An Adoptee’s Perspective: Is Adoption Worth It?

When I started working in the adoption world a little over five years ago, I was an absolute proponent of adoption. I don’t think there would have been anything anyone could have said or done to make me believe that adoption wasn’t anything but wonderful. Working in the adoption world can be difficult at times, especially for an adoptee. If I had a dollar for every time I have heard someone say something negative about adoption or attempt to discourage prospective parents from adopting, my kids’ college fund would be all set. The negative sentiments towards adoption can be difficult to hear sometimes, especially knowing that I wouldn’t be where I am today had my parents not chosen to adopt me. Working in the adoption world has brought a lot of my adoption issues to the surface, and has forced me to address many issues I had kept buried for most of my life. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to work in this field and learn about the good and the bad sides of adoption. It has also helped validate and normalize many of the feelings and experiences I have had throughout my adoption journey.

I believe in adoption. I believe that every child deserves a loving forever family. But, I am also well aware that adoption is not easy or perfect. Mistakes are made, and children and families sometimes pay the ultimate price for those mistakes. Working in the adoption world, I hear the stories—good and bad—and I see a system that works for some and has failed miserably for others. I also see children who age out of foster care or live their entire young lives in orphanages, and I am well aware of the statistics on the difficulties they will most likely face.

As much as I believe in adoption, I know that adoption isn’t for everyone. You need to be extremely dedicated, open-minded, always open to learning, and incredibly thick-skinned to be an adoptive parent. Adoption isn’t easy. It’s not a lifetime spent on cloud nine, nor is it always a dream fulfilled for people wanting to add to their families. Regardless of whether they were adopted domestically, internationally, or from foster care—all adoptees come with issues. No matter how old they were when adopted, it’s unrealistic to believe that it is possible for a child to experience the loss of one’s birth parent and come out on the other side completely unscathed.

The adoption journey doesn’t end when your adopted child is finally in your arms. The journey is one that never ends. It is a journey filled with joy and it is a journey filled with heartache. It’s the realization of one dream and the loss of another. It will sometimes feel like a rollercoaster ride that never ends. It is also a journey in which you may need to learn when to love and when to let go.

I have heard some parents say that they don’t know whether or not they would adopt if they could go back and do it all over again. But, a majority of adoptive parents have whole-heartedly said that despite the tears, the sleepless nights, and the sacrifices they have had to make throughout their adoption journeys—they still believe that it was absolutely worth it. If there is one thing motherhood has taught me, it is the fact that part of being a parent is experiencing heartache and knowing that you would endure it a million times over because your child is worth it. That’s how I feel about adoption. The system isn’t perfect, parents aren’t perfect, and children aren’t perfect, but it doesn’t mean that we should stop finding forever families for children and teens and it doesn’t mean that we should stop believing in the good things adoption has to offer.

My story as an adoptee hasn’t been picture perfect. I didn’t talk to my parents very much about being adopted or all of the teasing and bullying I endured growing up. I think it was my way of protecting them. As a teenager, I acted out and did things I am not proud of and put myself and my parents through hell and back. I went through a phase of not really caring about anything, much less myself. In doing so, I thoroughly tested my parents’ love and support for me. But, no matter what I put them through and no matter how much I pushed them away, my parents were always there. Looking back at that period in my life, I am so thankful that I had a place to call home and for parents who were there to pick me up when I hit rock bottom.

Even though adoption isn’t perfect and it’s not always a fairytale, as an adoptee, I can unequivocally say that adoption is worth it. I don’t know what I would do without my parents’ love and support. My parents and I talk pretty much every day. Some days I don’t feel like talking, and other days I am off in another world, but I always look forward to those daily phone calls. I find comfort in knowing that I can just pick up the phone when I’m having a rough day and know that I will always have someone to talk to. I am blessed to have a family to celebrate holidays and birthdays with. Without adoption, none of this would have been possible, and I would not be the person I am today.

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The Waiting Game: Parenting Children with Special Needs

I am sitting here literally in tears as I write this. I love my boys more than life itself, and I would do anything for them. Both of my kids have special needs—my oldest has Tourette’s Syndrome, ADHD, learning disabilities, and sensory issues; my youngest has ADHD, sensory issues, and undiagnosed behavioral and/or personality issues. My sons are really good kids. They are both very sweet and their antics and the things that come out of their mouths are pure comedy gold. They bring so much joy to my life. They are my everything.

