Recently there has been quite a bit of debate around a TV advert which showed a young girl searching for her ‘real dad’.

it caused much upset to adoptive families because it appeared to encourage vulnerable young people to independently search for their birth family. To not have the support to do it, and to have to deal with the consequences on their own. It appeared to show a successful reunion, which is not always the case & could possibly give false hope to others wanting to search.

In this advert the word that really stood out, and that was hotly debated was the word ‘real’ It made me think about how this relates to adoption, and what it means when we mean the word ‘real’ I think it means different things to different people.

when talking about ‘real parents’, I would say that both the birth and adoptive parents would like to claim that they are the (adopted) child’s real parents. I think that actually all parents are real.

One adoptive parent claimed that there is a difference between real and birth parents, and added that they were the ‘real’ parent. If I’m honest, this annoyed me, it didn’t seem fair. Yes, they were the parent raising the child. And yes, any parent (or carer) raising a child is very much real. They care for the child, meet their needs, love them. there is no doubt that they are a real parent (or carer)

But, I don’t think that we can then not call a birth parent a real parent too. They might not be physically raising the child, but they are still related to and created them. They are also very much real. To dismiss them is surely wrong? They might not be legal parents, but they’re still real people. We need to see them, treat them as real people.

It was interesting because all the complaints and chat came from adoptive parents, and very little from adoptees themselves. This gives quite a biased view. I do agree with what was said, but I do wonder that if we asked adopted people who they feel their real parents are, what would they say? I think that what’s important is that it’s for them to decide, and whatever they feel, that is absolutely fine. We shouldn’t be labelling people for them. For some it might be very difficult to call either ‘real’, or they may be still be working out how that relationship works.

I am adopted, and I very much see my adoptive parents as my real parents. They raised me, they love me, I am their daughter. They are to me my parents, simple as that. I would never call them my ‘real’ parents because I don’t need to make that distinction. I never questioned it. It’s not that I don’t see my birth parents as real. For me, I guess it’s because I never had a relationship with them, and I don’t think I ever yearned to want or need one.

I wonder if I asked my 5year old about who she feels her real mum is, what she’d say. She calls me Mummy, and she’d name me if someone asked her who her Mum is. But, she knows she has two mums. She knows I didn’t give birth to her. She knows who her birth mum is. She calls her by name. She knows her story. She knows that her Birth Mum will always be her Birth Mum. I can’t, and wouldn’t ever take that right and title away from her. I told her that one day, and think it really helped her to know that it’s ok to see us both as her Mum. To see us both as very real to her.

So, to conclude, I think it’s good that the advert highlighted the issues around searching for family in adoption. Maybe it shows that there needs to be so much more support for everyone as they navigate the complexities of this. I also hope it reminds us all to think about the language and labels we use, and to think about the people behind them. At the end of the day we’re all people, and all people are 100% real!

Adoption Celebrations

This post is all about whether we should celebrate adoption, and the various ‘milestones’ associated with adoption. I have been thinking about this for some time now, and was prompted to try to write some thoughts down. It came after someone mentioned on Twitter about seeing others announcing and celebrating the arrival of their child via adoption. They wondered whether such an event was worthy of a celebration?

Its’s a tricky one, this because as with every situation, we don’t know the full story behind this, as someone else said ‘snapshot’. So, we naturally come to conclusions and I guess, judge. I wanted to think about why adoptive parents want to celebrate adoption, and why seeing them do this could make others upset or uncomfortable.

I don’t know if I”m just a bit more connected on social media now then when we were going through the adoption process, or that its a much bigger anyway now. However, I see with and engage with adoption a lot. One thing I’ve noticed is the adopters use widely to ‘document their journey’ From pre approval, matching, to the child coming home, and beyond. It seems a big thing now, and there are even adoption milestone cards that some people use. I was thinking about why we feel the need to do this, and thought that maybe it’s because we want it to be like it would be if we were pregnant. It allows parents to not feel left out of this preparation phase. It builds the excitement and anticipation. It draws others into our journey, and provides support.

Now we are parents, we fairly often take to social media to share our daughter’s achievements. The funny things she does or says. The joy she brings to our family. The fabulous little girl she is. Why do we do it? Because we’re parents, and generally that’s what parents do. Our daughter may be adopted, but we’re just like any other parents in that we’re proud, and we want to share our happiness with others. Parenting requires your absolute all, and this includes celebrating the good bits. I think as an adoptive parent, if you don’t let yourself do this, you could end up feeling not fully their parent. You might feel a bit detached maybe. Like you’re not allowed to celebrate because it might upset someone else. Obviously, with adoption there are additional things to consider about what and how we share. But, I don’t think that should take away being allowed to celebrate.

