Here it is! In the last couple of weeks, besides having two sick children and an infant placed in our home with very short notice, I've had the distinct pleasure of participating in the Open Adoption Bloggers Interview Project! I was matched with Babs over at From Foster Child to Social Worker and have been amazed by her story and her passion to help others. Be sure to go check her blog out. . . she has an incredible life story--and you will understand more why I asked the questions that I did. Babs has endured more in her childhood than most of us could ever even imagine enduring in our whole entire lifetime. As you read from her blog title. . . she is now a social worker, most likely an AMAZING social worker, because she can truly relate to these children who need help, love, encouragement, consistency, relationships that are not abusive, neglectful, and damaging to the soul. So don't forget to support Babs with lots of encouragement as she continues to tell us her story. ALSO--that's where her questions for me will be posted. :0) I seriously could have written a book, but I was lacking in the time (and sleep) to get "in the zone" and focus--so please feel free to ask any more questions that may come about!
I do have to say that Babs came into my life at a very special time for a very special reason. I do believe it is God's work. She has already become a very special person to me and I look forward to getting to know her even better and using her INCREDIBLE knowledge whenever I feel I need it! Thanks Babs! :0)
And because this is such a cool project, visit Production Not Reproduction for the entire list and links to all the bloggers that have participated in this project! Happy reading! I know it is going to take me awhile to get through all of them! :0)
Here are my interview questions for Babs:
I used to work at a juvenile crisis center and it seemed that no matter how "awful" the parents may have been to their children, they always wanted their acceptance and a relationship with them--mostly that fantasy relationship that was never going to happen. I think I can come to the conclusion that your mother was abusive. How important was her relationship and acceptance to you? Would you still be seeking that relationship if she were still alive?
My relationship with my mother meant everything to me, even as an adult.(I still grieve for what could never be) I never stopped seeking her approval or acceptance until several years after she died. I know that is she were still alive I would still be engaged in trying to please her and make her proud to be my mother, even at the cost of my own mental health. Because of this knowledge, I don't think open adoptions are always in the best interest of the child. On the other hand, if the children I work with are older (teen years), I believe that open adoptions are often best because when that child turns 18, they are most likely going to seek their biological family out again. That being the case, it would be better to allow that contact to continue so that the child can be assisted in learning to cope 1. with the dysfunctional/toxic relationship that exists among the biological family members. (If they aren't taught those skills then they are less likely to have developed an ability to separate their own self-esteem, role in the family, and individual thinking patterns. And 2. I think it's important for the child to be in therapy learning to understand that their disappointment in a failed or dysfunctional relationship is not their fault or a reflection of them as a person. If they aren't allowed to continue that relationship (if they are older children), the fantasy of how things will be with their birth family at adulthood reunification will be doomed because they don't have realistic expectations.
Do you find this to be the same with the children that you work with now? (desiring that unconditional love/relationship with their parents)
Yes, without a doubt. It doesn't matter what the children experienced or how bad it was. There seems to be something inherently basic (like breathing) that without fail causes children to yearn for the love and acceptance of their parents.
How important do you think ongoing contact is even in very difficult situations (such as abuse, neglect, etc.) once children are removed from the home and possibly adopted.
I think it depends of the nature and cause of the abuse/neglect as well as the ability of the parents to make positive changes that don't continue to further cause detrimental situations and/or feelings regarding the child. Additionally, from a professional standpoint, it's important the children are protected from broken promises, manipulation, triangulation of the parents and the adoptive parents etc. Age is also a consideration. There are so many variables that I think each situation needs to be evaluated by a team of concerned parties (the adoptive parents wishes, the therapist, the child (depending on age) , the social worker etc). Some children may need to completely break ties to recover, while others need at least some communication (even if it's just yearly Christmas letters or something)
Open contact hasn't been all that difficult for us in our adoption situations partly because they are "easy" situations (as in no abuse, drugs, alcohol, etc.), partly because we are just open people and partly because our birthparents are also open and not afraid to ask us if they need/want anything. But, I do know that not everybody and every situation is like ours. Is there something you can express and reiterate why (or why not) openness and honesty is important no matter how difficult or easy the situation might be.
