Friday, September 24, 2010

A newborn adoption disrupted

So many disruption stories are about older child adoption and/or international adoption.  Here's one in the Chicago Tribune about a family that adopted a newborn domestically:
After Ellie endured dozens of clinicians and multiple hospitalizations, the Gertzes came to the sad realization that their daughter would never be able to function in the family constellation. They faced a wrenching dilemma: Do they give up their daughter to protect everyone else?

Lori Gertz told of the family's struggle in a blog, and she and her husband, Craig, 45, shared their story with the Tribune in an effort to help other families by raising awareness and calling for more resources for children with mental illness.

Eight years ago, giving up their daughter would have been unfathomable. The Gertzes had one son — Jonah, then almost 4 — and longed to have more children, but, after seven miscarriages and Lori Gertz nearing 40, the window was closing. So they turned to adoption.

Eventually, a 34-year-old New Jersey woman chose them from an online site, just eight weeks before her due date. On Jan. 5, 2003, Lori Gertz accompanied the birth mother into the delivery room. She was the first one to hold and feed the 8-pound newborn.

"No one could have felt luckier and more joyful than us," Lori Gertz said. "We have beautiful photos of that day … proof of a mother doing only what was in the best interest of her child. I wish she had that presence of mind when Ellie was in utero."

* * *

In 2005, it took Ellie pushing Lori Gertz — now eight months pregnant with Talia — down a flight of stairs for others to recognize this wasn't about the "terrible twos" or bad parenting. This was something that could not have been prevented by the Gertzes.

When they met Ellie's birth mother, she revealed few habits beyond bingo and cigarettes, and nothing in her pristine medical records suggested otherwise.

Only after the woman's brother started e-mailing the Gertzes did they discover other vices. She began drinking and smoking pot in her teens, graduating to PCP, then crack cocaine, a routine she continued during her first trimester. "I know she was clean for the remainder of her pregnancy because she was in jail," wrote the brother.
Read the whole thing, and then let us know what you think.


Anonymous said...

"And they all were wounded by one of Ellie's recent letters.

She inquired only about the dogs."

This all points to the prejudice against adoptees. This little girl was sent away, obstensibly because she didn't fit into the "constellation" of their perfect bio fam-fam. Maybe it is just the journalist, but they are WOUNDED because she only asks about the dogs?

She was twice abandoned. Holy mother of anything ever considered holy? They are wounded because she only asked about the dogs? Maybe the dogs were the only ones that never turned on her.

This story just goes to show how vulnerable adoptees are. How little sympathy for us exists.

This has nothing to do with the well-being of the child, she served her purpose and is replaceable. I wish that natural mothers really could understand this before they withdraw their protection.

They don't though. They just don't consider it.

I know how it feels to be not considered, and it hurts.


T. Laurel Sulfate said...

Never thought I'd say this, but: Move over, Anita Tedaldi.

Ms. Gertz can't believe Ellie's birth mother had the nerve to kill herself. Didn't that selfish cow know how inconvenient it would be for Ms. Gertz to not be able to grill her for answers, extract a signed confession that she drank, and receive some well-earned apologies?

"They felt sad for their daughter, but also cheated that they would never get to fill in all the blanks. 'In time, I'd come to see her as an addict, but her legacy went well beyond the damage she did to Ellie,' Lori Gertz wrote on her blog. 'It had now affected everyone in our family.'"

She insists this child is too dangerous to be part of her family...and foists her off on another family rather than pony up for the residential placement she and her husband could well afford to pay for.

Before you decide I'm vilifying Ms. Gertz, please visit her blog:

"Demon child means I didn't get to go to Costa Rica this year! Baaaaaw!"

This is her putting her best face on things. This is her trying to make herself look good...and she looks terrible.

An said...

This was also discussed recently on Resist Racism. My only question is, would they have done the same thing if their bio child was the one with all the issues?

It is hard for me to judge because my parents did end up putting my severely autistic brother (their bio child) in a special needs home because they were old and could no longer handle him.

At the same time, the publicity and back-patting and the fact that the mother is writing a memoir really bothers me.

An said...

