What I Wish I Had Known…

Thoughts from Foster Adoptive Parents

Crystal Perkins January 16, 2014
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When I first agreed to write a book about foster adoption, I put a question out to many other adoptive parents that I know. It was a very simple question, “Before you entered into adoption, or foster care, what do you wish you had known?” The responses were overwhelming and incredibly honest. Following are some of their answers.

  • I wish I had understood my disclosure rights at placement.
  • I wish I had understood that many times kids have more problems than what their profiles say.
  • I wish I had understood that attachment problems come in all forms– mild to severe.
  • I wish I had realized how powerful nature is and had not been so convinced that environment would shape my child’s personality. I was really naive about that.
  • I wish I had known a toddler can prefer you, hug you, seek you out, and still have an attachment disorder.
  • The biggest thing I would have liked to have known is that my kids are sexually reactive. When I think this was going on for nearly a year in my home, with me not having a clue, is just appalling.
  • I wish I had known to be careful with my kid’s birth family.
  • I wish I had known what to look for in attachment issues. I wish I had known how to do attachment work right away with our kids (without waiting for their behavior to show up). I wish I had known I wouldn’t find the professional support that I needed and post-adoptive support I desperately could have used. I wish I had known that it wasn’t going to be the “perfect” family. I wish someone had had the guts to tell me the TRUTH about adoption so that I wouldn’t have been so disillusioned and heartbroken. I think I would still have gone through with the adoption, but it might have been a bit more emotionally prepared for the hard work.
  • I wish I had known that love would not be enough to heal their past hurts and trauma (even if it happens to them as a baby).
  • I wish I had known that in trying to “fix” this for her I would have to spend many hours in offices, many forms to fill out, many miles on the road, many sleepless nights, many tear-stained pillows, many chocolate bar wrappers and many days when I just ran out of words.
  • I wish that someone had told me we would not function as a family. That bringing a child into our family did not mean they were going to want to be in our family. That even though things looked good on the outside, there was a tornado brewing inside and it would be a fact that we would see it. I wish the agency had gone in depth with us about how a parent of a child with attachment issues has to live.
  • I wish I had known how deeply attachment disorder affects a child. It is really about deep, deep hurt inside the child. A broken heart beyond what love can ever reach– I was not prepared for my child to reject me from her heart every minute of every day. Every hug is met with fear. For three years she has looked for a new mom. Nothing prepared me for the feeling of that rejection. Maybe nothing ever could.
  • I wish I had followed my instincts … I wanted to quit working and be a full time mom, I wanted to hold and cuddle my three-year-old, but I was told I should wait until she “warmed up to me.”
  • I wish I had known that you couldn’t just pick up these kids and raise them like regular children … this was encouraged and as I was young and ignorant and totally driven by my heart … I didn’t know otherwise.
  • I wish I had known that there was such a thing as Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and the possibility that it could occur. We had heard a few stories in the past about children who did/could not bond, but attachment problems were never, ever addressed by our adoption advisors, and if it weren’t for a knowledgeable, helpful friend, we would probably still be wondering what is going on, and somehow blaming ourselves.
  • With my first adoption, I wish I had known that I had rights and some power. And that they wouldn’t take my son (hard to place 10-year-old) away from me because I stood up for things and asked questions. The first time around, they had me hopping, so afraid I’d do something wrong! I see that a lot with new foster parents.
  • I wish I had known more about what medical and history information I had the right (ability) to access.
  • I wish someone had told me that it was okay for social workers to have to work around my schedule, not me work around theirs.
  • I wish I’d gotten more help in the beginning with outside things, like laundry, shopping, errands, cooking, cleaning, etc. so I could focus entirely on the bonding with my kids (especially true I think, for sibling/multiple adoptions).
  • I wish someone had told me it was okay not to feel the “deep” love for my child right away and I was still a good mom and had nothing to feel guilty about.
  • I wish I had known that I needed to LISTEN to what adoptive parents and social workers said, and know that it very well could apply to ME and the kids that were coming into MY home … not just “the really bad cases,” which, of course, would be screened out and we wouldn’t pursue anyway. I also wish that the adoptive parents who shared their stories had been more specific in what they shared.
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Crystal Perkins

Crystal is the content manager for Adoption.com. In her free time, she enjoys honing her outdoor photography skills, going on hikes, and hanging out with her husband.

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