Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Returning a Child: It happens More than You Think

Anita Tedaldi planned to adopt for a long time, even before she met her husband or had five biological daughters. She wanted a big family like the one she grew up with in Italy, and, although she doesn’t say as much in her NY Times article “My Adopted Son,” after five daughters, she wanted a male child. She fulfilled her desire by taking in a year old boy from South America, “D.” As she drove to the Miami airport to pick him up, she could not contain her excitement. “After waiting many long months, I’d finally hold and kiss my son.”

Tedaldi prepared to bring D into her home and heart by researching attachment problems and other complications, speaking with her therapist, and consulting with social workers to determine if she and her family would be a good match. D, who had been left beside a road, had developmental delays, weak legs, a flat head from lying in a crib many hours a day, and ate his own feces. The real problems, however, were that after several months he didn’t attach to her, her husband (somewhat expected because he was deployed much of the time) or her daughters, and Tedaldi didn’t attach to him.

“I was attentive, and I provided D with a good home, but I wasn’t connecting with him on the visceral level I experienced with my biological daughters. And while it was easy, and reassuring, to talk to all these experts about D’s issues, it was terrifying to look at my own. I had never once considered the possibility that I’d view an adopted child differently than my biological children. The realization that I didn’t feel for D. the same way I felt for my own flesh and blood shook the foundations of who I thought I was.”

Tedaldi sought help and participated in attachment therapy but nothing worked. Fortunately she found a family (who fell in love with D after looking at his pictures) who wanted him. After 18 months she passed him on to the other family.

Termination (in legal terms “disruption” or “dissolution”) is a common but not publicized aspect of this redistribution of children called adoption. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway of the US Department of Health and Human Services, between 10 and 25 percent of adoption placements disrupt, that is, end before the adoption is finalized. Disruptions occur more frequently in the placements of older children. Dissolution, ending an adoption after it has been finalized, occurs in about three percent of adoptions. Again, it is more frequent with older children.

I have mixed feelings about Tedaldi’s actions. She was victimized by the adoption industry which capitalized on her desire to have a son much as the industry manipulates young pregnant women’s fear of motherhood to convince them to surrender their infants.

At the same time, I am disgusted by her narcissism. She brought D into her home to meet her needs, not his. She never tells us how her husband and her daughters felt about the adoption, apparently because it didn’t matter. She knew her husband would be away much of the time and he likely dismissed the adoption as her “thing.”

Tedaldi considered D her son before she met him, based on an assumption that children are fungible –taking a boy into her arms would make him her son, no matter that he had come thousands of miles and had a flat head. She expected to love him “like her own flesh and blood” even though she didn’t lay eyes on him until he was a year old.

When she brought him to meet the woman who would take him off her hands, she dressed D “in one of his cutest outfits, white polo shirt and blue khaki pants.” She wanted an adorable boy, not a kid who ate his own poop and refused to love her.

If Tedaldi had been motivated by a desire to help a needy child, she might have worked with authorities in his own country to find a family who, with some financial assistance, could have cared for him. If his needs had been paramount, she would have accepted her role as a tender caregiver, and not expected to connect with him on a visceral level.

The adoption industry markets adoption as a way to fulfill the desires of adults. With a disruption/dissolution rate of up to 25 percent, it appears the industry is misleading, if not defrauding, its customers.
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For more on this particular case go to Chinaadoptiontalk. Malinda has a great post about this case.

26 comments :

  1. Hey Jane, I read this article on NYT the other week and commented LOTS. Then Lisa Belkin did another article about Privacy in reference to Anitas article of AD and she took commentors to task over there comments on the article, So I took her to task over that and she refused to publish my comments or give me a decent reason.
    Lisa is most definitely biased towards Anita.
    What happened to D is shameful and what is happening right now to those 5 girls and her serving husband is also shameful.

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  2. My personal experience with a "return":

    Several years ago I had dinner with my college boyfriend. He was recently divorced, and I had not yet come out of the closet as a birth mother. He told me that he and his wife, after many years of not having a child, adopted an older boy--I am not sure of the age, but I think it was about four or five. Then she had a son. A couple of years after that, they got divorced, and she told him that while she wanted custody of "their son" she was not prepared to take the other boy. My friend said he couldn't see either how he could raise the boy, and so they had the adoption undone. The kid I think would have been about seven or eight by then.

