To not acknowledge the loss associated with adoption is naïve and thoughtless. It is a reality I didn’t fully understand until we were in the thick of it. Although joyous for the waiting family, for the child who is being placed, there is a myriad of mixed emotions tied to this huge life change. Add to that the external expectations being placed upon that child to be grateful for this “second chance,” thus stealing from them the right to grieve the loss they are enduring, and you can see how complicated the journey is for the adopted child.
The reality of the situation is that placement comes as a result of great and tragic loss. Whether a child ends up in the system due to loss connected to the death of a parent or loss connected to a childhood stolen from them by neglectful or abusive parents…a loss is a loss.
In addition to the “big” losses these children are grieving, there are a myriad of secondary losses, that although may seem unimportant in the big scheme of things, are hugely important to the child who has had everything important to them stolen from them. Things like: favorite toys that were left behind, best friends that must be bid farewell, and losing beloved family pets that became their greatest source of love and comfort in a biological home filled with chaos and cruelty, all create in our kids a deep sense of loss.
Perhaps the saddest loss these kids endure is the separation from their siblings. The reality of the system as it is means many sibling groups are separated by the courts and placed in separate foster and adoptive homes. This is especially true of larger sibling groups. Sometimes it is simply a matter of logistics, with few families being willing or capable of taking in an additional five children. Sometimes it is a matter of the courts deciding that due to the nature of the family relationships, the best way to increase the odds of meeting everyone’s unique therapeutic needs, and increase every one’s chance of thriving, is to place the children in separate homes.
As to whether this is truly best for the children could be argued a hundred different ways. These life affecting decisions are made by professionals that have the ugly job of making these hard decisions. All of my adopted children were separated by their biological siblings by the courts. And those decisions were not made lightly, but even though it may have been determined that it was in everyone’s best interest, one can not dismiss the great loss connected to that decision.
We strongly believe that siblings should be connected, and if it is not in the children’s best interest to be placed together, we believe the highest level of contact and connection that is healthy for all parties involved should be made a priority. It is for this reason we were thrilled when we had the opportunity to adopt Tyler’s 17-year-old brother last spring after a six year separation. It is also why we strive to remain connected to the adoptive families of all three of my adopted sons.
We are so blessed to not only know where all their biological siblings are, but also to have wonderful relationships with those families. Like us, they place great value in keeping biological siblings connected to the degree that that sibling can emotionally manage. That level of connection ebbs and flows as each of our children navigate through the loss and trauma of their shared past, but connection is always the goal.
These kids have suffered so much loss, including a level of self-identity loss with the severed connection to biological family. For all my kids that severing was necessary for their safety and well being. The biological parents were toxic, neglectful, and abusive. Maintaining contact was a lost possibility when they refused to comply with the court’s orders. Because this connection had to be severed, it becomes all the more important that our kids maintain a biological connection with their siblings. They crave an understanding of who they are and why they look, speak, think, act, etc. the way they do.
It is grounding to look in the face of someone that shares your features and idiosyncrasies and think, “Wow, they are just like me. I am not alone.” There is also comfort in knowing that your history, as tragic as it may have been, was shared by another. For this reason sibling connections are powerfully important…
It is why we work to keep our boys connected with their siblings.
That is not to say it is always easy. There are multiple challenges associated with this worthy goal, including multiple families with varying schedules, complicated relationships among the siblings themselves, and the individual therapeutic journeys and individual needs of each child. There are A LOT of moving parts that must align to make a biological sibling reunion come to fruition. I have no doubt that a divine hand is part of the recipe for success!
This past Saturday all those moving parts came together, the stars aligned, God’s grace shone down upon us and we were able to get all five biological siblings together for the first time in six years. It was a blessed reunion that only happened because of many willing hearts and working hands.
We decided to make Kennywood Amusement Park the location of the big event.
We had eight raincheck tickets from the previous summer which allowed us and Michael (the oldest sibling who is now living independently) to enter the park for free. Braden’s amazing social worker and our dear family friend, Lisa, volunteered to pick up Michael and bring him to the park with her family.
They were the first to arrive and were waiting for us when we walked in. What a sweet reunion it was to see these two big boys reconnecting after years apart.
We were soon joined by June and Cheyanne, the boys’ only sister and the youngest of the sibling group.
The genetics are crazy strong with her and Tyler. They look alike, act alike and even sound alike. They could easily pass as twins.
After an hour or two, we were joined by Gayle and Sean.
The siblings enjoyed a beautiful day of connection, as they rode rides together and created happy memories.
These reunions are not without heartache and angst. There is no way to navigate these waters, strewn with triggers and hard emotions, without some resulting fallout. There is an emotional price paid for the effort to facilitate connection. It is impossible to wade through such dark waters and not make waves,
But riding the waves of emotional backlash is a price we have decided we are willing to pay to redeem, for our sons, a small piece of all that has been stolen from them.
Nothing about the adoption road is effortless or easy. Neither is the journey our kids have had to walk.
So, we will do what is best,
Even when it is uncomfortable.
Even when it is inconvenient.
Even when it is challenging.
Even when it hurts our hearts…
Because our kids deserve this: