I am adopted, so why did I adopt?

There has be A LOT of chat on twitter recently about adoption. About people’s motivations to adopt, about reasons children are adopted, about parenting adopted children. There has been many voices, opinions and view points put across. Sometimes it’s got pretty heated, sometimes it’s got pretty nasty. I have watched and listened, absorbed and learnt from what’s been going on. I tend not to actively engage, but have at times attempted to stand up for myself and others where I have felt strongly. I am usually shot straight back down. I really believe that most of what is said truly comes from those individual’s hearts. They feel passionately and strongly about what they believe in. As I’ve said before, conversation and dialogue is good. I can see that through effective communication, things are changing, and people’s eyes are being opened.

I will happily listen to other people’s views and opinions, and honestly, I’ve found most of them helpful;. Listening to adoptee and birth family voices has really made me think about adoption from their point of view. It may have changed, but even 3-4years ago when we were approved, I don’t think prospective adopters were really encouraged to seek those voices. I think listening and learning can only prepare adoptive parents, and this can only be a good thing for their children. However, as someone who is and has adopted, I will NOT tolerate being called an an abuser and a child trafficker. (By other adult adoptees). I will NOT tolerate the assumption that all adoptees have been abused, and that they go on to adopt ‘like an abuser going on to abuse’ (by this I think they mean someone has be traumatised by adoption, so go on to cause trauma to someone else by also adopting) Just to be clear, I wasn’t personally called these things, but the person/people who tweeted these was I think addressing adoptee-adopters in general. And this is the reason why I wanted to write this post. To stand up for myself, and other adopters who have grown up and adopted children themselves.

I think the thought behind these comments comes from the assumption that all adoptees have unresolved childhood trauma, and that some decide to adopt in the hope that it will fix their own hurt and pain. All adopters have different reasons and motivations to adopt, but I can categorically say that this was not mine at all. I wanted to adopt because I know and have experienced how positive it can be. I do not see my parents as my adoptive parents, I see them simply as my parents. In the same way, I do not refer to my daughter as my adopted daughter. She is my daughter, no doubt about it. For me, adoption is part of my identity, but does not define me. I am not ashamed to be adopted. I don’t hide it, but at the same time it’s not something I need or want to tell everyone I meet.

I did not want to adopt because I wanted to rescue a poor suffering child, or because I thought I could give them a better life than what they had. I hear some say that adoption is better for the child because of the life and experiences they’ll have. And others say that even with the best life in the world, no one wants to be separated from their birth family. To have all ties with their biological family severed. I have to agree with the later, and agree that regardless of what happened before a child is adopted, adoption in itself is trauma. To be honest, I don’t think I really understood or appreciated this as much before I adopted my little girl. I want to encourage those that spoke out about adoption trauma, that we do listen, and we do take on board and learn from what they say. They have helped me to think about what I can say to my daughter, and how I can help her to talk about and come to terms with her ‘trauma’ We already have direct contact (we like to call it ‘seeing (*birth family name))’, so she does have that physical link at present. Now she’s a little older she does actively participate in ‘letter box’ We have been doing formal life story work, and we talk about her birth family quite a lot. The other day she asked me if (*birth mum name) will never be her mum again. I reassured her that (*birth mum name) will always be her birth mum, and I was/will never, ever going to take that away from her. She seemed comforted by this.

As an aside, I also did not adopt because I was an ‘infertile’, or because I wanted a ‘womb wet baby’ (yes, actual terms I’ve seen people use). I do not believe that new born babies are a ‘blank slate’ who have experienced no trauma. As I said before, I adopted because I am living proof that adopted people can and do turn out ok. Because I know firsthand that adopted people can and do live happy, fulfilled lives. I know that love is not enough. However, I do know that being and feeling loved a valuable and powerful. I know that my little girl knows she is loved by us, and by her birth family. Of course I know that adopted people have differing experiences, views and experiences, not all as positive as mine. I feel saddened and angry that some adopted people were treated badly, and yes abused by their adopted families. I do believe it happens, and absolutely do not condone it. I agree these adoptees have every reason to be angry at adoption and everyone associated with it. I do agree that the adoption system at present is not perfect, and that there are things that need to change. I do believe that there are people/professionals who are trying their best in increasingly difficult and stretched services.

So, to conclude, I want to say that I am thankful I was adopted, I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I wasn’t. I am keen to work with others to try to improve adoption in its present form, and to help to educate people on the complexities of adoption. I get that adoption rarely has the ‘fairytale ending’ some want to believe it does. I do accept that others have different experiences to my own, and that’s ok. However, it’s not ok to accuse others of things which they quite simply are not.

Praise Be! (to school)

If you’re a parent of a school aged child, then naturally, school will be a massive part of your family’s life. Last year, we became one of those families when our little girl started full time school.

I’ve come to learn that as an adoptive parent, choosing the right school for your child will affect every day, and usually every hour of each day. So, getting it right is essential. Getting is wrong could spell disaster. We chose our school really for proximity to where we live, and where we work. To be honest we didn’t really know what to look for in a ‘good school’, but have friends who’s children go there and had good things to say. When we looked around we got a really good impression, and there was no reason that we could see that would mean we wouldn’t want to send our daughter there. It wasn’t rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, but for us this didn’t matter, we know that league tables arnt everything, and what was more important to us was that it would meet our daughter’s needs as much as possible.