For some adoptive parents, the little things really are the big things. Their child may have achieved something massive for them, so of course they’re going to want to celebrate, and why not? I guess it can provide hope to others as well, that somehow, someday they’ll get there too.

Parts of adoption that are often celebrated include matching, introductions, homecoming day and the granting of the adoption order. Now I’ve understood adoption trauma more, I have mixed feelings about celebrating these events. They are normally hugely happy and positive to the adoptive family. But of course, with adoption there is always loss, grief and sadness that goes hand in hand with these ‘milestones’ One family’s gain is then another’s loss. One family’s happiness is another’s pain. It’s complicated, and no one story is the same as another. It’s very emotive, and people will have big feelings and views about it.

We have and still do publicly ‘celebrate’ these markers of our story. But, we often think about our daughter’s birth family, and how they might be feeling on those days. We talk to her about them, and discuss her story with her regularly. She knows that it’s ok to miss them and to feel sad. I think that as she gets older, she might not want to celebrate those events so much, and that’s ok. I hope that adopters these days do consider birth families when they celebrate. Of course we only see what they share, and shouldn’t assume, but I’d like to think that there is more awareness of adoption trauma now. I hope parents are empathetic and sensitive in what they share.

I’m going to end this post with this quote, which I love. I don’t know where it comes from, but it think it perfectly sums up adoption. As adoptive parents we must never forget this. She is our daughter, but she is their’s too. Although she is legally ours, she wouldn’t be here without them, and she has a huge place in our hearts as well as in theirs too.

Post Adoption Support: should we have it?

This week is National Adoption Week, and there has been much talk about adoption. There has been many voices heard, and many views shared. It’s been great to listen, to participate in discussions. To share my experiences, and to learn from others. There has been much chat about if we should even be having a National Adoption Week because it is essentially a recruitment drive to find more adopters. The stats show that there are currently more children ‘waiting to be adopted’ then there are potential adopters. I’m not going to go into the arguments around if we should have adoption in the first place, or f we should have a National Adoption Week at all because that’s for another day. I am going to try to explain why I think that Post Adoption Support is really needed.

A big theme of the current discussions seems to be around ‘preservation” , specifically around family preservation before adoption is even considered to be an option. I get that if first/birth families were helped and supported more, then in some cases it would never get to needing adoption. If families could be helped to manage their lives so that children are safe and able to grow up safely, then families wouldn’t need to be broken up by adoption. If children could be supported to stay in birth families, then they wouldn’t have the life-long consequences of adoption. For example, a loss of identity and relationship with their birth family. If families could be supported more during and after care proceedings, then subsequent children may have more of a chance of staying with their families.

However, in some cases, children can not stay safely with their families, and some will need to be adopted. Adoption isn’t for every child, but for many children, it will give them the chance to be a child again. To grow and to thrive. It will give them stability and secure base that they couldn’t get before.

Today I was challenged by someone who felt that funding should be used for family preservation and not for post adoption support. That funding for family preservation should be the priority. I agreed with them in that family preservation is really important, and that there should be more support available so that it didn’t get to the stage where a child needed to be adopted.

However, I had to disagree with them that there should be no post adoption support. Their argument was that adoptive families should just get on with it, because our choices should not take priority over keeping families together. That adoptive families should find a way to either get the help themselves, or already have the skills needed to care for children with very high levels of need.

I feel that most adopters will do everything they can to support their child. Sometimes this means being supported by skilled professionals who can assess and provide the appropriate intervention. I pointed out that most adoptive parents are just that, parents. We’re not therapists, and that’s why we pay therapists to help us learn to do the right thing. Also, a lot of the time, a child’s needs are not fully known at the time of adoption. We can’t predict what they might need in the future. We commit to l support the child for the rest of their lives, and this includes doing everything we can to make sure they have access to appropriate and helpful external support.

