Adoption Support – Glimmers of Hope

This week is National Adoption Week in the UK. Although the main focus this year is adoption of siblings, the general message is also of #SupportAdoption. Quite a few adopters have turned this around to give out the message that adoptive families also really need support (#ProvideAdoptionSupport.). This I think is primarily aimed at the formal support services (social service, healthcare etc), but  it can also be aimed at the informal support services such as family, friends, voluntary agencies.

This post is about a glimmer of hope in our adoption story, and it focuses on some specific support (or seemingly lack of) that we’ve had. When we started the adoption process we had to identify our support network. I’ve heard it said that sometimes those who you assume may provide you with the most support are actually the ones who drop away once you adopt, and those who were on the periphery step up to be more available.

This is what has happened in our case, and it’s caused me a lot of hurt , pain and sadness. The time when I needed the support the most it wasn’t there, and to be honest this was sometimes harder to come to terms with than the difficulties of adoptive parenting. There has been a fair few tears shed and angry words said over this. I realise now that I was mourning the loss of a close and supportive relationship. It massively hurt that my cute baby niece (and she is adorable and cute) was seemingly loved more and got more attention. The ‘likes’  and lovely comments she attracted on social media compared with no acknowledgment of my sweet girl (yes ,shallow I know) really hit a tender nerve in me. Those people I turned to before in a time of need I felt no longer wanted to know how I was feeling.

Now I know there are reasons why these people have seemingly retreated from my life, and I have tried to deal and come to terms with it by trying to be empathetic and to see the picture from their side. I have really tired not to become bitter, and to try to re-connect.

BUT….there is a glimmer of hope in this situation, and I have faith that it will be ok in the end. Just recently we have been in slightly more contact, and I’ve been able to ask them some advice about some specific things. I hope that they feel wanted/needed/appreciated. I hope they feel that their voice/opinion matters. There are plans to meet up, to celebrate birthdays, to go out for meals. The contact feels more genuine, more natural. I know that it’s early days yet, and that this relationship needs to be slowly rebuilt. It may never be as great as it was before, but at the moment anything better than it was, would be amazing. I would love for my little girl to be loved by them, and for hem to realise she is very cute and adorable too, even if she is not a baby. I appreciate it’s hard for them, and am ready to do what I can to help.

So, to prospective adopters, be prepared for your perceived support network to change. Build it up as much as possible before/during the process. Support may come from the most unlikely to places/people, but embrace it, you need it!

To those supporting adoptive families, please, please don’t stop! Even if you don’t feel you can do it physically (e.g. meet up with the family), do it from a distance. You don’t know how much of a difference a quick text can make, it may brighten their day. Please don’t judge how we parent, it may look different to what you know, but there are reasons behind it, please do ask, we’d be very happy to explain, and maybe chat through some strategies together, it’ll probably help. Sometimes a view from someone detached from the relentless job of adoptive parenting can be just what’s needed if it’s shared in an supportive way.

And sometimes a surprise package of someone’s favourite chocolate in the post is the perfect way to put a smile on anyone’s face (thanks Dad). It demonstrates that sometimes no words (except the attached note saying ‘do not share’) is all thats needed to show someone you care about them.

 

 

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), An Adoptive Mum’s Perspective

Today I went to a training session at our Adoption Agency all about Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Before we came to adoption I had never heard of FASD, I knew that drinking during pregnancy is not advisable because “it might harm the baby”, but I wasn’t really sure why, or how much it can damage at any/every stage of pregnancy. During the adoption process I have learnt a lot more about it, and it’s actually pretty scary. I think the most scary thing is that it’s totally and 100% preventable (by not drinking at all in pregnancy, no odd glass here and there) yet there is likely to be up to 7000 babies born with FASD each year in the UK. These babies are born into all social classes/groups and not just to mothers who drink heavily during the whole of their pregnancy. A baby can be born with FASD as a result of just one binge drinking session in pregnancy. Many of the children (up to 75%) who have been in care (and who go on to be adopted) will have been affected by alcohol damage in pregnancy.

FASD is irreversible and untreatable brain damage, and can cause significant disability (physical and learning). As it affects the brain it can affect any and every area of life/function. Most of the time the affects of FASD will not become apparent until the child is of school age as this is when their educational, emotional and social struggles become more obvious. FASD can be misdiagnosed as other conditions such as ADHD as many of the characteristics are the same.

I think that when we were going through the matching (finding our child) stage, FASD was big worry for me. Everything I’d read or heard made FASD appear very scary and very bleak. I expected any child to have all of the potential difficulties, and I wasn’t sure I could manage significant health and behavioural problems. However, as we ideally wanted a young child, I had to come to terms with the fact that there is often little way of knowing if they will be affected by FASD. Even if drinking in pregnancy is known (and often it will be denied or under estimated/reported), you can’t really predict to what extent the child may be affected. There may also be other factors (post birth trauma, neglect, attachment) that can make parenting equally challenging. Adopters are expected to accept and live with the uncertainty of what could evolve in the future. At our matching panel we were questioned about this, and our answer was that our daughter (to-be) would be our daughter, just as if she’d been born to us, and we would fight and advocate for her if we needed just like we would a birth child. We would do our best to deal with any difficulties as any parent would.

As with many adopted children, there is a chance our daughter may have FASD. At the time of family finding and placement she was ‘meeting all her milestones’, and still is now a year later. As adopters know, this means nothing  as most FASD affected children will meet all their milestones in their early years. She has just started nursery, and seems to be getting on really well. However, it will be really interesting to see how she does in the next couple of years, will potential difficulties become more apparent? What I’ve found difficult ever since the early days of placement is over-thinking and analysing her behaviour. I’m always wondering is that normal for a 2/3year old, or is it because of ‘adoption related reasons?’ Is it ‘attachment?’ or is it ‘FASD?’ I feel that a good awareness of potential difficulties is beneficial as hopefully we can identify them early and learn how to manage them or get some support. However I think this can be exhausting and I can forget to relax and live ‘in the moment’ I’m trying to enjoy where we’re at now as I know my sweet girl is growing up so fast and we’ll never get these days back.

I am actually glad I went to the training today post placement, with a child who may (or may not, we don’t know) have FASD as I can see the person behind a potential diagnosis. I know that it’s not all doom and gloom, and that children with (or could potentially have) FASD can be and are wonderful. She is beautiful, friendly, caring and clever. She throws herself into everything with such enthusiasm. She is such an overcomer and resilient. She is loving and cuddly. She is fierce and opinionated. She has brought us so many laughs and smiles, as well as a fair few tears. I love her deeply, and will continue to do so whatever the future brings. I would say to any prospective adopters, don’t write off a child with possible FASD, see them as them and who they could become…….

 

To find out more about FASD see:

http://www.nofas-uk.org

https://www.fasdtrust.co.uk

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/foetal-alcohol-syndrome/Pages/Introduction.aspx