Letter to Adoptive Parents

2015-10-16 21.39.40This is the face of a REAL child of the system. This child is ME!

At the age of 8, I entered the foster care system after living those early years in a home pervaded by ravaging addiction, unimaginable violence, extreme poverty, and homelessness. The facts of my early existence are hard for even myself to believe. I existed within a dizzying alter universe that never seemed to stop spinning. Just when I was sure I would die within the confines of my reality, I was lifted from this land and into a world which bore no semblance to my own. I did not know how to survive in this clean new land of foster care, whose native inhabitants were so much more civilized than those from my past. How could these people possibly accept me? How could I possibly ever learn to pretend I was like them?

These people had such beautiful homes, and hearts, and children. Most of them had never touched, let alone lived amongst, the ugliest parts of humanity. I wished this were true for me, but the dark is from where I spawned. I was not conceived in love and doted over and taught that my life mattered- even a little. I was the product of desperation and primitive, unadulterated  impulses. Once I arrived on this earth, I was invisible. I was only seen when the irresponsible people who created me needed me to satisfy the needs of their own empty hearts. I comforted my dad during his moments of parental guilt, washed the blood off my mom after he painted that agony all over her face time and time again, and took care of the offspring that weren’t old enough to fulfill the insatiable needs of our parents.

This was my reality. At least it was until social services stepped in. That is the day that I became completely invisible- utterly and completely lost within this world of people so unlike myself. It’s not that nobody was looking. They were all studying me like the foreign creature that I was to them. The problem was that nobody could really see me. When it became too hard to bring me into the focus of their hearts, they passed me on. Six times, I was “passed on.” Six times I told myself, with increasing certainty, that NOBODY could ever love someone like me. Even my own mother couldn’t, right? So how could you?

Eventually, I landed, shattered beyond repair, in a home that I had no intention to try to belong to. Not only had I given up on the people from your world, but you became the enemy. I existed on another planet, and it was my greatest need to keep you from causing any more destruction to it. My focus then became on rejecting you. I had learned to just speed up the inevitable. The days turned to months, and I just kept pushing harder and harder against you. I locked you out of my life and threw away the key.  I barely even noticed when the months turned to years. I had made myself a prisoner of survival. I did so, until the day I realized that I wasn’t really surviving. I was drowning- all alone in my foreign land. I was drowning on the years of isolation and choking on the tears of my own anguish. Just as I was about to slip away to that dark and peaceful place that I had begun to desperately long for, you caught me. I never gave you the key, but you caught me anyway. You struggled to pull me into your arms and refused to let me go. You even gave me your name. In that one act of total acceptance, you gave both me and yourself a new reality. You whispered the words into my heart, “Let’s create this new world- together.”

 

 

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Liz Hunter

Liz is a Social Worker, Foster Alum, Adoptee, Foster & Adoptive Parent, Writer, & Public Speaker. She is currently in the process of publishing a memoir, chronicling her 15 year journey to adoption and the 7 years she spent in the American foster care system. Her degree specializations are Psychology, Sociology, Social Work, & Criminal Justice. She founded Foster Noise/Adopt Peace in hopes of creating a forum to elevate the voices of the real life heroes and survivors of the foster care system.

38 Comments

  • Tessa says:

    Hauntingly beautiful.

    • Liz Hunter Beth Hunter says:

      Thank you, Tessa. If I had to pick two words to describe my life, I couldn’t have picked a better two. My whole life has been “hauntingly beautiful!”

  • Jessica says:

    I stumbled upon your blog and want to thank you so much for sharing your story. We are in the final weeks before our adoption is finalized of a 10 year old boy who came from a severely abusive and neglectful life both with his biological parents and along the way some foster parents. He has encountered so much trauma in his young life. People told us we were crazy for bringing him into our home and crazy for loving such a broken child. Needless to say we tuned out the noise of our skeptics and will be celebrating our adoption very soon. Our road to healing has been so tough as you know and there are days when I ask myself if we are strong enough to endure all the hurt. When I look at this little boy, instead of seeing oppositional defiance disorder, his extreme ADHD, reactive attachment disorder or whatever other label came along with him, I see a little boy who is afraid and who waiting for us to give up. We are learning along the way, and it’s people like you who encourage through your story. Thank you!

    • sierra says:

      Jessica,
      I am 16 and was just adopted in august after 10 years in care. I was told I had all the same things he has. like adhd, ODD, and reactive attachment disorder. most was true. I didn’t and don’t have adhd the thing is your so distracted from all the trauma and the hurt you cant stop thinking about it and it haunts you so you get distracted. I don’t know your son or his story but I can say thank you for giving him a chance and loving him. and we need more people like you in this world.

