Thursday, May 24, 2007

Am I Selfish?

Someone asked me the other day if I thought it was selfish to adopt children, children with special needs, as a single parent. Although I thought long and hard before each adoption how it would work as a single parent, the word ‘selfish’ never crossed my mind. When I first began my adoption journey, many times the children in whom I was interested would be placed in a two parent family – I wasn’t even considered as a possibility. Again, I understood that and believe that in an ideal world, a two parent family is preferable to a single parent family. But with adoption of children with special needs, an ‘ideal world’ just doesn’t exist. I have adopted as a single parent three children with special needs, and I didn’t and still don’t feel selfish for doing that.

People were not standing in line to adopt the children that are now a part of my family. Ashley was the first child I adopted, and although 85 families originally expressed interest in adopting her, as soon as they were told of her many significant special needs, they withdrew their applications. My next adoption was Jessica, my now 16 year old daughter. Like Ashley, Jessica had many families express interest in adopting her, but once they heard of her very significant mental illness, their interest evaporated. Social Services even withheld important information from me about Jessica until I had signed the adoption agreement because, as they admitted later, the options for Jessica were pretty much gone. And then finally, Corey, my now 14 year old son, joined our family. His relatives, the ones who were relinquishing custody and trying desperately to find a family for him, withheld a lot of information until agreements were in place. All three of these kids had not-so-bright futures ahead of them until they joined my single-parent family. Should I feel selfish to have given these kids a safe, loving home?

It's hard to imagine what life would have been like for Ashley, Jessica and Corey had they not joined my family. Ashley, as most doctors were recommending, would probably have been placed in a nursing home for the rest of her life, languishing in sub-standard care and never having the chance to become the vibrant, loving, happy person she is today. Jessica, who had been physically and sexually abused in many foster placements, would probably have continued down that path until her mental illness, nurtured at the hands of her so-called caregivers, spiraled totally out of control. Even in a loving home, Jessica has traveled a rough road to healing, but healing she is. Corey, who spent the first eight years of his life on the streets of Baltimore, would probably still be there and would spend his life there – that is, until the drugs and violence decided his fate. Now, he is learning that he does have some control over his future, and he is trying to set a course for success rather than abysmal failure. Should I feel selfish for being a conduit for these kids?

Perhaps my questioner was concerned that my children, especially my adopted children, had no significant male role model in their lives. I admit that has been a struggle, but I have done and continue to do whatever I can to provide them all with male role models – men who are strong and compassionate, intelligent and forgiving, loving and concerned. And, I think I have succeeded often in that effort. Should I feel guilty for having high standards for a husband, and therefore not having found the right person to walk life’s path with me and my children?

My children are caring, compassionate, and respectful. They work hard in school and help around the house more than most children their ages. They are happy and much more well-adjusted than they would have been in more negative placements. They are excited about their futures and convinced that their futures can hold promises of a good life. They have mastered skills people said they would never master. They are the first to offer to help our elderly neighbors and friends in need. They are, in short, fine people. I am proud of all them and of the obstacles they have overcome. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe they would say I was selfish for providing a better life for them.

So, to answer my questioner, no – I do not feel the least bit selfish for adopting children as a single parent. I feel very blessed that social workers believed in me and in my ability to raise these special children. If I feel selfish about anything, it’s that there is so much love in my family that many times is not present in other families – even two parent families.


Allie said...

Selfish? No. I would more say that it is admirable. Admirable in the sense that you have taken on the role of a mother to four children regardless as to whether they have disabilities or not.

I have all of the respect in the world to single moms for I just don't know how you do it all: working to provide, nurturing and loving the children and finding some time for yourself.

So, I would be more inclined to praise you and ask you how you are doing rather than if you felt selfish.

Attila the Mom said...

You're my hero.