This post is about adoption of teens in foster care. Right now I don't have the brain cells to consider implications for adoption in any other situation. It is also written from the perspective of a foster and potentially adoptive parent. (Yeah, our voices get heard the most. Here's one more.) Anyway, I'm going to try to stay away from the particulars with Gary. Though that is obviously what's on my mind, I'm going to try to write a post about what teen adoption.
Friday, August 07, 2009
The main reason for adopting a teen is to give that youth permanency. It is a legally binding promise to be there. It can be dissolved, but it is difficult to do so. I think Gary knows that our commitment to him is already there. Like marriage though there are legal rights that come with adoption. We would be his next of kin, which is handy when you are sick. When we die, he would get a share of our stuff. There would also be the advantage of not being in foster care anymore. Even with an agency as good as ours, there are still inconveniences and stigmas. Nobody else has to deal with someone they never met showing up and saying, "Hi, I'm your new social worker. I'm going to meet with you every month and ask you if you are happy."
It's sort of creepy.
But there's stuff that adoption does not do.
Even if Will was never Gary's genetic father, and even if he ceases to be his legal father, he will always be the man who was his father. Gary is who he is, in part because this man was his dad. Whatever that means, it won't go away. Termination of parental rights is more like a divorce than an annulment.
I don't think we foster/adoptive parents always get that. The first parents and always still the first parents. David's mother lost her parental rights when David was about twelve, I think. David never wanted to see his mother. He called social workers and expressed his concerns about the possibility of his brothers having visits with her. He refused to go places if he thought he might see her.
And he never called her anything other than, "my mom."
He said, "I never want to see my mom again" and "my mom isn't even legally my mom anymore."
I saw that in Gary today. He said things like, "my dad isn't my biological dad anyway. I don't think it really makes a difference if he has parental rights. My dad hasn't been in my life for years."
I kept hearing "my dad."
I said to him, "You know, in some ways, no matter what happens, he will always be your father."
Gary looked at me confused. I said, "He will always be the man who was your father. He is part of what made you who you are. Whatever is good or bad about that will still be true. He will still be the man who was your father."
In the US, when we adopt someone we falsify their birth certificates. We often change their names. We sometimes act as though we can re-write their past. What came before didn't happen, doesn't matter. Or if it does, it is over. We act like the adoptive parents replace the first parents.
We don't. Not really. We substitute for them or succeed them.
Our relationship with our children may be precious and wonderful, and maybe even help them heal, but it does not change the past.
No matter what the birth certificate says.