Saints and Sinners

In the name of transparency for newsworthy events I bring you a case of an adoptive mother seeking out a birthmother via unsolicited messages and attempting to shame that birthmother and make her feel bad about herself.

Tina Hammer is a natural and adoptive mother. According to an article published in the Burlington County Times Tina and her husband took on a set of twins (brother and sister) from the foster care system with the intention of giving these children another chance at a good life. The intention was never to adopt these children, in the beginning, but that is what ended up happening.  Let me first start by saying that I appreciate that there are people in this world that have a place in their hearts for children such as the one’s Tina has adopted. I know, from experience, that it takes a special kind of person to work with children with special needs. I, myself, have worked with special needs children in the foster care system. It is heartbreaking and tragic to see what some of these kids have been through. All of them deserve to find a family that loves and cares for them. Unfortunately these children do not have a high success rate of this actually becoming a reality. Many age out of the system or are institutionalized.

As you may know, from my previous posts, I am pretty pro-family-preservation. However, I did make a post about when I thought adoption was okay and outlined the circumstances that I thought would be appropriate and good for a child to be adopted. It seems that Tina’s adoption of her twins fits that mold. On one hand I applaud Tina for seeking out children who already needed homes and not turning to domestic infant adoption. Adoption should always be about finding homes for children who need them and not about finding children for homes who want them. Regrettably, our country has become a nation of the latter. More and more young women have to be convinced they are not good enough to parent their children in order to meet the demand for babies to be placed into homes that have none nor have any means of reproducing on their own. As much as we would like to deny it, I must say it. There is a distinct difference between the mother who is drug addicted, abusive, or any other dangerous capacity and the mother who has been convinced that the most loving thing she can do is to give her baby away. This is important to remember while reading this article. But even with this distinction, a child’s first family, first parents, should always be honored. No matter what. Not for their sake, but for the children’s.

As I was saying, the article written in the Burlington County Times is a lovely story of these twins finding a forever home. However, I would like to point out that much of the article focuses on the adoptive parents, Tina and her husband, and how awesome they are to have done such a wonderful thing which takes away from the very cool story of this brother and sister.

I read a wonderful blog post some months ago written by an adoptive mother who had utilized the foster care system to adopt her children. I cannot remember where I found it or who it was by and for that I apologize. Perhaps this article will find its way around and someone can direct me to it again. This adoptive mother talked about the “saint-hood” of adoptive parents who have taken children out of the foster care system. The gist of it was, if you are looking to adopt because you want a pat on the back and to be told how great you are for “saving” a child then don’t adopt at all. As a Christian woman (and I do believe the poster was basing her article on her Christian faith) I am reminded of these verses in Matthew chapter 6.

“When you do good deeds, don’t try to show off. If you do, you won’t get a reward from your Father in heaven.

When you give to the poor, don’t blow a loud horn. That’s what show-offs do in the meeting places and on the street corners, because they are always looking for praise. I can assure you that they already have their reward.

When you give to the poor, don’t let anyone know about it  Then your gift will be given in secret. Your Father knows what is done in secret, and he will reward you.”

When I see adoptive parents bragging, boasting, or tooting their own horn about how great they are I often wonder if their rewards in heaven will be withheld. The article about Tina, in and of itself, is not really Tina tooting her own horn, but it borders on it. One could not simply make that assumption by reading the article by itself. But if we could hear what Tina thinks of birthmothers everywhere, in comparison to herself, you will see a stark contrast to the woman portrayed in this media article.

