What do you wish you knew back then?
So, I have an acquaintance who is interested in adopting an older, waiting child. I have known her superficially for years, but I do not know her well, and she came to me asking questions, and I thought I would pose it to you guys:

If you could go back, and talk to yourself at the start of your adoption journey, what do you wish you knew?

I am interested in ALL answers, good, bad, ugly, whatever. I already told her my answer, and I am curious about yours.
I will answer my own question to start. Smile

I feel like I got quite a bit of information and training on what the child would go through, what feelings they would be having, what behaviors to expect... but I was completely unprepared for how I would feel. If I could go back and talk to myself, preadoption, I would tell myself to be prepared for heartbreak. For more pain, fear, anger, uncertainty, and sorrow than I had ever felt before. I would have told myself that there would be days I thought I was the crazy one, days I was certain I had lost it completely.

AND, I would have told myself to never take parenting advice from friends with biokids. I did that, in moments of weakness and craziness when I was questioning everything I thought I knew, and it set us both back. I would tell myself to only lean on parents who had parented traumatized kids.
i wish i would have understood just how much hurt, pain, and grief a child could have. i wish i could have understood just how much hurt a hurting child could dish out in an effort to control their life. i wish i would have known that when someone said "fake it til you make it" in regards to love and attachment that i would have believed i would have to actually do it....and that i would have actually had to do it for YEARS before the real stuff kicked in.
On the lines of Mommyto Eli.....but worse, I suppose. The adoption of our older children (all three failed in some way)......was, (I hate to admit) one of the most misjudeged mistakes of my life. My dh and I talk about this from time to time. He doesn't feel as strongly as I do, but I still feel this overall.

I majored in psychology. I also had my associates in elementary ed/special ed. I was teaching behaviorally disordered kids (K-12) and THOUGHT I'd seen it all; knew so much of what to expect. Maybe that was the problem. Maybe I thought things would be 'this way'...and they really were 'that way'. But why wouldn't I think otherwise?

I honestly never thought having kids with such disorders would totally tear up the relationships we had with our other children (pre-teen when they came.....adopted as babies). I never realized how horrible life could be;...even if there were times when we felt we were making a difference with them. I literally prayed one day for God to put it all back like it was! And if that means I'm a horrible parent, so be it. I couldn't take the RAD---severe RAD.....when the DCF had lied to us about the severity of the child's mental illnesses and behaviors. (And we have the tons of paperwork that was withheld from us that truly WOULD Have made a difference in whether we brought the child home or not.)
I never realized how lonely and isolated parenting a child with such disregard to anyone/everything could be. Never realized how people would judge us, thinking child behaviors surely MUST be because we weren't loving the child enough.

Sadly, I have to say there is no amount of money that would convince us to adopt an older child again. A billion a month wouldn't even do it. That said, I DO know there are successful older child adoptions. I"ve read it; I know people who've done it.

But I also know from talking to others, hearing from others, reading from others...that the adoption of older children IS NOT like adopting an infant. It more often than not requires that the parents take on a different role of parenting. It sometimes means the child will never truly be a part of the family in the sense the adoptive parents have truly hoped for...but that their role will be one of supervision, counseling and just a help whenever the child is truly in trouble.
So sad, but true so much of the time.....

Most Sincerely,

There is an instinct in a woman to love most her own child - and an instinct to make any child who needs her love, her own. ~Robert Brault
We thought we were prepared.

We believed the cw's and other professionals knew what they were talking about, and that they would be honest and transparent with us.

We thought we knew what we could handle.

We thought that grief had an end point, and that emotional trauma would, too.

We thought we were done adding to the family. Twice. (...and we're on our third time of being done, but I think this time we really are.)

Now we know that all of the above are only parts of the whole, and that it all changes just when you think you it won't.
I wish I had understood that love can't cure all hurts.

I wish I knew the depth of the pain and fear a child can feel at such a young age.

