“If you need someone to blame/
throw a rock in the air you’ll hit someone guilty”
– U2, Dirty Day, from the under-rated Zooropa album
Katie and I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of (mostly positive) responses to our adoption story.
When we adopted, we became heroes to many.
When we disrupted the adoptions, we became villains to many.
In telling our story to the public, I expected that most would see us as villains. I was ready for that. Instead, most people who spoke up gave us encouragement and gratitude. No doubt, many who read our story did so with (unvoiced) disapproval; they chose not to comment, which is fine. I ran across several extremely harsh and critical comments on other forums where I saw the post was shared. I’ll mention some things about the nature of those criticisms in a bit.
Who Should Be Blamed?
None of us is perfect. We all share in blame, to various degrees, for the disorder and evil in the world. Nonetheless, who should we blame when adoption disruptions like ours happen?
In some cases, no one is to blame. The child has an unforeseen special need through no fault of anyone. Remember the man born blind in the Bible, whom Jesus heals after 38 years, to show the glory of God? Who sinned, this man or his parents? None of them did, Jesus says.
In our case and in most others, however, there is someone to blame: the bio parents or caregivers who hurt the child. Doing drugs and alcohol while the baby is in utero is child abuse, and abuse of the worst kind. In the most formative time of the child’s life they are being poisoned, their brain is being altered, they are being harmed, sometimes irreparably so.
By all means, blame the people who abuse their children in such ways. I did. That isn’t un-Christian. Now, not forgiving them is un-Christian. I forgave, and continued to forgive, the children’s birth parents for the grave harm they inflicted upon our children, in their selfishness. I forgave the woman who further harmed one of our children, after she was born for the first two years of her life. I have prayed for their conversions, because they have tied millstones around their necks in hurting these defenseless children.
Do you want to get angry? Then get angry. Get angry at the people directly responsible for hurting children. Don’t get angry at the people who spend their lives trying to help these children pick up the pieces and heal.
“You Broke a Sacred Covenant”
Someone told me that we broke a sacred covenant, a vow before God, in finding new families for our adopted children. The idea is that caring for a child is the same as marriage, a sacrament before God that is indissoluble.
Yet, this is not actually the case. The parent-child relationship is not the same as the spousal one, which is an indissoluble covenant. Otherwise we would condemn all young women who courageously chose to give their baby to an adoptive family to rear as their own.
We nod approvingly when a single woman does this, but when a couple does it, we frown and get angry. What is the difference, in principle? Give enough special needs children to any person or couple, and you will eventually exceed the limit of what they can handle. For a single woman, that is one healthy child. For a couple, it may be one child with severe special needs. Or, it may be six children with moderate special needs. Everyone is different, with different resources, wisdom, experience, and capabilities. Instead of condemning such families, we should be trying to help them!
“I Would Never Do That”
People told us that they would never do such a thing to their child. That’s easy to say, and I pray to God that they never face a situation like we did. The reality is that they don’t know what they would do.
St. Peter said he would never abandon Jesus; less than a day later he had denied him three times.
I would recommend reading Fr. Walter Ciszek’s book He Leadeth Me and learn from him about just how weak we are.
What if your child tried to kill you and your other children? What would you do? You have to keep your family safe. You have to do whatever is necessary to keep your family safe. Mike wrote:
In the last 6 months he has broken his brothers arm and bitten my wife hard enough to leave a 4? diameter black and blue bruise. We are prisoners to this child.
And Carl and Andrea describe their hellish experiences:
We have had deaths occur in our farm animals from the oldest child, near death experiences caused by this child to other children in our home. As well as death threats toward our older family members, and there was plans to follow through. Yes, at a very young age!!!
We have had to install monitors, bells, alarms, etc to keep everyone in the home safe, including this child.
These poor families–pray for them–have had CPS, the state, and their own families turn their backs on them. Here they are, bearing the horrific effects of violent abuse done by others to their children, and we as society turn a cold shoulder to them.
God, please help them.
People are suffering like this all over our country. The resources are scant for them. And make no mistake, these children don’t just disappear when they become adults. Their trauma and lack of secure attachment inexorably lead to disaster, for themselves and the people they encounter in life.
Forged in the Fire
Rather than being split apart by our experience, Katie and I were brought even closer together. That was only by God’s grace alone. We needed each other to be firing on all cylinders every hour, every day.
We were a team, acting in concert without even having to talk about it: intervening with this child here, giving that child special time there, doing therapeutic parenting with this child now, one of us taking all the children to give the other a break for an hour. We had learned a raft of techniques, therapies, gentle ways of defusing a child who was escalating out of control to hysteria.
Several months after all this, when Alice had gone to her new family, we were sitting in a diner with Edmund and Josephine, having lunch. They were being their normal wiggly and boisterous selves, as all babies and toddlers are when having to sit somewhere for a half hour. And Katie and I were parenting them as we always did, with all that we had learned from parenting our children, including the ones we had had with special needs.
I stepped away to take Edmund to the restroom. When I came back, Katie said: “Did you see that man sitting in the booth behind us? About sixty years old? Well, guess what he said as he was leaving. He said, ‘You two are the best parents I’ve ever seen.’ And he walked out of the cafe.”
Now, maybe he just needed to get out more. And I don’t claim to be the best parent. So many faults and blind spots and failings. But, I mention this for two reasons: 1) because through caring for our special needs children, we have learned a lot about parenting, and 2) because in spite of all we learned, we were not able to overcome our children’s traumas and connect with them.
There is Hope
People overcome trauma, overcome PTSD, overcome RAD, overcome ODD. God can heal people. And He does. Just because we weren’t able to make our family situation work as we wanted to, doesn’t mean that will happen to others. We received many comments and messages from adoptive families who had conquered their child’s RAD and connected with them. Hallelujah sing to Jesus! I mean, amen to that.
Some described us as a “horror story.” I didn’t see it that way, and don’t now. Because we were able to get help and make the best decision for all involved. It becomes a horror story when people don’t get the help they need.
So, if you are thinking about adoption, remain full of hope. Be prudent and discerning, and make the best decision with all the information that you can obtain. Thank you again for your thoughtfulness and kindness.