This week we’ve had our first yearly contact with a Birth Relative. Thankfully it went as brilliantly as we could have wished/hoped, but it did get me thinking about how complex post adoption contact all is….
When we were matched with our daughter we agreed to once yearly direct contact with a Birth Relative as they had been very involved in our daughter’s life pre and during care. They (lets call her Kate – not her real name), had actually cared for our daughter, but had decided it was not going to be right for either of them long term. Kate had also (and continues to be) been a key figure in our daughter’s Birth Mum’s life. Kate wanted our daughter to have the best chance in life, and this is why she agreed for the plan for adoption. It was agreed that there was minimal risk of Kate having direct contact with our daughter. We thought long and hard about agreeing to direct contact, but felt that it if was hopefully going to benefit our child, then we couldn’t say no. It is not court appointed, so if we feel it’s not working, we can have discussions to change it. We hope that in the future it will help our daughter make more sense of who she is, her story, where she came from. We hope it keeps the lines of communication open, and she can choose when she’s older whether she wants to continue or not.
We knew about when the contact would be happening for some months before it was scheduled to take place. We thought about when we would tell our daughter about it, and decided to only do it a couple of days before. We normally only announce plans for the day on the day, but felt that this needed a little more prep and time, although not too much as our little girl is too young to understand time. Now Kate is already part of our family, in that we have photos of her up in the living room, and in little one’s room, as we do other family members. We don’t talk about her often, but her picture is there to prompt discussion if Little One leads it. We have been talking a bit about adoption and why she came to live with Mummy and Daddy, so naturally Kate is talked about as she was quite involved pre-care. I was worried how we would start discussions around birth family, but actually it’s been quite a natural process, and so far we’ve been very matter of fact, with simplified, but truthful explanations. The recent celebration hearing for adoption and the birth of my niece have helped prompt these discussions a lot. So, in the couple of days before contact we talked a bit about Kate, and what they used to do together. Little One seemed excited and happy to be seeing her again. She seemed reasonably settled in that we didn’t have any additional challenging behaviour or sleep disturbances. She woke up early the morning of contact and seemed extra bouncy, it seemed to be just excitement. she was calm and settled during the drive, but did ask if we were nearly there a few times.
The actual contact went really well, and we’re so grateful that our daughter will have hopefully happy memories of this occasion. We have some lovely photos which will help with further discussions. She made a card for Kate, and enjoyed giving it to her. I know Kate will treasure it for a long time. We got there and they were already there, waiting in the car as we pulled up. For these few moments, no one really knew what to do, so we got out and said hello. I think little one was a bit unsure initially, excited to see Kate, but needing reassurance from us. She was briefly shy and clung to me. This was actually a lovely experience for me as it meant she needed me, and wanted me. It was an appropriate response, and an indication that she had transferred that attachment from Kate to us. (She hadn’t seen Kate for a year). She quickly started interacting with Kate and both seemed very comfortable and relaxed in each other’s presence. We had some time playing in the park. Again it was lovely to see the two of them enjoying each other, but equally lovely to observe how little one needed and wanted her Daddy to be with her in their play.
Kate handled the situation amazingly, she clearly loves our daughter, and also wants whats best for her, even if this means not seeing her grow up (apart from a yearly letter and yearly meet up) She said how glad she was that little one was away from the situation she came from, and how happy she was that little one had a Mummy and Daddy to give her what she needs. It was really helpful (although very sad, and not surprising) to hear about how Birth Mum was doing. Birth Mum didn’t respond to letter box, so it will be helpful to indirectly hear where she’s at if possible. Kate was able to give Little One space when she needed it, and let Little One interact with her on her terms, so it went at her pace. She was appropriate with physical contact, and let us do the parenting. She clearly found goodbye hard, so this was a quick process, which in this case was right.
Even though everything went well and as planned, and I came away feeling encouraged that this could work long term, I also felt a lot of sadness for Kate and our daughter. I’m happy and grateful they have a seemingly positive relationship that they can continue and maintain to some extent, but really sad and almost angry that adoption has changed it forever. If adoption hadn’t happened, they’d probably have much more of a relationship than they have now. I’m sure there will be some discussions around this when Little One is older. However, I still think that adoption was the best option for her. The situation she was in pre-care was harmful, and long term foster care would not have given her the permanence and stability she needs. Kinship care would have kept her in contact with the people who were causing harm, so even though it would have allowed this relationship to remain the same, it would have also caused ongoing harm. I’m grateful that we can help to facilitate and maintain this relationship as long as it is beneficial. Although it went well this time, I am prepared for it to be more difficult as Little One gets older and questions and understands her story a little more.
Today (the day after) has been a normal day for us. I’m not sure whether to expect some fall out from contact as I’m not sure if our little girl really understood the significance of it. To her it was possibly just a nice time when she played with Kate, and ate cheese toasties and ice-cream. She may ask to do it again, and it will be difficult to explain that we won’t be seeing Kate for another year as she has no concept of time. There may be more questions once she’s had time to process it a bit, but currently her main concern is that Kate didn’t eat pudding.
Big thanks goes to the placing LA for being so organised and willing to work with us to arrange something we felt was best for our child. It was agreed to meet somewhere between us and Kate, which was great as we didn’t have to travel several hours with a 3year old. It was fully supervised, but the ladies were really good at giving space. This enabled us to spend time with Kate without feeling watched all the time, but they were available and would have stepped in if needed.
So, Direct Contact number one is done, a year is a long time, and who knows what might happen before the next one, only time will tell……