A family in Spokane, WA is still receiving side-eyes from their neighbors after giving up their adoptive son seven years ago. After volunteering in Haiti, Stacey Conner wanted to add to her family by adopting two children. After years of red tape, Stacey and her husband adopted an unrelated 5-year-old boy and a 1-year-old girl from Haiti. But during the adoption process, Stacey became pregnant, so their multi-cultural family was a dream come true.
“Having an instant multicultural family was magical,” Conner says, “for about two weeks.”
Her older son, whom she calls J here, “engaged every person he met — he literally crawled into the laps of strangers,” says Conner. “But if I said ‘It’s time to go’ or anything that asserted I was in control, he’d rage, bang and scream for hours.” Very quickly, Conner had a sinking feeling she tried to push away. “I was committing the worst maternal sin: I felt like I loved one child less than the others.”
Within two months, J started pinching his siblings, and Conner was not only ashamed, but also afraid. “When he hurt them, it provoked an anger in me I didn’t know I had,” she says. “I worried I’d lose it and spank him.”
Conner went on to tell how even after therapy her son’s temper didn’t improve. It wasn’t until she ended up with a bloody nose, that she figured something had to be done:
Instead, she tried an earlier suggestion from the social worker, doing “24-hour eyes-on parenting” — basically, not letting J out of her sight. This went on for two months, until one afternoon when J began throwing a ball at the ceiling. “I said no,” Conner recalls, “but he wouldn’t stop. So I took it away.” J went into a wild, screaming tantrum, unintentionally hitting Conner’s nose with the back of his head: “I was bleeding heavily, sitting on the rug, crying. My two little ones were hiding behind a chair, crying. And it hit me: This is a domestic violence situation; if their dad had done this, I would take our children somewhere safe.”
At that instant, Conner faced a hard truth: “Forget love. Right then, I didn’t even like J,” she says. “In his short little life, he’d had a ton of loss. But it was clear to me that I was pushing him away to keep the smaller children safe. I couldn’t handle the idea of them being hurt. I could see that always putting the other kids’ safety above meeting J’s needs was creating a barrier between us. It was a painful situation.”
That night, she told Matt she thought they should find a new home for J: “We cried and cried. But he trusted my judgment.”
Conner began working with an adoption agency that did “secondary placements” — relocating kids when adoptions went awry — searching for a home where J would be the only or youngest child. “He had to be the sole focus, to be attended to and soothed,” she says.
According to Conner, her neighbors didn’t take kindly to them after they realized she sent the kid packing.
“I’d get the most horrified stares, so I’d keep walking. And I didn’t tell many out-of-town friends or extended family for months.” In Spokane, the Conners were the subject of unflattering gossip: “At one point, Matt was introduced to someone who said, ‘Oh, right — the family that dumped that kid.’ “
Situations like the Conners, unfortunately is what some adoptive parents go through. But at least they did their due diligence and didn’t leave the child on the front step of social services like one family in Ohio.