Adoption: The Great Debate….

It has taken me a while to find the words to what I want to say about this subject, because I know that it is a very emotive, and because I know that there are a lot of different opinions and views. I hope that I get my point across ok. I want those reading to understand that this is personal, it’s real life and it’s oh so complex.

I totally get that someone else may think differently, and that’s ok, if we all had the same views the world would be a pretty boring place. We need differences to create a dialogue, and we need to always be discussing issues that occur in adoption, because without discussion we will never learn from each other, and we will never improve the experiences for adopted children. I think I’m right in saying that we all want the best for children and whether we agree with adoption or not, if we’re having such heated debates about the subject it shows (most) people really care and want children to grow up safe and loved.

What’s been happening on twitter recently has really shocked me, and made me incredibly sad that people can be so nasty to each other. I think that the relative anonymity that comes with twitter can make people think they can say anything and get away with it. I do wonder that if people were talking face to face, or using non anonymised accounts if they would be so mean to each other. From what I can gather (mostly) adoptive parents tweets about daily life with their children are being commented on by (mostly) adoptees. Although there are some birth family members and other adoptive parents joining in with the ‘discussions’ From what I can gather adoptive parents are being told they are selfish for wanting to adopt, to stop thinking they have rescued a child. They are being told they are causing harm to the child by adopting them.

From a personal point of view, as an adoptee myself, we actively chose adoption to be our route to become parents as I/we know first hand how positive adoption can be. That it can have a positive outcome. That adopted people can achieve, and can lead a happy, settled life. I certainly don’t think I rescued my little girl, and I don’t think I’m harming her by adopting her. I acknowledge that in an ideal world she wouldn’t have needed to be adopted, but she did and she was. She is thriving. She will have lots of feelings/emotions around adoption, and I’m prepeared for her to feel different to me about it when she explores it more. I also hope I’m prepared to help her navigate her journey when the time is right.

There are a number of other accusations and intense anger directed to adoptive parents. Some adoptee adoptive parents (me included) have been criticised for adopting a child, when ‘we should know better’. Adoptive parents have responded clearly hurt by these very personal comments, and have tried to explain that they are doing their best in often difficult circumstances.

I think we can all agree that adoption does cause hurt and emotional pain. It is all about loss, on all sides. Massive loss to the adoptee, and also loss to the birth family. I think that the adoptive family also experience loss that sometimes isn’t taken into account. This amount of multi layered loss is of course going to cause problems, and I do think more needs to be done to support everyone to deal with it. In current UK adoption children do often have other difficulties, whether they be emotional, social or physical. Some of these children have massively complex needs, and they need skilled people to help them. Adoptive parents try their hardest to care for these children, but end up becoming their therapist rather than feeling they are a parent. Some of these difficulties undoubtedly come from the circumstances that meant the child needed to be adopted. Whether this be in-utero damage (drink, drugs, maternal stress), or post birth chaotic lifestyles and numerous caregivers or moves and broken attachments.

I’ve noticed that one area that was ‘debated’ was how much adoptive parents share online. Some parents where criticised for over-sharing and shaming their children. I have to agree, I do get where their coming from. But as ever there are two sides to every story. On the one hand, there are views like mine that, ‘if you wouldn’t like it said (or pictured) of yourselves, then don’t share it of someone else’ I do try to stick by this because I know that when she’s older my little girl may well read what I’ve written and said about her. However, I am very aware that on the other hand, the realities and struggles of adoption need to be told, and the truest way to do this is through honest real accounts. I think people need to be aware of the damage that can be caused by drink/drugs, abuse and neglect (and other adoption related difficulties). I think people need to be aware that adopting babies doesn’t mean that everything will be fine. I think people need to know how alone and isolated everyone in adoption can feel. That’s birth parents , adoptive parents and adoptees too. No can truely know what it’s like to be these people unless they have lived it themselves. Naturally humans tend to gravitate to people who they have things in common with. I know that many adoptive parents use twitter as an informal (but immensely valuable) support network. They need people who ‘get it’, who can provide that comfort or encouragement when they have no one else to give it. Adoption tears families and friendships apart as much as it makes them, and sometimes physical family/friends disappear when things get tough. No one should have to feel alone, and that bit of virtual support and understanding is a lifeline.

Online interactions can be great, and a they can be so valuable for everyone involved. Even if people don’t agree, we have so much to learn from each other. We can only learn if we listen to each other, and we can only listen if we are willing to learn. I have learnt a lot from other adoptive parents and adoptees purely from using twitter and other social media. I know that my parenting style comes in part from what I’ve heard, read and learnt. I know that my little girl has benefitted, and has a better Mummy because of it.

Hearing adoptee voices has shown me that others didn’t have the same experience as me, and their views differ, but that’s ok. Their words have made me think different aspects of adoption I didn’t really consider before. I feel so much more prepared for how to support my little one when she needs it as she looks to understand and come to terms with her story. Listening to birth parent voices has really opened up my awareness of what they experience when a child is placed for adoption. I’ve really been try to understand their emotions/feeling and how it’s trauma that continues after adoption for them too.

I really hope that the hate and nastiness can stop, that people can remember that other people are exactly that ‘people’. No one is perfect, not one person has the same experience as another (even my identical twin and I don’t), and so assuming others will feel or act the same is wrong. Taking out your anger on someone else who didn’t cause your situation is wrong. Yes, it’s absolutely ok to be hurt and angry, but sometimes directing it at those who are willing to try to listen to you because they want to support their child better actually pushes them away. At the end of the day, who wants to listen and learn from someone who just shouts abuse at them the whole time? As parents we teach our children about being kind, about respecting others, about having empathy for others. How are they ever going to learn these if we don’t practice it ourselves.

To conclude, I’m going to leave you with this, I think there’s a lot of truth in this little saying ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’ (From Bambi, I think….)