Many parents will be willing, and do pay privately for specialist assessments and interventions, but sometimes they just can’t afford too. In some cases the needs of the child amount to so much that working, and caring for them are not possible. Most parents try and manage the best they can for as long as they can, and sometimes asking for help, admitting they are struggling can actually be really hard. They then need to be treated with compassion, empathy, understanding. Just like those birth parents who needed support right back at the beginning should have been. It’s not a case of some people being more deserving than another really. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t be about the adults, it should be for the benefit of the child.

As a family we have had, and benefitted from post adoption support in various forms. We have had formal support from the Adoption Support Fund in the form of therapy and life story work. It was really helpful, and we have been able to use what we’ve learnt every day at home. We feel very grateful that we were able to access this support. We engaged in a lengthy process with the LA because we felt that it was something our daughter needed, and she had a right to access that service.

But, there are many other forms of post adoption support that are equally vital, and to be honest, without, I’m not sure we’d be where we are right now. Among them is informal support from family, friends and other support services. We have engaged quite a bit with our adoption agency, and local adoption group. We’ve found the peer support invaluable. We’ve had the chance to chat to professionals, and to speak out our thoughts and worries. Together, we’ve been able to talk about strategies and things to help. Just having a named person to contact if needed makes such a difference. Support workers are vital, and sometimes having early low level support can prevent problems escalating to bigger issues and crisis points. It’s needed so much more for both first/birth families and adoptive families. It probably doesn’t cost a lot, but it does so much good. I wish there was more.

This weekend we had our first independent meet up with our daughter’s birth family. It was with someone who we’d met up with before a few times, but previously they’d always been accompanied by a support worker. This support has been withdrawn, partly due to just not having the resources (people , money, time) to send someone out on the contact sessions. We decided earlier in the year that as we weren’t going to have supervised sessions, we’d like to increase the frequency of these meet ups. Our support worker helped to organise this meeting, and communicated between everyone.

The actual meet up went brilliantly, and we could not have hoped for a better day. Our daughter was able to meet another member of her family. Someone who was, and will continue to be part of her story. She and her other relative picked up where they left off from the last time they saw each other. It was such a privilege to observe and be part of. Yesterday we were two families, that came together as one with a much loved little girl at the centre. It was wonderful and bittersweet too as it was a reminder of the loss they’ve all suffered, and of the relationships they can’t fully have. However, it gave hope that these are relationships that can be grown and deepened.

We could not have got to this stage without the brilliant post adoption support from the LA. This day had taken over 3years to work towards, with lots of support for us and birth family. This is why post adoption support is vital. Adoption can tear families apart, but done right, it can also bring them together too.

‘Happy’ Homecoming Day (is it really a happy day?)

This weekend is the little one’s homecoming day. The day we mark when she came home to us for good. It’ll be her 3rd homecoming day, which means it’s 3years since she joined our family.

As I am adopted myself, I have grown up celebrating my own homecoming day. I still mark it now 32years later. I don’t know where the idea came from, but I’ve never known a time when we haven’t had it. The reason behind it is to celebrate the day that we were taken home by mum & dad. To celebrate the start of a new life with our family. For me it was alway a joyous occasion, and it truly was a celebration. A day to celebrate being adopted. Looking back now, I still celebrate it because for me it is a day to be thankful I was adopted. I know for sure adoption was the right thing for me. I would not have had the life I’ve had, and would not be where I am now if I had not been adopted. Adoption is part of me, and forever will be. It’s also a good excuse for a cake, because who doesn’t want cake?…

The last two years we’ve celebrated our daughter’s homecoming day. We’ve done this because its been really special to carry on a family tradition with our own family and our little girl. It’s helped to be able to explain to her about adoption. We’ve been able to start to explore her story with her. We love celebrating her and who she is. We love making her feel special, to feel loved, to feel wanted. Of course she is all of these things any and every day, and we don’t need a special day to communicate this to her. It has felt right to mark the occasion when she moved to live with us, because whatever the feelings or emotions around this day are, it will always be a significant day in her life.

However, I’ve been thinking about if this truly is a ‘happy’ day in her life. From listening to many voices in adoption, I know that for some people, adoption is far from a happy thing. Some may love their adoptive family with everything they have, and yet they still have mixed feelings about adoption. The day they came home may not have happy, positive connotations. The day they came home was the day that their previous life ceased. The day they came home was the day their identity was changed forever. The day they came home was the last day they saw their biological family. When you look at it this way, it’s obvious it’s not a happy day at all. For some children the day they came home is the last time they ever saw their Foster Carers, the people who they came to love and trust. Although some children will be excited about a new home and family, I’m sure they’re also very scared and feel very alone. Coming home is very much a day of mixed emotions.