I hear a lot about how schools have not delivered, or not supported adopted children. All children deserve to have a positive school experience, and all children should feel safe in school. Sadly, some children do not have a good school experience, and that’s not acceptable whatever. However, I do also feel for the teachers who work in schools. Theirs is an incredibly hard job, and most of the time they are trying their absolute best to support each and every child. I think we as parents sometimes forget that teacher have many children to support each day, not just our own. Their day does not end when the children go home. They have their own lives to live too, and as we know, everyone’s live have their own challenges to navigate too. Sometimes I think we’re too quick to criticise and complain about teachers, and sometimes we need to try harder to find something nice and encouraging to say too. I do have to admit though, we have been very lucky and have had an excellent experience so far, so I guess if we’d not, maybe I wouldn’t be able to say the above so easily.

This post was really just to show some gratitude and thanks to our daughter’s school and teachers. I really wish I could name it, as it really has been great. But for now, you’ll just have to believe me…

There is a number of reasons why school has been a great experience for us this year. Firstly, it seems a very gentle and nurturing school. They have a lot of pastoral support available, and really celebrate and champion the children. Obviously they do care about results and targets, but from what I can gather, they equally care about the children’s well-being and social/emotional development. They have ‘keeping-in-touch’ days for certain children in the holidays. These days give these children a chance to do activities such as cinema, meal out that most other children take for granted. They use their pupil premium money (not PP+) to run a free breakfast club. This means that children get to have a good breakfast, which sets them up for the day of learning. The times I have been into school, I’ve been really impressed how well the staff know the children by their names, and they talk to them as they walk round the school. When we went to buy our little girl’s uniform before she even started school, I told the reception ladies her name, and they knew who she was even then. It’s the little, personal touches that make a difference.

I hear of lots of schools who have numerous dress up days, and other special days that are out of routine. Lots of events and activities. Our school has very few of these sorts of days, which I think is just fine. it keeps the routine predictable, and helps regulate everyone. If events happen, they seem pretty low key and relaxed. Sports day was lovely, the focus was on taking part, having fun and learning that faster doesn’t always mean winning.

Our daughter’s teacher has been amazing, I don’t think I can thank her enough. She has meant that the first year of school has been a really positive one. It’s been a fantastic base for which our little girl can build her experience on. She has firm foundations, and these will help to shape the rest of her time in school I’m sure. Her teacher is very experienced, firm, but fair and kind. I don’t know if she’s taught adopted children before, but she has always made us feel reassured and confident that our daughter is well looked after. I emailed her long before our daughter started at school, so that communication was well established. She always replies to emails promptly. Sometimes late at night, bless her. She has made an effort to understand our situation, and is keen to help as much as she can. She listens, and validates what we have to say. She understands the importance of good transition, and has provided some extra bits where requested. For example she hand delivered a photo book for the Little One so that she could become familiar with the new school and staff before she started there. She visited us at home, and the Little One at nursery. They don’t actually seem to do much formal work around transition to new classes, but I’m sure her teacher would provide extra if requested. They seem to drip feed new information, and I know they’ve been talking about what life will be like in year one for a few weeks now. Little One seems to cope ok with new things at the moment, but I have every faith that if she struggled there would be no problem getting some support. I’m told the children don’t really notice the transition to the formal learning in year one as it’s very gradual. The year one teachers already spend time with the children weekly, so they know each other well anyway.

We have been having some Theraplay and life story work the last few months, which means taking the Little One out of school for 1/2 a day each time. This obviously means she’s missed quite a bit of school, which is not ideal. However, her teacher does totally understand why it’s needed, and really supports it. When I told her about this initially, she immediately offered time or space in school to support it. We decided not to meet in school as we wanted it to be independent, but it was good to know that would have been an option should we need it. Her teacher ‘get’s it’, this I know because she once told me that it was really good for us to be able to have some quality time with Little One. She had also spoken to the head teacher, and explained on our behalf why it was an authorised absence. Her teacher also told me how she was really moved when the Little One had told her class about her life story book, and about when we went to the judge, and he said ‘that Mummy and Daddy could keep her forever’. The teacher had said that we could bring the book into school if wanted, but I think we’ll not go there at the moment….However, I don’t doubt that if it was taken into school, Little One would be fully supported to share it with her classmates. The fact that she wanted to talk about it at school just shows how safe and supported she feels there. We are very grateful to her teacher for telling us about this, it really helps to know what’s been happening, and we can make sure we talk to our daughter about it too.

Earlier this week Little One told me it was Teacher’s Day, and she wanted to buy her teachers some chocolate to say thank you for teaching her. Teacher’s Day does exist, just not this week. However, I let her carry on with her plan, so she she chose some chocolates (her favourite of course), and she wrote a thank you card. She took it to school, and the teachers were so happy. I think it was a wonderful surprise, and it really came from the heart. It was totally unprompted, and really showed how grateful she is to her teachers. I thought it was nice to do now rather than at just because everyone else is at the end of term. I bumped into her teacher on the way to work this morning, and she thanked me for the card/chocolates. She said Little One has done so well this year, and has achieved so much. She said we must be so proud, and she’s really looking forward to seeing how Little One grows and develops as she moves up the school. She thinks she’ll go far, and I agree.

To conclude, here’s a great big THANK YOU! to school, her teacher and all the other staff who have helped us this year. Their love, care and compassion has made a huge difference to us all. The ‘evidence’ is clear to see in Little One, she is learning, she is thriving, she is happy and she is a joy. Here’s to next year and seeing what that holds….