Returning after a long time away


Hi friends!

I'm returning to the board after a long time away... to make a long story short: my son was adopted from Vietnam at age 5, and in the past year, we have realized that he has never truly attached to us. He simply doesn't consider us as his family (he now calls us by our names rather than "mom" and "dad"... it's painful), ad probably never did. About a year ago we found out that he is addicted to heroin and sent him to rehab, from which he will be discharged in 3 months.

We worked out a post-discharge plan which includes him getting a job and starting community college in the fall. He said that after graduating, he wants to move back to his birth country and make a life for himself there... we told him, since the day we adopted him, that we have nothing against him exploring his heritage. But this... I'm afraid he will never come back. I'm afraid he's leaving us behind, for good this time.

He is not as angry as he used to be. He says he never wants to use drugs ever again. But he's so far away now.... It hurts so much. I love him. He will always be my son. We adopted him with the full intention of treating him as nothing else. I want to ask parents who've adopted older kids, especially those who have later developed substance abuse issues.... what are the odds of him returning? What are the odds of him saying goodbye for good? If he does move.... what can we do to maintain contact?

Thank you,


Well-Known Member
We adopted a lovely son at six too also from an asian country. I believe he tried hard to bond with us, but could not. He had lived in an orphanage for six years and no adult had ever tried to make him feel special. He had blunted emotions and always felt different. This is soooo different from my daughter whom was adopted from korea as an infant...she bonded fast and considers herself koresn american and we are very close.

I also have two children adopted out from the u.s., also very young, and we are very close. Do you have other children?

It is not your fault that a child by six did not bond with you. Mine did not either. He married a woman of his culture and does not see us. I understand and am not mad and no longer sad.

I can not tell you what your son will do. I hope he comes back.

I have concluded that six is often too old forba child to bond with new parents although I am sure there are some exceptions. Most will have serious attachment issues that they developed way before they met us.

I hope your ending is different than mine. I do think the later age adoption plus leaving their culture for ours is very hard. I wish id thought of this before doing it, but I thought our love would be enough. It was not.

Hugs to you and trust me when I say I understand and wish you the best. But we do have to let them go if that is their desire. We have no choice.

Therapy may really help you.
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New Leaf

Well-Known Member
Hi Rina, I am not a parent of an adopted child but I wanted to say how sorry I am for your hurting heart.
He is not as angry as he used to be. He says he never wants to use drugs ever again. But he's so far away now.... It hurts so much. I love him. He will always be my son. We adopted him with the full intention of treating him as nothing else.
I have two d cs out there who for all I know are still struggling with their challenges with addiction. One has gone no contact and the other, well the little contact I have had has not been pleasant to say the least, very sad and stressful. It is a heartache and I do know the pain of "losing" children in a manner of speaking, who still walk this earth.

We have given them all we could to the best of our ability and raised them.

No one knows what the future holds, even for our children who are doing well.

I am glad your son is determined not to use drugs again.
This is wonderful.
Whether his wings take him back to his birth country or not, if he chooses to remain in your life, or not, you have given him this chance to have a good life.

What a wonderful thing you have done.
Bless your heart.

My heart goes out to yours as you walk down this path. I guess for you and I and other parents out there who are on this journey, the most we can do at this juncture is remember the good times we had and the joy of raising our children.

We can hope and pray that they are able to find their purpose and meaning in life.

We can hope that one day they will look back and know
that they were and are truly loved.



Thank you for the replies. I've spent the past few hours researching outpatient programs and reading articles about lasting recovery from heroin addiction. While reading your replies, it suddenly occurred to me that I didn't google anything about older children's attachment to adoptive parents... I don't want to read what I think it'll say.

We have one other child, a daughter adopted from Ethiopia at 1 years old. She's the exact opposite, very attached and considers us nothing but her family. We started out absolutely set on adopting only older children from Eastern Europe (we believed that a child who looks like us will have an easier time feeling that they belong), but then backed out and looked elswhere. We didn't think about attachment either. It seemed very clear and obvious... all children want parents. We will be this child's parents. Win-win. It never occurred to either of us that he might not see it this way.

I'm really tired of constantly thinking about whether he'll stay clean or not, whether he'll leave or not. Replaying memories from his childhood in my head and trying to figure out what went wrong. Will he ever really look back and know that we love him.
I'm going to try and force myself to go to sleep. Again, thank you.