I was talking to my daughter about her homecoming day, and what this means to her. I asked her what it makes her feel like, and she told me ‘happy’ We also talked about how its ok to feel sad too because its also a day when we remember she left her much loved foster carers behind. We talked about why she needed to be adopted, and why those other people were no longer able to look after her. As a family we try really hard to talk about her Birth Family and Foster Carers. We have some level of contact with both, which I think for her really helps. They are not cut off/out of her life. When we talk about ‘family’ they are all included, because these people are important to her, as is she to them. We have photos of all those people she loves, and who love her. We are honest with her about her story, and validate/empathise with feelings she has. I don’t want to put words in her mouth, because I think she may just repeat what I say, or say what she thinks I want to hear. I hope she grows up knowing that she can talk to us about how she’s feeling. I know that she’s going to feel torn, and worried about upsetting us. I know that she’s probably going to feel confused about who she ‘belongs’ too, but I hope that if we talk to her about these things, she’ll understand that it’s really ok to feel them.

So, this weekend we will celebrate her homecoming day. We will celebrate her, we will celebrate us. We will celebrate how far we’ve come as a family in the last 3years. We will celebrate our achievements. We will remember how much we’ve all changed in that time. It is also our wedding anniversary the same day. So, we can share the celebrations of our family, as a family together. But, from now, I think we’ll also use this day to reflect, and to remember that it brings with it mixed feelings and emotions. We will talk to her about where she comes from, and about her before she come to us. I am fully prepared to stop celebrating her homecoming day in the future if she doesn’t want to. I will keep an eye out, and if celebrating is not the right thing to do, then we won’t. We may no longer openly celebrate that day, but in my heart I always will. In my mind, it’s the day I became her Mummy, and to me, that is always a day worth celebrating. And, this weekend, we will eat cake, because that’s what a celebration needs….

Is there anything right about adoption today?

I’ve been thinking for a while about the current adoption climate. I’ve been listening to lots of different voices and perspectives. I’ve been reflecting on my experience and views, and on those that my daughter might have now and when she’s older. As with every other complex ‘subject’, there’s a whole spectrum of thoughts and opinions. I don’t think there is a definite answer to this question, as there are so many variables that affect each and every case. What might be right for one person, could be absolutely wrong for someone else. Anyway, in this post I’m going to try to look at some of the themes that are currently being debated, in an attempt to explore the question.

From listening to adoptee voices, the overwhelming message that I have taken from them is that adoption in itself is trauma. Regardless of the reasons why someone might ‘need’ to be adopted, the actual physical action of adoption will cause trauma to the individual. I think it’s well recognised that moving in with total strangers, being separated from your familiar care givers is traumatic for children. As adults we understand why it happening, but for children, they most likely don’t, however well they are prepared. As adults we can see the purpose of adoption and the long term benefits it can have. Children can’t. They often don’t understand time. They only have limited experience to draw on. That experience is often negative. They learn to expect negative. They don’t know it’s going to be their ‘forever home’, they expect their caregiver to disappear, just like the last one did. How do they learn to trust again?…

The argument for adoption, for putting children through this level of upheaval is that we know that children do settle, that they do learn to trust again. We know that they will go on to have positive experiences, and that’s why adoption can be the right option for some. With time, effort, support this part of the trauma of adoption can be healed. Probably not fully, but it can be reduced. If the transition is managed well, and everyone is supported, then they can be successful. These processes should always be child centred, and care should be taken to ensure they go at the child’s pace.

The trauma of adoption runs deeper than just moving house and caregiver. As adoptees have taught me, it’s the total cut off from birth family that causes much damage. Adoptees are expected to change their names, have a new birth certificate, be permanently separated from their birth families. Their identity is totally changed, and they don’t feel whole or complete. They’re expected to be grateful to their adopters for ‘rescuing’ them, when sometimes they didn’t want to be recused at all. Many adoptees don’t know anyone who is genetically related to them. This is a big deal to some people. They feel like they don’t fit in their new families. They might not look like their adoptive family, which marks them as ‘different’ even more. They can’t give information about ‘family history’ in medicals, they don’t know who/where they get their characteristics from. They have no baby photos to look back on, no photos of birth family members to treasure.

