Celebrating National Adoption Month
A heartfelt piece by Alex Buchholz - Brave Care Director, Clinic Performance
When I was in my late teens, I found my birth mom on Facebook. I had a closed adoption at age 2, and aside from a few blurry pictures that came with the rest of my adoption file, I had never known what she looked like. Her Facebook photos were mostly from her photography business but there were one or two pictures of her. I stared at those pictures over and over again, mesmerized that there was someone in the world who looked so much like me. I sent her a message on Mother’s Day the year I found her, and she rapidly messaged me back. In her messages she was reserved at first, but as we messaged back and forth she became very forthcoming with stories of my first year and how it came to be that she placed me up for adoption.
My birth mom was a teenager when she got pregnant with me, my birth father was such a fleeting part of her life that she couldn’t remember his last name. At first, she tried to keep me. She struggled financially, emotionally, all with very little support. The decision to put me up for adoption was undoubtedly born out of love, but the way she described it to me is heartbreaking. She wrote in her Facebook messages of the night before the social worker came to pick me up, she described packing up all my little baby belongings and trying to keep a brave face while bathing me, feeding me dinner, and putting me to bed. The morning of, she remembers my little one year old face looking out at her from the social workers car, her last memory of me.
I cycled through several foster families before I found my forever home. Every family described me as “difficult to attach” and told my social worker they couldn’t figure out how to integrate me into their family. My social worker kept searching for a family who would want a toddler. The older a child is, the harder they are to place. Almost 62% of adoptions are within a month of the child’s birth according to the Adoption Network. Finally, my social worker remembered my adoptive parents who she had worked with on their two previous adoptions. She knew they had two young adopted daughters, a cat, and a stable home in Seattle, Washington with plum trees, raspberry bushes, neighborhood kids to play with, and extended family for extra love and support.
When the social worker called my adoptive mom and asked her if they could foster me, my mom asked about my background and learned I had been moved between foster homes for a year. I was now two years old, my mom knew if they brought me into their home and I attached, moving me again would be so detrimental to me ever attaching permanently to anyone. It took significant time for me to acclimate to my new family, my adoptive mom told me the story of taking me to play therapy where the therapist gently explained that I may not ever attach to a new family due to being separated from my birth mom at such a formative age and bouncing between several foster families for a year. However with time, love and patience I did finally attach and once I did, I found the safety and security I needed to thrive.
November is National Adoption Month which brings awareness to the need for adoptive families in the US. According to the Adoption Network , every year there are 140,000 children adopted in the US compared to the almost 430,000 in the US Foster Care System. More than 60% of children spend 2-5 years in the foster care system, some of those kids are never adopted before they age out of the system, which means some of these kids move into adulthood without meaningful family connections established. I was one of the lucky kids who found a stable home at a young age. I was placed with a family who had adopted before and who were educated on the nuances of supporting foster children and adoptive children, who believed in seeking mental health resources for kids, and who encouraged and helped me build confidence and community from a young age. Not every child in the foster care system is as lucky as I was.
This November, organizations such as Kidsave and AdoptUsKids work to create awareness around the challenges that foster and adoptive kiddos face as well as provide resources for those who want to foster, adopt or otherwise support children who need permanent homes. If you want to get involved, even if fostering or adopting isn’t right for your family, this blog post from The Everymom is a great place to start. This thoughtful post covers 5 ways to get involved during National Adoption month including ways to donate and support adoption services, advocating for more diverse adoption families, and more.
At Brave Care, our mission is to help every child reach their full potential. I think about this mission often in my day to day life. I think about the extraordinary act of love from my birth mom, how giving me up must have been so painful for her, but she knew it was the best way to give me a fighting chance to reach my full potential. I think about my adoptive family, about all their love, patience and support. I think about the adoption party they threw me after my adoption was finalized, the small ways they showed me I belonged and I mattered. I think about the ways they helped me rebuild trust and attachment, all which helped me unlock my full potential. Lastly I think about my own daughter, how having her and intentionally building my own family with my husband has been so healing. I have very few pictures from my first two years, something which has always saddened me. My daughter, now 3, has baby pictures documenting every smile, every new tooth, her first steps, her first day of school. She’ll always know how precious and how loved she is, and she’ll always have a sense of permanence and security. I know without a doubt that I could not parent with such intention if I hadn’t been shown this same kind of love through my forever family.
If you are an adoptive or foster family we see you and we support you. Your foster and adoptive kids have a place at Brave Care, our providers are compassionate and caring, and are here to be a resource for you and your family. We thank you for showing these kids unconditional love and helping to encourage their full potential every day.