To The Person Who Thinks My Son Should Be Institutionalized.

As foster and adoptive parents, we’ve overheard all kinds of awful things spoken about our children, even to our children. Recently, I heard something that caused my blood to boil, and my heart to break…

businessman is fulfilling document  late night with cup of coffee

As I type these words, I go back in my mind to the moment you said those horrible words- “Well, if he has brain damage, he should be in an institution.” I’m sitting here trying to convince myself that you didn’t mean them…that your words were misheard by me…that you don’t really feel that way. But, I’m not sure if that’s the case.

I think you did mean them. More than that, my precious child thinks you meant them too. He overheard what you said. He’s been told things like this before from people who didn’t mean well…didn’t have his best interest in mind. He’s had to live with the reality that he’s not normal, and never will be.

He knows he has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and that a part of his brain will always be missing. At 13, he’s already begun processing the truth that his birth mother chose drugs and alcohol over his health when he was in her womb. It hasn’t been easy truth to face.

And what you did not realize was that we’re already wrestling over whether or not to find a place, other than our home, for him to live in order to keep him safe. And no, it’s not an “institution.” Because this is 2016, not 1916 when people chose to discard human beings like they were trash instead of fight for them…love them…care for them. The decision is crushing us to the bone. We’re not sure what to do. Because of his disorder, he’s almost incapable of making wise choices. Choices that keep him safe…the kind that we all learn in a normal-functioning state of mind, growing up.

It’s not like you care about any of that, however. There’s no ounce of your being that cares whether his heart heals. You were only annoyed with his behavior, and that’s why you said those disgusting words. Words like bullets, that can never be un-fired.

While you were busy spouting off horrible words, you missed the bigger picture…

  1. He HAS a future. As you spoke those poisonous words in his presence, and he started to believe you, you blew past one single truth about every human being on this planet…. purpose! All 7 billion of us on this spinning rock have purpose. There was no mistake when any of us were born. None of us were accidents. My son was no accident. Even in the midst of a horrible disorder that could have been prevented. Even though I deal with unbelievable trials with him. He has a future!
  2. He’s not an animal. You reduced him to that when you said he belonged in an institution. As if he were some animal who escaped from the zoo. You called him a monster in the same breath that you said he belonged in an institution. Your view was clouded by his momentary behavior (which I called him out on). He’s not an animal…he’s a child. He’s still learning how to function in this world. Add to that a disorder that causes impulsion, aggression, and lapse of judgement and this is what you get. By the way, this is what I live with 24/7. I don’t see an animal…I see my son!
  3. He’s a human being. Do you want to know why our country is divided right now? It’s not because of two politicians who act like toddlers in suits. It’s because we have failed to see everyone as they really are- human beings. Living, breathing, beautiful, precious human beings. Everyone. Because of that, we are all entitled to fair treatment…always! My son included. He’s a human being. Is he imperfect? By all means, yes. But so are you and so am I!

I can’t stop you from saying hurtful words like you said, but I can call you out for saying them. And, by-golly, I can make sure my son never goes near you again. You can be sure of that.

At the end of this day, I’m not angry with you, nor do I harbor ill-feelings toward you (as this letter may reflect). I feel sorry for you. You miss so much beauty in the world, by always seeing people’s flaws. Sometimes you must choose to see the good in people even when it’s cluttered by behavior, or attitude. It’s there however. Hidden behind brokenness.

Maybe some day, before it’s too late, you’ll see it.

Question: Could you write your own letter to someone who said something awful to, or about, your child? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Jeanette Bousman

    I had a similar thing said to me yesterday. We have had some extensive genetic testing done on our son and found out not only is he dealing with FAS, but he also has some chromosomes that are messed up because his bio-parents were 2nd cousins. The person asked me if I had known 4 years ago what I know today, would we have adopted him. I (literally) had tears coming down my face as I explained we didn’t adopt him for his perfection; we adopted him because we wanted to share our family, love and support to him — REGARDLESS of what was ‘wrong’ with him. Just as I would never have thought about terminating a pregnancy or ‘giving back’ a biological child, I cannot regret our decision. God gave us our (adopted) son just as surely as he did our biological children. Yes, there may be hard choices to make in the future; but they will be made not for our own interests but for his best interest.

    • Allisonm

      I would up vote you a hundred times if I could. If I’d known up front what was coming, I would have worried that I wouldn’t be a good enough mom to be able to handle all of it, but I would never have thought it wouldn’t have been worth it. It’s been far more than worth it.

    • Jeanette, I am so sorry to hear that you faced this too.

  • Kathleen

    “Give them back – they’re not yours!” Those words still bring tears to my eyes. These words were said by a”former” friend in the neighborhood. We were out to dinner celebrating a girlfriends birthday and I was sharing a current escapade about my 2 adopted sons – biological brothers. There are so few people you can share stories with and SHE is the perfect example of why! Can she really be that mean? I didn’t bother to argue back or even say a word. I just left.

    That was 6 years ago and it has happened more times than I want to count. This from a 3rd grade teacher “You know your son won’t be a brain surgeon don’t you” I responded “what qualifies you to say that?”” My 33 years as a teacher””Well lady you haven’t had my son in your class before.” Maybe he won’t be a brain surgeon but why do people think they need to say that? I looked at the principal and said “All I’m trying to do is give my sons the best resources I can – what if he was your son? ”

    No amount of education will ever change the hearts and minds of some. We even struggle with family members who think we just don’t discipline enough. It’s been 18 years since we welcomed these beautiful boys who were 3 & 5 into are hearts and home. And yes it has been a white-knuckled Roller coaster ride from day 1. But would I change it? No, I can’t imagine life without them. Now that they are 21 & 23 the problems are bigger, more serious and more expensive. We will continue to do what we can with the help of ALANON (one is an addict and the other an alcoholic). There is a special place in heaven for us parents and an even better place for our kids. Somewhere they can just be the best they can be. God doesn’t make junk!!

    Kathleen Said

    • Oh wow…Kathleen, that is unbelievable. So sorry someone said that to you.

      • Kathleen

        Thanks