The biggest issue lies with my youngest son, who recently turned six. From day one, he has always been a very strong-willed and intense little guy. He is very curious about the world and is incredibly smart. He is very sensitive and feels emotions with every fiber of his being. A few years ago, I noticed that he was having major mood swings and would experience violent outbursts, usually resulting in his hitting or punching his brother, who is three years older chronologically, but emotionally, pretty similar in age. A little over a year ago, my youngest son’s violent outbursts turned into rages. His rage episodes usually involved my taking half-hour to hour-long beatings from him, in which I was punched, kicked, spat on, scratched…you name it. Fortunately, my son doesn’t rage often, but when it happens, it has occasionally gotten to the point where I am scared out of my mind and on the verge of calling the police on my own son.

In addition to his rages, my son goes after his brother quite often. Losing a game, not being able to pick the movie they are watching, not being able to play with the toy he wants, etc.—often results in my son hitting, punching, and screaming at his brother. This happens on an almost daily basis. I can handle the outbursts, but I’m not okay with one of my sons being physically and emotionally harmed. My younger son is literally like a ticking time bomb, and you never know what you are going to get. Unfortunately, the fear of the unknown with him usually results in my older son really getting the short end of the stick in terms of having to give in and not having as much attention paid to him because we are constantly having to address our younger son’s behaviors. This is something my husband and I are working on, but it has been an uphill battle, to say the least.

This goes beyond my younger son acting “bratty”. I can feel it in my gut that there is more going on than my son being simply “strong-willed”. I have a pretty clear understanding of child development, and I have pretty realistic expectations for my children. My husband and I keep things pretty structured at home and we keep things consistent in terms of the boys’ daily routines. We always give the boys 15-20 minutes advance notice when they need to get ready for school, or if we are leaving to go somewhere, or if they need to get ready for bed. We don’t believe in corporal punishment, so as you can imagine, my youngest ends up in timeout on an almost daily basis. We have tried taking things away, timeout (with the duration always appropriately corresponding with the boys’ chronological ages), positive reinforcement, and everything in between as methods of discipline for our sons.

My younger son is normally incredibly sweet, and I often refer to him as my little “cuddlebug” because he is so loving and wonderful. His acting out behaviors have been really distressing because I know what a great little guy he is, and I don’t know where his anger comes from. My husband and I have provided our sons with a loving home environment in which they are allowed to be kids. They are happy and healthy and they don’t want for anything. We laugh together and we hug often. We have provided a good life for our boys thus far.

My attempt to get services for my younger son has been a long process. The process began with trying to get help for his ADHD. He was incredibly impulsive, couldn’t sit still, couldn’t follow directions, and he couldn’t even sit through an entire meal without having to get up several times to run around between bites. We tried play therapy, to no avail, and were eventually able to start him on medication. When the raging started, I immediately worked to obtain psychological services for him. I called an organization that has been known to be one of the best psychological service providers for children in the state, and I was able to get him on the waiting list. We waited for seven long months before being seen by a practitioner within that organization. My son started seeing an early childhood counselor there, and after a few sessions, I was told that there was nothing she could do for him and she wanted to stop seeing him. My son’s ADHD was preventing him from being able to answer questions and follow instructions during the sessions, and it was affecting her ability to work with him. Recently, he underwent a psychological evaluation through the same organization. Today, I was told by the psychologist that there was nothing developmentally or cognitively wrong with my son—something I was already well aware of. When I pressed for an answer as to what is behind his behaviors, I was told that he is too young to be evaluated for behavioral issues, and I have to wait a year or two before anything can be done to help him.

