I voted yes. I have a related experience and so I can be pretty sure of my answer. I wrote a blog post about it, which I present here in partial form. Names are changed.
*Takes a Village, #3 in a series
Of all the children who have come into and out of my life, Maura is the hardest to write about. Oh, Maura herself is a wonderful child. She was much easier to parent than a lot of children would have been given the circumstances. What makes it hard to write about her hinges on how she came to live with us.
When I was little, I was practically raised with a boy named Gus. His family and my family went on every vacation together. We all crowded into one car each Christmas to go shopping at Lazarus department store. We spent our weekends together in family activities. Gus and I were like brother and sister, or at least first cousins. He was the brightest, funniest, most charming boy: everyone loved him.
Once we grew up, Gus and I had little contact. Our lives were far flung, in lifestyle and geographically. While I was a graduate student in Southern California, Gus was a laborer in West Texas. That kind of far flung.
Gus had a little girl with a woman he was later divorced from. The mother was in prison for drugs and Gus had full custody of their daughter. I had a little boy about his girl’s age with my partner. Gus and I saw each other’s child only once, when we were all back home for Christmas. The kids were toddlers: my son, Eli, and Gus’s daughter, Maura.
A few years went by. One day I got a call from my father. He had shocking news. Numbing, nauseating news:
Gus had been charged with child molestation and pandering underage porn. He’d had sex with Maura’s 14 year old babysitter, and he’d filmed it.
I can still feel the shock and the grief. You know how, when you hear something like that about a stranger, you think that scum, that sub-human, a monster like that deserves to die. Well, let me tell you: it is a different feeling when you love the person involved. It is waves of confusion and complexity. Denial is the only refuge.
And there was Maura, 6 years old. She stayed with her grandma, and then an aunt, and then a second cousin. When Gus’s trial was over, I asked if they’d send her to me. I wanted to make sure she heard good stories about her daddy. I figured I had more of those stories than anyone. Gus figured I did, too, and signed the paperwork.
Gus was sentenced to 24 years. I’m not sure what “hard time” means exactly, but that sounds like it to me. While Maura lived here in Maine, we would fly to Ohio to visit Gus in prison. I don’t know if I can capture the tension of those visits.
We were there for 6 hours. Come in at 9; go through a degrading search; no one out ‘til 3. An open room with fixed tables and chairs. A hundred people with disheartening stories sitting in that stark, gleaming room on those hard chairs all day. Mothers trying to keep their children from running around.
One of the dozens of rules: Inmates are not allowed to touch visitors… so, no hugging when you see them. Try explaining that to his daughter. You stand feet apart and say, “Hello!” and “I’m so glad to see you!” and he says, “Thanks for coming. Thanks for bringing her,” and starts to cry.
Maura was with us in Maine for four years. She had been held back a grade the year she shuffled from relative to relative, but she thrived in a new atmosphere. We didn’t do anything special. I remember thinking, gah, it takes so little to keep a child feeling stable and happy and safe–how come it’s so often not done?
At the end of the third school year here, at age 10, Maura decided to go back to family and be closer to Daddy. I’m ashamed to admit that I felt released from a heavy physical and emotional burden.
It is hard to raise another person’s child. I don’t mean if you’ve adopted; but when they have a fall-back position, things get sticky. For the child, someone else should be in charge. Not you, who have made an unfavorable decision. And poor Maura–she desperately wanted Daddy to come back so she could just live with him again. I heard “Daddy would never do that,” so many times that I was afraid I’d respond.
But in the end, we made it through and at the very least, Maura was away from the small town back home long enough for people not to think of what Gus had done every time they saw her.
Maura called me after she had been back home a while and said, “Mama, thank you so much for teaching me manners. None of the kids here have any!” I tell that story a lot.
Perhaps more relevant to the OP is to note that one of the hardest parts of this was trying to treat your children equally. It is very hard–at least it was for me–not to favor Eli, not to want to spend more time with him, not to take more delight in his daily life. I’m a person who loves other people’s kids almost as much as my own–but that almost is significant. I hope that if I ever raise another’s child again, I will do at least as well as I did with Maura. I know I could do better.