The argument seems to be that when we understand the level and depth of trauma that some of these issues bring up, then how can we knowingly put children through it again and again? I’ve had it said to me (as an adoptee adopter), that I’m ‘repeating the cycle of trauma’. I get this, I see where they’re coming from. But…for some children, their best option is still adoption. Adoption with every effort made to maintain some of those links, to maintain that identity. This could be through some level of direct contact where appropriate. It doesn’t have to be a birth parent, it could be another relative. It could be through a foster carer who the child lived with before adoption. All these connections will allow the child to build up an understanding of where they come from. The child can ask these people important questions, they may have access to relevant information that helps them make sense of who they are. As an adoptee told me this week, it allows gaps to be filled, and prevents the mind imagining. Or fears/fantasies being made about their birth family.

As a family, we have direct contact with birth family member and foster carers. It’s hugely beneficial for everyone involved, and I think it is helping our daughter make sense of her story. It’s helping her learn about her two families, and how/why she came to be with us. As she gets older. she’ll be able to explore more and ask more questions. It might not be easy, but we’ll always try to do what’s best for her. The other day I was talking to her about adoption, and she was asking questions, and I could see the confusion on her face. It felt so wrong that someone so little would have such big thoughts to have to work through. I hope gave her an appropriate answer that helped her to understand a little bit more and reassured her. It made me angry that if she hadn’t been adopted, she wouldn’t be asking questions like this. Without going into details about her story, I know that adoption was best for her given the options available. We are very open with her as appropriate, and she has a good understanding of her story. She does ask questions, and I hope she always feels able to, however difficult the answers might be (for us and her). Contact with birth relatives doesn’t answer all those questions, but it does keep that link open. I think that in adoption these days, direct contact is being considered more. As the research shows the benefits it has, more people see that it must happen (where appropriate). Prospective adopters need to be told about it early on in the process, and professionals need to consider it more. More needs to be communicated to make people understand that adoption isn’t a fairy tale story in which everyone lived happily ever after. Adopters need to understand that adoptive parenting is hard. They also need to know it can be wonderful too.

Another argument against adoption is why don’t people become long term carers/guardians rather than adopters? That way, the child maintains their identity, and are not legally disconnected from their birth family. I see the benefits of this approach, but I’m not sure there would be many people willing to be essentially carers until the child is 18, rather than a parent. I know that no one has a right to ‘have’ a child, and to be a parent. But, being a parent is what many people do want to do. Historically there was a need to reproduce to achieve survival of the fittest, and continue the gene line. Now days it’s not about that, but I still think the desire to have and care for children stands. For some people, genetics doesn’t matter, and their chid doesn’t have to be related to them, for them to have deep sense of needing to care for and protect that child. To me a parent is very different to being a carer. This doesn’t take away from the fact that carers do an amazing job of looking after children, usually as they would their own. However, for some children having a parent rather than a carer allows them to feel secure, to know that no one can take them away. It provides stability and familiarity that enables them to start to heal, to strengthen attachments. A child needs these things first before they can start to learn and take on the wider world. For some children, they will never manage or thrive in a family, and in these cases long term, care is appropriate. Voices are being raised in the adoption world, and maybe practice will change to give more options for adoptees to maintain their original identity.

What also needs to be done is that more support needs to be given to families, so that they don’t even get to the point of needing children taken into care. More support needs to be given to help children return to families from care. But, we can not ignore the fact that for some families, they are given chances and more chances, and a massive amount of support. And yet they are not able to keep children safe. Many times this can be due to generational deprivation, and sometimes the safest thing to do is to break this cycle altogether. More needs to be done to work with families where children have been adopted out, to prevent further children being taken into care. To help parents learn to parent safely.

In conclusion, to answer the question, there is a lot ‘wrong’ with adoption right now. But, these issues are complex, and will take time, effort, money to solve. There does seem to be more awareness around some of the problems, and more voices being raised in unison to petition for things to change. But, on the flip side, when done well, with support, there is lot right with adoption now too. It’s not perfect, and it never will be. However, adoption does give the most vulnerable and hurting children the chance to grow up safe, and to achieve their potential in life. It can provide healing, and it can transform a child and their life before them.

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….

