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Reader reactions

Here are some reader responses to the first of a three-part series, Choices of the Heart. In this installment, Kathleen Usher reconsiders her adoption of her 15-year-old son.

"I just thought you would like to know, that today when I was the guest speaker at a mom's group in Bolton, MA, I referenced your article of 9/23 and read the letter by David. There were not many dry eyes in the group. I was talking about communicating with your child and showing them unconditional love. Your wonderful article and the moving story of how a mom almost gave up on her adoptive son, was a tangible example that truly showed the importance of unconditional love even when you do not like the behavior of the child. There are many birth parents of teens who also think about turning in their child for a new model. Kathleen Usher is not alone in that thought.

"Thank you for relating the story so well and convey our thanks to Kathleen Usher and her husband for allowing so many readers to step into her private lives. She and her husband are the heroes of today! I am glad it made the front page. Raising kids, when they could be relaxing and retired; showing them love, consistency and boundaries even when they are exhausted; ready to almost give-up but instead they hung in there and changed a life...six lives as a matter of fact.

"Though I cut out the article for a friend who also is an amazing adoptive mom in Atlanta, GA, I realized each time I talk to groups about the importance of unconditional love, I will share the story about David Usher and read his letter. It will encourage parents to keep on keeping on."

Sherri from Sudbury

"I found the story on Sunday’s paper about the adopting mom wonderful. I would love to let her know that a lot of children from natural parents have just as much trouble with their teens. I grew up in a foster home from the age of 15 and lived there till my foster mom died when I was 19. I was working. I then went to live with her daughter till I married at age 25. Till this day I cannot say how much I loved my foster mother. I even asked her to adopt me when I was older. I am now 63. I will always remember when I graduated from high school she bought me a ring I wanted which I had asked member of my own family to buy for me. They did not and she did. The day took her son to the store was the day he will always remember when he grows up. I am sure he will be good from now on. He needed to see what is was like without them." -- Judy Brady

"Thank you so much for printing this heart rending article about a troubled boy and his adoptive parents. 41 years ago, I found myself in a situation where I had to give my newborn son up for adoption. My husband walked out on me while I was in the hospital giving birth and my parents refused to help. Through the years, I hoped and prayed that his adoptive parents gave him the kind of home that I was unable to. It brought tears to my eyes when I read how the Usher's decided to give David one more chance and were rewarded for their efforts. Unfortunately for my boy, his adoptive father would have nothing to do with him after he came out as gay. We have since reunited and are good friends and he understands why I "gave" him away. And he knows that I love him even though I did not raise him." -- Anonymous mom

"I read today the heartbreaking story about Kathleen and her son. Please urge her to 'hang in there' . . . I did, and it paid off. I lost my husband when he was just 40, and the following years were a nightmare for me. I had three children, 7, 8 and 9 when he died. My oldest was adopted and the other two biological. The difference in how they arrived never made a hill of beans to me. I also lost my father and father-in-law the same year, as did my three children, but my oldest felt it more than any of us as he was the first grandson on both sides, and being the oldest in my family, his Dad used to take him out with him more than the other two, plus he spent countless hours with both grandfathers. This precious child of mine was robbed of all the males in our family within the one year! He acted out . . . boy did he act out. I remember being summoned up to the school and saying to the guidance counselor that 'I didn't understand . . . I was a good person . . . a good parent, etc. and WHY? ' He responded by pointing to a pile of papers on his desk and he said 'you are here . . . this pile represents parents who will not come, who do not care . . . and he urged me to 'hang in there' that he will be OK' and OK he is . . . he's in in forties now, with three children of his own and a business of his own, and of my three children, he is probably the closest . . . SO KATHLEEN, HANG IN THERE." --Nancy S.

"Just wanted you to know that I'm currently involved in a masters program for journalism at Harvard Extension School and that I'm the first to admit I hate having to read so many different articles in such little time. But reading your article about the Usher family's emotional dilemma centering around a their adopted son really turned my mind around. I was captured by the story from start to finish and you almost had me crying at the end, which isn't an easy thing to do to a tough guy like me." --Brian D.