OK I take that back. I just reread it more carefully and the difference between my parents and the Gertz family is that they are still involved in my brother's life - they visit several times a week and he comes home every holiday. My mother, to this day (he is 26), still tries every "remedy" and "cure" for autism that she reads about. By contrast it looks like the Gertz family removed Ellie from their home for good with very little or no contact.

Anonymous said...

曉安, my brither has autism too and yes, there is a huge difference!

Did anyone get to the part on the blog where the mother declared she was a victim of domestic violence just like anyone who gets beat up by hub . . . because E. had lots of rages? Can anyone say (one more time, folks): big difference? There was another heart-breaking part where E. begged her mother not to film her and her mother said she had to so everyone would know what E. did to them.

Yuk. This child's trust was abused from Day 1.

Anonymous said...

Did you know "Not of My Womb: Parenting the Legacy of an Addict" is a title of another blog and possibly the book that's gonna come out of all this?

I think that says it all.

maryanne said...

I totally agree with Joy on this one! A child who can relate to animals is not a child without a conscience as FAS children are often described. They would tend to abuse animals, not care about and ask after them. Also, mental retardation is usually a part of FAS and yet this child is described as bright. There are holes in this story you could drive a truck through.

I too feel that the dogs were the only ones she could trust that did not turn on her. No wonder she asked for them, and not her ex-"forever family." And why would she even write if she had no conscience and no normal feelings as they portrayed her?

The first thing I hated in one of the links on this story was the "family constellation" sitting in the stereotype overdone "little princess" bedroom of the child they kicked out. It was more like a stage set than a real kid's room.

Another bit I did not get; if she is unfit to live in a family and in fact dangerous and vicious as described, why would she suddenly do better in another family setting? Wouldn't institutional care be more appropriate and safer for everyone?

I do not feel sorry for that adoptive family at all. I feel they exploited and are continuing to exploit a needy child with their book that I hope nobody buys. They should be ashamed, not proud and not seeking publicity for their heinous behavior.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. My 8 yr old daughter has been with me for 5 yrs now. Her name is Ellie. Life with her has been tough. But reading through that blog... missing Ellie? Enjoying the breeze through the windows because Ellie is gone now? I'd as soon cut off my head as cut my Ellie out of my life. She is my life. This cow has no idea.

Anonymous said...

This is utterly sickening. This woman's lack of compassion for her daughter is matched only by her very public disdain for the child's birthmother! It's hard to tell from reading her writings which of them she respects the least.

And now she's going to try and make money off it. Sick sick sick. And very ugly.

Kim said...

Gotta say the story - and her blog - have a lot to do with "The Dream" of a little girl... I wonder how things would have played out if they HADN'T been able to have the younger daughter.

Ellie looks like she was a place marker. And I believe them that her behavior was wild, and that the therapists couldn't help. Because you never do effective child therapy without the whole family being involved. She was reacting to SOMETHING in their home.

And they don't want to see it. So I'm glad she's not THERE anymore. I hope her foster family really is as good as they're made to sound.

Anonymous said...

"I hope her foster family really is as good as they're made to sound." Well, they rightly declined to be interviewed. I think that says something!

Terri said...

I read this news article a few days ago, and like others on this site, I was immediately disgusted by the parents. And I found myself thinking, like others here, "do they reject her because she's adopted?"

Then today, I read the blog osolomama mentioned: Not of My Womb (what a terrible name for a blog, right?), and, oh my, how my heart hurts. What would I do if I had a 5-year-old who repeatedly and deliberately tried to run into traffic so she could die? Who told me after years of medicines, special diets, alternative schooling, hospitalizations, and home modifications that none of it helps and that she still wants to be dead all the time...she just didn't say anything so I wouldn't feel bad?

And then what would I do if told that the only kind of treatment that would work for my child would be residential care but that such care would cost $100k, but even if I could pay that money, too bad, because the residential facilities don't accept private pay. And if I were turned down for all of the available state grants because my child's IQ was too high and she didn't have the "right" diagnoses, and the school district would only support my attempt to get a grant if my 6-year-old child attempted suicide AT SCHOOL.

I still resist the very idea of adoption disruption. I still hate hate HATE the way these situations become sound bite news stories with sainted adoptive families "confessing" their inability to love their children. I still wonder if something could have been done (sooner?) to preserve this family.

