Dear Adoption Agency

Letter #1: I read this thread http://poundpuplegacy.org/node/45548#comment-25698 (several times).  I feel that I have to chime in, as I find myself in a position I never thought I would find myself in. I have no help, no one to turn to, only a few close friends to hear me out. It has been a downhill roller coaster ride for awhile now.

We adopted a 5-year old girl six years ago via ICA. Little did we know what was ahead of us. Both my husband and I are professionals, we are educators as well, we come from pretty stable families. Our agency did little to discourage the adoption of our daughter, but instead encouraged it as we adopted previously her newborn brother. We were not made aware of the issues that adopting an older child would have on all our lives.

Our home is a stable two parent home, we have a loving, caring, patient and fun home. We are very present parents who give our children alot of attention. We have given our daughter everything that any other upper middle class girl could have and probably even more. She has had dance lessons, gymnastics lessons, swim lessons, yoga, horse back riding lessons, has participated in team sports, arts and crafts classes and has even attended private schools. We moved her to the public school system this year with disastrous results. Much of we were not prepared for. Our daughter at home is quiet and respectful. She is not hyperactive at all.
She is very athletic and artistic, and social. She is an easy child who does not ask for anything. She is very pretty and gentle and reserved. And yet....

Little by little, she has become more and more unstable. This Spring she tried to kill herself, she has depression and or is angry, she has stolen from other people and lied to us. She suffers from grief and loss, she has difficulty learning, she has speech issues, she dissociates...and on...and on.

We have diagnosis coming at us left and right from RAD, to mental illness, to depression to anger, to MR, to LD, to FAS/FAD/ARND, grief and loss to whatever other alphabet soup of diagnosis is out there. It depends on how she is and what she has done. I gather that each doctor or specialist would label her differently throughout her life. That is a reality that APs/parents have to prepare themselves for.

The problem is, we still don't have a diagnosis because getting an appointment is a feat in itself. We get suggestions from a pediatrician and each diagnosis morphs into another or one gets ruled out. The problem is, there really hasn't been a true diagnosis, it is very difficult to get one and thus medication or treatment. There are not that many good child psychiatrist, even harder to find a good RAD specialist that does not involve holding therapy. I refuse to go to any therapist that is either going to rebirth our child or have her sit on my laps while she eats a cheerio off my nose (actually therapy suggestion).

We have been waiting for an appointment with a specialists for four months already. When she had a meltdown and suffered from suicidal ideation, the pediatrician wanted her hospitalized long term to get a diagnosis, the problem is that no hospital in our state would take a child under 12. She had already been hospitalized in an Acute Unit at a Behavioral Center but the length of stay is only 3-5 days. The pediatrician wanted her at a longer term stay to stabilize her. He had her on Zoloft but did not work, so he did not want to give her any meds until she got a diagnosis and left that to the child psychiatrist. So long story short, she is home with us, not on any medication and not getting therapy. Truly, a 45 minute session where she is a read a story about how a Princess finds her forever family and live happily ever after is not going to help her at all. This is the reality that we are facing. We are told by our pediatrician in the mean while, to watch her all the time, as we cannot predict what she will do. Keep in mind, we have younger children in our home.

Do you think we are drained, exhausted, hurt and desperate? You bet. Who wouldn't? ANY parent (AP or Bio) who wants to get help for their child because they need it and can't get the help that they need, feels hopeless.

I am sure that the school experience of anyone with a child who has mental illness, has not been pleasant either. The schools are neither equipped to deal with the needs of a traumatized child nor ...care. They have the avg child to teach. She was placed in special education classrooms even though she is not Special Ed, this just made matters worse. That was the schools way of dealing with her. Keep in mind, she is an easy child and very quiet. She is not disruptive nor difficult, just not working on grade level and has speech issues. Her first suicide attempt did happen on school grounds. Little was done by school officials to ensure her safety. We are still speechless about this.

I finally got an appt with the geneticist (the wild goose chase begins) for...September. September people!

Still waiting on getting a Child Psychiatrist appointment.

So I have a child who had suicidal ideation, stole, lied and is angry and suffering from grief and loss and not on any meds and is a ticking time bomb .....and with no treatment.

My main purpose of what I post is not about leaving a child in a RTC place and walking away, but about getting appropriate help. I think that whether a parent is either an AP or bio the lack of appropriate RTC, hospitalizations (fyi- some Univ hospitals charge the AP after 3 days, most insurances do not cover that), the lack of specialists or trained therapists in RAD who can distinquish between RAD, mental illness and FAS/FAE/ARND and are aware of how grief and loss and trauma affect the adopted child...is LIMITED.

I have not encountered yet when the insurance runs out yet, I have no idea what happens then. I can see a parent faced with a enormous bill of over $100k a year for life, with a child who needs help and is putting the family at risk, feeling desperate. Placing a child as ward of the state to cover health care costs is not an easy decision. I refuse to believe that any human being would be able to do so without much grief in arriving at that point.

Keep in mind, we are talking about children traumatized and who shouldn't have been adopted in the first place, because with or without adoption, the end is the same.

I think PAPs don't realize this. I don't think that those not dealing with this situation first hand don't realize this. And how to the stresses of living in America, schools, assimilation, racism just compounds the whole situation. They are not going to adapt without it affecting already compounded issues that the child already has.

The AP having then to make the decision to place the child as a ward of the State is truly for (to use that overused adoption agency jargon saying) "in the best interest of the child" at this point.

It is a combo of safety for the whole family and the APs being totally drained. What AP or parent is equipped to deal with a child diagnosed like this and with no light at the end of the tunnel? Mental illness does not get the attention that it needs. How many Sandy Hook Elementary school incidents does it have to take to make people realize that people with mental illness need help?

But I agree with you that why then does the AP drop out of a child's life? Can't they visit? Then why did the bioparent drop out of the child's life? Can't they cope or visit? Unless, the child has no connection at all or has hurt the AP/parent or the other children in the house, and is in some catatonic state of mind, then I can see not wanting to visit. How many of you have sat in a mental hospital visitation hour in a group setting with your child who does not want to communicate with you and clearly does not want you there? The parents also have other children at home to keep safe and raise and add the necessity of having to work as things that they have to deal with. Maybe so much pain has happened that it hurts even more to the see the child/teen/adult child? Sometimes being there hurts the child who is trying to heal. And at some point, the teen/young  adult can choose not to see the AP. Will people dealing with this patient 30 years from now, know all that has transpired years before?

So what are we suppose to do now? At no point did our adoption agency even hint that older adopted children have trauma. At no point did our adoption agency even give a hint that we may face problems. At no point did our adoption agency tell us that there will be no help if we needed it at some time. At no point did our adoption agency let us know that our child would suffer severe grief and loss, depression, anger, had speech issues that would contribute negatively to her self esteem, or learning issues, poor working memory, no remorse, no conscience and try to kill herself and wind up stealing and lying and who may have or be MR or or have RAD or have FAS or FAE or ARND or suffer from major depressive disorders or is psychotic or a sociopath or just may be that she does not want this life. And now what? We love her and care about her but are we prepared for this? Can we deal with this long term? There is a possibility that this is a child that will never be independent, are we able to support her indefinitely until she is old? Where is the money going to come for treatment centers and a slew of drs? What about if we have to hire an attorney because she gets arrested? To match a child with such severe needs to an unknowing family is cruel. Even crueler is what the system has done to this child, taken them from their home yet provide no assistance to cope with the decisions made by unknown adults about her life and where she would wind up.

I don't know....but what I do know is that now, I have a totally different perspective about all of this. I can't judge others by reading only blurbs of anyone's story which usually has much more depth and twists and turns than is being written about. I don't know how our story will end, but we will give her all the help she needs and be there for her.

