As we learned, while adoption may be a huge gain for us, it is an incredible loss for the child we welcome into our home, for their foster family, and for their birth family. Our new child will be lovingly transitioned into a different home, different bedroom with different blankets, different clothes and a different room mate, and will be expected to eat different food, go to different events, meet different people, play with different toys, have different siblings and identify with a different family. While some children may welcome this kind of change, all children will grieve the loss of the familiar.
Our instructors led us through a narration that illustrates this loss very well. They asked us to put ourselves in the position of the main character in the story. For me, the story went something like this:
One day while I was tending to duties at home, a stranger knocked on the door. She made me get in her car, while my husband and children questioned what was going on and who she was and why this was happening. The lady drove me out of my neighbourhood to a house that looked much bigger and nicer than my house. She took me to the front door and knocked. A man and his children answered the door, all with big smiles, all very happy to see me. They ushered me in, fussing the entire time, while saying how glad they were I was here, and how this was a safe place for me and how we would be so happy. I had no idea what was going on. I wasn’t allowed to call my family or check up on my kids. They weren’t allowed to call me either, and the only way I could contact them was through the strange lady who had taken me away in the first place.
The narration continued for a bit, but then our instructors asked us how a scenario like this would make us feel. Sad? Angry? Confused? Worried about how my family was doing without me?
The point was obvious. Even when a child is in an unsafe home, it may be all they know, and it feels safe and secure simply because of it’s familiarity. A child coming into a foster home would feel exactly the same way as I would if I was taken away from my husband and children and sent to live with another husband and children.
To continue the analogy into adoption, what if that strange lady came back again two years later, put me back in the car, and drove me to yet another home that I didn’t recognize. What if she introduced me to yet another husband and children and told me that they would be my “forever family”? How confused would I be then?
Even if I had had several visits with my forever family, and maybe a sleepover or two, how would I feel about suddenly becoming part of their family? Not only would I miss my original family, I would miss the in-between family too. A child coming into our home would be missing (at least) two mothers and two fathers and possibly several siblings, with no real guarantee of ever seeing them again.
What a weight to carry for such little ones! We learned about how important it was to keep as much information and pictures on hand about our child’s birth family and foster family as possible, and about how we could keep the lines of communication open between all of the families.
We also learned about the type of behaviours that might result from a child progressing through the grieving/loss process. Behaviours that present as tantrums or ADHD could be a result of feeling the impact of a child’s loss, as could withdrawing, or even “perfect” behaviour, as a child may rationalize that if they are “good”, they may get to go back home.
As well, we received the name of our social worker, the one that will be doing our home study. That’s very good news, because it means that the ball is rolling and things are moving!
We have next week off due to the March Break, but the following week is our Panel Night. We’ll get to hear from adoptive parents and foster parents, and ask any questions we have. We’ll also be able to bring two of our three kids (the third is too young still), to meet with the children of other resource families and talk about what adoption/fostering might mean to them, what is involved, and why children might be brought into care (age-appropriately, of course). I’m looking forward to our kids taking part in that. We’ve talked to them about adoption several times over the past year or so, of course, but I don’t think the possibility is a reality for them yet. I’m hoping this will make it a little more real for them, and that they may begin to see the end game in all of Mommy & Daddy’s homework and adoption classes.