“If I were to ever have children….,” my foster sister said via Skype last night “I would never mix a birth child with an adopted child.”
“Your daughter will never have to feel the pain we went through because she knows that she has all of your love.” This hit me like a ton of bricks.
It was about a year since I last spoke with the sister I was raised with. She was not adopted by our APs but she was fostered for several years. Adoption in the Dominican Republic is a long and difficult process (yes, even more complicated than Haiti). The reason for this has greatly to do with culture, religion and family preservation.
In order to adopt in the Dominican Republic, it is advised that you be religious, that you be married for a number of years, that you only have heterosexual tendencies and that the birth family has no other family that can take the child. It is hard to truthfully say that no other family can take the child. On average, Dominicans will have about 5-6 children in the home along with many aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandmas old enough to be the child’s mom. This sounds pretty standard for many Latin American countries. The DR however has added the religious component where they require you to be either catholic, Christian, or an evangelical and you need proof. You also may NOT adopt if you are single.
There are orphanages that were created where kids are NOT adoptable. They believe in keeping the child’s culture, heritage, and language alive. So, kids are abandoned in these orphanages and cared for by the staff who become “house moms” and “house dads”. It is a pretty good system.
The children receive a decent education, are involved in after school activities and are part of an environment that is not that much different from what they would be raised in, save for the better healthcare, education, and nurturing they receive at the new location.
Many of these orphanages are privately funded (usually by the US, Europe, or Canada) and their main goal is to give these children a home, and a safe space where their biological parents can also come and visit and spend time quality time with them.
There is one orphanage in particular that I was invited to visit while living in the Dominican Republic. I had one computer left in my tutoring center and I wanted to donate it to them. The orphanages is called Casa Feliz (Happy Home) and the children were so well behaved there. I got to be part of the environment they were living in. They were not taken from their environment and forced to be part of “new” families. They were not forced to change their brains so that they could feel that no matter what they did, they were not good enough. They were not given new names, new identities and a new way of doing things.
They got to stay in their home country, speak the language, and receive a life that would prepare them for the country they live in.
They would be able to speak Spanish, and also English (Spanish being dominant as that is their womb-language).
They are able to be around others who look like them. They are able to not just survive, but thrive.
You see, sometimes adoption forces us adoptees to have to survive. Especially adoptions that involve families that are already established. These APs may have biological children of their own.
Adoptees often don’t get to live their lives, they have to survive. They have to find a way to survive their new surroundings, and the treatment, and the way people see them.
They don’t get to live. They don’t get to thrive until much later.
And some take their own lives because this means that surviving is no longer a requirement.
I wrote a blog about APs loving their biological children more than their adopted children and I got mixed reviews. I also included the blog in my book Rainbows But Not Unicorns.
Most of the feedback I got was very positive and affirming.
- It was a time for many APs to wake up and realize that the connection they have with their biological children is an innate connection and they are not at fault.
- It was a time for them to really delve deep into their own souls to understand how an adoptee feels as a result of this realization.
- It was a time for Adoptive Parents to really figure out the next step. And that is beautiful.
The negative feedback were few but the focus was that because an adoptive parent didn’t have a biological child, they were not held responsible. I argued that there is still a feeling that some APs have that can’t be shaken:
The child is not their flesh and blood.
For the first time in many years, I was able to have a real conversation with my sister via skype. She explained how she felt jealous growing up, and how jealous she feels even now in her late 20s. She is now very aware of the different treatment she and I received at the hands of our APs.
We were not biological to our APs.
We were not biological to our sisters…we were the adopted children, always put at a lower standard and expectations of us were extremely low too.
Our Aps didn’t expect us to succeed. When my sister went to nursing school and failed several times, I remember my adoptive mother saying “you know, she never really was smart.”
When I did very well in college she always said “I’m surprised she is doing so well.”
When her biological daughter almost failed Undergrad, her and her husband decided she was ready for medical school and paid every last penny.
Adoptees always live in the shadow of the biological children in the house. They are made to feel unwanted, silenced, and less important.
My Adoptive mother paid for a trip to Europe for all of us (a promise she had made since I was a teenager) but she controlled EVERY SINGLE aspect of the trip.There was very little room for exploration. My adoptive mother created a schedule that SHE deemed important. All the places we visited (though very nice) were planned to the last letter. We had a waking time, we had a sleeping time. We had specific eating times as well. If I asked to go check out a different location, I was considered ungrateful. I wrote about this experience in my book called What Part of Me is Saved?
My adoptive mother wanted to give us a gift, but not unless she was part of the gift…she had to see her fruit…there was no room to wander.
Her Narcissism kept the adoptees at a lower playing field and her biological children as the central focus.
My adoptive mother put her oldest biological child in charge of the finances, and the other biological child in charge of the logistics. I was in charge of “watching” them. Like if I was some kind of nanny. But that is what I was to her.
About 10 days into the trip, their oldest biological child lost the credit card. So instead of saying “hmmm, maybe Mae should be in charge,” they just got her another one.
I was supposed to report any “bad” behavior and I was supposed to keep them out of trouble. 3 adults….traveling Europe….and I was the Nanny?
My point is, adoptees and biological children don’t, can’t and should’t mix. I’m not saying that it can’t work itself out…but I am saying there will ALWAYS, at some point, be a feeling of jealousy….and it is merited.
So APs…if you have read this far, just be aware that this is a real feeling. This feeling of being less than, or not good enough, is a reality. Just because your little ones appear to be getting along without a care in the world, be open to the possibility that as they grow, that feeling will also grow.
And APs with children who are a different race than the adopted child, please lean in as I whisper a little secret.
“I promise you, cross my heart, stick a needle in my eye. They are feeling like they are not good enough.”
Come closer now and listen. Stop talking.
“Your adopted children are feeling othered. In their own home.”
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