But reading that blog--especially starting with the 2007 entries, which were so full of hope for the child's future--gave me the smallest taste of walking in one family's shoes, and I find myself wondering what I would do in that situation. What would I do if I started to believe that keeping my daughter with me was hurting her?

Is the mom just rationalizing? Is she leaving out stuff that would cast herself in a bad light? Were there residential options that she didn't explore? I don't know.

kyburg said...

What I'm left with after reading the story is the constant, continual thread of betrayal that ran throughout it.

Betrayal by the first mother.
Betrayal by the adoptive mother.
Betrayal by the child.

*sighs* May that little girl grow up into a healthy, happy adulthood with people who have that uppermost in their minds. It's all I can ask for.

Anonymous said...

Kyburg, I don't understand how the child betrayed anyone.

Anonymous said...

I am an adoptive mom. I adopted a 10 year old child from the foster care system. At the time of adoption I also had a 2 year old and a 6 year old. I wont go into all the details, but I will say that my daughter's behaviors have been very, very dangerous. One can simply not even begin to understand the situation until they are in it.

Our daughter has FASD, PTSD, RAD, ADHD, Bipolar, low IQ, and there is concern of her developing scitzofrenia. I can understand the situation Lori was in. The damage done to these children's brains is devastating. Education must go out to the biological mothers! They can NOT be doing the harmful things that cause these conditions.

My daughter has caused so much trauma in our home that our biological children have been diagnosed with PTSD from their sister. If I had a biological child with the same scenerio, I'd be taking the exact same action I am taking now.

We plan on staying involved in our daughter's life for a lifetime, but it is likely she will not be able to reside in our home as she gets older, bigger, and more dangerous. It's a heart wrentching, devastating situation! I pray ever day that she can be helped and that I can be strong enough to care for her. But the fact never changes that I have two other children in the home that have been given black eyes, bloody noses, and beat up by my daughter, who I brought into the home, NOT THEM. Should they suffer abuse for my choice??

Because she has been abused is it okay for her to abuse the other children? NO! If my husband or I were abusing the children in the same manner she is, they would be removed from my home! What makes it okay for their sister to abuse them? Nothing. It is not okay. It is NOT an okay way to raise children.

I can speak from experience, that it is NOT a lack of love. We desperately LOVE our daughter so much! It is a matter of saftey. And I who here wants to raise a child that is ONLY safe? Don't you want to also raise happy children?

It's not a possibility for my two younger children to live in a safe, happy, peaceful home while their sister abuses them and causes extreme disstress.

Adoption or no adoption, the family unit is #1. What is best for the family unit??? If one person is causing the entire family unit to fall apart, then something has to happen. I can't let one child ruin the lives of two other children.

We do out patient therapy 5 days a week! We do theraputic respite 2 days a week. This has been going on for an incredibly long time. She has been out patient for 6 years with no improvement.

It's NOT about my husband or myself. It is about the lives of our adopted daughter and our two biological sons. There is no perfect scenerio...but I must ask myself, what is in the best interest for the majority of the members. I already have one child who has been hurt by I want the other two to have to endure that, too??? No.

So, it is with love that we are looking at a residential center for our daughter. She will always be in our lives, but she can't be allowed to hurt and abuse the other children.

I support Lori Gertz in her decision. As someone who has been there, I understand the situation in it's truest form. You simply can not judge until you've been there. And even then, who are you to judge?

Anonymous said...

BTW- Did you know that THE CHEAPEST option for residential treatment is going to run you about $3,000/mo. Most are between $6,000-$10,000 a MONTH!! How about we get some funding in place to help these kids and families?!?! How about some laws get passed to aid adoptive families in these situation, especially when they were not notified of mother's drug/alcohol use.

Tracey said...

