Becoming Whole … My Journey in the Child Welfare System

Hi! My name is Jeanette Shareen Yoffe and I would like to contribute posts about my experiences growing up in foster care, being adopted and now working as a mental health professional with the foster care and adoption constellation across Los Angeles.

I’d like to start by saying I hope these posts will help inspire, uplift, transform, and strengthen the understanding of your own journey, through the myriad of challenges “my voice” has experienced, beginning as a biological daughter, foster kid, adopted daughter, sister, wife and mother.

I am also a psychotherapist who specializes in healing children’s grief/loss upon separation from their original families and I help facilitate attachment within their adoptive families.

I am one of those people who in the past would “stuff” and “abandon” my early experiences because of the “shame” I felt. I truly thought “I had done something wrong” to cause my birth family and foster family to leave me. After years of difficult soul searching, therapy, and the love and support of family and friends, I have come to realize that there is no running from this sense of shame, there is only understanding where it comes from, rising above it and moving past.

I know now that my behavior, or “who I am,” was not the cause of the turmoil in my birth family and that the situation was out of my control. I was just a child, wholly dependent on the adults around me, and it was the difficult circumstances in my birth family’s lives that led to the heart-wrenching decision to surrender me – not anything to do with “me”. And it was a tremendous relief to understand that “those circumstances” were not my fault and I was not responsible.

Ever since this epiphany, I have challenged myself to:

  • Dig deeper, to pick up the pieces of myself I’ve abandoned or lost.
  • Rekindle the goals and dreams I told myself would always be out of reach.
  • Feel my losses – avoid, bury and deny nothing – be objective and honest.
  • Take into account the many successes and achievements in my life, both personally and professionally in order to “adopt” my many “selves”, put them all together and “become whole.”

None of this was easy and in truth, it is an on-going process, but a healing one and something I hope to inspire others to do through sharing my experiences and thoughts.

I believe each and every one of us deserves to have an opportunity to change their attitudes about their past and get out from under the suffocating thought process of guilt and abandonment. To make a choice to not be a victim. To say to the world, “I am not a victim anymore and I am not a reject. I am a hero and I am worthy. I can do something with this pain now because I am an adult. My life is no longer at the mercy of other people, it is at the mercy of me.”

This is my work. To help as many people get to that healthy place as possible. Simply being at the ‘mercy of me’ and doing whatever they can to help themselves lead happy, fulfilling lives and understand the past but live in the present.

I hope you will join me and follow these posts and this blog to learn more about my journey through foster care, adoption, reunion and ultimately reclaiming my self… without abandon. And along the way I hope to learn about you and together, maybe we can make this world a little bit better of a place for everyone.

Later this week: Jeanette’s First Journey

Jeanette Yoffe is the founder of Celia Center, a non-profit support center for all those connected by foster care/adoption within the constellation and beyond. 

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About Jeanette Yoffe 5 Articles
JEANETTE YOFFE, M.F.T. is founder of Celia Center, a non-profit support center for all those connected by foster care/adoption within the constellation and beyond. She has worked in the field of adoption for over 15 years and performs intervention trainings for foster and adoptive parents, psychotherapists and social workers as well as monthly support groups called Adopt Salon. Her passion for her work stems from her own experience growing up in foster care and being adopted at the age of seven and a half, she lives in Los Angeles.

1 Comment

  1. I am a foster to adopt mom. I was matched with a 12 year old girl. She has lived in a level 14 group home for almost 3 years. I had to send her back to a transitional home. She has been in foster care since she was 6 months. Nobody has helped her with grief and loss. She is filled with so much anger. I call her daily. She can come home for weekend visits. So far, she has declined over night visits. Has come for short visits.
    I hope by reading your block will help me, help her.

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