Working with clients who have been adopted and/or been a ward of the courts, and clients who gave children up to adoption, as well as my own experience in the system, has led me over the years to notice some common issues/beliefs.
There seems to be overwhelming attachment issues with folks from the system. Some of these symptoms are wanting to be loved instantly by people who come into our lives, pushing people away before they can leave you, (push/pull scenario), and/or not trusting at all. My mother told me a story about me shortly after I was adopted at age 5; she went into the bathroom and closed the door, (rightly so), and I apparently sat right outside the door upset because I thought she may never come back out and I would be alone again.
The above mentioned issues don’t just occur for the adoptees, but happen with birth parents when their birth children present themselves. The birth parent is oft times reluctant to engage in a warm, encompassing relationship. They talk about their feelings of guilt, which they thought were buried. They talk about the guilt they feel for their current family should they want a relationship with their birth child. They have talked about how to untangle this new relationship because they see how it doesn’t fit and doesn’t work. There are just as many trust issues from this perspective as from the adoptee’s perspective.
Anger is another common thread amongst those who were or are in the system. Anger towards the birth parents, towards the Ministry, towards foster care givers and homes. Some adoptees did not end up in healthy homes. I did, I was one of the lucky ones. So imagine the compound effect of already feeling worthless or less than and then having people take you in only for the money and abuse you time after time. How does one overcome that?
Passive behaviour is another result of being adopted or in the system. If you believed as a child that it was your fault that you were put into care, then being an agreeable child may seem to be the answer. Unfortunately this communication/personality style carries on into adulthood. This is really feelings of unworthiness and low self-esteem born out of incidents that should never happen to a child, and incorrect thinking.
All of us from the system are and were wonderful people who got lost somewhere along the way. I know of many adoptive people who have wonderful relationships with both their adoptive family and their biological family. What a wonderful gift. The reality is that I know many many more who are broken and sad from being abused through the system.
How can they love themselves when they feel that the person who gave birth to them didn’t love them? In many cases the birth parent did love you, loved you so much that they wanted you to have a better life. Then there is the birth parent who used adoption as a means of birth control, like in my situation where there were 5 of us from 4 different men all given up. Two of those 5 were never even taken home from the hospital. Then there is the birth parent who have their children taken from them either at birth or in early years due to the birth parent’s addictions, abuses, inadequacies.
Whatever the reason someone ends up in the system, it is imperative that society as a whole love that child, make them feel special, attach, even if slowly, but always, always, let that child know they are wanted. After all, children are our future.