My heart breaks after reading all the comments regarding this family. If I hadn't adopted my daughter...I would have felt the same way...and would have felt ok about judging this family. My husband and I are both college educated. We raised 3 sons(youngest is 23)who are all educated and great adults. Our daughter came straight from the hospital as a 2 month old. She was raised by two parents who were experienced and knew our daughter may have disabilities. NOTHING prepared us for mental illness...even my 14 years working as a RN with mentally ill children didn't prepare us.(I always figured behavior= poor parents etc). Our daughter is now 14 and remains a child who requires 24/7 active parenting and the only reason we were able to continue to raise her is that we did not have children close to her age. Jalee tried to kill herself at 3 for the first time. She stabbed her brother when she was 4 just because we left a butter knife on the table. Our daughter suffers every day(much more than our son who had cancer at 10 and again at 22 ever did). She tries so hard not to act out but the word 'no' is all it takes to set her off. Or a loud noise, a wrong expression on my face, an odd smell, clothing etc.... My daughter does not have FAS but she is are her birth parents and 4 of her 9 siblings. I know them all very well and we have a close relationship...however...if I had had children close to her age I would have had to look at the good of the others and safety...we may very well have had to look at placement of some kind. No one can understand what it is like to raise a child with these needs unless they have done it. I believe that a child like this should never be raised with a 'normal' is to dangerous. Had we understood what we were getting into...we would never have put ourselves or our other family members through what we have gone through and what we will always go through. Also...we had a foster son for 8 months until his adoption and he was considered severe autism....he was a piece of cake compared to our daughter. We have learned...environment can help...but can not overcome some damage. Parenting that worked with our boys doesn't with our is a 100% different...which makes others think we spoil her so as a parent we are blamed even then.We love our daughter...she is our world...but it has become a very small world because of our daughters needs. My heart is broken for her....some day I am affraid she will kill herself or someone else. Medications? We have tried them all...and my husband and I never believed in medication before(one of our sons is ADHD...treated without medication) For Jalee...medication with horrible side effects are the only way she functions enough to live at home. It isn't an easy 'cure' but it has helped her so we can work with helping her succeed in this world.As for being able to function better with someone else....that is very common with the mentally ill....they will try to keep it together untill they are with the ones they love and trust....then crap hits the fan! Please don't judge parents...Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Tracey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Great insight, Tracey. Thank you. I am in that situation with young children in the home. It is VERY frightening. We have had many nights were the beds have been pulled into our room, with locked doors because we simply do not know what our daughter will do in the night. It is not an okay way to raise children. We are still in the midst of it! I pray for an answer.

Anonymous said...

Most of these comments seem to be from self-rightous idiots. How judgemental and hateful!
I am raising a child just like E, and trust me you have NO CLUE unless you are living it!

Country mom said...

I probably would have been just as judgmental six years ago. At that time I had two bio sons and an adopted daughter. All doing very well. Then we decided to adopt again. This time a six year old. This child was later diagnosed with RAD and a host of other emotional issues. I am no longer judgmental. Reading about raising a child with a mental disorder is not the same as raising one. My oldest bio was diagnosed with Aspergers, totally not the same. It's hard to explain the pain of a child who out and out hates his family. A child who threatens to kill the family because they tried to love him. My son is the youngest and so my other children can defend themselves when he becomes violent. It is hard, harder than anything I have ever been through. I no longer judge other parents dealing with similar things. Until you walk in their shoes you can't understand what it's like. I pray that most never have to walk this road. I wish children were not abused in utero by alcohol and drugs. I wish every child was cared for from birth and none were neglected or abused or moved from home to home. Until that day, there are needs for people who can deal with these children. It's hard to find therapy, it's hard to find residential care. It's hard to explain to your other children why they must endure having their stuff broken constantly, why they must deal with being hit, and cussed at. Why they must deal with crazy behaviors and with family time ruined. You just can't really get it without living it. If you live it, you find yourself a whole lot less judgmental.

beemommy said...