Well-Known Member
I :) hear you loud and clear, risa. Unfortunately the facts, which we were not aware of at the time we adoptred, indicate that adopting infants of any race trump older kids of any race because early love and touch and nurturing of all babies is paramount to the ability of a child to feel love for others. Orphanages and indifferent foster homes do not wire a childs brain to accept love. Many older adoptedkids in a bjg group I joined are much like your child and mine. They learn young that nobody will soothe them when they cry... no one loving person they learn to only depend on themselves.

Many dispkay dangerous behavior and shun love. Mine did not act out nor do drugs, but he could not bond to us as parents. He was and is brilliant and very successful. In his teens we discussed his feelongs, but he couldnt attach and turned to religion which helped him feel part of a group, but he would have needed years of controversial types of attachment therapy to help him be able to bond with us. This therapy was not well known at the time and even now has differing outcomes. Our younger adoptees (one korean, one african american and one biracial) bonded as if id given birth to them. We are all very close and loving. But they joined us very young. My youngest...I got to watch her birth. And hold her first.

I am sorry you hurt tonight and will sat prayers for your family and hope your son finds his way out of drug land. Im glad you have a precious daughter who loves you very much. You did nothing wrong. Your son just did not get to know you until he was six and that matters, same as me. Same as the other parents in the group who adoped children who were not young and through nobodys fault did not attach. We all believed our love would make up for those early years.

I always advise would be adopters who ask to adopt the youngest child they can or to expect possibly serious problems. Not always, but mostly. If only our social workers had told us the truth. Almost every child from my sons country who came older that I know of actually did worse than my son did. If son has been to china many times but still lives here. Your son is unlikely to trily like life in another country having grown up here. Does he even know the language?

Have a peaceful day. You can not control your son...just yourself.
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Well-Known Member
Hi Rina, it must be very hurtful to think your son would move to another country and not want anything to do with you. There was a time when my daughter had problems with attachment. She did everything in her power to go against everything we believed in or wanted for her. She self sabotaged and said she wanted to find her birth mother and live happily ever after I guess. It wasn't until about the age of 23 that I think she finally came to terms with her adoption and felt really attached to us. To hear her now tell us how she doesn't know where she would be without us and she is grateful for all of our support it's like a miracle. But I can't even imagine how she would feel if her heritage was in another country.

I often said that many adoptees have a hole in their hearts that we can't fill. It makes me sad because we adopt thinking that with love and support everything will be fine and then we find out that they aren't grateful, they wish they had been left with their birth family, even if that was impossible. And in the backs of their minds they blame us for their loss. It is no wonder they turn to substance abuse to dull the pain.

I wish I could tell you everything would be ok but I can't. I do know you did everything you could to provide the love and support your kids need. You son is struggling, but hopefully he will find his way. My daughter will always struggle with alcohol abuse, it is in her genes. I can't prevent it no matter how hard I try.

I have a very good friend who adopted two children. One of her daughters became pregnant and repeated the cycle of her birth mother. She had problems with attachment also as well as many other issues. She found her birth father and moved in with him and changed her first and last name to that which her birth mother gave her at birth. It was the ultimate rejection, not only her first but her last name. They were devastated and felt like they had just been babysitters for 22 years. The interesting thing is their daughter is now coming around more, has said that she made a mistake in changing her name, and my friends have helped provide some of the baby things she needed and has offered to babysit. My point is you never know what impact you have had on your child, it may take them a while to understand it but many do finally come to feel the love you have surrounded them with all along.



Sorry for taking time to reply. I've been drained recently and trying to prepare for son's return home and work and everything leaves me extremely tired.

I do believe that son could move to Vietnam and stay there, that's why I'm so worried. We've lived in various countries before moving to the US, so moving around and being a foreigner and readjusting is not a new experience for him. He can now manage a (very basic) conversation in Vietnamese, after teaching himself the language over the past year. He is very determined to continue studying it, so I believe that might not be much of a barrier either.

I know he blames me for his loss. And I know I can't go back in time and change his past, but... I still feel guilty, which doesn't make sense of me, logically. But it's still there.
I feel like I've tried hard but I got absolutely nothing. He does not even acknowledge all the things we've given him. He says he wouldn't have minded growing up dirt poor in an orphanage as long as he could be a "real Vietnamese". I told him that he must accept that his life went the way it went, and that there are some positives in that...

I just hope he won't relapse because that would truly feel like I've been doing nothing and haven't been able to give him anything. This whole situation hurts so much.


Well-Known Member
Hi Rena,

How are you doing?

It is wonderful news that your son is off of the heroin and seems to be determined to stay clean.

Whatever he does with his life, there is peace in knowing that you have done all that you can.

Stay with us, post when you can.