I cannot cast any stones, as I live in a glass house.

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What DID the agency do?

Before I launch into the topic I see most concerning, I'd like to thank you for sharing some of your spiraling experience.  It takes a lot of bravery and courage to do so..  After all, not that many people in Adoptionland want to hear about the dark side of the adoption experience.  But it's out there -- and people have the right to be told, and warned.

I'm not all that surprised to read a list that includes all that an adoption agency did NOT do for APs or adoptees.  In fact, one of the most common and disturbing complaints I get from overwhelmed APs centers around this little gem: 

Our agency did little to discourage the adoption of our daughter, but instead encouraged it as we adopted previously her newborn brother. We were not made aware of the issues that adopting an older child would have on all our lives.

I know several adopters who agreed to adopt more than they wanted to take... because they felt pressured and bullied by the "facilitators" from the adoption agency.

Coercing people to adopt... so an agency can brag about their increasing number of "permanent placements".  Isn't that great?  Too bad so many of these kids placed through Big-Name agencies end-up in institutions -- RTCs.

My question(s) to you is, how did you find this agency?  What made you choose it, in the first place?  (What DID they do for you?) And ....is this agency still in operation?

What the Agency Did

The agency before the adoption: They invited us to a "Get to Know You" session. There were APs there with the most beautiful and happy ICA babies and toddlers ever seen. How could one not melt and sign on the dotted line. There were happy videos of the orphanages. Happy Home videos of Gotcha Day. Happy Home Videos of kids at home. There were other APs to contact to tell of their happy journey. Happy Happy.

The agency after the adoption: I did call them 3 years ago to ask for help. They said that they were sorry but to contact our pediatrician for assistance. And that was it.

My question(s) to you is, how did you find this agency? 

Was told by a social worker from the county who suggested that we should do ICA instead of county fostering to adopt. This SW gave us the name of this agency.

A fellow co-worker had adopted using the same agency. Ha, I thought it was a "sign". Anyways, she did say that the agency does do the work and you won't lose your money and if a sending country closes and you have your I600, you can switch to another country without extra charge and get another referral for the PAP. They were not corrupt, she repeated to me, they were part of JCICS.  Mind you, I was a novice and for all purposes she sounded like she was talking another language.

What made you choose it, in the first place? 

It was legit, they didn't steal money, they did their placement. It was close to our home. Families got children. It was on the up and up.

(What DID they do for you?)

The PAP has to do ALL the paperwork, but they walked me through it, certified it, sent it on to the attorney/sending country. They were very good with that. They were supportive at the time of before the referral. Then they were deligent during all the process until finalization. They even provide assistance with the pick up trip, drivers, hotels, translators, transportation to USEmbassy, etc. With detail instructions of step by step of the way. Knowing how corrupt and mean and inept other agencies were, this one was good compared to them.

And ....is this agency still in operation?

Yes and no. They closed down one of their offices due to the shut down of ICA, but their other office in another state  is still open. They are still involved in ICA.

families for children

Based on what you say, I get the impression that your adoption agency delivered a decent AP-centric service to get your applications processed and assisted you in your arrangements abroad.

I wonder if your agency advertized with statements like: "finding families for children".

Dear AMom....

Several months have passed since you first wrote about your agency experience. 

I'm hoping your situation at home has improved some, for all involved. 

I'm afraid all too often, once an adoption has become final, (and the Honeymoon/adjustment period has ended), the very people who seemed to be so outgoing, knowledgeable, and supportive during the early stages of new-family planning all but turn-away and disappear, once the job of parenting becomes really hard, and not like it was described by so many others.  [While I myself never adopted, as a mom to four children, I do know how quickly some "support systems" can and will become very distant and silent, especially when times at-home get very tough, trying, and difficult, for more than a week or two.]

If there is one thing I have learned, since starting PPL, NOTHING about  ICA is as it first seems, and it's my own strong belief that there is no such thing as an adopted child without an extensive list of many Special Needs -- needs/requirements that may extend well into adulthood.   

