My Next Steps? Helping Professionals Working with Adoptive Families

I can hardly believe it’s been a year since I’ve added to this blog. At one time, I thought the only subject I’d ever write about would be kids and adoption. These were topics near and dear to my heart and the reason I became I writer in the first place. The interplay between social workers and my oldest two children was so devastating that putting it down was the only way that I could work through the pain. I felt strongly at the time, and still do, that the choices that the social workers made directly contributed to my son ending up in prison, a young man having severe head injuries due to my son’s unchecked violent behavior, and my daughter’s life having been set back years. My son finally realizes that he needs to get a handle on his mental health – maybe becayse there’s no social worker in prison telling him that if his adoptive parents just loved him more, he would be fine. He now has to deal with reality. My daughter is mostly on track with her life, but it’s taken years of our lives and inflicted more trauma than any of us needed. Nevertheless, I am looking at that excruciatingly difficult time in my life in the rearview mirror now.

I still have three kids at home, but none struggle like my oldest two. We have absolutely zero social workers in our lives and that is profoundly glorious – not because all social workers are terrible, but enough are clueless of the pain they inflict that my preference is to not deal with any of them. That being said, I admit to inviting them into our lives once again. I’m just beginning the process of adopting from foster care again. I’m really not crazy (really! I’m not). But I just can’t stop thinking about how scary and desperate the world is without anyone by your side, and that if I have room in my heart, soul and home, I can do this again.

I feel much more prepared than before any of my other five adoptions, though. At this point, I have zero niavety left about how difficult this journey is. Further, I am exceedingly clear about my limitations as a caregiver – I cannot and will not try to “fix” anyone else. That’s each of our jobs for ourselves alone. This certainty of mine is freeing on an existential level that’s difficult to convey. All I can do is my best to love and support someone, the rest is on them. I also know that I do not want to parent any more children with serious attachment disorders or other mental health conditions. My role now is to provide a base for older kids who have embraced their own healing journey.

Being a parent to tough kids somehow did not break me, as I felt often during those last few years before they turned eighteen. In fact, being their mom helped me become a much stronger person than I’d ever have become otherwise. It launched my own healing journey, having substantial baggage from my own not-so-great childhood and abusive intimate relationships. I realized that though I couldn’t make everything better for them, I certainly could make things worse. My mood, my reactions, and my words were powerful and needed to be as close to “right” as possible to not trigger my kids. I’m still working on all this – some days more successfully than others. But I have come so far from those early days where the kids and I were often dysregulated and no one was doing as well as they could. I loved my kids enough to know that I had to do better for them. And better I got.

I’ve often thought of writing one thing or another for this blog, but I have been very distracted by another massive writing project. In the summer of 2019, the state of the world in general had gotten to me. I was a news junkie and reports of climate disasters, white nationalist militias and the United State’s President’s authoritarian instincts drove me to depression. My youngest son was only six, and I worried so much about what his life would be like, what all five of my children’s lives would be like, when they were my age. I was overwhelmed and spent too much time in bed. At some point, however, I realized that I needed to take whatever action I could to address these problems. I wasn’t helping anyone crying in my bedroom and was certainly not the mom I wanted to be.

The skills I’d been developing with writing about adoption helped fuel my dive into fiction. I spent a year and half writing and publishing my first novel, In Our Bones. The novel weaves together everything I was worried about and even has an adopted character (because – of course it does! :)) Crafting this novel took every bit of energy I had, but in the end it further transformed me. Putting one’s writing into the world is exposing, raw, and made me feel quite vulnerable. I needed to work through the emotions cascading out from having a main character so closely tied to my own life journey with themes of sexual assault, abuse, and trauma taking center stage. I needed to work through the inevitable shame that people who’ve expeirneced such things feel and for a minute nearly shut-down at the thought of the novel going public. After I got through that pain, I felt like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. I had confidence that I’d never had before in my life. I felt substantially healed, more centered, and powerful than ever. I made the conscious decision that I could, in fact, accomplish anything I put my mind to – no matter what the cruel people in my life had said. The fact that my novel received excellent reviews only added to my sense of self. (You can check it out – https://www.amazon.com/Our-Bones-Pernell-Plath-Meier/dp/1950502309/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1610923410&sr=8-1

At this juncture, I’m working on a second novel that will also be political dystopia, hopefully to come out by summer. More relevant is that another project is circling back to you – my adoption community. The article that kicked off this whole writing gig for me – What Social Workers Need to Know When Working with Adoptive Families (https://detachedonline.com/2019/06/14/what-social-workers-need-to-know-when-working-with-adoptive-families-2/) is getting an upgrade. Due to heavy popular demand, I’m going to turn that article into a short, easy-to-read book that expands beyond social workers to include anyone in our lives who simply does not “get it.” Many people have requested this, since there are few consice pieces of literature that a family can give out to those who should understand, but don’t.

I hope to have that book out within a few months as well and will post a link once complete.

In the meantime, to you adoptive families who’ve been my biggest fans – thank you for believing in me when I scarcely believed in myself. Your love, encouragement, and support has helped me more than you can ever know. There will be much more to come from this lady. 🙂

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