All This Family Is What I Need
Every year, I bring my family through adoption to ACO’s FunWalk fundraiser. I spend a lot of time with my family through adoption. Earlier this week, I came down with strep throat and my adoptive mother offered to come pick me up and take me to the doctor.
This year, I wanted to invite my biological mom. I was morally adopted at 16, having spent most of my life with my biological mom, we kept our relationship through my time in foster care and after I was adopted. My adoptive and biological family don’t mix (for now), so she could only come because my adoptive family couldn’t that year.
It’s big, it’s messy, it’s not perfect – but all this family is what I need in my life. To make the analogy simple, my biological mom was able to offer emotional support but she couldn’t actually have taken me to the doctor when I had strep because she doesn’t have the resources to do so.
“Loving me is a team effort, and each piece of my family seems to meet different needs when it comes to that. Holidays get crazy, but I would rather them be crazy than empty."
This year for FunWalk ACO created “Why I Care” posters. Sometimes it’s hard to narrow down for me. Why do I care about adoption supports? Shall I crack out the world map that is my experience with adoption? Some of the roads aren’t paved, some of them seem to pointlessly overlap and there doesn’t seem to be a direct route to anywhere but at least it’s something. How do I distill all that into a simple message?
It made me come back to the beginning – because my CAS thought I didn’t need that world map. And I did do!
When I came into care, I had a sibling 12 years my junior. When they made an adoption plan for her at the very ‘adoptable’ age of two…I was left out of it. Recently I asked my family about this, had the social workers talked to them about a sibling who would be left in care? About the importance of this relationship?
They told me yes, but I also distinctly remember being ‘prepared’ to never see my sister again. I can’t imagine that staying in touch with me would have been a condition of my sister’s adoption.
By the time I found out I wasn’t going back home to my biological mom, I was just about 16. The perfect age for no family to want. The most likely outcome? Move out on my own at 18, figure it out…maybe. All I know is that if the family that had adopted my sister wasn’t interested in the teenage sibling, I would have aged out of care ‘without a family’.
I put that in brackets because I still would have been connected to my biological mom…but she wouldn’t have been able to support me. Because my sister would have still been my family, even if I wasn’t able to see her. These two shotgun sized holes in my chest certainly wouldn’t have set me up for success.
I was never legally adopted, that’s not what I needed. I needed to keep my sister in my life. I needed a family that could support me, provide me with permanence until I was ready to become independent not because I had to be. A family that didn’t expire at 18 or 21. I needed to keep a relationship with the mother I came from and grew up with.
My situation is unique. It doesn’t happen this way often. Let’s change that. Let’s change the way we look at adoption. So that we can find a situation that works for every youth in the foster care system at risk of aging out without all the pieces in place to support them in success.
Wendy Hayes is a communication professional and has lived experience with foster care and adoption.
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