I wish someone had told me that that happiest day in my life was just another of the worst day in theirs.
Geez tough question! I would tell someone "Run, you fool!" lol

No really I feel the same as you. No one prepared us on how to deal with OUR feelings and emotions. I mean, we can't control what issues/behaviors/fears/hurts our kids have. We can't love them better. We can't change their personality or actions or what happened to them before they came to us.
What we CAN control is how we respond to them. And, I believe, that means mentally preparing ourselves to deal with OUR own sometimes unexpected emotions.
I would approach a prospective adoptive parent with hope, enthusiasm and permission to be HUMAN!!!!
I wish I would have known excatly how hard it would be to hear a child describe the abuse they suffered. NOTHING is worse then hearing a 4 yr old tell you about being sexually abused. The only thing I think of that is close to being as bad is hearing that the person who done it got away with it, because " He said he didn't do it, and they can't make him take a lie detector".
I wish they would have told us just how patient and flexible we would need to be. That yelling at a kid to "shut up" in the middle of anything when they are stressed out WILL NOT do either of you an favors. I wish someone would have said, "Be prepared to be in the middle of grocery shopping and your child sees a guy that looks like their birth dad and totally freaks out so you have to leave the store with a tantruming child that needs to be held and told they are safe.... and no groceries!"

I know how strong a couple and how strong a person my husband and I are... and there were several couples in training with us that I truly DO NOT think could handle even the mild behaviors we have to deal with.

You need to go into fostering with reading these forums for MONTHS before you have a placement but know that even reading everyone else's experiences, yours will be different... but you should be prepared for anything that ends with "disorder".
arkansas parent said it really.

Nothing can prepare you for horrendous disclosures of abuse. My 15 year old telling me what had been done to her tore my heart out and ripped it up..but you can't close off. You have to keep listening and hugging and then they feel safer and make more discloures.. and you have to let your heart get ripped out and torn up again..adn then again..and more times. I am in counselling now myself because at nearly 25 she still finds the courage to tell me more, and I got 'secondary trauma'. I didn't deal at all.

I wish someone had told me about secondary trauma in the first place, then I might have recognised the signs sooner than I actually did

I wish I had been prepared for the total lack of understanding from most adults you come across - who give useless unwelcome aprenting advice, and blame your childrens problems on you!

I wish i had known exactly how bad some of the kids experioences are - when I did the prep courses in 1995 adoption was presented as a fairy story where the kids and their new parents walk off into the sunset together with no problems. I knew some abused children and knew there would be problems and didn't totally believe the instructors but still.. i didn't realise the levels of abuse they suffer. I imagined some neglect and physical abuse and if someone said 'sexual abuse' i would think of touching only and I would have thought about school aged children. Not younger.

The reality of abuse though is finding out that your girl when she was only three was raped by several people at the same time, then her own parents just laughed about it and called her 'a slut'.

The reality is knowing that your child was being prostituted at 4 nearly every day

The reality is knowing that to keep their baby siblings alive your child had to chew their siblings food for them, then spit into their mouths - because no one else would feed them

And never be under the impression that these are sweet nervous kids who just need loving and bringing out of their shells..because that isn't the case. They are really angry, often aggressive, hurting kids who need therapy and therapeutic parenting, and dedication x infinity

There's more but that's the most imprtant bit i think...
I wish I'd known then how much it would hurt me to have to help a child grieve for someone who was so abusive to them.
Barksum said...
I wish I'd known then how much it would hurt me to have to help a child grieve for someone who was so abusive to them.

I agree. I understood to an extent... because my parents divorced, I love my step dad, and my father is useless but I would still find myself defending him.

It is SO hard to love a child so much, know that you want them to heal, do everything to help them, and despite the abuse, neglect, and wrongness their birth families did... they are the ones that get put on a pedestal!

It's very hard to hear my 6 year old defend her Birth Mom's actions. I know one day she will understand more and we can talk bluntly with her... but right now it is hard!
Adopting an older child is difficult....very difficult. We read everything about attachment/bonding, etc., and we were still not prepared.

As much as it sounds harsh, I'd never adopt beyond infancy again. I never, ever expected it to be this hard, and from what I've read, hers is mild compared to some others.

Are there successful older child adoptions? Yes. I think if our child had been an only child in our home, it might have been easier. Dealing with her attachment issues and such a demand on our time was hard on all of us....especially our other children.
I wish I knew how strong I really am.
If there was only one thing I wish I knew back then, it would be to trust myself and realize that my heart is not capable of making sound, logical decisions. I would run when my brain screamed run.
I would also like to have known that the information I received about a child is only as trustworthy as my gut feeling about the child's caseworker.
And I would like to have known that bells and whistles going off in my head were not paranoia and "normal jitters".
I would have let people close to me read the disclosure on potential children because, really, it's difficult to be objective about a child with stars in your eyes. Outsiders see so much more clearly and can tell you that you are truly insane. Happy
But most of all, I would have like to have known how truly amazing and fulfilling it was when my son picked me to be his mom and how the rough journey of the past was well worth it all just to meet him.
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