Letter to Other Parents
from Mary Horner

My daughter started running away when she was 12. The first time she got to the end of the driveway but it didn't take long for her to get several hundred miles away. The kids she looked up to were all in foster care and, to her, that life looked pretty good - no rules, no nagging parents... She set this as her goal and after many runaway attempts, total disregard for our rules and boundaries, false charges of abuse,.....we finally gave up and signed a temporary custody agreement. That was 1995. Today, her first foster mom called to ask my permission to share a poem I had written. She wished to use it to educate other foster parents about the need to build relationships and work with our families. It had been a long time since I had revisited my 'cry in the dark' and the pain it opened up was just like a fresh wound. My chest got tight and the tears flowed. I know the heart-wrenching anger, frustration and anguish about which I wrote will resonate with many of you and hopefully validate your own unhealed wounds. You are not alone.-- June 29, 2000

A Cry in the Dark

by Mary Horner
Please walk a mile in my shoes,
Endure adoptive-parent dues,
Know how it feels to be judged by another
Because it's said you're not the "real" mother.

If I'd known then what I know today -
Of the pain of adoption and the price I would pay -
Would I travel this road or say, "Never, No!"
If I'd known the trials years ago?

'Twas love at first sight of our baby girl,
The gift of her coming we sang to the world,
But we were naive, not prepared for the fight -
Her anger and grief for her missing birthright.

Our child's behaviour is destroying us all
As reputations and goals shatter and fall;
The parents are blamed - control's the excuse -
"She's certainly damaged."  "Perhaps there's abuse."

But I'm not the enemy incarnate,
This nightmare we're in, I did not create,
'Tis not my fault this adopted child
Has no tie to her home and grows ever wild.

Try to feel what I feel;  I don't count.  I am hated.
Her "home" isn't home.  Our past is negated.
She's in foster care, she won't even come here.
Where are we headed?  Nowhere, I fear.

Can you imagine being rejected
By the light of your life, the one you've protected?
Can you imagine what it's like never knowing,
>From day to day, how her life is going?

Do you know how it feels to not walk beside her
To lose your place as her mentor and guider?
What is my role now?  I'm really confused,
My self-esteem is battered and bruised.

What about me?  I'm cut off, amputated,
My rights as her mother must be validated.
I'm not given a chance to relate, to imbue,
I need to know that I matter, too.

The gulf between us grows deeper and deeper-
A hopeless abyss with no way to free her;
I make timid attempts to reach out, reconcile,
But the stare of a stranger has replaced her smile.

Who is this person I do not know?
She's stolen my daughter, turned friend to foe;
I believe an impostor has taken the place
Of the promising child I used to embrace.

Where is the happy kid who once lived with me,
Who sparkled and glowed with energy?
She truly had so much going for her,
I can't believe it's all lost in the blur.

She was talented, enthusiastic, popular too,
She stood out from the crowd as few seldom do.
But there's been a transforming from good to deplorable;
For reasons unknown her behaviour's incorrigible.

Where is the love? Where is the joy?
Were the past sixteen years just a farce and a ploy?
I thought we were close, what we shared was prime;
We have albums of photos of fun and good times.

What happened to us? I just don't understand;
She seems so detached, her "family's" a sham.
I keep racking my brain with questions that taunt me;
why? Why? WHY? continues to haunt me.

I'm mourning the loss of her love and her life,
Inside there's a void carved by her knife;
I've buried both parents - Mother and Father,
And now it's the dreams and the hopes for my daughter.

For we cannot go back, we cannot erase it,
What she's done to herself my mind cannot face it;
My heart's torn asunder, I can't save her from danger -
It's not in my power to stop her or change her.

But of all, this is my greatest fear -
That this nightmare lives on year after year,
That we're locked in this dance macabre till when
We succumb to the grief and the pain in the end.

Oh, I'm hurt and I'm angry, frustrated too;
I feel powerless, put-down, abandoned, and blue,
At times I could give up - yes, wouldn't you?
But somehow I survive to fight anew.

I feel like I'm in a tug of war,
Without any rights to even the score,
Tentatively trying to plan my attack,
To win her side and get her back.

A minute here, a phone call there,
Bribe her with lunch; it doesn't seem fair-
No matter how hard I barter for time,
The bit I get is seldom prime.

Do you know what it's like to have no support,
To be ravaged by storms without a safe port?
God, we need help!  Does nobody hear us?
Is there nobody out there with skills who can steer us?

How will we ever rebuild trust,
And heal the hurts if they're never discussed?
We've got to have time, counseling too,
To be together and to work things through.

Some people have told me, "Just get a life!
Leave her to struggle with her own strife."
Perhaps that's the answer - to get on a new track -
But this mother's no quitter and I won't turn my back.

She's the only daughter I'll ever know.
I want her home.  I love her so.
Sixteen years of commitment is quite a cost,
It's not my wish to have them lost.

Despite the superior Ministry people,
And the social workers in their ivory steeple
Who discount adoptive parents as less,
In my heart I'm her mother and I do know her best.


I've grown weary and worn, been bled to the bone,
I can't do any more; she's out on her own.
Forever I'll love her as I've told her so,
But please God, hold her, 'cause I have to let go...

Let go so she faces reality,
Let go so she creates her own destiny;
The outcome is not in my hands I know,
Give me faith, sooth my fears, so I can let go.


My feelings expressed in the poem were true at that moment in time. However, it is important to realize that this too will pass, that nothing remains the same, that we are always in a state of flux with our FAS/E kids. I am much more able to cope today, although the crises with which I am now dealing are more relentless and grave. Initially, there was that humungous grief and loss and the realization that this child was not the image of perfection that we had created. As parents of FAS/E children, our losses are seldom acknowledged and they are never-ending. They go on and on and on in much the same way as my poem goes on and on and on. When I finally came to realize that my daughter was alcohol affected, it was an epiphany for me. With this new FAS insight, I was finally able to understand her behaviours. It released us both from the prison of 'bad parenting' and 'delinquent teen'. There was a great need to re-examine our expectations. We are doing this now (an ongoing process) and we are living with reality rather than dreams. The rejection and abandonment I have felt in the past has been replaced with the knowledge that despite all our foibles, we are inexorably linked as mother and daughter and together we will struggle for reprieve against her life-sentence of alcohol-related brain damage.

Grieving the Loss of the Dream