This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why do adopted kids go back to birth families?

On a support board, a lot of us adoptive moms are dealing with newly adult children who are going back to biofamily... with some pretty severe consequences as the children discover that most of the reasons they ended up needing adoption in the first place.  One of the ladies asked WHY the kids go back to birth family.  My situation is a little different in that my children were not removed from the home for abuse and/or neglect, but were placed in foster care by biomom, for a lot of reasons I choose not to go into here.  The reality is though that my kids still FEEL the same way that kids who have been removed feel - abandoned, unwanted and unlovable.

Here's my response to: Why Do Adopted Kids Go Back to Birth Families?

1.  The biggest is that they want to negate the rejection/ abandonment.  They don't want to believe that the family didn't want them, because that means the child is unworthy and unlovable.  Going back "proves" that they're family really loves them.

2.  Extreme denial.  My kids can dissociate from reality, and distort it to the extent that they rewrite history, and BELIEVE the new version.  They don't remember, or want to remember the real past - good, bad and everything in between.

3.  My children have very black and white thinking.  People are either evil or on a pedestal.  The kids literally don't see the shades of grey that describes all humanity.  Most people are wonderful, caring, supportive, relationship possibilities (best friend, girlfriend, new mom..)... until Bear or Kitty flips a switch and ALL they can see is the person's flaws.  My son is especially bad about this.  He goes through girls like Kleenex, discarding them when they show the tiniest sign of imperfection (I believe my son thinks that love means they are instantly and totally devoted to him, anything less and he's afraid they will abandon him, so at the first sign of independence, he rejects them before they reject him) or they get too close (and he runs before they can see his flaws and reject him).

The kids have idealized many members of biofamily, and literally don't remember any of their flaws.  When Bear went to live with his bio Grandpa, real life quickly took over, BioGrandpa became human (worse, a human who had some authority over Bear), and Bear couldn't accept that.  In less than 6 weeks, he was ready to move on.

4.  Escape.   "My adoptive parents and everyone else are the reason things aren't going right.  If I can get away from them then my life will be perfect."  Hubby and I tell our kids that they have to work on their issues instead of running away from them, because the issues are inside of them, and will follow them everywhere.  They don't want to believe us.

Obviously these characteristics are all linked to each other.  

5.  One thing I firmly believe is one should never criticize bio family to the children, something I learned from my mother, who never criticized my father in front of me, despite a nasty divorce.  Knowing my children are idealizing their bio family doesn't change my belief, but it is a little frustrating to know that my lack of reality checks makes some of their fantasies possible.

I think they want to go back to biofamily to live the fairy tale/ fantasy they have used to escape over the years.  That little Orphan Annie reality ( that my "real family" is perfect, rich, will never make me do chores or be held accountable for anything I do (not that I'll do anything wrong, because it was everyone else's fault)...


Anonymous said...


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Jessi Lynn said...

Gosh Mary, I am dealing with this right now as well, but in a weird sort of way. A child I was a foster parent to has gone back to her birthmother and while I was not her eventual adoptive parent, I do love her and am very worried for her.

At the same time, my two adopted girls have started asking questions about their birth families, it is sad that I don't know more than I do. I wish I did. One has started saying she wants to go to her real mom every time she gets mad now, and to be honest it breaks my heart. I dunno.

marythemom said...

Hi Jessi Lynn!

"One has started saying she wants to go to her real mom every time she gets mad now, and to be honest it breaks my heart."

I honestly think that all kids find whatever of your buttons they can push! My adopted kids played this one a lot, especially when they were mad. Biokids said I wish I were in foster care! When that didn't work, the kids moved on to "I want to die!" or "I wish you were dead!" Adopted kids told me they wanted to kill me. *sigh* Hang in there, Sweetie! This too shall pass. Eventually.

Sending hugs and prayers!

Aiko Dumas said...

Thanks for sharing this post, Mary. It seems that you're a very understanding person. Anyway, in times like that—when your adopted kids tends to go back to his/her biological parents—just let them be. Let them know their roots, so that it would be easy for them to sort things out. Most of the adoptees lacked security, and finding their real parents is what they know that would complete them.

Aiko Dumas

1st said...

My 17 year old son has recently found his birth father and is now very involved with him and extended large family. He says he is happy and feels he fits in. I wonder how long it will last and also if he will steal from them and lie and show anger towards them as he has his adoptive family.

Anonymous said...

With us it is that our now teenage adoptive daughter, adopted 5 years ago, has managed to call the attention of the authorities because of her violent defiant behaviour (frequent police visits at our house either because the neighbors called them or we had to). We have no choice but to put her up in an institution or another family, because in the country where we live they will not have her acting out her anger with us thinking it is not safe.
We will now be left with a tremendous bill at the end of each month that puts the rest of our family to the official poverty line. I am sure we are not alone dealing with this. I just wonder how much help it is to her being removed to some other place where she still acts out in anger and hurt. And although she says things like "fortget it, you not even my real mother and I will not let you be", it is not that she wants to see her biomom.It feels much like what you said about the anger relief these childen feel when they say this or act like this. It is not so much, that we do not agree that safety comes first, but more that we do not get the chance to stick with her. It is just that the problem is now elsewhere.