When Children Are Property


When birth parents experience the removal of their children by child protective services, they tend to have a few different reactions:

  • Work the Plan – Work Hard
    They do everything in their power to reach the goals the agency has given them in order to be reunited with their children. They come to all scheduled visits and court dates. They work really hard and show a great deal of care towards their children.
  • The Dangling Carrot Feeling 
    Some birth parents work their parenting plans and always show up but seem to not be able to meet the agencie’s demands. They may feel helpless, as if the agency keeps dangling their children as a carrot out in front of them, but they cannot ever do enough, and though they care endlessly for their children and desire them to be back at home, they may eventually give up.
  • Not Present
    Some birth parents, due to addiction or other reasons, do not show much interest in parenting. They do not show up to visits or court dates. They do not work toward their case goals.
  • Competitive Winner
    There is a very small group of birth parents who appear to have a different attitude. These parents fight hard to retain their parental rights, but they seem not to care about how their children are cared for but solely about winning the case. They seem to view the child as property and simply appear to want their “property” back, but they do not act in the child’s best interest or meet the child’s needs.

All parents whose children are removed are being faced with such an invasive and stressful situation, which many people have difficulty understanding. These responses are all valid and have reasons, but the one that seems to be most troublesome is the response that a parent cares only about the child as a piece of property. It is very concerning for all those involved.

BUT, this blog is not really about birth parents. I want to challenge foster and adoptive parents to question whether they are exhibiting a similar response and to consider the potential consequences.

A Challenge to Foster/Adoptive Parents

Foster and adoptive parents can be just as possessive. As with birth parents, their reasons are often valid, BUT the results can be equally harmful. Adoptive parents have often fought so hard to help the children in their home. They may have been directly involved with birth family members during the foster care or adoption process, and it may not have been a pleasant experience. There is often a tendency for foster and adoptive parents to say the child is theirs and theirs alone once the birth parents’ rights have been terminated or adoption has been finalized. As a result, they often do not acknowledge that the child had beginnings apart from them. They may not acknowledge the child’s loss or the loss of the birth family (immediate and extended). They may cut others who love the child (or who would like to know and love the child) out from the child’s life.

These thoughts and actions have the potential to hurt the child by:

  • keeping them from information about their identity which they may need to develop in a healthy way, and
  • keeping them from developing or maintaining healthy relationships with birth family members.

The reality is that research and story after story tell us that openness in adoption is the best for all involved. There are different levels, which is necessitated by each situation and by what is beneficial for everyone involved. It is not always comfortable, and sometimes there has to be a time of healing and little contact after termination of parental rights or adoption finalization for everyone to heal, process, and gain perspective.

There is a beauty that comes from sharing our children with everyone who loves them. There is a quote that occasionally floats around Pinterest and Facebook:

“He is mine in a way that he will never be hers, yet he is hers in a way that he will never be mine, and so together, WE are motherhood.”

I did a little surfing around and found that this quote was made by birth mother and adoption advocate, Desha Wood. When we can acknowledge that a child belongs fully (in different ways) to their birth and adoptive families, we can develop relationships that only serve to make our children happier and healthier. On one of our recent Monday Caregiver Check-Ins, Allison Douglas (foster/adoptive parent of 4 children and professional at Harmony Family Center, Knoxville, TN) shared about a birthday party they recently had for one of their children. There were several birth and adoptive family members there celebrating the child. She shared how natural it was for her child to introduce all these people to friends and introducing both his moms as “Mom” and all other family members simply by relationship, and not necessarily differentiating between birth or adoptive relationships. I loved a similar moment at a party where one of my kids had one arm around me and one around their first mom and leaned over to kiss each of our cheeks and say, “I love you, Mom” to each of us. My kids belong as much to their birth families as they do to our families.

