What is a Beautiful Opportunity?

Some people have asked me about why this blog is called “The Beautiful Opportunity.”   After all foster care has been called many things, but beautiful is usually not the word that pops to mind.  Hard work, heart breaking, worthwhile, exhausting, a blessing… these are adjectives people frequently use to describe being a foster parent.

So why a beautiful opportunity?  It signifies a mind set that there is a wonderful upside to all situations and was taught to me by a fabulous attachment therapist.

I’ll call the attachment therapist Hippie Chick, as she had that mother earth vibe going.  She used to use the phrase “this is a beautiful opportunity to…[fill in the blank].”

For example, nine year old child exhibits anorexia, refusing to eat and losing weight.  My reaction?  ACCK!!!  WHAT THE HECK!!  HOW AM I TO GET HER TO EAT???!!  Hippie Chick says “Girl’s refusal to eat is a wonderful opportunity to recognize that the girl is trying to exercise control over her body when her life seems to be spinning out of her control, and as a parent, you can start finding ways to give her more control over parts of her life, like letting her help plan her birthday party.  How wonderful that girl is giving you signals about her needs and that you have the chance to fulfill those needs.”

So “the beautiful opportunity” philosophy is about joy and happiness.  It’s about looking at life’s difficulties through a different lens, and seeing the goodness that exists and the potential to make life even better.

As I write about foster care and adopting out of foster care, my goal is to show the world the positives.  Too often people focus on the tragedies – abuse, neglect, trauma – and not on the upside – the opportunity for birth parents to get their lives back on track, the opportunity for families to heal and reunite, the opportunity for a foster family to make a difference in the lives of others while having their lives transformed, and, if reunification isn’t possible, the opportunity for a child to find a new family through adoption.  There’s a heck of a lot to inspire us, to lift us up, and to celebrate.

I hope you will join me in finding foster care’s beautiful opportunities.

Birth Certificates: Erasing Birth Parents’ Names

Should birth parents’ names be erased from birth certificates and replaced with adoptive parents’ names?  Rebecca of Fosterhood wrote a very moving and thought-provoking piece on why this practice should be banned.  All My Pretty Ones wrote additional support.  And I agree with Rebecca and AMPO … to a point.

Erasing Birth Parents’ Names Denies their Importance

Birth parents play an incredibly important role in children’s lives.  They gave the children life, their looks, their temperament, etc.  Birth parents should most definitely be respected, honored and cherished, and falsifying who really gave birth or fathered children seems to be unbelievably disrespectful.

Official Documents Should be Truthful

I don’t want my name to be listed as having given birth to my son (it wouldn’t be true!).  It’s a record of his BIRTH.  Why should government employees be knowingly and willfully faking official records?

Adoption is Awesome

Why create a lie?  Adoption is no longer a cause for shame.  We are proud of our son’s heritage, history and first family.  We think adoption is an awesome choice and way to make a family.  Open adoption is the norm now.

BUT…

Adoptees Have the Right to Disclose

My son, like many other adoptees, likes to decide who to tell about his life history.  If he knows you, likes you, and feels comfortable, he may choose to reveal this intensely personal aspect of his life.  Birth certificates are used in many different transactions: registering for school, getting a driver’s license, getting a marriage license, etc.  Why should he be forced to share his story with random strangers if he doesn’t feel comfortable?  And let me tell you that school officials will make certain assumptions about your child based off of adoptive status! (argh!)

Older, Foster Adoptees Particularly Sensitive

Children adopted at an older age and children adopted out of foster care may be particularly sensitive about wanting control over to whom and how to disclose their adoptive status.  Having lived with birth parents for a period of their lives, having suffered trauma and loss, they often are highly selective about with whom they talk about adoption.  Can they trust this person with their biggest, deepest emotions?  It raises such painful memories.  And people tend to ask probing questions about what it was like.  And sometimes (uneducated) people think differently of children after they disclose.

So  I have no clear answer here.  What are your thoughts?