This is a compilation of two of my early blogs. Since posts get archived and new people don’t always go back to see what else I’ve written, I decided to repost these two blogs together
I received the call from International Mission of Hope’s U.S. agency in early 1980. They had a child that I might be interested in adopting. It was a little five year old boy. I immediately said “Yes!!” I was so excited to finally get my child. I decided to change his name to “Andrew” and call him “Andy.” My nephews were also excited and started to gather clothes they had outgrown for our new family member.
Then, in late February 1980, I received a phone call from the U.S. agency working with IMH. The worker was so excited, she exclaimed, “She’s beautiful!” I went “Huh! She’s supposed to be a he!!” “No, this is definitely a girl and she’s ten year’s old,” the worker said.
The people in India didn’t know which child I was accepting, so they figured it had to be a girl and the only girl in my requested age range was ten. Her name was “Nomi.” The workers in India thought it was a sign; her name “Nomi” was close to my first name. “Naomi.” I really go by Ann, my middle name.
There was nothing I could do to undo this placement, the child’s case had gone to court on the 16th of February and I was approved as her new parent. At that time the Judge looked at her and said she looks about ten and today is her new birthday. So, legally she was born February 16, 1970.
When I finally spoke to the director of IMH, she told me she was closer to 13 or 14 – I know I asked for a child ages 5-10; how is it I’m getting a teenager? No good answer.
Well, at least I was getting my child. IMH’s time frame from the court date to approval by the U.S. Consulate was about two-three weeks and then the child would be getting a passport and shots so she could fly home.
Calcutta had a new governor and he halted all foreign adoptions the first of March. Can my luck get any better? The governor’s issue was that these children, who in reality were living on the streets of Calcutta, were being adopted for slave labor by those wealthy Americans.
Wait and wait some more. I wondered if she’d ever get out of India. In the meantime, my family and I discussed a new name for her. We decided on “Kara” and use her Indian name as her middle name. I had a foster child, 16-year-old Susan living with me while I waited for the governor of Calcutta to release the children. I don’t think she was very excited to have someone new in our home who would need my attention more than she did.
Kara Comes Home
The day finally came, Kara was coming home. That’s when I received the call from IMH’s director explaining how she was probably older than ten. She also explained that the escort from India would not continue on to Salt Lake City from New York. Kara would be flying alone under the watchful eye of a stewardess.
My mother, my sister, and Susan went to the airport with me. I was glad of the support because I didn’t know what to expect.
Kara Nomi Lamphere arrived on June 13, 1980 (a Friday the 13th – was this an omen of things to come?) She spoke three words of English: airplane, helicopter and car. My life had just been turned upside down. She immediately gravitated to Susan which made things a bit easier for me. We all piled into my car and headed towards our future together.
Once at home, Susan helped get Kara a bath while I fixed some food for us all. We ate and then decided it had been an exhausting day, so we showed Kara her new bedroom, tried to explain to her about going to sleep without much success, but we left her with some picture books and a few toys.
Susan went to her room and I settled down with a book and my cat to relax before going to sleep. I turned out my light about 10:30pm and fell asleep. I woke up in the middle of the night and checked on Kara; she was sound asleep on the floor. A few nights later, I found her playing with only the night light on. The poor kid could not get her days and nights straightened around for several weeks.
The next day, my mother and I took Kara shopping with us. We had to get her some clothes to wear. We found it really interesting that Kara had such a strong sense of what she wanted in tops and shorts. Anything she wore always looked good on her.
She did grow 10 inches from June to September. I was buying new clothes every couple of weeks that summer. Thank God for thrift stores!
While out shopping, we discovered one of her behaviors neither my mother nor I had ever encountered. She tried to steal some fruit and my mother, who saw her do it, told her “NO!” She rolled her eyes back in her head and went into a catatonic state. Over the next few months, she used this self-preservation behavior frequently in order to avoid discipline.