    • Liz Hunter Beth Hunter says:

      It sounds to me like you see the truth… “a little boy who is afraid and waiting for us to give up.” The truth is often so much more scary than labels. Our kids need more people like you that can see past these various manifestations of a broken heart (ODD, RAD, etc). Remember that “the truth shall set you free.” Your ability to acknowledge it will help you heal this hurt little boy.

  • Anonymous says:

    Very Inspiring… Congrats on your accomplishments. We need to break the stigma of children in care.

    • Liz Hunter Beth Hunter says:

      Yes, we do! I just told someone that our kids need to quit turning on the television to find that every psychopath, stalker, serial killer, etc. depicted in the movies was in foster care. Hopefully, I can be a small part of reversing that image!

  • Michele Gallagher says:

    So we’ll written… So much a reality. We adopted my daughter at 15 from the foster system. We struggle, not daily anymore but we still struggle, with accepting the fact that although we are not perfect parents we are hers and we are not going anywhere. She is stuck with us!! Thanks for sharing!!

    • Liz Hunter Beth Hunter says:

      Well, it sounds like my letter was written for you as well as my parents! More than anything, most kids in care just want to be “stuck with” someone, as nobody has ever stuck with them. I hope that, someday, you daughter is able to truly understand the magnitude of your love.

      • Foster Mom to Many Teens says:

        “You are stuck here, sorry.” I have a FS16 who has been rejected from home after home after home…. more times than I care to count. We had him before and he left through no fault of either of ours-it was temporary in nature. We kept in touch and were asked to take him back after more heartache and disruption. He is TERRIFIED right now as he has been here almost a year, holidays around “family” are approaching, and all he knows is everyone else has given up on him. Every time he acts up, and starts on his “Why don’t you just kick me out already???” tirade, my response is always “You aren’t going anywhere, you are stuck with us.” I know we have a long road ahead with him, but for real, he isn’t going anywhere and he is stuck with us!

        • Liz Hunter Beth Hunter says:

          “Foster Mom to Many Teens,” you have become my inspiration story for the day and totally just brought me to tears. There are no finer words in the English language to a child who has never had anybody stick with them. He’s going to need to hear them frequently and often, and when the day comes that you finally prove them, you will have taught him that some people really can keep their word! And then the beautiful cycle will continue as he learns the importance of keeping his!

  • Cynthia says:

    I wish to one day be able to become a adoptive parent. I have two daughters of my own and the thought of a child being alone in the world terrifies me. But it’s the stark reality of many children. All children deserve to be loved. Thank you for sharing your story. God bless you and all the children of this world.

    • Liz Hunter Beth Hunter says:

      I have a coworker that says, “Whatever breaks your heart is what you are called to do.” Sounds like you have found your calling. Now, you just have to wait until it is the right time to answer it!

      • Becky Zinsmeyer says:

        Well said…”whatever breaks your heat is what you are called to do”. My fd just left my care after 10 months (she is 19 months) and I’m broken hearted and mourning the life “she could have had” instead of being with her bm. I know the goal is to reunify them but it still hurts. She was with me and then gone just like that…no transition and I worry. BM asked for specific items to pack as she still lacked essentials for caring for her daughter. Scary….I prayer for her safety above all else as well as her happiness.

        • Liz Hunter Beth Hunter says:

          Well my heart is broken for you, Becky! It’s such a terrifying reality to let a child go back. I have been in your shoes before. But make sure that you don’t ever underestimate the immense role you have played in your daughter’s life. You had her at an incredibly critical stage of development, in which her mind and heart were absorbing messages about the world and what it is like. You showed her during this critical stage that there is niceness and goodness in people. You helped her develop her first attachment (which many kids in care have yet to do) and a healthy attachment at that! You altered the course of her life. It may not be the life “she could have had” but it will be & has been made better because of you. You have to know that. Feel proud of what you did and if there is any way to remain a positive influence in her life in the future, stay open to that. If this is possible, you can continue to make a difference for her by showing her that not everyone will abandon her. Bless you and thanks for sharing your heart with me!

  • Michelle Dillon says:

    We are in the process of pursuing adoption with DHS. We just need to take our classes in Dec. (1st avail.). Your story is inspiring and very helpful. Thank you!

    • Liz Hunter Beth Hunter says:

      Best wishes to you as you start this new adventure. I think my next blog post is one you will definitely want to read as you prepare to take a child into your home, so be on the lookout! If you haven’t already, you can like Foster Noise/Adopt Peace on fb, and you will get automatic updates of my post in your newsfeed.