    I was sick when I heard this story and it helped convince me that finding my daughter at whatever age would not be too soon.

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  3. Go to Malinda's blog too. She unearthed some weird stuff about Anita. Posts of relevance are

    http://chinaadoptiontalk.blogspot.com/2009/08/terminating-adoption.html

    http://chinaadoptiontalk.blogspot.com/2009/08/terminating-adoption-will-real-anita.html

    http://chinaadoptiontalk.blogspot.com/2009/09/radio-links.html

    Read them in that order. Sorry I don't have time right now to give you the short links.

    I agree with you, Jane. You cannot inhale a son or daughter from afar and make it be. The fact that she thought raising her 5 bio daughters would totally prepare her for this adoption and that the agency knew her husband was frequently away just makes you wonder.

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  4. What's fascinating is that if you read the comments--I just read the first page--most of them say, wow, thanks for sharing, brave story, yadda yadda yadda. Only a few people took her to task for adopting in the first place.

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  5. That is indeed a horrible story, which I had already seen in several places. What makes it even worse is that the same author had written a piece several years ago criticizing some other adoptive mother for terminating an adoption!

    One of the weirdest terminated adoption stories I know happened years ago to Julie Welsch, a birth mother in our local NJ group. Her surrendered son was 12, and she had located him and rode by the house many times but saw no signs of kids. Finally one day she saw an old man outside and on impulse, stopped to talk to him.

    She introduced herself as "Jeff's birth mother, and went into the usual speech about just wanting know he was ok, not wanting to disrupt his family etc. The old guy cut her off, and told her that his wife, the adoptive mother, had died when he was 5, he had remarried, and neither he nor the stepmother wanted Jeff! He said he was in a boarding school in New England, they had not seen him for several years, and if she wanted him, she could go get him!

    After getting over her considerable shock and heartbreak, that is what Julie and her husband did. Thank God Jeff was ok, and went to live with them and his two younger half brothers. Julie had to adopt her own kid for legal reasons. There was another child in the home, a girl, later removed by the state, and a biological child of the stepmother whom I don't know what happened to. The girl was eventually reunited with her birth mother as well.

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  6. Lorraine, exactly! All the stuff about being brave, honest, searing, candid, still being a "fine parent" and a loving mother was sick-making. But the people who patted her on the back just refused to look at the ramifications of disruption, which btw one adoptee recently noted was just another word for abandonment. Amen.

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  7. I have often wondered at the adoption of my daughter. She was supposedly placed the day I signed the papers, June 7, the people were waiting. Then, all these years later I found out that my daughter was, on Thanksgiving of the same year, advertised for adoption in the newspaper!

    She was almost 4 by this time and I have often wondered if there had been a disruption. I have no idea how to find out. I don't even know how to get copies of the adoption papers - even though I know her adoptive parents (now totally severed from my daughter by their choice - even having her removed from familial connection in public records).

    That article makes me sick. I can't find a place in my heart where that kind of behavior is adult or even maternal! How can you think that a child is someone you can just make into someone they aren't?

    And they said that we could not be good parents!

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  8. My son's adoptive parents had 2 bio children of their own.

    My son said that he could not understand why they adopted him.

    They always compared him to their academically gifted children and made him feel a failure. They have Phd's and he doesn't.

    He felt like Cinderella in his adoptive home.

    He was glad that I found him.

    He said that he didn't look for me because he thought that I would be as disappointed as his adoptive parents!! He had no self esteem at all. How terrible is that.

    By the time I found him, he had a drinking problem, had dropped out of school and had a large debt.

    I helped him get back to school - I booked a short course that we went on together and we passed their exam.

    That made him realise that he could do things. He went back to school and finished it.

    He paid off his own debt with his own money and only drinks very occassionally.

    He is now half way through a college course.

    I told him that I was very proud of him. Do you know what he said to me?

    That no one, especially his adoptive parents, had ever said that to him. How heartbreaking is that!

