Adoption Done Right

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I bet you thought I’d never post this. My friend Lori certainly didn’t. She was worried I was going to spend all of November bashing adoption. Then I asked if I could blog about her on the last day of National Adoption Month and Flip The Script.

Reason being, Lori and her husband Mike of New Mexico are perfect examples of how adoption should be done. Here is their story, in brief.


We knew we couldn’t have children together, and looked into adoption. We DID look at private, infant adoption, but something just felt wrong about it; it seemed too much like buying a baby. We then considered foster/adopt, but knowing how that system works, I couldn’t do it. We did do the classes, and I remember being told to keep an emotional distance. I can’t do that. And I can’t love a child and see him or her go back to an abusive home.

In the mean time, we found a local adoption support group in which we learned we could (at that time) adopt from foster care without first fostering. We did tell the worker we wanted nothing to do with “legal risk” placement, where the parental rights were not already terminated. I knew my own limitations, and that was it. I couldn’t take in a child if I could love him or her only temporarily.

Our children are: “The Batman” (22), “The Artist” (18), “Mr. Loquacious” (14), and “The Puzzler”(14). I never use their real names with their photos online, for a variety of reasons. (Elle: Can you please talk to Tina Traster?) 

“The Batman” was our very first adoption. He was almost two years old, but hard to place. He has fetal alcohol syndrome and other issues. Still, I truly couldn’t believe there weren’t any others wanting him at the same time!

My stepson, “The Artist,” came to us full time at age six and has been with us ever since. He has some definite emotional delays due to a harsh early childhood.

Our twins, “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler,” came to us at age eight. They have been through horrific experiences in their young lives, from terrible physical abuse both in their first family and their foster home, to having been nearly adopted twice, only to have the “parents” back out at the last minute, one of whom backed out at finalization, in court, in front of them. They are undergoing therapy at this time, and finding it difficult to deal with their past, however, when therapy was tried several years ago for “Mr. Loquacious,” who most needed it, he wanted nothing to do with it and refused to participate in any way. It’s going better now, thankfully.

Elle: Was the decision to adopt difficult?

The decision we had to make was this: What was more important, conceiving and giving birth, or being a mom and dad? We wanted to be a mom and dad.

Elle: Do you receive help (emotional, financial) from your family, church, employment, elsewhere?

We have a wonderful support system with friends from church, our next door neighbors, etc. Our street is full of boys who play with all of our boys nearly every day, something they’ve not had before. I will tell you, they did keep their Medicaid that they had in foster care, which we can use along with our primary insurance until they turn eighteen, and there is a financial subsidy until then as well. Not enough to live on, but it helps when one parent is absolutely needed to be at home. I could not hope to earn enough to pay for specialized child care. Something funny: we knew nothing about the subsidy until we were signing the paperwork for our first adoption, and were quite offended by the offer, but the worker urged us to take it because “one never knows what will be needed in the future.” In fact, about a year later my husband lost his job, and it helped get us through until he was employed again.

Elle: What are the biggest challenges you have faced?

With our older adoptions, there has been serious acting out, which is mostly because they have “fight or flight” syndrome. It probably saved their lives when they were young. With our first son, it was his developmental challenges. With my stepson – to be honest – my greatest challenge was always his mother.

Then there is the idea some people have that we are making money from this, because of the subsidy. The truth is, it doesn’t completely cover any of their health needs, even combined with our private insurance. And in the first two years of having the twins, we lost thousands in income, because Mike so often had to take time off work to help with the serious melt-downs at home. The plain fact is that people who can really afford to adopt and care for high-needs kids, don’t. They go out and spend big bucks for a healthy white infant. (Elle: Or have a fundraiser.)

Elle: What are the greatest joys?

Love. I never thought I’d be the mom of all boys, ever! I really thought I’d have a girl to do things with, but God had other plans. My boys are so wonderful. They are not perfect, and we’ve had to (and continue to) work very hard with them, but they’ve all come so far, it’s amazing. I feel joy when one of them just comes up and gives me a hug and a kiss, and tells me he loves me, or that I’m the best. I feel joy when complete strangers in restaurants stop at our table to say how impressed they are with them, or when someone at church tells me how one or the other helped with something when they weren’t even asked. Really, there are so many joys that when the bad things occur, I try to think on the good moments.

Elle: Is there anything else would you like us to know?

Yes, it’s about changing their names. Our first son (The Batman) was less than two years, and effectively more like one year or less, but he did recognize his name, so we deliberately did not change that. He didn’t even know he had a middle name, so we did change that; his middle name is in honor of my dad, by Mike’s choice. With the twins, we gave THEM the choice, since they were eight, even considering switching first and middle names. They said no, so we didn’t. Of course, now one wants to switch.

When our eldest came to us, he was enrolled in a pre-primary impaired class through the public school system. Since his adoption wasn’t yet finalized, we were given a photocopy of his original birth certificate to give to the school. Something made me copy the copy. I didn’t know why, I just did it. Then, when the amended birth certificate came, I took it to be copied for the school file. When the lady came out to give it back, that’s all she had. I asked about the copy I had given them before, of the original, and she told me she shredded it. This was the policy when it came to adoption. So, I was glad I made a copy for him. I think if adoptees want it, they should have their own information when they are able to handle it, at age eighteen if possible. At the very least, it should be required to keep their adoption file updated with medical information from the original family. I’ve always hated having to say, “I don’t know,” when asked by a new doctor about the boys’ medical history.

(Elle) You didn’t mention “The Artist” concerning his name…

Yes, “The Artist” came to us recently with a request. Now that he is eighteen, he asked that I “adult adopt” him, so that he can have me as his official mom. And he wants his dad’s last name, which his mother never allowed on the birth certificate. We are working on that. (Elle: I’m sorry, there’s something in my eye…)

Elle Cuardaigh is author of The Tangled Red Thread and contributor to The Adoptee Survival Guide

email: ellecuardaigh@gmail.com

twitter: @ElleCuardaigh

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