Raise Her Voice

There has been much discussion recently about adoptee voices. About what they say, how they say it, and about whether other people listen to them. There has also been much discussion around adopter voices, and if in some cases they are ‘doing all the talking and none of the listening’ There has been much debate about ‘over-sharing’, and protecting young adoptees privacy and stories. As with any debate, there are many sides, and in many cases, all these voices are valid and important. But how do we decide who is right? who we should listen to? I don’t know, I don’t think I can answer this, and it will forever be a topic of hot debate.

I am not going to speak for all adoptees, because even though I am adopted, I am not all adoptees. My story and experiences are not all of theirs. Their voices are every much as important as mine. I want to listen to them, to hear from them, to learn from them. I know that not all adoptions were like mine. I want to understand why they have the feelings they do. I want to make sure I am as much prepared as I can be for when my little girl (who is also adopted) needs me to walk with her through her journey to coming to terms with her own story. I cannot do this if I draw on only my knowledge or experiences. I am so very grateful to adoptees who have already spoken. Some of the stuff they have shared has been incredibly hard to hear, but it has massively opened my eyes. I hope lessons can be leant from their stories, so that we do better. I’m never going to be perfect, and I’m never going to get it all right, but I do know that with the knowledge and understanding I now have, I have some hope of being the right support for my little one.

More recently I have been thinking about how I help my little girl to raise her voice. She’s only 5 at the moment, so she’s not going to be tweeting, or writing any blogs any time soon. I do try to think about how she might feel or what she might have to say, but, I don’t want to speak for her. She has her own thoughts, and her own voice. I think that it’s really important, even at her young age for her to be able to tell others what and how she feels about adoption. I want for her to have the opportunities to use her voice, but I don’t want to be putting the words into her mouth for her to speak. They have to be her her own words, even if I’m uncomfortable with what she might say. I’m also aware that I don’t want to use her, to force her to speak when she doesn’t want to, or she doesn’t have the words to say. I don’t want to take her words when she doesn’t have the understanding to consent to share her thoughts. It’s a fine line, one I’m still mulling over.

The other week we filmed a video at our Adoption Agency to be used in training for prospective adopters. We were asked to talk about our experience of direct contact with Birth Family. I was keen to share our very positive experience in the hope that it would encourage other adopters to consider it. I suggested that our little girl could join the discussion around how she finds the experience of meeting her relative, and how it makes her feel. I was really torn about if we should ‘use’ her in this way, especially as when I discussed it with her before filming she got upset because it made her really miss her family. I thought hard about if it would be right to put her through an emotional and stressful experience. We decided that we’d see how she felt on the day, and let her decide if she’d like to talk or not. In the end she did, and she did brilliantly. I think that hearing how it is from the child themselves is such a powerful message. For those adopters to hear is so valuable. They’re not just hearing a social worker tell them the benefits of contact. They’re seeing the benefits in real life. I’m really proud of her, and in the end felt that we’d made the right decision that was in her best interests. I hope she’ll look back and know that we tried to include her, and we strongly believe in the importance of giving her opportunities to use her voice to make adoption better for other children. I am grateful to our Adoption Agency for listening to us, and taking on board our suggestion to include our daughter. I’m grateful they are forward thinking, and child centred. I hope this experience will encourage them to seek adoptee voices more in the future.

Another opportunity for her to raise her voice is coming this week, again at our Adoption Agency. We have been involved in some adopter focus groups in which we help to shape and plan the training and support services offered by the agency. It was suggested that as its half term this week, maybe the children could attend the focus group, and they could tell us what they’d like to see happen. I thought this was a brilliant idea, and such a great way to give the message that the adults want to listen to the children currently affected by adoption. Again, at only just 5 I’m not sure my little girl fully understands about adoption, but it will be really interesting to see what she would come up with.

So, in conclusion I am grateful to adoptees for raising their voices. I hope adopters listen and are challenged by what is said. I am hopeful that we can continue to find ways to help our daughter raise her voice so that the future of adoption can be improved for her as well as many other children.

Maternal Mental Health

This week has been Maternal Mental Health week. A week to try to focus on maternal mental health, and to make everyone more aware of the impact poor mental health can have on mothers. A week to raise awareness, and let mothers know that they’re not alone if they experience mental health difficulties. Actually, it’s quite normal to struggle mentally, and that its totally ok to seek some help and support if needed.

I think that it’s great that there is more awareness of maternal mental health, that can only be a good thing. If it means that mothers are better supported, I am delighted. I hate to think of women struggling on their own.