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  9. My daughter grew up in an adopted family that did that very thing. Only they adopted FOUR and only kept ONE (my daughter).
    First they got a baby that was determined to have Downs. Now a lot of people tell me they understand not wanting a Downs baby and belikeve they understand why the adopters sent him back. WELL I DON'T. My mother had TWIN Downs babies and they are my SISTERS. I DON'T UNDERSTAND IT AT ALL.
    Then they got my daughter, who was cute and smart and extremely talented. She sang and danced and got all A's. She is now a veterinarian. Of course, they kept her. But they couldn't even go get her from the hospital. My daughter was born in Omaha and they lived in North Platte (about 250 miles away). They had a good friend "go pick her up" for them!
    Then, when my daughter was about 10 they adopted two brothers out of foster care, ages 5 and 6 or so. They kept these boys until they reached their teens and began acting out. Then THEY were GIVEN BACK to the state, too.
    Of course, my daughter insists that it was the "best thing" for their family to send the boys back. (Of course it was, for HER, since she got raised as the golden child, only child).
    My daughter's adopters are extremely religious people. But the way they treat children is just sick. My daughter told me they boys were "beaten" by her adad. I asked if she was beaten, too, and she replied, "No, I was good." I was speechless.

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  10. I posted the Motherlode blog about Tedaldi on alt.a. Also the earlier article in which she preens and judges.
    Certainly the Dutch couple deserved censure, but whatever credibility Tedaldi had is lost now she's gone and done the same thing. And even had the brazen gall to try and garner sympathy and praise from from her failure. Under the popular and convenient guise of "educating", of course.
    Gack.

    IMO She's a seriously disturbed woman who should never have been allowed to adopt in the first place. She forfeited whatever right she had to refer to D as "her son" when she disrupted the adoption. It squicks me out that she continues using that word.

    I once knew a couple who, I was later told by a mutual acquaintance, returned a child they had adopted. They were young attractive academics who, at the time we knew them, had one little girl.
    I was told they "wanted an older sister for her" and adopted a twelve year old to fill that role. Apparently they returned her after one year because the two girls didn't get on.
    Of course, one can't help wondering if what they really wanted was a permanent on-the-spot baby sitter.

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  11. Hello Everybody, I just followed Osolomama's advice and read the posts at Chinaadoptiontalk.blogspot.com that she suggested, and if you only have time for one, read the last one.

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  12. There was an article in a major magazine, maybe Time, awhile ago about a sort of underground network of adoptive parents giving kids they no longer wanted to other adoptive parents, with no agency or oversight involved. I think they were mostly Christian Fundamentalists and the kids were mostly foreign adoptions. Anyone else see this? Nothing like treating kids like something at a swap meet!

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  13. It certainly shows that the industry line of the adoptive family being "THE Forever Family" is a lie! My son's forever family has been his natural family all along.

    The people who had adopted him adopted a girl, then had 2 daughters of their own. They treated the adopted children differently. Eventually, when he was 22, they told him they wished he had never come to that family.

    He left that household for good 3 months later.

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  14. Thanks for directing people to my blog, Osolomama & Lorraine! I was so shocked to discover the mendacity of this woman -- words fail me.

    Jane wrote: Tedaldi considered D her son before she met him, based on an assumption that children are fungible.

    I think she also assumes parents are fungible, too. After all, what could be the harm it simply passing this child off to another set of parents. Yuck.

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  15. Maryanne said: There was an article in a major magazine, maybe Time, awhile ago about a sort of underground network of adoptive parents giving kids they no longer wanted to other adoptive parents, with no agency or oversight involved.

    Maybe you mean this article from USA Today?

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-01-18-swapping-children_x.htm

    "There are homes all across the United States that transfer kids from one place to another. No one's keeping tabs on this. ... These kids just come and go," says Sheriff Joe Shepard of Gibson County in rural northwest Tennessee, where the Schmitzes live.

    "Dump and run — it happens all the time," says Ronald Federici, a neuropsychologist in Alexandria, Va., and author of Help for the Hopeless Children who has adopted seven children. He says one adoptive family abandoned a child in his office. He says there are hundreds of e-mail chat rooms in which people who adopted children are trying to find new homes for them outside the public system.

    "They don't want to sell the kids. They just want to get rid of them," he says, explaining the children may have health problems the adoptive parents never expected. "It's not the merchandise they bought." He says many of these parents are looking for the cheapest and fastest placement.

