Adoption is a long, hard road to follow and these parents share how hard they had to work for the ultimate reward: their kids.
(Content has been edited for clarity)
“He’d Never Handled Such A Case Of Neglect And Emotional Abuse”
“We adopted a teenage girl out of the local foster care system, so there were no issues with ‘surprise! you’re adopted!’ However, she was a raging tempest of hormones and bitter anger at her situation wrapped up in a petite 5’4” 7th grader body. Her background was so complicated and convoluted that even the elderly family lawyer who handled the adoption in the end shook his head and said that in all his years he’d never handled such a case of neglect, emotional abuse, and tangled family lines which for two years after we took her in, had to be unraveled in their entirety before we could legally adopt her.
Suffice to say when she came to us, she was bitter, untrusting, and angry. And 13 years old in the full swing of puberty to boot.
We loved her through this difficult part of her life. She tested us every day, and DFACS was both our ally and our nemesis. And just as we made progress with her and began to really know her as our daughter, in spirit if not yet legally, her biological mother re-enters the picture (after being out of the picture since our child was 3) and wanted her back.
I remember it was the hardest thing in the world to stand up in that court and give our permission for her to pursue a reunification plan with our child (who was excited and thrilled to once again know her ‘mother,’) while deep down I knew she would fail the plan, but if I did anything to stop this, I knew that our child would always harbor some belief that we ‘kept her from her family.’
But like the old saying goes, if you love someone, you must be ready to let them go. We had to have faith.
The bio mom did fail the reunification plan, and once again crushed our daughter’s dreams, but we were there. We comforted her as she grieved for a mother she never really had, and for a father she never knew because her bio mom wasn’t sure who it was. And in time she grew to not only love us as we love her but to really and honestly appreciate what we had done for her.
I remember one day I was driving her somewhere, just she and I, and she turned to me and said, ‘I want to stay with you. I want you to be my dad, I want this to my home; I love you guys’ and just like that, I, a grown man, broke down and cried like a little girl.
At the age of 15, finally, we cleared the last hurdles and the adoption went through in all of 15 minutes at a courthouse, surrounded by my and my wife’s family. After it was done so fast that everybody was wide-eyed in wonderment, my daughter spoke up and said, ‘That’s it? All this time and trouble for that? What’d you do, lose your pen? I’d have lent you my pen if that’s all it took!’ and everybody laughed.”
All They Wanted Was For Their Son To Be Cultured
“About 17 years ago, my wife and I adopted a baby from an Asian American family. I made few inquiries as they seemed embarrassed and I didn’t want to pry. I was just excited to have a son. So as long as they were healthy and willing to gift me with their child, I did not go too much into their histories. This was my major flaw.
Around eight months we started to feel a little bit of guilt about not raising him in his own ethnic culture and, given that we live in an area with a major Chinese population, it would be easy to introduce him to his roots. So for the next 17 years, we did everything we could to honor his ethnicity. We sent him to Chinese language courses, and by the time he was 5 years old, he was fluent in Mandarin and English. He got ‘adopted’ by a Chinese aunt and uncle who taught him about the culture and celebrated certain holidays. We have taken him to China every two years since he was 8 years old. We weren’t trying to force him to take up his culture as an ‘other’ in our family, but we didn’t want to rob him of it or completely whitewash him either.
Anyway, we were filling out his college applications and financial aid forms and doing that whole thing. I went to my home office and was going through some files when I found his adoption records. I wasn’t really paying much attention to them and then his biological parents’ surnames popped out and punched me in the face. His parent’s last names were PARK AND KIM.
Those are Korean last names. My son is not Chinese. Not even a little bit.”
You Don’t Have To Be Blood To Be Family
“I didn’t adopt from an agency or another country or anything like that. I simply adopted my wife’s 8-year-old son.
She got pregnant and had him in high school.
Her and I were actually high school sweethearts for a bit (before the pregnancy) and stay friends. After the bio dad finally disappeared, I couldn’t just abandon this kid who had decided, all on his own, that he wanted me to be a part of his life.