On the other hand, I have seen enormous hurt when an adoptive family claims a child as theirs and theirs alone and needlessly cuts out siblings, or birth parents, or other extended family members. Adoptees and foster children are done a great injustice when the foster or adoptive family acts as if the child’s life began with them and leaves out any part of their personal history before placement.


Ellie Jelly and the Massive Mum Meltdown – Book Review


From the Cover of Ellie Jelly and the Massive Mum Meltdown by Sarah Naish:

“Ellie Jelly wakes up hungry and ready for breakfast but Mum is busy with her little sister; Grace. Ellie tries to get Mum’s attention: she bangs the table, she makes loud singing noises, but it’s no good. Finally, she decides to make her own breakfast, picking up the heavy milk carton and – OH NO – spilling the milk over the table and the floor.

Mum gets really angry and shouts at Ellie. Ellie feels wobbly and her chest is banging – will Ellie Jelly and Mum ever be friends again?”



Transfiguring Adoption awarded this book 4 Hoots out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a foster/adoptive family. [Learn more about our Hoot grading system here]

What Our Family Thought:

The target audience of this book appears to be the general public with the topic of how a family navigates times when a caregiver might have a meltdown. Transfiguring Adoption believes that this book is still very relevant for foster/adoptive families as many caregivers find themselves in more heightened stressful situations which could easily cause them to have a meltdown with children. This book seems like it would work well for children from ages 4 – 9 years old and possibly a couple of years older depending on the child.

The illustrations appeared to be drawn in a colorful cartoon style through the use of mixed drawing media. The images do a good job of bringing the reader into the world of Ellie Jelly. The figures convey clear emotions help to engage a child so that a family can easily progress through the story.

The tale centers around a little girl named, Ellie Jelly, who is not to happy about her baby sister, Grace, demanding so much attention of Mum. Ellie begins the day by doing various actions to get Mum’s attention. When Mum must leave the room, Ellie decides to take on the task of making breakfast on her own which ends in one mistake snowballing to larger mistakes. The result is Mum having a meltdown in front of the girls.

Transfiguring Adoption appreciates that this story seems to be a true-to-life tale to which families will be able to relate. The family itself speaks to many groups, such as single parents, traditional birth families, foster families, and adoptive families as it is vague how this family was formed. Transfiguring Adoption appreciates the author’s care for addressing the feelings a child might have when a caregiver has meltdown as well as taking the readers through a journey for healthy resolution after a meltdown occurs.

Sarah Naish has written several other books for children. While all of her books have been found to be very useful for foster and adoptive families, Transfiguring Adoption finds that her work is continuing to grow and become even richer. The only reason this book did not earn a perfect score was merely due to our guidelines requiring a 5 HOOT score to be given to media directly relating to foster or adoptive families.
Overall, this book is a MUST for caregivers to have on their shelves to help reconnect and have a healthy conversation with children after (or possibly before) their next meltdown.

Buy From Our Links and Support Transfiguring Adoption:

It’s Your Turn:

  1. Why doesn’t Ellie like being busy?
  2. How do you think Ellie felt when mom was yelling and banging things around?
  3. Why did grandma come visit?
  4. Did Mum mean to hurt Ellie with her words?
  5. Does Mum still love Ellie? How do you know?
  6. Have you ever felt like Ellie? How?
  7. How do you know your mom or dad loves you?
  8. Is it okay for people to get mad at times?
  9. What do kids AND adults need to do when they hurt someone with their words?


5 Questions To Ask Before/After A Disruption: Did We Do All We Could?


My son got into the car on one of the last days of school with his yearbook in hand. He commented that [our foster child I called “Little Bit”] was in the yearbook. I forgot. Inwardly I twinged. I felt the pangs of guilt…the incessant internal question, “Did we do all we could?” After we got out of the car, we looked through the yearbook (and I found Little Bit’s pictures, including one with her best friend from school/our neighborhood). He then dug out an envelope and started reading goodbye letters his teachers and classmates wrote to him to wish him well in his new middle school in his new state. I laughed and swelled with pride in him at the things they wrote, but I flashed back to the letters written by Little Bit’s teachers and classmates when they found out they just had a couple days left with Little Bit. I remembered how far Little Bit had come. I wondered if I should have fought harder for Little Bit to be able to stay at the school where so much growth and healing had occurred. Should I have volunteered to provide transportation? Would I have been able to provide transportation and still do everything I needed to for my family and other responsibilities?