I think that if it's a workable situation, that honesty and openness are a very big part of having a healthy self identity. I have found that children who either find out they were adopted later, or that their parents lived across town and they never were able to just check in and know a.) what kind of person their parents were/are and if they are "okay" and b). that they were loved by all parties involved (or not which they need to be allowed to deal with) often develop trust issues, identity issues, emotional and reactive issues that could have been avoided or minimized.
Please note that by me using the word "easy", I am not saying that adoption is easy. I am using the term to generalize situations that don't have an excessive amount of complications involved. (Like things such as physical/sexual/verbal abuse, substance abuse, rape, incest, etc.) 2. How can an ordinary person (like me vs. a professional) help a child recover from traumatic happenings. I know every human is different--but from your own personal and professional experience what can people who really care do to make a difference? I know "recovery" just doesn't happen per say, as it is always ongoing. . . . and kind of a lifestyle.
A couple of things come to mind.
Be able to listen and read between the lines.
Educate yourselves and educate them... through self help books, support groups, therapy, etc.
Don't beat a dead horse. There comes a time when it's time to be normal. At the same time, recovery cycles and even the most normal of children have triggers that they may not even recognize. Why did the smell of sweet potato casserole just make me cry? Why do I suddenly feel disconnected from everyone? etc
The most single important thing though, is that a child's recovery and reactions are not personal. They need tools, they need to understand themselves and they need space to grow. Children push others away because they don't want to be hurt. They are curious about their birth families because it's natural, not because they don't love you. They may always struggle with people pleasing or pushing others away to some degree. They need to learn to recognize, develope a postive self-esteem, and still have boundaries. Don't let things slide because you feel sorry for them. Parents aren't doing their children any favors by "reactive parenting". Set the boundaries they need, but be prepared to have a lot of discussions about why they are important for their lives and the health of the family as a whole.
And finally, never give up. If one method doesnt work, try something else. Please remember that even if you think your child isn't listening, they are. They store that information. Someday it will be something they can use. Maybe not on OUR timeline, but it's not a wasted effort.
How has your childhood helped you to become a better person today?
Someone told me that everything in life I had gone through was to prepare me for my purpose. So I definately try to take lemons and make lemon-aide LoL. But it was a long journey and I still hope that I'm learning and growing every single day. I know that I have been facing some feelings I've ignored that shape decisions I make every day. I have to reflect, get feedback, be honest with myself etc.
Has it given you traits that you wish you didn't have?
Yes, I constantly need to check myself. Am I distancing myself from important relationships in my life because I don't trust as easily as others. Am I people pleasing because my self-esteem is low. Am I engaging in reactive parenting with my own children out of fear that they won't have a "good mother". There's a fine line between moving on and living a normal life and ignoring the things you need to deal with. I have to find that balance and am lucky enough to be able to recognize that. Recognition is key... then we can do the work.
Do you feel you can love and be loved?
I definately can. I think the difference with me (and I'm not speaking for others) is that I love completely or not at all. I allow you in or not at all. Beginning this blog was important for me to do because of that and is one of the reasons I've started doing it. I need to see that I can be accepted for who and where I am, history, flaws, spiritual crisis and all. I personally need to stop being embarrased about my past and my feelings. I need other people to understand that what a person has experienced shapes them. Many times people make quick assumptions or see things in black and white. (e.g you're not a Christian, so you must be a bad person or you were promiscuous as a teen, therefore you are an immoral person). I easily accepted love from my grandmother and my children. Those were easy. Other relationships have been more work. My sibling relationship, my relationship with my husband, friendships, have all seen days that I withdrew, threw up walls, etc. Luckily, they know that and wait for me. Talk to me. They give me space if I need it and are there when I'm ready. THAT is true love. So yes, I feel that I can give and receive that, but I have to work harder at it.
Do you plan to blog more about your story?
Yes, I have been stalling because I'm entering an age in my life story where I really do some bad things and I guess I'm a little scared. I promised myself I'd be as honest as I could be (although somethings will never be told, not even to my family). I might need a little prodding now and then. I'm not telling this story for sympathy because I don't need sympathy. No foster child wants sympathy fyi :) I need to know that it's helping someone else understand their children. I personally have a billion "easy" (easily answered on paper but probably not in the heart) questions that would be answered if you do! :0)