I was looking at some social media posts about maternal mental health this week, and was struck about how nearly all the posts were about mothers who had given birth to their children. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this, and of course women who have given birth experience mental health difficulties. However, I was saddened that women who have come to motherhood by other routes (eg step parents, fostering, adoption, family carers) seem to be missing or overlooked. Almost as if these mothers don’t experience mental health struggles, or that their mental health struggles are not as valid because they didn’t give birth to the child. I don’t think anyone has actually said any of these things, they’re just thoughts I’d had and wondered if any one else had too?

The type of motherhood that I know about is through adoption. I became a Mum just over two and half years ago when our little girl came home aged nearly two and half. It has been a roller coaster of emotions since then. I admit I think I did struggle with my mental health at times. Being a mum by any means is not easy. Being a mum by adoption brings all sorts of challenges that I don’t think some people are aware of or consider enough.

When our daughter came home I was delighted, I was finally a mum, which was something that I had dreamed I’d be for a long time. I couldn’t believe my dream had come true. I loved being a mum, I felt so so lucky. But, I struggled. I struggled with the sudden change of everything I knew. The change in routine, the change in roles. I went from working full time, to a full time carer of a toddler. A toddler who was also adjusting to a loss of everyone and everything she knew. If I struggled, my heart breaks for how she must have been feeling.

Of course any new mother experiences much of this, suddenly they have a brand new baby and a new life to get used to. But, I think that an adoptive mother has that extra bit of pressure that unless you’ve lived it yourself, I’m not sure you can get your head around it. The pressure I put myself under to be the perfect mum was immense. I felt like I’d failed her and let her down when things went wrong. She deserved better. I felt guilty for wishing my old life back, for wishing I could be carefree again. I felt ashamed I’d feel this way. I thought everyone was watching me, judging how I managed. There were frequent social worker visits and reviews. I think an admission I might have been struggling would come across as not coping, so I think I tended to keep quiet about how I really felt. Reflecting back on it all now I feel like I kept the people who cared away physically and emotionally, thinking it would be easier to just try and get on with life myself.

Before adopting I’d heard a little about Post Adoption Depression, but I guess it was something that I thought might happen to others and not myself. Looking back, I don’t think I fully had post adoption depression, but I do think that my mental health took a bit of a battering. I think it’s really important for adopters to be more aware of risks to their mental health, and to think about what might trigger comprised mental health, as well as what they can do to optimise their mental health. Also, to be aware that post adoption depression can be experienced by anyone, male or female. I do believe it’s real, and I do believe adopters need more support, especially in those early days.

Another aspect of maternal mental health and adoption that I think can be overlooked is that of birth mothers. Birth mothers are mothers whether their children are adopted or not, and their mental health is equally as important as any other mother. I wish that birth mothers (parents) got more support for their mental health. With proper support some might be able to turn their lives around, and for their children to stay with them. In some cases, they wouldn’t have subsequent children removed. The pattern of generational deprivation could be stopped. In cases when children are removed, this must cause massive distress, and must have an impact on mental health. I do wonder how many of these women have proper support when this happened. Think of the outcomes there would be if women were properly supported….

You’ll be pleased to know that for me, life got better, and my mental health did improve. As I bonded with my little girl and adjusted to the new life I had I was able to cope better. I realised that I was putting too much pressure on myself, and that vision to be a perfect mum was not achievable or realistic. As I stared to relax a little bit I felt better bout myself. I realised that I was actually doing a good job. I found that it’s vitally important to have a good support network. To have people to talk to about how you feel. To have people to help, and to keep offering to help, even if you push them away initially. To connect with other adopters who know how it is, and who can offer lived advice. To have supportive professionals who are there to support you as well as the child. One of the most helpful social workers I had contact with came to see me, and really just sat and listened to me. Listened to me talking about my feelings and let me talk, to get it all out. I wish there was more low level support for adopters. Someone who will just come to have a chat, without having to wait for weeks or go through a formal assessment process. Someone who is detached from the placement side of things, purely a support worker. Sometimes that listening ear is all that is needed to prevent small problems escalating into bigger and bigger ones.

So, to conclude, I’m glad that maternal mental health is being taken seriously. I feel passionately that all mothers’ mental health is important, and that we need to help all mothers to feel the very best that they can.


Dear Darling,

It’s that time of year again, can’t quite believe that it’s come round so quickly. It’s your birthday again, and as you remind us so regularly, you’re now five!

