Matthew is a foster care adoptee who later placed a daughter for adoption with his (adoptive) sister. He shares his story, his experiences as an adoptee and as a birth father, and important advice:
My Early Childhood and Entering Foster Care
I entered foster care when I was three and I was in foster care for almost two years, so my foster care time was short. I was lucky that I was only placed with one foster family (that I can remember) and they ultimately adopted me.
When I was in foster care, I was too young to really know what foster care and my situation meant. There were a couple of visits with my biological mother in which she asked me if I wanted to go home with her. I said, “Yes, but then I want to go back home with my mom and dad.” I just didn’t know who my biological mother was to me.
As I talk about it, I definitely feel that adoption was easily the best thing that ever happened to me. Knowing the problems that my biological family went through (drugs, mental illness, jail, etc.) I’m grateful that’s a life I did not have to experience.
Even with the support of my foster/adoptive family, my early childhood traumas affected me through the years. There are plenty of stories. I was in a behavioral institute when I was about age 12 to try to curb some of my issues. It got out of control to the point where I was in a group home by age 14 and spent a month in jail at age 18. This isn’t every kid’s foster or adoption story, but I have various experiences from different aspects of my life that tie into my foster care and adoption experience.
My Foster Family and My Adoption
Life was pretty normal: I went to school, came home, and I did kid stuff. I had toys and other foster kids to play with at home. At one point, there were four foster kids, my foster parent’s two biological kids, and my foster parents living together.
My foster parents didn’t treat me any differently than their own biological children. I had my issues but my foster parents never held it against me — they always treated me with the best care. I was sickly and behind my level of development, but my foster parents were great at attending to the needs of each of their individual kids.
After my eye surgery, my foster mother said that I looked so helpless that she felt like she wanted to adopt me and protect me. April 29, 1986, I was adopted by the family that fostered me, and I have this date tattooed on my arm because it is a part of me.
My Birth Family
I am not in contact with my birth family currently. When I was younger, I thought of all the things they could have done better, but now I don’t think about it.
My birth mother did a few important things right, like completing and providing a medical history to the best of her knowledge. But the best thing my biological mother did was sign the consent to terminate her parental rights.
I never knew my dad. He was out of the picture from day one — in jail or on the run from the law. I just didn’t know him.
My biological parents have passed away, two of my biological siblings didn’t want anything to do with me when I reached out, and my third sibling was really hard for me to deal with. My biological sister informed me of family things and answered my questions but in general, I wish my siblings would have been more receptive to getting to know me.
Placing My Child for Adoption
I was completely ambivalent when I found out I was going to be a father. I don’t know — at that moment I didn’t feel anything. It didn’t register yet. But later, when I was taking care of my daughter, I knew I was not meant to be a father.
Parenting and adoption were the only options the birth mother and I ever considered together. Abortion was never a part of our conversations. We were going to try to parent, but after some time it just wasn’t meant to be.
My own history was a factor in placing my daughter for adoption. It also raised a lot of conflict for me. Even though our situations were different and I knew she would have a good life, I was still afraid she would have the same anger and resentment that I had. I went through a lot of emotional trauma as a child, and I feared that my child would have some of the same feelings of being “given up.” I didn’t want my daughter to have to go through that. I didn’t want her to experience the anger that I had. I did not want her to be angry with me. I worried about placing her for adoption, but I knew what the right thing to do was.
My mom was very supportive of my attempt to parent my daughter, but she was like, “Hey, you probably shouldn’t be caring for this kid.” We all talked, and we all wanted my daughter to stay in the family. Luckily, she is still in my family because my sister adopted her. I knew she would be well taken care of — more so than me or her mother could have.
Choosing to Place My Child with a Family Member
My sister is awesome. I don’t know how she does it. She had three kids already when she adopted my daughter. Unfortunately, my sister ultimately got divorced and her ex-husband doesn’t care about any of the children. My daughter loves her adopted father, but he just doesn’t care. Realistically, I’m sure there were probably better choices for parents for my daughter, but hindsight is 20/20.
Do your research when choosing to place your kid with a family member. Being family will blind you because you feel a certain way about them, but that doesn’t mean that family is the best choice.
My daughter is now 14. I don’t know when my daughter was told that she’s adopted, but she knows that I’m her father and she has known for a good handful of years. My daughter and I don’t talk about her adoption. But she knows I’m her dad. If she wants to talk about it, then we can talk.
I am extremely pro-adoption. There are tons of kids in the world who can’t be properly cared for by their biological parents. I still think my daughter is in a good place — I don’t know if it’s the best place, again because we are family we were all a little blinded to the realities of placing a child within the family.
Looking back, I’m glad I was sound enough in mind to know that I wasn’t fit to be a father and that I then made the conscious decision to place her for adoption. But if I could change anything, I wouldn’t have been so agreeable with my mother about placement within the family just because we’re family. I should have done more research. I don’t think anything I could have said to my younger self would have made any difference, except to do more research on adoption instead of placing my daughter with my sister.
I am proud of being the sound-minded adult that I am, in comparison to the troublesome, immature, angry, wrong-decision-making, younger self. That was me until probably my mid-twenties. I had to work through all my emotional baggage and all that fun stuff.
I absolutely believe that my foster care and adoption experience influenced who I am today. I’ve had my share of problems stemming from the neglect and instability I experienced in my early years. But knowing what I know about my biological family, it could have been infinitely worse for me. If I wasn’t adopted, I would have been raised by sub-par parents and been around siblings with drug addictions and mental instability and that’s just not conducive to a healthy life. So being taken away from that at a young age and being put into a positive, supportive, loving family formed the person that I am now.
To kids in foster care:
Don’t be angry. There are other people in the world that want to care for you. Don’t let the fact that your biological parents “didn’t want you” or couldn’t take care of you affect your views on life.
To men facing an unplanned pregnancy:
Be a part of the process, no matter what it is. You hear a lot of stories about fathers who run out. Man-up and deal with the situation — whether it’s parenting, abortion, or adoption. You need to sit down with her and with your support system and weigh your options. And as always, do your research.
To birth families:
To my biological family I would say, “Thanks for making the right choice.” I would be a different man if I had grown up with them, and not for the better.
To adoptive families:
I am beyond grateful for my adoptive parents. I would be a completely different person without them. My parents and I talk about adoption all the time and it’s just the best thing that ever happened.
Learn more about foster care, and how to foster or adopt through foster care here.
Learn more about the potential pros and cons of kinship/relative adoptions here.
Learn more about the process of placing a child for adoption here.