In Memory of Keith Dowdell

Born 4 March 1994
Died 30 September 2022

Keith Dowdell was born 4 March 1994 in Pittsfield MA, USA. His name was changed to Keith Robert-Scott Filiault when he was adopted into the Filiault family within 6 months after his birth.

I am Keith’s biological half sister. We share the same mother but separate fathers. We also share a few half siblings we did not meet until our adulthood.

Keith was adopted after months of living with our first mother, Andrea who was 15 years old when she gave birth to him. What I know, based on what she said is that she was incredibly young but loved and cared for him in every way as a 15 year old in the foster care system could know how. She had been set up by her foster mother, leading to his removal and their disrupted attachment. Andrea was also a victim of substance abuse after this as she made attempts to recover from this loss.

Keith was placed into the Filiault family a few years before me. They had already adopted our older brother who had been born in Bolivia. Our adopted mother and father were not equipped to deal with three children, two of which showed serious signs of trauma. Some of this trauma also due to our adopted family dynamics and experiences.

I am writing this on behalf of my experience with my brother as he does not have anyone else to share the truth. When I speak of truth, I don’t mean truth that is layered in the perspective of the adopted family, but one that is soaked in the experience of an adoptee only.

Our family was unkind, belittling and negative about both of us, but mainly him. Keith had been diagnosed with RAD and he did not have the opportunities to connect with anyone in his life that would create meaning for him.

There was also very little guidance from our Black family because they were not allowed to know us and we had absolutely no racial mirroring. Keith suffered in his childhood and was very much perceived as being a Black/Hispanic child – a “criminal in the making”.

Despite all of the negatives, Keith was incredibly smart. He was able to take toys with wires and batteries and craft them into other types of toys. These toys ran like they would if you bought them in a store brand new. He was determined to find meaning in ways people didn’t understand and labeled bad, yet when you think about it, for him, his talents and ideas were inspiring to him.

It was only when our family continued to beat him down, did he truly start exhibiting substance abuse issues that lingered for years. They did not protect us from abuse.

As much as our adopted family would like to sit back and throw their hands up in the air saying, “We did all we could. He was fucked up”, they didn’t do what they should have done from the beginning. They should have given him back to his mother, our mother.

Yes, he was the one who overdosed, he was the one who stole and lied but he was missing a life of connection with his Black family, hidden in a life that forced him to fit into a narrative that suited them but not him. When he didn’t fit? What did they do?

My brother wasn’t perfect, neither was I. He did things that hurt a lot of people but he had incredible amounts of trauma. No-one knows if he was even capable of recovering from his trauma in a way that would inspire him to stay alive with purpose.

I can say that I do know how in-depth his pain was because I feel it every day that I am alive. Living and being raised by this family, being thrown into a white centered world with no abilities to navigate as a person of colour and being cast aside when you’re not perfect, it harms us.

Keith deserved better and they are a large part of the reason he is dead. He is NOT with our adopted grandparents like my adopted parents say. He is not with my adopted father like my step mother says. He is with my first grandmother, a courageous Black Woman who served in the Army. A woman he was able to meet and bond with and loved deeply.

Adoptive families can sit here and pretend we adoptees find comfort in their words about who he happens to be with but not only will we never know for sure, if we do have that hope, I sure as hell know that his peace and passing is in the comforting arms of our grandmother.

White adopted families need to do better to protect us adoptees. Keith suffered too long. He deserves his peace!

RIP brother!
Your loving sister, Isabel May Dowdell