For the purposes of this article, and to protect my sources and their privacy, I will call this birthmom Andrea. Andrea is a member of different groups on Facebook. Some time ago Andrea had commented in a group, totally unrelated to adoption, about the term “gotcha day” that someone had used in reference to the child she had adopted. She had also made vague comments about how it made her feel. Andrea decided to check her “other” folder on Facebook tonight. That is the folder that most people are unaware of. Facebook will send almost all messages from people you don’t know to this folder. You can only check this folder via the desktop site. Anyhow, Andrea checked her “other folder” and found an unsolicited message from Tina in regards to her comments in that other group. The comments Andrea has made are no longer able to be found as it was some time ago. I will trust that Andrea has been forthcoming to me in regards to the nature of the comments. There was no name-calling, no big scene. Just her personal thoughts as a birthmother and how that made her feel. I feel it is important to emphasize, for clarification purposes, that Andrea did not lose her children to the foster care system and  “voluntarily” relinquished rights to her child shortly after birth with an adoptive couple picked out prior to birth. Andrea has a good relationship with her child’s adoptive parents.

So as not to be accused of portraying anyone in false light, I will have to show the conversation that ensued between Tina and Andrea in its entirety. In my opinion, Tina was baiting Andrea. She was trying to invoke a strong emotional response from her. She was bullying her. Andrea did a pretty good job of keeping a level head, I think. Sometimes you can only be pushed so far and cut down so much before you must say something, though. I believe the purpose of Tina’s interactions with Andrea was to make her feel bad about herself. To make her feel low and to remind Andrea how much better Tina is than her because she saved children from the foster care system. Tina may have been angry that someone in a group may question something about adoption that she believed in and to “get back” at that person she thought she would use her words to hurt her. I can’t say for sure since I am not Tina, but from my social experiences in life (and having been in Tina’s shoes and done the same thing – albeit probably not since I was in my early 20’s) this is the opinion and conclusion I draw.

I will let the messages speak for themselves and you can draw your own conclusions, form your own opinions.

Note: I am publishing these messages with the permission of Andrea. In both of our opinions this was unsolicited hate mail with the intent to humiliate, intimidate and shame. Because a news story had been formerly run about how great Tina was, how unselfish and giving she was, I would like to build on that story and show a different side of Tina in the name of public interest. Early into these messages Andrea does say that she will be giving the communication to a third party for publishing. I assume that further messages from Tina mean her implied consent was given for this.

Please click to enlarge.

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I am not sure if Tina was aware that Andrea was not a mother who had abused or neglected her child and, therefore, had her rights terminated. I don’t really think it matters. Even if that had been the case, anyone who would go this far to make someone feel bad about themselves, in my opinion, must have some serious underlying insecurities that need to be addressed. Maybe Tina doesn’t have any insecurities and she is projecting her feelings of anger for her children’s birthmother onto Andrea because she has been unable to resolve this within herself. I can’t really say for sure. Only Tina knows the answer to that question.

But I will say this.

I mentioned above that even in abuse and neglect cases the child’s birth parents must be honored. Not for the sake of the birthmother but for the sake of the child. A child removed from the care of their natural parents, even if they do not remember those parents, can be compared to a child of divorce. Even if you are not vocally expressing bad things about those other parents, children are very intuitive. They pick up on these things. Since a child, genetically, is a part of their natural mother and natural father, when they feel (or hear) that the other parent (or adoptive parent) thinks unkindly of them, they will use that as a reflection of self. They will internalize it. The thought process is, “I am a part of Mom A and Dad A. If Mom B and Dad B think Mom A and Dad A are bad then maybe I am bad too because I am a part of them.” This i how a child reasons things. Even as adults, who know better, those feelings never truly go away. Their brain says “that’s not true” but their hearts say “maybe it is.” A great read on this type of stuff is by Marina Sbrochi of the Huffington Post and can be found here.

I truly feel bad that Tina has not yet been able to come to terms with what the natural parents of her twins have done to put those children in the position they were in. I feel even worse for her kids if she never does come to terms with it. However, it could be a great teaching opportunity. Compassion, empathy, forgiveness. No one ever says when they are a child, “I want to grow up to be a drug addict, abuse my kids, neglect my kids, have my kids taken away from me.” There are circumstances in these people’s lives that have led to this. While it is horrific to see what these children have gone through, it should be explained to them that their parents are not inherently evil. They have made huge mistakes and have battled sicknesses but have not been able to overcome them. They should be given permission to feel angry while at the same time be given permission to love their parents. It is natural for them to feel love for these people, no matter how many bad things they were exposed to because of them. Like I said, it isn’t about the parents, it’s about the child.

