adoption, family

Friend or Foe?: Sibling Relationships After Adoption

siblings

She’d just as soon stab me in the back as smile in my face. Who could blame her? I’m the mom enjoying the kids she raised in their early years, despite being a child herself. Her relationship with us has been tumultuous at best and downright preditory at its worst. For the purpose of this blog, I will call her M.

She is one of their older biological sisters. She has a child of her own and is on an “independent living track” in DCF care. M was never adopted. She is 19 years old, with a 4-year old son. We have pictures of her, from her Facebook page, that we added to the children’s lifebooks. She has my children’s beautiful eyes.

When the biological mother lost parental rights to our kids, the older siblings lost by proxy. How could this possibly be fair to a sibling group of 7 children? The two adult sisters, who attempted to raise our little chickens through chaos and strife, have lost so much. To lose their siblings because of their mother’s mistakes as well? They already lost their own childhoods to that. It’s beyond imagining.

These waters are very murky for adoptive parents to navigate. How can we honor and maintain these connections? To complicate matters further, DCF had not been maintaining visits between the siblings in the group. At all. In fact, the older girls were not even aware that their siblings had been placed in a pre-adoptive home out of state. By the time my husband and I entered the picture, damage had been done.

Our kids were home for 6 months before we were even able to make contact. We asked the social workers for a visit. We asked them for a phone number. Our requests went unanswered. The department was hesitant about the oldest sister, K, for various safety reasons. We pointed out that M was a teenager. She was still in the care of DCF. She, at least, should have visits. The department maintained that visits were required for biological parents only. Since those visits were long gone, we were stuck.

I messaged both sisters on Facebook. I offered to provide pictures. I left a phone number. I heard nothing. During this time, the biological mother had her seventh baby. The child was born with drugs in her system. We stayed out of this case, as it was separate from that of our children. We hoped she was on the track to reunify with the infant. We kept a respectful distance.

We waited to hear from M or K. They were in contact with Marcus and Sean (we think) during this time, so I hoped they knew their siblings were safe and loved. Eventually, the reunification between the baby and the bio-mom failed. After about 6 weeks with the infant, her mother, for whatever reason, gave her to the previous foster home and left to Puerto Rico. She had been in contact with the older girls while she had the baby, so in essence, she left 3 daughters behind. That’s when we heard from M.

I was eager to re-establish the lost sibling connection. I felt guilty that it had been almost a year since the siblings had seen each other. I felt guilty that DCF had not maintained these important connections. By that time, the siblings had been estranged for nearly a year. I spoke to M on the phone and I was so encouraged by the conversation. Maybe I was too eager. Maybe I was naive. I scheduled a visit.

I loaded up the car with 6 kids and drove out of state. We met met M, her child, and her girlfriend, at a science center in her city. I bought everyone tickets and souvenirs. We looked at animals and played in fun exhibits. M spent most of her time talking to Sean and her girlfriend in a corner. I ran around and played in the toddler area with her son and my Littles.

At the end of the trip, she (jokingly?) told the Littles to get into her car. She motioned to the front seat, saying, “quick. Get in, no one’s looking!” They ran back to me, and Carl was laughing. Mary was not. Mary was hesitant to speak to M. She had massive tantrums on the way home, but we stopped frequently and helped her through the long drive home.

I honestly had no idea what was coming after that. I believe that M is a good person and is trying her best. She is grieving the loss of her siblings. While I was sending her pictures from the trip, and planning the next visit, she was talking to the social workers. Apparently she made claims that my husband and I locked the children in the basement for lengths of time. I have no idea why she would think or say this except that it did happen in their bio home. At any rate, no one took her seriously and we didn’t hear anything more about that.

Soon after this, communication with M became toxic. She encouraged Sean to run away. She talked about ways for Sean to get the Littles to her. She might have told him to hide Mary’s psychiatric medication because she didn’t believe that Mary was “crazy.” Poor M claimed that she had “heard voices” telling her to do things all through high school and that she was “just fine without all that therapy and medication.” Poor girl. It’s possible that Sean fabricated some of this, as he so often did. It’s equally possible that he fabricated stories about us to her. Who knows? My heart went out to her but I also felt the need to protect our family.

She tried to stop the adoption in any way she could. She sent me texts swearing at me and threatening me. Eventually I told her that I was willing to send pictures of the kids, but we should not communicate any further. The social worker asked us to stop attempting visits with her and we agreed.

The Littles didn’t notice her absence, but I did. I felt for this teenager who had never been adopted. Her mother had left her many times. Her siblings had left her. Even when she started speaking to them again they had been full of happy stories about their new “mommy” and “daddy.” That must have been awful for her.

After a time, she contacted me to apologize. I sent her pictures and videos right away.  We had a good conversation about boundaries. She gave us information and little stories about our children’s early childhoods. We will forever cherish these and share them with our children. M actually sent baby pictures to us so that the children could see themselves as babies. She also sent us her own baby pictures. I think she needed someone to tell her how cute and precious she had been. She wanted someone to cherish her baby pictures as well.

She was the only one who gave our kids this invaluable link to their past. For this, I am forever grateful.

I continued to send pictures and updates. I set up a few phone calls. I think the calls were awkward because Mary didn’t want to talk and Carl went on and on about all of the cool things he did with “his dad” and “his mom.” We started discussing another visit. And then things fell apart with Marcus and Sean.

We never heard from M again. The last update I sent was a picture of the Littles in front of the Christmas tree. She never responded. Since then, Sean ran away from his new foster home, presumably to follow the plans they had made.

I never could figure out how to allow her to be in the children’s lives in a way that was separate from her feelings about us as parents. I never could find a way to make her feel included. Friend or for? She was never truly a friend to the family. How could she be? She was never a foe, either, because how could we ever blame her? She was just a girl. A girl that got left behind in all the DCF shuffle.

I wish her well. We must proceed cautiously with her, should she ever contact us again. How do we keep that connection alive? How do we honor it? I don’t know but I am trying to learn.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

**If you have ever considered foster care or adoption, I encourage you to start your own adventure.

 

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4 thoughts on “Friend or Foe?: Sibling Relationships After Adoption

  1. My god! The parallels! We are struggling with the very same questions but with so many more relatives on both parental sides. And what’s more we are struggling with the birth mother as well. And with so much more complicated dynamics. She has been clean for almost as long as we’ve had her children and she has two new ones that she has kept. My children are curious about their identity as most teens are. They are needy and they wonder what their life would have been like. They question everything, and their birth mother enjoys encouraging them to question and rebel against our authority. The Pandora’s box we’ve opened by keeping in touch with her and allowing her to visit occasionally has really been a curse more than helpful in any way. But how do you stop something you’ve started without doing damage to the children who have already been damaged by broken connections? I wish I knew.

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    • I believe that eventually they will see the truth. I’m sure she encourages them to rebel because it’s the only kind of power and/or connection she has to them in this situation. Unfortunately it hurts the kids. I pray she sees that it’s about them and not about her. Is love to read your story.

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