A few weeks ago someone told me they ran into Little Bit and a sibling who had also lived with us. When Little Bit heard we were moving to Florida, the answer was a disappointed “Aw.” I can hear the sound and see the facial expression in my mind. Six months in our home was long enough for me to know Little Bit’s faces and sounds. In those six months, the disappointed and sad sounds and faces had become fewer, and the happy sounds and faces and joy had increased so much.

The internal conflict continues. Even our kids every now and then say they miss Little Bit and mention that they wish we could have done more. Six months have passed since they moved out. I saw these two precious ones once at a party a couple weeks after they moved out. I fully intended to have more contact. I wanted to pick up Little Bit and go to the holiday program at our elementary school so Little Bit could say goodbye to the best friend who was out of town during Little Bit’s last days at our house. I want to see these two kids we came to love so dearly. I want to talk to them. I want to hug them. They went to Florida with us once for vacation. I remember during that trip they said, “We should all move to Florida!”, and they daydreamed aloud with the other kids about what life here would be like. Crazily enough, we made the decision to move to Florida a few months later…after they had moved out.

We had never disrupted before. We have made the decision not to adopt before, but not for kids who lived in our home as placements, just ones who were needing a home we knew we could not provide. We said no to placements. BUT we never disrupted. WE disrupted. We—the people who strive to keep disruptions from happening and support others as best we can so they do not feel the need to disrupt—disrupted, and people reminded us that we are the people that say disruptions should be kept to a minimum. I know how disruptions affect kids. I remind myself that it was supposed to just be short term—like a few weeks until a suitable placement could be found. We had not promised long term. We stuck through so much hard with them for way longer than we were supposed to have had them in our home. We fought for them and faced their struggles as members of their team. But those professionals working with our family knew it was time and told us so. We were no longer helpful to Little Bit and Little Bit’s sibling, and the kids we had promised forever to were suffering in ways I cannot share. Other people not so close to the situation were angry and did not understand.

As foster parents, there are several questions we have to ask before and after a disruption:

  1. Are there any further steps that can be taken by us or the children’s care team to prevent a disruption?
    It could be instituting a safety plan or obtaining additional services for the child(ren). It could mean hiring someone to help in the home. It could be taking some time out for self-care or getting further training to aid in parenting to the needs of the child(ren).
  2. In the case of disruption, how can we help our families, friends, neighbors, and others who have been involved with a foster child understand, and how do we do that without breaking rules of confidentiality?
  3. How do we minimize trauma for the child(ren)?
    It may mean doing transitional visits with the child’s new placement and easing them into the home. This definitely includes giving the child a life book and/or other items to help them remember their history. It may mean continuing to play an active role in the child’s life in whatever way possible. Let the new caregiver know about routines, behaviors, likes, dislikes, and so on. A good resource is the book Moving to a New Foster Home by Adam Robe. It helps a child process the move on their level and give the new family information children want their new caregivers to know about them.
  4. How do we ensure the child continues to get needed services, does not have to start over with certain testing, etc?
    This means passing as much information on as possible to the new placement. You need to give a detailed list of all past and future appointments with all specialists. You need to make sure you get the new placement information on services received at school, both formal and informal.
  5. How do we get to a place where we have closure and we can stop second-guessing ourselves?
    For our family, the facts that all of the professionals involved with our family told us we needed to disrupt and that damage was being done to everyone in our home has helped us conclude that we made the only decision we could. When we met with the team involved with the children, we were told we had the best explanation for disruption ever given.