  • Kim Valentine says:

    I too was someone who has been passed on and been invisible. You are so gifted in your ability to articulate your vulnerability and your truth. Humans are all broken. The uniqueness of our individual cracks, scars and wounds are what shape and mold us. Some become victims. Some become warriors. As a product of adoption and foster care and emancipation from the system at 16 …. I don’t just applaud you, I give you a standing ovation. I’m now a lawyer, a business owner and the founder of a non-profit. There are such things as enigmas, people who beat every statistic and break every odd. Trust your gut. Believe in yourself. Work every day to be better than yesterday. You are and will continue to be amazing.

    • Liz Hunter Beth Hunter says:

      Your post left me in tears. Even after we are grown, it’s good to know that there are others out there that truly understand the odds that were against us and how hard we had to push past them. I can tell from the beauty and kindness of your words that you are absolutely an enigma! Would love for you to like my page on fb (Foster Noise/Adopt Peace) and post your truth there. You have a voice that must be heard!

  • Kim says:

    How can the system be changed so the children can be rescued sooner? In hopes of preventing so much damage to them and facilitate a new begjinning with a new family.

    • Liz Hunter Beth Hunter says:

      If you mean rescuing kids from their original families, it goes back to that idea that money makes the world go round. States are operating in set budgets that dictate how serious a situation has to be to get a child removed into care. Therefore, when funds are low, it becomes increasingly difficult to pull a child from a bad situation. During these times, we drop the bar of what constitutes minimal parenting standards and ignore too many hotlines that we should not.

      But the truth is that our kids not only need to be protected from their original families, they also need to be protected within the system. Most grown foster children will say that their time in care was as traumatic as their original home life. Is this because all foster parents are scary abusive monsters? Not at all! Most are great hearted, loving, and kind people, doing something that the rest of the world has admitted that they cannot do.

      I think the primary battle to fight though is getting all foster parents to understand the importance of commitment. For years we told foster parents that their job was to essentially babysit children and not get attached, and too many in the world still send this message. I tell all the foster parents I train to get attached.- to love that child like their own- for whatever period of time they have with them. We wonder as foster parents why our kids in care have so many attachment problems, but do we “commit” to be a part of the solution. Kids cannot form strong healthy connections if nobody will ever take the risk to form one with them- to show them how.

      In order for our foster parents to do this, they desperately need to feel supported by their team (workers, counselors, etc.), and they often do not. I always say that fostering the way it should be done is an “impossible love.” We ask our foster parents to treat these kids like they are their own and then be willing to sacrifice all power over their future. Yet, time and time again, I have seen people arise to this challenge. I have seen foster parents be the angels that make the impossible possible. So I believe we should support them in every way we can!

      Hope this answered your question!

  • Cathy Brown says:

    I work in the foster care and adoption system, with kids just like you who need not the perfect home and family but one that will stick with them through it all as they grieve, recover, and try to move on from the trauma that they have suffered, which includes being a part of the foster care system. You are not a survivor; you are a champion. God bless!

    • Liz Hunter Beth Hunter says:

      Only those that have touched and witnessed these situations closely know how traumatic foster care in and of itself is. We tend to think of it as “the great rescue,” but the transient nature of it causes kids to feel disconnected and tossed aside in a way that they may have never even felt in their original home. At least there, they knew who they belonged to. You are right. We do not need perfect foster parents. We just need foster parents to behave like “real” parents. And we need certainly need more angels like you out there to help lessen the trauma.

      • Foster Mom to Many Teens says:

        My personal opinion is most of my boys really didn’t need to be put through the trauma that is foster care if their parents were given more support in home before removal. My current 2 are 16 and 17, and have been in care most of their lives. The 17yo was in group/congregate care for 9 YEARS. He was never in a real home until he came here at 15. I mean really? How is being drugged and put in institutions better than living with his bio mom who may have had substance abuse issues, but was able to raise his younger sister…

        Then there is my 16yo who has only known that people don’t stick around. Not parents, not foster parents, not potential adoptive parents, not workers, not therapists. Everyone is just paid to do a job and that is it.

        I could go on and on and on. We work with bio families, trying to keep the boys connected to their roots as much as possible.

  • Terri Lynn says:

    this is a great message. So many times children have labels put on them when they are just hurting children. I too grew up in a very violent abusive home. I was not placed in Foster care but I do understand the pain you went through. I went to live wtih a family memeber as a teenager to only be abused by that family member. You do shut down when things continue to happen. Thank you for sharing!