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  16. Thanks Malinda, yes, that is the article. I had forgotten the "attachment therapy" connection, which makes it even uglier.

    My opinion of huge adoptive families as described in the article is that even the decent ones are not families at all, but unsupervised group homes. A whole lot can go wrong in those places when people with good intentions get beyond their capacity to adequately care for so many children; even worse when they start out as sadists, lunatics, or fanatics.

    Those "families" always remind me of animal hoarders, the people who are discovered with way too many dogs or cats living in squalid and unhealthy conditions. Taking in too many is a sickness and i think it can happen with kids as well as pets.

    Perhaps Ms. Tedaldi would not like to be included with what looks like a trailer trash adoptive parent network, but she could fit right in because she did the same thing. I just hope the home D or whatever his name really is ended up in really is a good one.

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  17. Wow, Maryanne. I never thought of it that way, but you are right about the hoarding thing. Unfortunately, the people in our society who "take in" upwards of 20, 30 kids are pretty much universally revered as "saints" for accepting the troubled trash to begin with. That, I believe, is the excuse always lurking beneath the surface of disruption stories--that at least they tried. It doesn't wash.

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  18. I'm very aware of the animal thing as our paper recently had a story of over 100 cats removed from a filthy home. Happily new homes were found or are being found for them:-) I could become a crazy old cat lady myself. I can't visit an animal shelter because I want to take all the kitties home.

    But realistically I know the vet bills and food bills and work to care properly for the 5 I now have, and that when you have too many everyone suffers, most of all the critters.

    It is indeed frustrating to see how those with huge adoptive families are seen as saints of some kind. Real saints would volunteer in some capacity at some facility for handicapped or troubled kids without having to "own" them. The unsupervised nature of these placements often leads to it becoming a money-making enterprise to collect the supplements that come with damaged kids, or just plain old abuse of the kids by crazy or over-stressed parents.

    Yes, I admire parents of handicapped kids, natural or adoptive, but I do not think you are doing the individual kids any favor by taking in too many.

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  19. What is up with calling adoptees "troubled trash" wouldn't that include both your children Osolomama and Maryanne?

    Honestly. too much.

    Joy

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  20. Absolutely Mary Anne,

    The people who adopt large numbers of children are very much like animal hoarders. There was a family in a small town in Oregon which had adopted 15 or so kids along with several biological children. 60 Minutes, as well as other media, did a glowing report on the family, called "The Celebration Family". The family received large donations from individuals and philanthropic organizations.

    Eventually it was discovered that the children had been abused both by the parents and by other children. The State of Oregon was slow to respond to reports of abuse, apparently because it had placed several children with the family and had conducted a less than thorough evaluation.

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  21. Somebody can't understand irony, a rhetorical device used to convey the opposite of what is written literally.

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  22. Looks that way, Osolo! And anyhow my ironic reference to "trailer trash" meant adoptive parents in that group that swaps around kids, not adoptees.
    Sheesh!

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  23. Osolomomma wrote: "Somebody can't understand irony, a rhetorical device used to convey the opposite of what is written literally."

    I don't see the irony because of the asinine characterization; it's not contrary to anything.

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  24. Oh, I understand irony and when groups of people, or initiates use names that have been used against them sarcastically.

    The thing is, you are not a member of that group of people.

    There's a difference.

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  25. Maybe what you do not get, Joy, is satire, or using the words or ideas of someone you disagree with to mock their attitude. Neither Osolo nor I were calling adoptees "trash" nor do we think adoptees are trash or that they are anything but precious human beings who are currently denied their rights. Jonathan Swift was not really advocating eating Irish babies either in "A Modest Proposal"!

    In using words like "trash" we were expressing and exposing the attitudes of those adoptive parents who would terminate an adoption and get rid of a child who was supposed to be part of their "forever family". We were NOT expressing a personal opinion.

    You have to look at words in context, not just react to the use of a word, especially when you should know from reading all our previous posts that neither Osolo nor I think of adoptees as
    trash or would call them that.

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  26. Comments on whether on these words are satire or not is closed.

    If you have another topic to discuss, fine.

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