parents, then they may lose them during the adoption process.

We did our homework by going for pre-adoption counseling, reading and taking a required foster parent class. “Parenting the Hurt Child” is a must read for anyone contemplating adopting children with an abuse history. Hurt children have complex emotional ages, are often medicated for their behaviors, and may not be bonded to people. Our daughter came to us with a few psychological labels and her own pharmacy in the plastic pill sorting case that made us wonder if we were adopting a child, a war veteran, or an 80-year-old.

Our adoption was finalized a few months ago and Rachel turned out to be quite a bright and resilient character. We eliminated her medications and have been working with her on filling emotional gaps, which is rewarding for all of us and exhausting for me and my husband.

Here’s a peek at what this looks like. When she pitches a fit that looks like something a 3-year-old would do, she gets a toddler time out. I’ve seen “Super Nanny,” so I know to have her sit quietly for three minutes.

Rachel plays Legos with her dad like a 5-year-old. She asked me to hold and rock her like a baby. On a recent shopping trip, I bought her women’s size 9 shoes, a bra, and a baby blanket to wrap her in as I rock her.

This is our reality and it likely sounds odd. However, this is the kind of therapeutic parenting she needs to fill in the patchwork of emotional holes that her birth family handed her, and to be a good parent to her future children.

I still get the “waiting child” update from Adoption Exchange and see more young people who could have promising and productive lives if people invest in them. My only regret in adopting our daughter is the sadness that comes from knowing that I will not have the years or the energy left in me to devote to another child after Rachel is launched into society. Perhaps someone reading this will.

 

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Comments

  1. God bless you for being smart enough to rock her like a baby, rather than thinking that she’s too old for that. That’s one of the best bonding behaviors there is. I loved your story. Thank you for sharing.

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