Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Can you really return a child?

Melissa and Tony Wescott are afraid of their son. They're so afraid of the boy they adopted that they're trying to have Oklahoma law changed so that they can return him to the state's care.
"He tried to burn our home down. The note said, 'I'm sorry you had to die,'" Melissa Wescott told "Good Morning America."
She said she and her husband have found butcher knives under his mattress and lighters hidden in his bedroom.
The Wescotts' 11-year-old son has been locked up in a psychiatric hospital in Tulsa, Okla., for nearly a year. But now doctors say he's not a danger to himself or anyone else, and the boy is scheduled to be released from the hospital next month

This story absolutely breaks my heart. I cried both times I watched the clip above. I was actually planning on doing a post on adoption before I read about this, but my mind still hasn't worked itself out to the point where I can coherently express myself.

The reason this story affected me so much is because as an adoptee, I know what it feels like to be told that your getting sent back. From age 12 until I was a legal adult (18 years old) my adoptive mother constantly threatened to call CAS (the Canadian equivalent to CPS) and have me removed from her care.

But here's the thing, I never threatened to burn down the house, or threaten to kill her. Actually, the opposite is true. I was a normal kid who didn't always clean my room when I was supposed to. Somehow fights over me cleaning my room would lead to her kicking me out of the house, or threatening to call CAS. From age 12 on, I had to beg friends parents to let me stay over, or if that didn't work wander the streets until morning and see if I would be allowed back into the house.

One time things got really bad, and after fighting my amother told me to get into the car (I didn't dare disobey her). She was going to drop me off at CAS. On the way she got so angry that she threatened to crash the car into a concrete pole, because she felt it was better off if she were dead. I guess she felt that I had to die too. She swerved the car away from the pole at the last second...

The horrible part is I ended up bawling and begging her to take me back home. Now that I'm an adult, I realize that was probably one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. But I was 12! How is a 12 year old really supposed to know whats best for her? I had issues, but for the most part I was a good kid! Most of the issues I had as a kid were probably due to the stress caused by living in such a crazy environment. The worst I did was skip class, and smoke weed every now and again. While some of my friends ended up snorting coke, and eventually smoking crack, I never once tried any sort of hard drugs. I got through high school only because I was smart enough that I didn't really need to study and I was lucky enough to have incredibly understanding teachers that understood that I had issues at home and didn't make a huge issue about my attendance.

I'm spending Christmas with friends instead of "family". There's not much "family" anyway - my grandfather passed when my amother was 3, and my grandmother passed away a few years ago (she is the only person in my afamily that I considered actual family). My amother never married. She has a sister she doesn't talk to because she's "crazy", and my aunt and uncle live on the other side of the country. I'm not really close to any of my cousins, even though one lives not too far from me.

I'm not really family to them any more than they are family to me. A few years back, my grandmothers family put out a family tree book. Every family member had a little section in the book with a few paragraphs dedicated to them...that is everyone except for me. I was mentioned as my amothers "chosen" daughter.

After getting into an argument with my amother about an incredibly rude and hurtful comment she made which she refused to apologize for making (I shouldn't say that, she did but it was more to the tune of "I'm sorry if you were offended by what I did, but I don't think I was being offensive...") I asked her why she bother adopting me in the first place. She responded by telling me she was tired of me bullying her about adopting me, and that I needed to get over it...

She's probably right. I probably should just get over it, and I'm probably making a big deal out of nothing. But there's a part of me that thinks that's probably all bullshit.

I know the situation with this little boy is different. My birth mother never abused me, I was 17 days old when I was adopted. She didn't drink or smoke during her pregnacy, in fact for the 17 days that I was hers she even breastfed me. I know she must have loved me if she was willing to bond that way with her child knowing she may never see her again. She gave me up because she wanted me to have a better chance at life in the North.

Still, I think its even more troubling that these parents want to give this child back knowing all that he has been through. Does this child not still deserve to be loved? Will no one fight for him? Will nobody give him a chance? All he's probably known is trauma and horror, I can't imagine what being kicked out his new family will do to him.