Wow! what a year you’ve had. You’ve done so much, and grown up so much too. You really understand birthdays now, and it’s lovely to see you excited about yours. You’re so good at choosing gifts and making cards for everyone else, but now it’s your turn. It’s your 3rd birthday with Mummy & Daddy, so you’ve now had more birthdays with us than you’ve had anywhere else.

I was having a think about the last year, and all you’ve achieved. It makes me so proud to look back to see how far you’ve come, and it makes me excited to think about what’s around the corner for you. I think a highlight for you was going on holiday, twice! You really loved our holidays, especially the swimming. To think that this time last year you wouldn’t let go of us in the pool. Now you’re very happy to splash around on your own and are getting more confident in the water every time we go swimming. You summed up our holiday well when you proclaimed one particular day as ‘the best day ever!!”

Your biggest change was starting school, and as usual you took it all in your stride. You walked in on the first day with a smile on your face, and straight away got busy playing with the sparkly play doh. I am amazed by your enthusiasm and ability to learn. I still can’t quite believe that you can read properly now. I think it’s been one of my greatest parenting pleasures seeing you learn to read. I love reading with you, and it’s been a privilege to see a whole new world open up in front of you. I have to be careful now because you know when I’ve read something wrong, you definitely keep me on my toes! Your writing and drawing has come on loads too. I Love that one of your favourite things to do is to draw and colour. Maybe you’ll be an artist one day, who knows…

Although I’m proud of you for doing so well academically at school, I am also very grateful that you’re doing well in other areas. Your teacher tells us that you’re a great little friend, and very caring. You eat well, and have a go at everything. Another of my highlights was seeing you singing Away in a Manger in the Christmas Nativity. I’ll never forget your sweet little voice singing so confidently and clearly. You definitely deserved your merit certificate for that. I love coming to collect you from school everyday. You always run out happy to see me, with a big smile on your face. It makes me smile too.

Another great achievement has been starting gymnastics. You’ve done so well settling in there, and working hard each lesson. When I watched you, you listened hard and had lots of fun too. You’ve got so much stronger these last few months, and are getting really good at your running and scooting. I love going for our run/scoots together. You’re a great little motivator and help me keep going. It’s great that we’ve found something we like to do together. The hard work is paying off, and you managed to run the whole of the mini run the other day. What a difference two years makes. When we first did the run you struggled and fell over. This time you ran it all without stopping, and had a big smile on your face. Your medal collection is catching up with mine now.

I think that this year you’ve started to understand your story a little bit more. We talk quite regularly about it, and will continue to do so as you want to. You coped really well with meeting up with your relative and foster carer. I hope that these meet ups are helpful for you, even if it is all a bit confusing for you right now. I know you’d like to see them all more than we do, and maybe in the future, we will. I know for sure that they all love you so much. They think about you lots, and they’ll definitely be thinking about you and missing you on your birthday. I know that they’re happy you’re happy, and they’re glad you’re thriving in our family. They will always be a part of your past, and of your future too. I was so proud of how well you engaged in the letterbox bits we sent, and I know that they meant a lot to those that received them. I know your Birth Mum remembers you and thinks of you, even if she’s not able to write back right now.

You’re such a great big cousin, and It’s been lovely to see the bond with your cousins grow this last year. They look up to you, and I can’t wait to see the adventures you’ll get up to in the next year. I know you’d like to be a big sister, and I know you’d make a brilliant one. I’m hopeful one day you will. For now I’m glad we get to enjoy you on your own, to soak you up and give you our undivided love and attention whilst you’re still little.

I want you to know that although you’re now five, you’re still our little girl. If you need us to look after you like we would a baby, that’s ok, we won’t stop that just yet. We’ll go at your pace, and do what you need, don’t worry about that.

You know that my favourite song for us at the moment is ‘you are my sunshine’, and I think it sums you up perfectly. You most definitely are my sunshine, and you make me happy during the most grey of times, There have been some very grey moments this year for me, but you’ve kept me going and kept me smiling. The song says ‘you’ll never know how much `I love you’, but I hope you do know that I love you so much. I hope you know that even when I get cross, or when we fall out, I will always, always love you.

So, Happy Birthday little munchkin. Let’s celebrate the brilliant year you’ve had, and look forward to all the new adventures and experiences we’ll have in the year to come……