"Incredibly important story today! This is perhaps the single most important issue to address in adoption right now. No one is focused on this. There is no protocol or best practice to guide the process. And in international adoptions it is even more complicated with even worse results. Great job." --Maureen Flatley

"Thank you for your article today about adoption. I also adopted a little boy from DSS when he was approximately 15 months old. Thinking that he had been spared trauma because of his young age, I have come to see that this is not true. Charlie is now 9 years old and was recently diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder--which can result from neglect before the age of 9 months. I feel that he is going down the same road as the Usher's David. He is already stealing, lying, making threats toward family members, been suspended from school and placed in a behavioral class. To date it has been a very difficult road with services hard to come by.

"After describing my story to a psychologist who was doing an evaluation on my son, she put the wheels in motion that are saving my life. After many years of struggling with difficult behavior she put me in touch with a family crisis intervention group. I had already applied for services through DMH, been denied and was waiting for an appeal date. How could I be denied services when I had put myself out there by adopting and yet the state in which I pay taxes was turning its back on me? This in itself was abandonment. Eventually, I won my appeal but why did I have to fight for services? I am an educated person with great resources. What happens to the people who adopt but do not have the resources to track down services for these children? There needs to be more of a safety net for families who adopt these troubled children through DSS. This is definitely a story that needs to be looked at in more depth.

"Although things are a little better with weekly services from DMH, there are many days when I still feel my family is in crisis. I feel that he brings so much stress into our lives and I have cried many times wondering about the damage I might be causing my other 3 children. At the same time, I am his mother and how can I turn my back on him? It is an extremely difficult situation to say the least. I also worry that as he gets older the problems will get bigger. I am scared for the future of my family. Reading your article helped relieved some of the guilt I feel. It is helpful to know that I am not alone and I am not a bad mother.

"Thank you." --Nancy

"Great story. It would be nice to have more stories like these." --Richard T.

An open letter to Mr. & Mrs. Usher:

"I read your article Sunday about your stepping up to plate and adopting 6 children out of foster care. You gave these children a second chance in life and giving them a loving home.

"I am an aunt that is raising my now 17 year old niece and 8 year old nephew. I can totally relate to your situation. My 8-year-old nephew has lived with me since he was 3 and his sister was 12. They too were removed from the home by DSS due to my sister not being able to be a mom to them due to her neglecting them and emotionally abusing them.

"My 8 year old has symptoms of Reactive Attachment Disorder as well as Post Traumatic Disorder. I do have him in therapy now and we are dealing with these issues before he hits puberty and it gets out of control when his hormones come into play.

"I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone in this battle with your son. You have done a good job and a good thing by sticking by him no matter what." --Cheryl L.

An open letter to Kathleen Usher:

"You sound like a wonderful person. I read your story this morning and simply wanted to say you are doing all you can do and you should feel very good about all you have done. I have walked this path. I have felt your feelings. I would be willing to talk, listen if you ever feel the need. Unfortunately there are no answers. If I had advice to share that would help you I would share it immediately, but I have none.

"You are doing the only thing you can do... that is to work from the instinct of a mother. You have made, and will continue to make each decision based on what is best for your family, the other children and, of course, for David. As you face each decision you will have to put one of these things at the top of the list. And each time you have a tough decision the order will change. Sometimes David will be the priority, sometimes the other children will be the priority, sometimes the family unit as a whole will be the priority, etc. But ONLY YOU will know which one is the right one each time. Even your best friend, who spoke from love when she wrote that letter, won't be able to judge better than you. You have lived it. You are the one who will know. Trust yourself. Trust your instincts.