I've cried enough for tonight, I'll write more later.


Cricket said...

I found your blog through Google Reader...and it really spoke to my heart. My amother also told me that she wanted to send me back on more than one occasion and it's obviously affected in ways I'm not even sure of yet.

I look forward to reading more of your blog...

In peace,

Miss Fizzy said...

Are they alllowed to say things like that to you? Isn't that psychologically damaging? I can't really say I know what you went through but I hate that you had to go through what you did. You did not deserve that torture! You were a kid for crying out loud! I hope you never blame yourself for how she treated you. It appears she has the issues and not you. I plan to adopt as soon as I can and I pray to God that I'll be a good mother.

BLACKkittenROAR said...

@Cricket and Miss Fizzy
Welcome, and thanks for stopping by and commenting.
I always enjoy connecting with other adult adoptees. I'm the same in that I'm only just now realizing the affects of what my amother put me through, and I'm sure I'm only discovering the tip of the iceberg.
@Miss Fizzy
Yes, it was incredibly damaging. Not everyone is cutout to be a mother, but I'm sure you'll be fine

Miss Fizzy said...

Thank you :) Thank you for stopping by my blog too. I responded to your comment there. I really appreciate the advice. I know I have a lot to learn, but I'm hoping that if I do it for the right reasons and with love in my heart, everything will fall into place.

Francis L. Holland Blog said...

Hi, BKR (I hope you don't mind that abbreviation),

I don't quite know what to say. Your mother had to be depressed and overwhelmed to threaten to un-adopt you, and even more so to threaten to run the car into a pole. It seems to me that you grew up with a mother who wasn't all there psychologically. And yet, at times like that, she psychologically abused you.

As someone who grew up in my biological family, I think I can say that, while the experiences are drastically different, yet it's just as possible to emerge psychologically damaged from a biological family as from an adoptive family.

I have a relative who was adopted by relatively wealthy parents, (which seemed pretty good to me at the time) and yet s/he fits into our family quite well in terms of what we experienced as children and the effects it had.

I think the most important distinction is between dysfunctional families and functional, healthy ones, rather than adoptive vs. biological ones.

I haven't been very close to my family over the years, because I think having a healthy "family of choice" (people whom you choose to be close to because they support you emotionally and are not abusive but instead are nurturing toward you. A family of choice is a place to learn what it means to be part of a functional family, by living it a day at a time.

All spouses are members of our families of choice, because we couldn't end up married to them unless, at some point, we chose to do so.

If someone in my family of choice becomes a crack addict and starts stealing and selling all of his family's possessions, that person's not going to remain in my family of choice with that behavior.

And, biological family or not, I'm not going to keep engaging with someone who's abusive to me just because they happen to be somehow related to me by blood.

They say, "Blood is thicker than water," but then motor oil and pancake mix are thicker than water as well.

Francis L. Holland Blog said...

Oh, yeah. Because the color of the type at this blog is the same in places as the color of the photo behind the type, I often find it hard or impossible to read what has been said. Isn't there some other way or place to put the picture (the three television heads) where it won't obscure the letters in the your posts and readers' comments?

BLACKkittenROAR said...

I could make the background scroll instead of having it fixed...but I don't want to do that because it changes the feel and the atmosphere of the blog. I may try changing the colour (probably to pink) of the fonts, but other than that it all depends on the size of the computer and the browser that you use. I know when I'm on my roommates mini laptop I have to use Google Chrome in order to view anything properly. There should be some space above the pic where it should be easy to read (I usually scroll the text into that space as I read).

Its possible that my mother may have been depressed, but I think instead its more than probable she was/is suffering from some other sort of psychological disorder (bipolar, narcissistic personality disorder...I don't know much about either, but she certainly exhibited traits of both). Growing up with someone who behaved as she did most definitely was emotionally draining.

