Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Failure or Success

I think most parents would be disappointed if their child withdrew from school on his or her 18th birthday.  Certainly that's not the future that we imagined, all those years ago, when we adopted Danielle.

Looking back, I can't remember what I had imagined for her.  Certainly when we started fostering and the extent of Danielle's problems weren't known, we had great hopes for her.  We figured she'd be able to catch up, graduate from high school, and eventually go on to college.

We hoped that we'd be able to break the generational cycle of abuse, neglect and unwanted children.

I fear we didn't make much of a difference, or at least not the difference we wanted to make.  We wanted to give her a successful life.  A high school diploma was just one step in that process.

Will she enroll in high school in her new city?  Unknown.  I don't know if I'll even hear from her.  When she arrived at her destination, we exchanged the following text messages:

Danielle: Made to XXXX
Me: Glad you are safe.  Good luck to you. :-)
Danielle: thank you

And that's the last I heard from her.

So in large measure, I feel as if we failed.  We wanted to "fix" Danielle.  We wanted to take her out of the impoverished and abusive life that she'd led for her first decade and give her something better.  We wanted to give her a leg up into the middle class.

We failed.

And yet, we did make a difference.  Granted, the difference we made was much smaller than we'd envisioned, but it was there just the same.

When Danielle came to live with us at almost 11 years old, she didn't know how to read.  She didn't know her alphabet.

I taught her to read.  I used a book called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  It was a great help.  Night after night we sat together and went over the lessons.  It worked.  In just over three months, Danielle went from being completely illiterate to being able to read Dr. Seuss.

That made a difference.

Wherever she goes and whatever she does in life, she will carry my gift with her.

We also managed to help her reach the age of 18 without any pregnancies.  By keeping her away from boys and insisting she receive an implantable contraceptive, we made a difference in her life.  While she's still starting out at a huge disadvantage by not having a high school diploma, at least she's not starting off even further behind by too-early motherhood.

That's something, too.

Now that Danielle has moved back with her biological family, I feel a mixture of sadness and relief.  I'm sad because we wanted so much more for Danielle.  We weren't the right family for her, and we never should have adopted her.  Given the choices available (adopt her or return her to foster care) we did what we thought was right.  We didn't get the help or resources we should have received.  We did our best, even though it wasn't good enough.

I'm sad too, because I don't believe that there was a mythical "perfect family" out there for her.  If we had given up, she would have gone back to foster care.  Just like her older biological half-sister, she would have bounced from home to home to home until she aged out.

I am also relieved.  Danielle will no longer be able to hit me or my former spouse.  She will no longer be able to damage my property or make violent threats without consequence.  I no longer have to live in fear of a child or sleep with my bedroom door locked.

Danielle's behavior didn't improve (as some suspected it would) after she and FosterEema moved out.  When I'd speak to FosterEema, she'd tell me, Danielle is Danielle.  Her pattern of disobedient, defiant, and disrespectful behavior continued.  She made threats of violence.  She began to ditch school. FosterEema (with her insurance from her new job) began seeing a counselor so she could better cope with the unbelievable stress.

In less than three months after they moved away, the situation became untenable.  Although Danielle completely believed that everything would be just perfect once I was out of the picture, she simply found a new person to combat.

I fear that it won't be long before she repeats that pattern with her birth family.

Even my extended family feels a huge sense of failure.  They all fought so very hard for Danielle.  My father paid many thousands of dollars in attorney's fees to help us fight to keep Danielle. My extended family invested their hearts and their time trying to help her, to bond with her, and to love her.

Danielle did the one thing that everyone wanted her to avoid.  She quit school.  She left without saying goodbye.

In the end, I think that Danielle was never our daughter.  Her heart, her mind and her soul always remained with her birth family.  We always knew that she would one day return to them.  We'd just hoped we'd be able to keep her long enough for her to finish high school.

While the so-called professionals love to sell the idea of a "forever family" to prospective foster and adoptive couples, I think the reality doesn't exist.  This is especially true with older child adoption where the kid knows, loves and misses his or her biological connections.

And perhaps, it is as it should be.

Danielle never should have been adopted.  We never should have been forced into the position of having to choose between adoption or sending her back to foster care.  Ideally, she should have remained in our care in a permanent fostering arrangement until her 18th birthday.  She should have received better mental health care and preparation for the day when she'd return to her family.

We did the best we could.  Danielle is out in the world and on her own.  Only time will tell whether her life will be a failure or a success.

1 comment:

  1. Don't think of yourself as a failure. I commend you for sticking it out. You probably gave that kid more of a chance than she ever would have otherwise had. I guarantee that others in your position would have caved much sooner.

    I've always liked your blog because you were one of the few who were real about it. Most other foster bloggers preach the same old fairy tales like good little sheep.

    I also believe that your experience could be very helpful to others. So if you would ever consider writing for me anonymously, the offer will always be open.


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