"My husband and I have raised 6 children. 4 adopted through DSS/Catholic Charities. All the adopted children came with a history that would impact their lives. We worked hard with therapists, programs, anything at all that we could find as they grew up. The especially trying time began in the early teens with each and every one of them. After years of issue after issue after issue I too found myself sitting on that court bench, tears streaming down my face, wondering how it had come to this. I was a stay-at-home mom, our family was extremely close, there was fun, love, happiness, laughter in our home. And yet we are still struggling with some absolutely incredible issues. I even remembering sleeping in the hallway one night, right on the hardwood floor outside my son's bedroom. It was the only way I knew of to keep the OTHER children in the house safe. I was afraid of what he might do in a moment of anger. So I understand what you are living. You will need strength and support to get through the next couple of years. Hang in there, and don't forget to put yourself in that list of priorities every now and then. It is my one regret. I wish I had done more of that.

"Again, trust yourself. And here is the toughest part, let go of the guilt if you find that it is too much for you to handle. Let go of the guilt.

"From another mother who knows your pain, I wish you well." --Denise

"Thank you for bringing attention to the importance of adopting children from foster care in your story on 9/23/07. As you may know, the need for families like the Ushers is great. I want to extend myself and that of our agency, the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange, as a resource to you for any additional background you may want concerning the various issues involved in adoption from foster care. Attached is a Letter to the Editor that I have forwarded to the Globe.

"Nationally, more than 114,000 children are in foster care, 10,000 in Massachusetts alone. There are over 2,500 Massachusetts children in need of adoptive families today! At the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE), we act as the central resource recruiting and supporting families to adopt children from foster care in the state. Since our founding in 1957, we have helped find adoptive homes for more than 5000 of these children. Post-adoption services are available to help parents and children adjust to their new family situation. The Ushers thankfully were able to find services to keep their family together.

"It isn’t easy to parent these days. When a family considers parenting a child in foster care, it’s vital to know there are supports and help when times get tough. It is also important to continue to educate the public about the need for families for these children.

"I want to invite you to two upcoming events that may give you a chance to meet some of the children waiting for permanence and some families that have also adopted. MARE and Jordan’s Furniture in Reading, MA, are hosting “The Adoption Option,” an informational event and adoption party on Sunday, October 14, from 9:00 – 11:00 am. The event is free and includes refreshments, entertainment, and the chance to meet some of the children who are waiting for adoption, as well as Jordan’s own Eliot Tatelman. We will also have experienced adoptive families there to talk to others as well as information on many of the post adoption services available for families.

"I also wanted to invite you to National Adoption Day, on Friday, November 16th. This is a day when over 200 adoptions will occur in 8 different courthouses in Massachusetts. It’s a part of National Adoption Month, a time to increase the public’s awareness of the need for adoptive families for the children of the Commonwealth. There will be opening ceremonies and press conferences in both the Boston and Brockton courthouses this year.

"Please feel free to contact me at 617-542-3678 or at lisaf@mareinc.org for any additional information or if you would like to attend these events.

"Sincerely,"
Lisa K. Funaro
Executive Director
Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange

"What a powerful powerful piece on Kathleen Usher and David. I accidentally bumped into some reader reactions on the article when I was looking for a printer friendly version to print. How can I comment such that others will read my views?

"Like Kathleen, I adopted a child from DSS when he was almost 3 years old. I am a single parent and have always been a single parent. My son is now 15 years old and I find myself sitting on hard benches in juvenile court. My son gradually transformed from an extremely loving and affectionate toddler into a secretive and sometimes reckless adolescent who can't stand to be touched by me. He is dabbling with marijuana and I am afraid that his drug use may escalate to bigger and more powerful drugs. I was beginning think that I was experiencing early signs of Alzheimer's when I kept misplacing cash from the ATM. It finally dawned on me that I was not misplacing the money but that my son was taking it.

"This is a very hard topic to discuss. All along I have known that I am not alone but in my quiet moments I wonder whether I could have/should have done something differently along the way.

"Is there a way for me to contact Kathleen Usher?

Maria

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