When her foster mother first learned that nine year old Elizabeth’s case plan was changed from reunification with her biological mother to adoption–her role changed. Foster mom was now responsible for helping Elizabeth get ready to become an adoptive placement with a family the state would soon select as Elizabeth’s forever family.
Elizabeth’s foster mother had very good intentions and did her best to prepare her for the future transition. She made it very clear to her that she needed to remember all the things she had taught her during the past year. Her foster mother, however, made a few comments that were slightly counter productive. A few times foster mom reminded Elizabeth, “You better always act the way I have been teaching you, or you could blow this whole adoption.”
When Elizabeth met her new parents and moved her things to their home she remembered her foster mothers words. She tried very hard to always act the way she had been taught. But, things were not the same in her new home and the rules were confusing. Her new parents wanted everything to be completely different then her foster mother had. The food they ate was different, the clothes she wore were different, and the way she needed to act was not the same as her foster mother had taught her.
Elizabeth’s caseworker came to her new home every few weeks to visit with her new adoptive parents. At one meeting her new mother was talking with the caseworker about how a few little behavior problems had come up now and then. In an effort to help the caseworker made a comment to Elizabeth, “Remember, you’re responsible too, for whether this adoption works out. Your new mom and dad can’t do it by themselves.”
Sometimes Elizabeth would cry and say she missed her foster mother and sometimes she would cry and say she missed her birthmother. Her adoptive parents found these times heartbreaking and painful and would occasionally ask her, “Do you still want to stay here with us and be our daughter?” Of course, Elizabeth would always tearfully say, “Yes, I do want to stay here.” Elizabeth’s adoptive parents really thought this was helping strengthen her commitment to them.
It took a very long time for Elizabeth to believe what her adoptive parents told her: “Nothing you can do will mess up this adoption. We made a decision to adopt you before we ever met you and we plan to stick with you not matter what–forever.” Maybe because her new parents’ were not really always so sure in the beginning and didn’t know if they would be able to deal with some of the problems Elizabeth had or not.
No child should have to earn a parent by being good enough. No child has the capacity to handle the power that comes with thinking they can decide whether these people will be her parents or not. Children have no responsibility in making a family work. Children are children and should be able to take for granted they have parents who love them no matter what. Parents should take this for granted too and show it by offering a child stability and a strong message that they are claimed as the child, in the right home and the home she belongs in forever.