Adoption in Marin County

In Marin County, California, where I live, an adoptive couple has filed a lawsuit, alleging the County hid from them the violent past of the son they adopted. A writer in Marin, adoptive father John Brooks, wrote an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle about the suit, Even with best intentions, adoption is risky, that makes me want to stand up in solidarity. Brooks and his wife adopted their daughter, Casey, from an orphanage in Poland. Brooks writes about Casey in his book, The Girl Behind The Door, and in these paragraphs:

She suffered violent meltdowns and tantrums out of proportion to her age. She was almost impervious to discipline yet suffered terrible self-loathing, all of this hidden from everyone but us. Pediatricians, doctors, school counselors, pastors, therapists and psychiatrists — all of whom knew of her past — assured us she’d grow out of it. Just set boundaries, be tougher. We found ourselves alone, stumbling from one parenting technique to another. Then on Jan. 29, 2008, Casey took our car, drove to the Golden Gate Bridge and jumped.

We learned too late that adoption is extraordinarily complicated and fraught with risk. It is simply not natural to remove a child from her birth family and place her in another, but oftentimes there is little choice. While a good number of adopted children thrive in their new families, a great many don’t. The trauma of separation is profound. How could it not be? Parenting these children is completely counterintuitive. It means ignoring Dr. Phil and putting them first, even if the family experience is chaotic and doesn’t fulfill one’s Disney fantasy. After all, these children didn’t ask for this life, even one of privilege in Marin.

I sometimes read blogs and essays where people complain that adoption is too often described by adoptive parents and society in general as unilaterally good, “unicorns and rainbows.” Not where I live. Not among people I know. But to say so out loud—to state adoption is not unicorns and rainbows, but real life with real children who have suffered real trauma and real loss—feels like an admission of weakness, a betrayal of privacy, or a suggestion we wouldn’t choose adoption again. My children are my life, and I would never change that. Which doesn’t mean every day is easy or struggle-free.

Famously self-actualized, Marin County may have more therapists per square inch than anyplace else in the country. Yet Brooks and his wife “found themselves alone, stumbling from one parenting technique to another.” Maybe this lawsuit will serve as a wake-up call for mental health professionals  that skilled and better training is needed to understand adoption–for the children and teens who are adopted, and the parents who love them.






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2 Responses to “Adoption in Marin County”

  1. joan underhill says:

    So-o-o-o-o-o, incredibility sad!!!!!!!

  2. Jessica says:

    And on so many levels. Thanks, Joan.

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