He was 6 years old when we started getting serious. At that time, he hadn’t seen his biological father in three years.
At first, I was ‘mom’s friend’ then ‘phone dad’ (as I’m stationed overseas). At one point I was his ‘good dad’ (as compared to his bio ‘bad dad’) and about that time, I knew that I’d be around him regardless of what happened with my now wife. We weren’t even engaged yet when he started calling me just ‘dad.
Even though I have lived separately from them, I still make it a point to be as active in his life as possible.
On one of my trips home, I taught him how to ride a bike without training wheels. I’ve taken him on errand runs, and he seems to love one on one time with me.
My wife and I got married in August of 2017, and in October, I asked if he still wanted me to adopt him. He said yes, so we did all the court stuff, and now he is legally my son. We are working to get his birth certificate changed.
He may not be mine by blood, but he’s my son.”
“Raising Someone Else’s Mistakes Take A Toll On You”
“My wife and I tried for years to have children but were unable. We were in our late-30s and decided to go the foster care route. I talked my wife into looking at kids that were older and closer to the ages of our friends’ kids. My wife worked with a company that specialized in helping at-risk youth stay in their home instead of going to in-patient facilities. She and I met working at an outdoor residential facility. We were made for this, or so we thought.
Five years ago, three biological siblings came to live with us. They were 7, 9 and 11. The two oldest are boys. They all knew they were adopted and had some input in changing their names. The 11-year-old still has an attachment to his biological dad. The other two not so much. None of them have an attachment to their biological mom. About six months in, we had some issues and realized the 11-year-old didn’t want to be with us. He wanted parents younger than us. What he didn’t realize was that people ten years younger than us were looking at babies to 2-year-olds; nobody wants older kids. We sat him and gave him a choice: he could stay with us and his brother and sister or he could go back into the system and try to find another home. It was a big decision for an 11-year-old. He decided to stay.
The challenge we face now that we didn’t expect is how much of an influence biology has on behavior. Five years of nurturing, caring for and teaching them, and there are some behaviors we can’t change. Amazingly it was easy to get rid of the racism and homophobia, it’s been much more difficult to get rid of how they view women and how women are supposed to be treated. Five years later and we still fight it. Hygiene, school work, survival instincts, and social awkwardness are still an issue too. Our 9-year-old is dyslexic and has some developmental and behavioral issues. He came to us reading at a third-grade level. Despite multiple schools and tutors, he still reads at a third-grade level. His behavior is better but not at age level.
Would I do this again? Hard to say. I love my kids but the process is harder than you would imagine. Raising someone else’s mistakes takes a toll on you. I understand why most people don’t adopt older kids. It’s SO hard. But at the end of the day, my wife and kids are my world and I’m glad we adopted them.”
She Stepped In To Help A Friend
“My son was one of my friend’s children. The friend found out she was seriously ill when she was pregnant, but the doctors weren’t initially worried, and they would deal with it after she gave birth. A few weeks after the boy was born, my friend went in for a checkup, and the doctors found out she was terminal and had a year, at most.
How my husband and I got involved was due to my husband being a lawyer and her having stuff to sort out with her kid and then just being a friend wanting to give her support and help. Once things started to get worse, my son’s biological father decided that he didn’t want anything to do with him, as raising him on his own would be ‘too hard’ and he just agreed to sign over his rights whenever she needed him to. That’s when we agreed to take him.
The transition was a lot smoother than I thought it would be. Honestly, his life was understandably chaotic before we adopted him, so I think settling into a routine was soothing. Most of my adoption leave was spent stressing about trying to find him a daycare rather than adjusting to having a kid.
My son knows he’s adopted, but I’m not sure he knows what that means since he’s only three. He knows his biological mother is dead, but he recognizes her when we show him pictures. She’s just his ‘other mommy,’ and he doesn’t think it’s weird or anything.