I too would have judged this family if not for these facts:
Son, adopted from a Ukrainian orphanage at age three who will be fifteen next month. We have both bio and adopted kids and I can very easily tell you that I would lay my life down for all four of them, including the one in Heaven. Our eldest bio had Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus. She went through thirteen surgeries and numerous additional hospitalizations due to the birth defect she was born with. Having a child with a PHYSICAL disability was a walk in the park compared to our son. He has been out of our home for two years, four months and one week. He's been in Residential Treatment Centers (RTC) or psych hospital, including the "big" one for teens considered Manifestly Dangerous. We had to turn to CPS for help because we didn't have $450 per DAY! We now have co-conservatorship with them because I had amassed page after page of therapies, natural remedies, prescription drugs and therapists we'd worked with. Even after years of animal abuse, fire setting, assaulting his teacher (I insisted on the school filing charges and made sure he did every, single bit of his the age of 11) the close to final straw was when our youngest daughter started stress breathing (she's adopted by the way, for those of you saying the family would have done more if Ellie was their bio kid)was diagnosed with PTSD (as have my husband and myself), due to a failed respite situation where the woman, experienced with providing respite, lasted 30 hours and ended with my son kicking me in the face plus trying to strangle me with the seatbelt while my husband was driving down an upstate NY highway, looking for a police station. We discovered in NY, kids under 16, he was 12, could not be charged with a crime...the police were so frustrated because this little boy, was just raging, every curse word, both hands flying birds and then he smiled and said he was going to kill himself. My son and I got to experience the Albany Medical Center ER, he had two Hal dol treatments, we were sent in a police car to the psych unit where I had to stay with him as he was a minor. Begged the doctor to let us fly him home to Texas. I know Lori, she loves Ellie but sometimes you have to consider the safety of the rest of the family, the safety of the child in question within your own abilities. We flew home the next morning, my son still groggy from meds. Got home, next morning,"Mom, I have this thought that I have to hit you." Boom, despite using the techniques I'd learned over the years to help him regulate his behavior, no way...911...sheriffs came, off to juvenile detention BECAUSE my son had been assaulted in Austin State Hospital by staff, choked! and I believed he'd be safer in detention with police. My son also punched me in the face to the point (this was while being in RTC, I'd agreed to go to the psychologist's office to provide his history)and he punched me while posing for pictures. My face was xrayed for a fractured cheek bone and eye socket, fortunately neither were broken but I looked like I'd been in a horrible care wreck. Did I stop loving my son then? Yes, even the police said I had experienced domestic abuse. I finally had an ahha moment about why women who are abused by their husbands stay with them...

beemommy said...

(second half of comment) you just can wrap your brain around someone who you love and believe loves you could do that or would do it again. Which he did at the program for the "Manifestly Dangerous", while sitting with him, my husband and across from a male staff member. When he dissociates, there is no light in his eyes...he is not there. Am I mad at him? NO,he didn't throw himself into windows, doors and walls (scars are on his scalp) he didn't expose himself to sexuality. I am mad at the "caregivers" who assaulted him, who convinced this precious, precious child that he was worthless.
My son is the exception, he is healing. After over two years, I could be ALONE in a car with him and feel safe. There was a time from June of 2010 to May of 2011 that I could only visit him (7.5 hours away)each month with the width of two conference tables between us and three male staff on hand. Then, I could only rub his head by leaning way over...always, always with the idea of jumping back if his fist came up. Now, I can cradle this big boy again. He does not have FASD. We are very lucky in that. He never tried to assault our husband is a quiet man, so my son didn't trust what he would do if he did hurt our daughter (husband never, ever laid a hand on our son...I spanked him early on but learned quickly that it did nothing to change behavior)so we never faced assaults on our other child (older sister was married in 06, not in the home at all with him)Fortunately for my family, but not for me, I reminded him of one of the staff in the orphanage. Also, being the mom whose heart is always right out there, I believe I was his toughest nut to crack as he believed we all would leave him he had to do the very worst he could to see what my limit is. There was a time, when he was in the psych hospital, assaulting staff, breaking shatterproof windows, ripping a sink out of the wall, stomping a urinal until it came free that the professionals told us he will never be able to exist in the community again and I had to face up to the reality that this child that I had felt in my soul calling me to him would never be mine again. Thank God, that even though it's been absolute Hell, he's turning it around. Thank God, they found the right combination of meds and therapy and even just having to live in a prison like existence, he came around to choosing family instead of rage.
So for those of you who want to stone Ellie's family, walk in those shoes...even for just a week, you will be so glad to step out of them. I know, my sister thought she could straighten him out...she lasted two days.

Black Alien Musings said...

Why were you so interested in getting the kid a criminal record? How is that helpful?