This will probably make some people uncomfortable and even angry, but it needs to be said.
Adoption isn't happily ever after.
The media loves to portray it that way, especially for foster kids. Everyone loves the fairly tale story about the poor abused kids that get rescued by the selfless hero foster parents who then adopt them and everything is all good after that. I mean, the kids now have loving parents and a stable home. That's all they need right?
People love a happy ending. But fairy tales aren’t real and life isn’t that simple. Adoption is messy, and I don't mean the legal process, I mean the actual adoption itself. Adoptive parents aren't selfless heroes, they are regular flawed people just like everyone else, they just happened to choose to adopt.
These kids have been through bad things that are beyond the imagination of most people who don't have experience with the kids themselves. I hear it all the time. People say "They just need a good loving home". Loving and stable homes are great, but they don't make those bad things go away. Even if the adoptive parents were perfect (which they definitely aren't) these kids will be dealing with their trauma for the rest of their lives.
And for these kids trauma isn't simple like so many people assume it is. It isn't just bad dreams and sadness. It's rage. It’s frequent meltdowns over the smallest things. Sometimes it’s hurting pets, or even other kids. Sometimes it's trying to burn the house down. Other times it’s stealing from kids at school. Sometimes it’s grade schoolers finding ways to look at porn. Sometimes it’s trying to molest other kids. This doesn’t describe all kids from foster care. It’s not meant to scare you. It’s meant to show you that there’s more than what you see on the outside.
For these kids meltdowns have a completely different meaning than for most other kids. A meltdown isn't crying and getting angry for 10 or 15 minutes. It can be hours. Hours of true screaming. Hours of punching doors and walls. Or punching us. Or hurting themselves. Total non-compliance. It's a total inability for them to calm down at all. Sometimes we have to physically restrain them for safety reasons. Usually, they have to physically exhaust themselves before they finally begin to come down.
And it's not their fault.
And we parents aren't perfect either. Sometimes we scream back at them. Sometimes we escalate the meltdown even more. Sometimes we restrain when it's not necessary. Sometimes we just layer on consequence after consequence, not because it's helping, but because we are mad and caught in a power struggle.
We take them to doctor appointments. We adjust meds. We get to counseling every week. We literally pull them out of public school because they can't function there. We are usually exhausted. We are often hopeless. We fear they will never have a normal childhood. We fear that they won't have a good life as adults.
We can never replace their birth parents. They will always miss them, no matter how bad the abuse was. They will mourn what could have been. They will mourn what should have been.
They point that hurt and anger at their adoptive parents. They say they hate us. They say they will kill us.
We aren't a fairy tale family. We aren't some success story about the power of love.
We were the safest option in a bad situation.
We will always love them as our kids. We will always strive to be there for them, to support them, to give them what they need to have whatever healing is possible.
For them though this will never be as good as having birth parents that were safe and loving in the first place. This will never compare with what should have been.