The other day I was talking with a fellow adoptive parent, a fantastic mom, whom our family has know for many years. We were sharing our stories about being on the journey and suddenly the conversation turned to this mom’s regrets for having adopted her child.
This feeling of regret wasn’t made in anger or flippantly. Actually, it was made through cautious and embarrassed tones. Emotions caused from years of striving to meet her child’s needs, of giving up dreams, of giving up time with other children in the home as well as her spouse.
I was able to comfort this friend. It wasn’t that I had the answers but I walk along the same journey that she does. I know what it is like to feel the mix of guilt and regret throughout a period of days. It’s a horrible feeling to come over you when you realize that you’re failing in this caregiver role that you took on. You feel like you are possibly doing the child more harm or at the least not helping them at all. The worst is holding these feelings to yourself because others don’t understand or won’t understand – you’re forced to put on a happy face in public when your insides are clawing for an empathetic ear.
Thankfully over the years I have found other foster and adoptive parents who share my journey. I know others also have feelings of regret for taking a child into their home. However, outside of a counseling office, I only see us, the caregivers, recognize these feelings and then stop there.
What steps can we do to overcome and persevere?
- Normalizing for Caregivers
We live in societies and cultures which frown upon imperfection and the inability to be self-reliant. HOWEVER, being human means that NO ONE can provide the perfect care, love, emotions or upbringing for any child. Furthermore, no person is an island and will require help. Caregivers may feel that something is wrong with themselves if they admit they need help, they are overwhelmed or they just don’t simply have those “lovey dovey” feelings for their child. The fact that time has been spent writing this article says that no caregiver is alone in their feelings of regret for starting the foster care or adoption journey.
- Go Through the Grieving Process
It’s important to know that there is no “fix” or “easy step guide” to follow to deal with feelings of regret. Instead caregivers will find that it is a process – a grieving process. One must allow themselves to grieve the changed dreams and goals that they had for their child and their life. After losing a loved one, many people seek counseling – this may be an important component for a caregiver to seek as well, so that a professional can help them at least initially walk through the grieving process.
After going through the process, don’t be under the delusion that it won’t rear its head again. One might find themselves going through the grieving cycle several time throughout life. It is again important to “Normalize” these feelings and allow others who are on the foster care or adoption journey to share these moments with you.
- Don’t STAY in Regret
It would be easy to hide in your home by yourself and simply live out your days depressed. The fact of the matter is that as a caregiver you chose to take a hurting child into your home and that child (despite what they may be showing you through behaviors) is depending on you for so much. Do you have regrets? Yes. Do you like your child? Maybe not at all. Are you depressed about lost dreams? Quite likely. However, as a caregiver, it is also a part of our job description to execute what is in the child’s best interests. This certainly doesn’t include a caregiver who is stuck in regret. It’s up to you to seek out support, make that appointment with a counselor, do what it takes to have time for self-care… you’re the adult and must lead the charge in this battle.
It’s Your Turn…
What steps would you add to our list?
I regret ever doing foster care a huge mistake!
It’s sad to hear you and other foster parents have to say that – we’re sorry that you have had such a difficult time.
Unfortunately, you’re not alone in your feelings. 50% of foster parents in the U.S. quit their first year due to feeling ill-equipped to handle trauma-caused behaviors and overwhelmed by the foster care system. This is why Transfiguring Adoption exists.
Thank you for your hard work in trying to help children in difficult situations. Thank you for being brave enough to be transparent with your feelings.
Feel free to join a group of caregivers that meets on our Facebook and YouTube page every Monday at 8pm EST to discuss our struggles and support one another on the journey.
Thank you for writing this article, and putting this out there. We have been fostering for a year and a half and yesterday our foster placement became an adoption placement. I love our little girl and I certainly don’t want her to have to go to another family, but this week as the pace for adoption picked up I started to feel overwhelmed and worried we were making a mistake. Will I ever be good enough? Will I be able to love her as deeply as my bio kids if times get rough? Will having her around make it harder for our family?
I had a suspicion that I’m not alone in these thoughts, but that people don’t want to necessarily share these concerns openly. Thanks again for helping me feel not so alone as I process this!