He doesn’t know anything about his biological father, and I want to keep it that way for as long as I can because that jerk was garbage. He was garbage when they dated and got worse when she got pregnant. I asked when he gave up rights if he’d want our kid to contact him at a later time once he was older and he said, ‘No, I’ll probably have another family by then and won’t want to deal with it.'”
It Doesn’t Always Work Out
“I used to work in Children Services, and sadly, not all adoptions work out.
In one of them, they found out their adopted son (who had been very badly violated and abused himself) was violating his sister and there were indications that he was doing the same to their twin toddlers. They actually remained involved in his life after he was placed by in the care of state – they still cared about him, but didn’t feel the other kids in the house were safe.
Another boy’s family decided to return him to the care of the state when one day they came home to find he shattered the toilet with a hammer and was caught violating the family dog. He also creeped out the couple’s teenage daughter to the point where she was threatening to run away to get away from him (to our knowledge he never did anything to her).
One of the sadder ones to me was a kid who had been abused in every way possible and a kind, but very naive, couple adopted him. They didn’t listen to any advice we tried to give them because they knew that ‘love conquers all’ and figured that if they were just nice enough he would be all better in a few months or maybe a year. They thought at the high end, after 2 years, he would be a normal kid. They weren’t prepared for his baggage AT ALL. After a while, they just gave up and gave him back. It destroyed him, and any progress he made vanished.”
Things Get Scary When You Don’t Know The Family History
“I was friends with a pair of fraternal twins in college, boy and girl. It was a closed adoption, and all they knew was that their mom had them at about 19-20 and put them up for adoption, as she’d done about twice before. So they have siblings somewhere.
The adoption center wanted to keep them together as per the birth mothers wishes and so offered the adopting family a ‘2 for 1’ deal, which they took. I know their mom was unable to have children, so suddenly having two was a dream come true.
The only time things got scary (that I saw) was the summer before sophomore year and the girl got very sick. She wasn’t fat (5’7″ and 130 lbs), but lost weight to the point of emaciation from a GI bug (down to 100). She got tested for everything, and then they started the genetic tests but since they had no info on her birth parents, they were getting nowhere.
She was pooping blood and getting hospitalized for dehydration. Everyone was getting really worried.
Then after three months, it was found to be C. Diff, an aggressive strain of bacteria. She still deals with it, but we were all happy it wasn’t some debilitating mystery genetic disease that would eventually kill her.”
Two Very Different Experiences
“My younger brother and I were both adopted when we were babies. My adoption was open and his was closed. They had both been planned for months before we were born but my brother ended up being born much earlier than expected.
He came along three months premature because his birth mother was 14 and was already an addict. He had a lot of health issues and we were surprised he made it.
Everything ended up alright, they just had to deal with many more problems than what they had been expecting. He has struggled with learning disabilities and developmental issues his entire life, along with recently finding out his stunted growth has been a result of Celiac disease.
My adoption was very different because I have always had a relationship with my birth mother. We are really close and, although she has never admitted it to me, I know that really does a number on my adopted mother. I don’t think she feels like her role is as important because I have another mom even though she is the one who raised me and who I have known as my mother my entire life.
Our relationship is very strained and although she and my birth mother were very close throughout my childhood, she now changes the subject whenever I bring her up in conversation. I think she is jealous of our relationship and it hurts me to see her feel like that but I’m working on building our relationship and finding better ways to communicate and connect with her so she doesn’t have to feel alienated at all.”
Why They Wanted 3 But Only Ended Up With 2
“I have a friend who was adopted from Russia, and aside from being a little behind in school, he is a normal kid. His parents couldn’t have children so they flew to Russia to adopt a 4-year-old girl, him (2-years-old), and his biological sister (3-years-old). Well when they got to the care facility, they go to pick up all the kids, who were all in separate rooms. They get my friend and his non-biological sister, but for some reason, they won’t let them see the biological sister. The parents spend the night there, expecting that the next morning that they’ll get to see their daughter. Finally, the caretakers bring them to the little girl. When the girl saw them she started throwing her toys, punching people, screaming, pulling her hair out, just going crazy. They decided not to adopt her.