Susan decided it was time for her to become independent. She was working a full-time job now. With the assistance of her caseworker and myself, we helped her locate an apartment and helped her move. She and I remained friends for many years until she moved to California and married.
Our First Years Together:
During that first summer together, we learned that Kara knew how to swim, was a quick learner and by the time the school year began, she was speaking English like it was a native language. Of course, she often didn’t know what a word meant, but she’d say she did, so communication was a bit difficult.
It was also difficult to keep her in clothes; she was 4 feet 2 inches when she arrived and was 5 feet tall by the beginning of school. That was as tall as she would get.
School! If I had known then what I know now, I would have tried to home school her. At the time, it didn’t even occur to me to do that. I think she would have benefited with the one-to-one attention.
As it was, she was given into the care of an elderly teacher whom she dearly loved, to learn what she needed to go into fifth grade. She did well with this teacher where she wasn’t doing well with me.
Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)
At the time no one had ever heard of RAD. It has only become a diagnosis in the last 20 years. Kara was a classic RAD child. She was a victim of parental and care giver abuse. Her behaviors at home with me were really disturbing. She was the same way with my mother, but totally different with my sister.
Kara was an accomplished thief. I was always discovering things that didn’t belong to her. Money was also missing from my wallet. When a neighbor came over and demanded that she cough up the $10 he was missing, I defended her and gave him the money back.
She was also an accomplished liar. Oh my God, could she lie! She would take a lie to her grave, but never admit what she did was wrong. She had no experience with right or wrong behaviors. It made for a frustrating adjustment period.
Life with Kara in my home was a battlefield. She was an expert at doing little nitpicky things to annoy me. Family parties became unpleasant and stressful. She would start fights at the parties with me or my mother. I reached the point of wanting to avoid my family altogether at Thanksgiving or Christmas.
My birthday that first year gave me an indication of what all the holidays and birthdays were going to be like with Kara. She hated the fact that I was the center of attention and did her best to make it unpleasant.
Christmas was even worse. She didn’t understand giving and getting presents. She wanted everything under the tree. She was mad when another person opened a gift. She started a fight with my mother and then with me. She started sulking and screaming at me.
It was a relief for me when school began again in 1981. She needed a routine to function well. I hate to admit it, but I’m not all that routine oriented.
It was on March 23, 1981 that we finalized her adoption. She was officially my child. I felt that hopefully we were on our way to being a family. However, that was wishful thinking on my part.
I had an engagement ring in my jewelry box that she stole and gave to a girl at school. The first I knew about it was when the school called and asked if I was missing a ring like that one. I checked my jewelry box and sure enough it was missing.
The reason she told me why she took the ring was that she wanted to be friends with the girl. I tried to explain stealing was wrong for the umpteenth time. She never got the concept.
She stole from our Christian bookstore; I made her take the item back. That didn’t faze her any. She was very adept at shoplifting and I would find items I had no clue where they came from. We think she stole money from my sister and my nephews, we were never sure.
I had a rule, no children in the house until I was home. She continually broke that rule. Almost every day when I came home from work, there would be children leaving by the front door as I was going in the back. I had my concerns as to what was going on while I wasn’t home
I was pretty sure she was sexualized somehow. It wasn’t until many years later that I learned what her life in India was like. She had experienced grief at a young age and parental sexual abuse. Her trauma just was so indescribable. She has experienced multiple traumas her whole life.
I eventually learned what had happened in the jail in Calcutta. The jailers, mostly men, continually raped all the young girls being held there. These girls ranged in ages 5 to 15. Accordingly, the creeps raped the young boys, as well.
Kara’s second year was almost identical as her first year. Myra, my sister would take her for a few hours or a couple of days to give me some relief from the constant attacks. She continued to attack me every chance she had. It was mind numbing.
She has experienced so much trauma in her life, that I don’t think she will ever be able to recover from it. I have PTSD that I got from her that still affects me to this day.
N. Ann Lamphere, MSW (a mother of a child with RAD)