The messages that I have posted did not reflect compassion, empathy or forgiveness. They reflected anger. Definitely directed at the wrong person but I can’t help but think, if this is the way Tina feels about the woman who gave life to her children, how might that make these children feel about themselves.

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13 thoughts on “Saints and Sinners

  1. I don’t trust the idea that because these twins were in foster care, their mother abused or neglected them. The article states very clearly that the twins were taken from her at birth. We do not know why she was “unable” to care for them. The article also states very clearly that these children were abused IN THE FOSTER CARE SYSTEM. So people just like Tina took these kids in and then they treated them like crap. So her anger at their mother is ENTIRELY MISDIRECTED.

    I know someone who used to serve as a GAL in the foster care system and she told me some horror stories about her time there. You would not believe how the whole system is abused to take children away from parents who want to parent but just need that extra help. Even when a parent is drug-addicted it is not an automatic dealbreaker. Where the facilities are available and can be accessed to help people with drug problems, parents do a lot better. And in cases of abuse and neglect, again, it depends on the individual situation. Sometimes a situation is labeled as abusive when it really isn’t, like the little girl taken from her parents and killed in foster care because her parents sometimes smoked a joint after she was in bed. How many parents do you know who have a glass of wine after the kids’ bedtime? The only issue here was the legality. They weren’t endangering her, and in fact were about to get her back. In other cases it was found that providing more resources to poor families made abuse and neglect rates plummet. Again, the system being willing to work with parents makes a huge difference. But it doesn’t work with parents. And so here we are, with foster children “needing to be adopted.”

    Apparently, by a-holes like Tina. Poor kids. 😦

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  3. I thought about your comments a little more, Dana. I really think they were spot on. I believe in this adoptive mother’s mind she thinks that whatever reasons these twins were taken at birth by CPS means that SHE is liable for the atrocities that have happened to them in the foster care system. Which is totally warped thinking. Totally. Shouldn’t the foster care system also be responsible for the safety and well-being of these children? It makes me wonder how much better off they would have been remaining with their original mother.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I read all of them. Just fyi, there seems to be several duplicates/slightly confused order.
    This woman is why there needs to by psych evals done on all fosters and adopters. Those poor kids.

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  6. I’m an adult adoptee who has been in reunion with my natural mother for over 14 years. My adoptive mother has been so unsupportive of my reunion, to the point of nearly destroying our relationship. I adore my natural mother and I am very similar to her in both looks and personality so my adoptive mother’s derisive attitude towards her feels like an attack on me. My adoptive mother claims to love me so much and yet she despises the woman who have birth to me, the woman who gave her a daughter after she had 3 sons of her own. I will never understand how a woman can adopt someone else’s child and have no respect for the woman who have that child life.

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    • Thank you so much for your thoughts. I am so sorry that you have to go through this. It is further proof that in some cases it’s not about what’s best for the child but rather what an adoptive parents wants. You are not property and I applaud you for standing your ground.

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      • Thank you. It has taken me a long time to get to this point. I spent the first 30 years of my life repressing my own feelings to make her happy. Over the past decade, I have worked hard to find a balance that I am happy with. I thought we were finally there but then I dared to do an interview about my reunion which was published in our newspaper’s Sunday magazine. My adoptive mother hasn’t spoken to me since November because of that article. I’m actually lucky that I have a wonderful natural family and a great support network of fellow adoptees online.

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      • That is horrible. I hope that one day your adoptive mother can come to terms with the fact that she needs to be not only supportive, but loving, in allowing you to choose the relationships in your life that make you happy and fulfilled. She may never and that is tragic.

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