I myself think parenting a normal healthy never-been-traumatized child is a very difficult job.  I think parenting becomes even MORE demanding and difficult if the child has experienced profound loss and trauma AND experienced the loss of a familiar culture and language.  In my mind, it would have to take a SUPER decent patient-as-all-hell person to even consider parenting an adopted child, let alone an adopted child from a foreign country.  I can't imagine anyone parenting the traumatized foreign child without YEARS of extensive supervision, training, and education.

And yet, aren't we seeing over and over again, in cases that feature extreme forms of  punishment/discipline, or re-homing, just how ILL-prepared so many APs are these days?

So what can - and should - be said to those who think adopting a foreign-born child will be very much like parenting "any normal child", even if that foreign-born child may have many extensive problems,  -- problems that may never go away?

I understand many posters on PPL would like to  remain as anonymous as possible; privacy can be very difficult to maintain especially if many of the same APs are joining/reading  the same adoption-centric information, on different adoption blogs/forums.  Nevertheless, I  was wondering, (and hoping), you'd answer a couple follow-up questions: 

  • How has your own adoption-experience affected your own thoughts about ICA, and the US-based agencies that cater to the super eager and excited PAP?  
  • If you were to write an anonymous open letter to PAPs entering an ICA agreement, what would you like them to know?  [What do you think most agencies are not telling their paying clients... the PAPs who are waiting for their "normal healthy" child -- a child who may always have extensive special needs, and a child who may never adjust to, or like, life in America?]

Dear Kerry...

Question #1: How has your own adoption-experience affected your own thoughts about ICA, and the US-based agencies that cater to the super eager and excited PAP?

My thoughts are as followed:
How can I explain this? The answer to this question both was a quick gut reaction and...at the same time something that I wanted to think about for a few days and talk honestly with myself about.

What comes to mind is "if I knew then, what I know now".

With that said, it is much much more than that. It is about growing and evolving as a human being. It is not just knowing more about a subject or topic or issue, it is going beyond that and facing oneself. One's view of the world has changed. One cannot see corruption and just turn away like it does not exist. One cannot see the greed and just turn away like it does not exist. One cannot see the destruction of families and just turn away like it does not exist. The realization that many of the children placed in ICA are NOT orphans was the most shocking experience of my life. Where do these children come from? Coercion, false representations and kidnappings were all to the same pattern of the grim reality that ICA is.

What the agency presented to us is NOT the reality.

Our child HAS a family, there was no abuse, no drugs, just poverty due to a hurricane. Our children was loved by their first family. At no point should these children have been placed in the ICA process. What my daughter endured after being separated from her first family should not be endured by anyone. She was abused post relinquishment. She then was transferred to another small orphanage after we adopted her younger sibling. Thus we were introduced to her on our final pick up trip.

Years later, finding the first family and seeing how well they function, how loving and how kind they are, it hurts me to know that these children should have never been separated from this family. Seven years have gone by, and now we have contact. I still have to tell the first mother what abuses her daughter endured during her placement in the first orphanage and what she has had to endure coming to America. ICA is not easy for a child, there is adjustments, trauma, racism and ostracism.

I am sure the agency was well aware of the practices in these sending countries, as they are documented in the US embassies overseas since the late 80s. The agencies just chose not to convey this information to the eager PAPs.

Albeit with all this said, I love my children dearly. I adore them, I love them so much and can't even think of my life without them. I also love them so much that I wish that they did not have to endure the things that they have had to endured and the great adjustments and circumstances that they have had to accept. None of which they would have had to go through if they would not have been placed into ICA.

Question #2: If you were to write an anonymous open letter to PAPs entering an ICA agreement, what would you like them to know? [What do you think most agencies are not telling their paying clients... the PAPs who are waiting for their "normal healthy" child -- a child who may always have extensive special needs, and a child who may never adjust to, or like, life in America?]

