What I want you to know: adopting a teenager from foster care

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by anonymous reader.

Our story is different from the ones you see in commercials, in the movies or on the news. There were no happy crowds of relatives waiting at the airport. No bundle of sweet baby with black hair and a dirty orphanage blanky. No grand welcoming celebrations, no templated adoption announcements, no tears of gratitude for a teen mother who made the right decision.

Instead of having a sparkly idyllic Baby’s First Christmas this year, we have made no plans yet because we have no idea whether he will be in drug rehab or a group home over the holidays, or if he will be here with us.

Our boy was born the same year we met in university. In a strange-fated coincidence, we have worked out that he was conceived within days of our own coincidental meeting. His birth mother was 40 years old when he was born, the exact age I was when we adopted him. She was pregnant because she was raped by her abusive husband. She looked after her son, but she didn’t nurture him. She never wanted children. When he was a tween, in her first interaction with child protection officials, she made an appointment and surrendered him to foster care, asking at that very first meeting to sign papers for him to be adopted. The next day she moved with her boyfriend to an apartment with no bedroom for her son.

We met him several years later, about a year ago. He was a teenager, almost a man, and he was utterly unprepared for being in a family. He has no capacity for trust, empathy or love. He still wants to live with his mom, but also says he hates her. I kind of hate her too. She wrecked him. He is so damaged that I consider him to be profoundly emotionally disabled. Like if it was a physical disability, he would be in a wheelchair and communicate by moving a stick with his mouth.

I’m also jealous of her. At the best of times, he treats me as a pal, a nice lady, a good source of food, money and electronic access, but she is the only person he seems to love. At the worst times, he says he doesn’t want to be our son, and he doesn’t want us to be his parents. He only wants his mother. Of course he wants his mother. But I feel like she doesn’t deserve his love, and I’m angry that she gets it and I don’t. We all have a lot of stuff to work through...

What I want you to know is that we don’t regret our decision. We love our boy and we have faith he will love us as and when he is able. What makes it so much harder is the world not understanding and accepting that we have to do things differently, and that this difference is OK. If our boy was in a wheelchair, the world would understand a little better. But because his disability is emotional, all they see is an angry, oppositional delinquent who hurts everyone around him, especially us, who love him unconditionally, and they react like it’s a choice he’s making. They think he should realize how lucky he is to have us and say that he should smarten up so he can come home. They say we should give up, that he’s unreachable, that he may never love us. I already love him with all my heart, and miss him every single day he is not with us. It’s too late. We won’t give up now.

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