I have no idea how I would fit into my natural family (my birth mother was Vincentian), since my mother made sure my cultural roots were essentially severed (she refers to it as raising me "Canadian"). Just a question, was ur family member adopted by Black people, or non-Blacks? Or more specifically Americans or non-Americans?

I'm sorry, but I completely disagree with you when it comes to what this discussion should be about. Yes, both natural and adoptive families can be dysfunctional, BUT the dysfunction of an family touched by adoption should not be compared to that of natural families.

BLACKkittenROAR said...

I think its incredibly arrogant of people who aren't adoptees (that includes adoptive parents) to make the assumption that somehow adoption is not that big of a deal, and therefore shouldn't be the primary topic of discussion. My experiences with my amother were not only traumatic because what she did was damaging, but because I was adopted and had already once been abandoned had a much deeper impact and effect.

Being raised by ones biological parents is a privilege, a privilege that not everyone is fortunate enough to experience. Natural families may be toxic, but at the end of the day you still know where you came from, your culture and your roots, your medical are part of something...a group, a tribe, that has a shared history.

Katherine said...

It's horrible that you had to go through that with your adoptive mother. And you are absolutely not making a big thing out of nothing - if anything, you are minimising something huge!

I can only imagine how psychologically damaging such behaviour could be to a 12 year old, but well done on coming out of the other end able to write about it with such eloquence.

And on a slightly different note - how on earth could you have been bullying her to adopt you if you were adopted when you were 17 days old? Did I misunderstand, or was it a really horribly nasty comment about the conditionality of her parental regard for you?

BLACKkittenROAR said...

(we spell our name the same way!)
From where I stand, it was a really horribly nasty comment made without any thought behind it.

I was very lucky in that I had a very loving grandmother whom I credit as having raised me well, and so I was able to come out of everything not completely lost.

Eva said...

The behavior that you're describing (your mother's that is) sounds very much like emotional abuse to me. I'm sure she does love you, but that no one should be put through shit like that. Throwing a kid out at 12 or threatening to kill yourself and her? Those are not ever acceptable forms of behavior. They are also not tied to be adopted (I know people who suffered similarly in their biological families) and you in no way deserved them.

You might want to consider talking over some of your difficult experiences as child with a councilor. It's the sort of stuff that can continue hurt you, long after the fact, and mess with your adult relationships.

BLACKkittenROAR said...

I'm very sure that some of my childhood memories have affected my adult relationships in the past, but there comes a point where one has to learn to forgive and grow from their experiences. I know things like this happen in biological families too, but I really do question the motives behind my amother using such a threat in those specific instances. Had I been her child by blood, would things have been any different? I don't know, but I'm not ruling it out either. In my experience, biological parents who threaten to surrender their children to the state actual mean it. I knew a few kids (one whom I was very close to) who ended up living in foster care for a time. My amother I do not believe ever meant it, but used it as a way to control me and keep me in line.

TheDeviantE said...

I currently work/intern at my state's CPS, I asked my boss about adoption (both because I'm interested in maybe doing it one day, and to learn about the system). She says that a lot of foster parents are pressured into adopting, and it's totally the wrong choice. Additionally she told me a story about someone that had adopted a kid, and then a few years later managed to (finally) get pregnant and really *did* give back the adopted child.

The whole adoption/foster child system is so incredibly screwed up, and I don't know how to fix it because there are just clearly not enough people out there who want to adopt/foster kids who aren't jackasses. Adopted children are just legitimately children, the thought of *ever* threatening to "send someone back" is just....

I'm sorry that that happened to you.

Hobo Mama said...

I came here from the Carnival of Feminist Parenting and I just wanted to say how heartbreaking that must have been for you. As a parent now, I know how challenging it can be to hold it all together and be the emotionally mature one — but the fact is, it was your amother's responsibility, and she really failed you on that one. I feel so bad for the kid in the clip you referenced as well. What a terrible thing to feel so rejected. Thank you for sharing your story.

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