Our family was formed through adoption from foster care. I went through the foster parent orientations and did all the work on my own, without really sharing with many friends or family that I had chosen to do so. There are so many opinions out there about why it is or isn’t a good choice to foster to adopt. I knew what I wanted and what was important to me, and I quite honestly didn’t want the distractions of other people’s opinions. I knew this was the path for me. I was fortunate to have had great examples of adoptive families in my life. My childhood bestie and his siblings were adopted, and my aunt and her husband adopted their two amazing children - making our family all the better.
And I was right, adopting my son is the best choice I ever made, it has changed my life - for the better, in so many ways. I can not imagine my life, our lives, being anything other than the way they are. My son is now almost 11 years old and came into my care at 3 weeks old. He was a 31 week preemie who weighed less than 5 lbs. Those early days were a blur of feedings, doctor visits, social worker visits and not much sleep. His bio family had little to no contact with him or me which while making things simpler, also meant there was no opportunity to build a relationship with them. At the time, I remember being relieved we didn’t have to make time for visits. Now I realize what a huge loss that is for my son, to not have that connection. Even with all the great training and support I received as a foster parent this was not something I fully understood back then. My education on adoption was only just beginning, and it is an education that continues to evolve.
As I look back at the past 10 years of parenting, of being a mom, I realize that there has been a shift in how I view adoption and foster care and the entire process. I wish my son could have positive relationships with his birth family and I wish I could help him understand why that isn’t the reality of our family. The reasons are complex, and they involve many stories which are not mine to tell. I can say it makes me sad for my son, and I hope someday this will change. I know I am better equipped to support that now. I have made it a point to learn from adult adoptees and biological/ first families about their experiences, and do my best to understand the many angles from which adoption is lived.
My perspective as an adoptive parent will always be colored by the happiness and joy it has brought to my life. But as I continue on this journey, I am aware of the disruption, trauma and loss that it has caused and will cause for others. This includes my son and his (biological/first) family, his life began with incredible loss and trauma. I will never be able to resolve that for him, and it will remain a part of who he is. What I can do is fill the days we have together with as much joy and love as possible, and support him when he confronts his history.
I can also advocate for more support for families and to highlight the importance of keeping biological families in tact. Providing them the support and resources they need to avoid having their children enter the foster care system is critical. I can also do my part to amplify the voices of biological/ first families and adoptees to make sure they are a part of the conversation.
And for those families that do have children in the foster care system I can support changes to that system that will provide them the tools they need to navigate healthier futures. These are giant systemic shifts that need to occur, and ones that I hope my actions will help impact in some small way. None of this is easy, even as I try to effect change in my own family, I may well make some missteps along the way, but I will keep trying. Foster Care Agencies are really doing amazing work and should be acknowledged for all they do navigating these complexities. I am so grateful for the support I received from mine. Los Angeles County is the largest child welfare system in the country and yet they are able to do some truly innovative and positive things to make lasting changes to how families experience foster care. It is heartening to see.
As an adoptive parent, I am beyond grateful for what I have gained, and it is my job to shape the future for families like mine. Adoption is amazing, adoption is difficult, adoption is challenging, and adoption is pure love. It makes sense to me that National Adoption Awareness Month falls in November a time when we give thanks. But even Thanksgiving is a holiday where we celebrate the gains of some and the loss of others. As I look back at how adoption has impacted my life I see all that it has brought and am filled with gratitude for how much richer my life is as a result of adoption.