You can probably imagine my frustration at this point. There is a 3-4 month wait to get my son into Occupational Therapy, which is pretty much the only option we have left. I am doing everything I can to find services for my son, and everywhere I turn, I am being told to wait, or that nothing that can be done to help. I know there is something wrong—I can feel it with every fiber of my being. There is something clearly going on with my son, and nobody is willing or able to help. I love my children more than anything and I love being a mom, but I need help. When you have a child with explosive behaviors, it takes everything out of you. You have days when you feel like you just can’t do it anymore. You have days when you are literally getting the crap kicked out of you, and you look at your child and think, “I love you so much—I will love you through the good times, and I will love you when it hurts—but I just don’t like you right now.” As a mom, it’s difficult to imagine not always liking your child, but when you are in the moment and you are being hurt both physically and emotionally by your child—that is your reality. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love being a mom, and it doesn’t mean that you are a bad parent. Sometimes you just need help, and it is heartbreaking and overwhelming when you feel like you are alone in this. I am trying to be the best mom I can be for my son, and I feel like my best isn’t enough for him right now, and it absolutely breaks my heart.

I have done everything I can do at this point, and I guess all I can do is wait and keep loving my son. But, I sometimes wish those service providers who say, “You need to wait 1-2 years before we can help you,” could walk a mile in our shoes and see how “easy” waiting can be. I feel like I’m being thrust into the middle of a game I don’t want to play, and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.

The Beauty in Being Different

I read an article today about my hometown, and it wasn’t pretty. The article tells the story of a school district that secretly passed a policy requiring all school personnel to take a neutral stance on issues of homosexuality. It is essentially a form of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. It also allows school personnel within that district to turn a blind eye to complaints from students who are being bullied due to their sexual orientation. This is a school district that recently saw nine of its students take their own lives within a two-year period.

This article made me think of a heart-wrenching episode of Grey’s Anatomy in which a lesbian character’s father brings her family’s priest to the hospital in an effort to “pray away the gay.” In that same episode, the character’s girlfriend has a conversation with the father in which she tells him about the day she came out to her own father. She had never been interested in boys while growing up, and her parents knew, but yet she still worried that her father would kick her out upon hearing the news. Instead, when she told her father, his response to her was, “Are you still who I raised you to be?”

I believe that homosexuality is not a choice, but something which is innate. I have friends and family members who are gay and bisexual, and they are amazing and wonderful people. I believe they are who their parents raised them to be, regardless of the life partners they have chosen. People of color are not required to hide the color of their skin from the world, so people who identify as LGBTQ should not be shamed into keeping their sexual orientation a secret. They are people, and I believe the very thing that makes them “different,” is one of the many things that makes them beautiful.

As the episode of Grey’s Anatomy states, I strongly believe that you can’t “pray away the gay,” just as you can’t pray away the color of your skin. Believe me, I’ve tried. As a child, I spent many nights secretly praying to God, asking Him to make me blonde-haired, blue-eyed, and Caucasian, because I didn’t want to be different anymore. Twenty-plus years later, and I am still as Asian as they come.

I endured a fair amount of bullying growing up, and have even experienced it as an adult. Kids were mean when I was younger, but they can be downright vicious now. In an age where people can disguise themselves behind a computer screen or a phone, the attacks on others have escalated to unimaginable heights. I have heard and seen teenagers using racial and anti-gay slurs like they are every day words. These words should NEVER be a part of anyone’s vocabulary, PERIOD. Words can cut like a knife, and they can absolutely be the catalyst that can change a person’s life forever.

It is NOT okay that nine teenagers in one school district were made to feel so badly about themselves—so ashamed—that they would take their own lives. I have been there. I know what it feels like to hit rock bottom. I know what it feels like to get to a point where you think you are worthless and the world would be a better place without you. It’s a horrible place to be, and I cannot even begin to imagine what these teenagers must have gone through to get them to this place.

Kids don’t come with manuals, but parents should be equipped with open minds and open hearts. Parents should never use racial or anti-gay slurs around their children, or anywhere, for that matter. Children are incredibly perceptive, and pick up on a lot of things you would never imagine they would. They put an incredible amount of weight on the words and actions of their parents. If you, as a parent, don’t like the color of someone’s skin, or their sexual orientation, that’s your problem, but don’t make it your child’s problem. Children should be taught that everyone is different, and that those differences are part of what makes them beautiful. People should be accepted and admired for their differences—never bullied or belittled. Complete acceptance of differences is ideal, but at the very least, it is important that parents attempt to maintain open minds when teaching their children about the world and helping them to form their beliefs. The world will be a much better place when people learn to see the beauty in being different. And this message needs to begin at home.

** Please note that this post is not meant to offend anyone. I feel strongly about this issue, and felt the need to address this article. **