The mother told me she now regrets it. She believes the orphanage told the girl to act that way because another family might have offered more money. The whole trip there was suspicious, she told me, and that if she had a choice she would have demanded to adopt her anyway.”
They Were Willing To Fight To Bring Him Into Their Family
“For the past three years, I have been a foster parent for kids under the age of 10, but it seems that we are specializing in babies going through withdrawals. This is mostly because my husband and I both work in healthcare and had the time to devote to these infants’ needs. We never intended on adopting them, as we had two biological kids and frankly felt we were too old.
We have had our current foster son since we brought him home from the NICU 14 months ago. Typically they aim for kids to have supervised weekly visits of one to two hours with their parents if they are interested and working at all with the Department of Child and Family Services. We were helping our foster son work through withdrawal and the effects of his prematurity while bringing him to his weekly visits. The biological dad disavowed him and refused to see the child. His mother visited inconsistently. Our state is a reunification state, which means kids who have been physically abused or violated can and will be returned to their parents, so we figured she would be given lots of ‘last chances.’
His parents made lots of bad choices, with lifelong consequences. It was looking like they were going to be out of the picture for a long time. DCFS changed the goal to adoption and asked if we would be interested. We had already fallen in love with him, and couldn’t imagine him leaving. Of course, the thing about being a foster parent is that you are lower than poop on a boot in the scheme of things, so all we could do was wait. Would they change the goal back to reunification? We waited and waited and waited. We are still watching the biological mom make bad choices. The trial for termination of parental rights is coming up. Our courts are so backed up; trials are being given continuances of 12 to 18 months. It is all worth it though.”
All The Medical Issues
“My aunt and uncle had one biological child before her whole host of medical issues decided to rear their heads and make any further pregnancies next to impossible. So they decided to adopt, one little boy and one little girl, from different countries in eastern Europe.
After a year or two, the boy started showing sensitivities to certain foods, which ended up being to gluten. The kicker? One of my aunt’s biggest illness’s is celiac disease and she’s heavily involved in the national celiac foundation. My biological cousin is also showing symptoms of celiac. My entire family is very knowledgeable about living gluten-free because of her.
But wait there’s more!
After the adoption had cleared on the little girl, my aunt and uncle had brought her home and proceeded to get very attached to her, someone from my cousin’s orphanage contacted my aunt and uncle to regretfully explain why my cousin had been left there by her birth mother. Her birth mother had lupus (which can run in families, but hasn’t been proven as genetic), and left her there because she couldn’t take care of herself and her child. My aunt’s other chief medical issue is that she has lupus.”
Adoption Isn’t For The Faint Of Heart
“I adopted a child who was nearly 6 years old. The child’s previous foster parents were incredibly caring and had done as much as possible to prepare our child prior to the official pick up day. They talked about the ‘forever parents’ that we were going to be. It was an international adoption, so the day we met was the day we got custody and headed home.
The transition was tough. Our kid didn’t speak English, and my partner didn’t speak our child’s language. I was able to speak a little of the language but it was a solid six months of stressful translation for me before our kid picked up enough to communicate okay with my partner.
I went through a period of depression and felt isolated and ashamed that I kept having feelings that I was failing in this new role and not enjoying it as much as I thought I should have. Everyone was telling me how ‘lucky’ my kid was for having me as a parent, and asking me how much I was loving being a parent didn’t help.
But it’s been six years now and I love that little bugger more than I thought I ever could. Adoption isn’t for everyone, but neither is parenthood.”
They Created Their Own Story
“My daughter is of a different race, so it was never something we could have hidden, even if we wanted to.
We made a picture book that tells the story of her adoption, including the trip to China to adopt her and when we brought her home for the first time.
Before she could even speak, we told her about the adoption at least once a week as a bedtime story and continued for many years.
It wasn’t until she was 11 years old that she started having some serious questions about abandonment by her birth mom, but it wasn’t a total shock because we had introduced a lot of it earlier.”