When Catherine was 9 years old, her family adopted her younger sister, Jessica, who was 6 at the time. Jessica had been living with her for a few years prior as her foster sister. Jessica is on the autism spectrum, but is high functioning and currently living independently. She has PTSD and a few other diagnoses. Catherine’s story is an example of the difficulties that often occur with adoption.
“She is really hot and cold with people. She loves you one day and hates you the next day.She just doesn’t care. That makes it difficult for her to get along with people and just have stable relationships.”
When she was younger, Catherine took on more of a parent role instead of a sibling role. She wanted to protect her sister since she had been through a lot of trauma in her early life. As a result, they never built a close sister relationship. As they got older and closer to their teenage years, they became a bit closer and friendlier. They never had a very good relationship.
Catherine sounded a bit remorseful and sad as she explained how her family hasn’t been in close contact with Jessica for a while now. Jessica has been to several residential treatment centers, which didn’t work out, so she is currently somewhere in Kentucky, but her family isn’t sure where.
“You never knew what you were going to get” seems to be the phrase that best describes Catherine’s childhood. All of her friends knew that going to their house could be a bit crazy. “She is explosive sometimes, and crazy and violent. You just never knew what was going to happen when you came over to my house.” She spent a lot of time away from home because of that.
Nevertheless, she always felt as if she needed to be looking out for Jessica, and that trait has carried over into her adult life. “I always put others ahead of me and my own experiences and that isn’t really healthy.”
As far as plans for the future go, it is going to be up to Jessica and how self-motivated she can be. “At this point we’ve forced so many resources into her and she’s gone to four different residential programs now… She doesn’t even want to participate and make positive changes, so its just kind of disheartening for my family to see that and to know that there’s not that much else we can do until she decides things are bad.”
Though her sister’s adoption doesn’t make her any less like family, it is a tough thing for Catherine’s family to deal with. “Growing up, sometimes she would say ‘You’re not even my real family. Why should I listen to you?’ Hearing that over and over…it was really tough… I’m sure she doesn’t consider us her real family, whatever ‘real’ means.” Catherine expressed how difficult it is to be there for someone who doesn’t want you there, but no matter what, her family will always be Jessica’s safety net.