1) A child should not be given to adoption due to poverty.

2) Poverty nor natural disasters should not be a criteria for relinquishment.

3) A child should not be given to adoption because the parent was coersed. <either by convincing the parent that it is the best thing for the child, they will get an education, etc.> Remember, in many sending countries there is no concept of what adoption is in the first place. Parents think that they are sharing a child for a better life/education in America and that the child is still theirs.

Many of these children placed in orphanages are placed temporarily. The parent place them and visits them. Others have extended family. Other children are placed there because the courts have removed them due to abuse or neglect.

These children are in the country of their birth, they know the language and customs. They have a life there.

Many good hearted PAPs think that by bringing them to America they will have so much more. I agree with that, on the level that they will have so much more stuff, an education, a career, to buy more stuff. But in that process they will lose so much and feel that they don't belong.

I am not sure if it is worth it, especially for older children older than the age of babyhood. It is just too much of an adjustment.

Add the trauma of being raised in an institution, many children are just not able to make that transition and live a normal life in America.

They are not your bio born kids and they will never be like a bio born child. Especially children who have severe trauma and severe attachment disorders. It is a disability for life.

APs have to realize that they have to get help for the child they adopted, they owe them that. They also owe them to be in their lives forever. They cannot be discarded like some old broken toy. This is a human being.

I don't feel that many parents are equipped and prepared for the harsh realities that is ICA post adoption.

Adoption is not immigration. A family immigrates to the US from other countries, the child still maintains their family, their language, their customs and their sense of who they are. The child has no adoption issues.

With ICA, that is not the case. The child is in a void. Having to adapt many times against their will. If anyone has ever travelled to a new city or country, it is very hard and one misses home after the vacation has dragged on. Well, with ICA...it never ends. The child is here and many times with no support to even begin to heal. And for some who adopt older kids, after the rock star dazzle of the experience passes, the child is just another minority kid mostly living in an all white community.

What I was not prepared for was how much all of what my child was going through and the pain and racism that they endured...and how it affected me. Many times my pain has been unbearable and I have cried myself to sleep.

You have to understand that you and your immediate family may love and accept this child whatever color they are, but that may not be true in the community that you live in. This is true when your adorable baby is not an adorable baby anymore, but a teen. Add to that that people have adoption biases that will come out and you will notice them.

Adopting a newborn from whatever country makes the transition much easier because the child has only known you as parents and this life. Yet, they will still have to face many issues in their community. With that said, all adoptions are traumatic and all adoptions have issues that the child will face one day when they are older. How did they come to be relinquished? Why didn't their mother want them? What would their life be like if they were not adopted or...adopted by someone else? Trust me, your child will ask these questions one day. And...to meet their first family again and go back...home to their country of birth.

With hindsight now, I should have supported the reunification of families, supported struggling orphanages, petitioned countries to protect their families more. But I know that this is near impossible.

For those children who cannot be reunited with their families or with other family members and there is no choice but orphanage life, then better orphanage care needs to be in place. Too many times, countries wash their hands of the responsibilities of carin for their youngest and most vulnerable citizens. They also make a quick buck in the process of ICA.

The reality is that there is no central resource center for a PAP to be educated about this nor a place for them to support. How does a PAP even go about knowing all of this and supporting sending countries? I know that it has taken me years and years to get to this point.

So this is what I would tell a PAP. I would also tell them that before they sign on that dotted line, to consider the effect this will have on that child you are adopting. There may be struggles in their birth country, but don't fool yourself into believing that their won't be struggles in this country. And there will be struggles that you as the parent cannot fix nor even able to imagine right now. And sadly, you will come to realization that the child you adopted has special needs beyond your scope of comprehension or capacity to deal with. And the resources are just not there to deal with it. Neither is the medical insurance needed for life to deal with some of these children.

The average person who just wants to parent a child has no idea of the complicated issues and money making schemes behind the scenes that is ICA.

Pound Pup Legacy