    • Liz Hunter Beth Hunter says:

      Yes! Too many children are labeled by people who cannot possibly understand! What people don’t realize is that those big labels (ODD or RAD, etc). are merely the means to defining levels of hurt. I believe all humans are born & created with the capacity for & desire for goodness. Nobody wants to live a painful life, even if it looks that way from their choices. These people just don’t feel worthy deep down inside of anything better.

      So sorry that you had to walk such a rough road, Terri. No child deserves that. But I hear within your words that it gave you an insight into this issue that most people are not privy too. Use that knowledge & insight to fight back! You were so depowered as a kid, but now you have the power to change that. In case nobody ever told you, you are worth & deserve so much more than you were given. Go out & claim that life, and don’t let anybody or anything stop you anymore! You are powerful, you are beautiful, & you can make a difference!

  • Fran Lucas says:

    Beautiful story. . I was a foster child from age 4 1/2, but my story didn’t turn out as well. I was taken in by a relative and emotionally mistreated and unloved. I had a long way to go to recover when I reached adulthood, but I finally made it. Getting ready to retire soon and I would love to work with and help foster children. If anyone knows where I can begin, please let me know.

    • Liz Hunter Beth Hunter says:

      Oh, Fran. I am so sorry to hear this. Every child deserves to find a place they feel that they belong. I truly believe though that each different path and all suffering can be transformed into something powerful! And that is a special power reserved only for those who have survived. Coming out victorious just makes that power stronger! I’m sure that you have & will continue to use your “special power” to change many lives!

  • Kenna says:

    Beth…I had no idea about your childhood until Doug told me about your blog the other day. What you have overcome to become the wonderful lady, wife and mother that you are is awesome. You are such a strong person and fortunately did not become another statistic as so many foster kids do. How you do everything you do is beyond me! I’m looking forward to reading that best seller when it’s published!

    • Liz Hunter Beth Hunter says:

      Thanks, Kenna! I usually only share my history in forums I think it will be helpful- mostly in my work training foster/adoptive parents. So you are not the only person shocked to find out online! It just felt like the right time to start putting it out there. I believe there was a reason that I was carried safely through all that suffering and part of that reason was so that I could help carry others through.

      If you are on fb and you haven’t already, you should hit like on my fb page that is connected to this blog (Foster Noise/Adopt Peace- you can find the like box off to the right side of this page), so you can see my new posts in your fb newsfeed. Thanks for stopping by, Kenna!

  • […] To read the full letter, click here. […]

    • Liz Hunter Liz Hunter says:

      Thank you so much for your beautiful words and for helping me share a story that too many kids can connect to. Keep changing lives Adopting.org!

  • This blessed my weary heart. Thank you.

    • Liz Hunter Liz Hunter says:

      Glad my story made a difference in your life! I would love for you to keep visiting my site if this is a topic you are passionate about.

  • Michelle Santiago says:

    Your story has touched my heart, and helped me in a way you can’t even imagine! You see, I was in the foster care system for the first 14 months of my life, and then adopted into a loving family. Whatever may have happened during my time in foster care caused trauma and pain my entire life. I don’t have any early memories whatsoever. I suffered long-term effects such as anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, and separation anxiety. After reading your story, I can only imagine what my life could have been like had I not been adopted. I know without a doubt that I am one of the more fortunate children. Now, at age 52, and children of my own, I can finally say I’m healing. I’ve been writing my adoption story for adoption.life and would be honored if you could read it. I am advocating for adoption as an option for pregnant women, especially for those who are in crisis. I am also advocating for OPEN adoptions whenever possible, as mine was closed and caused serious consequences. Thank You for sharing your story.

    • Liz Hunter Liz Hunter says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your heart and story with me. I really enjoyed reading it. I think you will find writing it out is one of the most healing things you will ever do. We are impacted- all of us- by every experience of our lives, even those we cannot remember. Our bodies still carry what our minds may forget. Externalizing helps release some of that physical memory of stress. So keep writing, my friend! Keep sharing, for this is a secret that is yours to share.It is your life- your story. Embrace it!

  • Hello,
    I work for Alternatives to Violence, a Domestic Violence agency in Red Bluff, CA. We currently provide a support group for post adoptive families called “Together on Purpose”. We were extremely touched by your story and were wondering if you would give us permission to print it in a future newsletter, crediting you as the author, of course. Please feel free to email me and I would love to send you a PDF of previous newsletters.
    Thank you, Jessica Gleason

    • Liz Hunter Liz Hunter says:

      Absolutely! Spread the love! Please just email me a copy of the newsletter my story will be featured in. :)

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