Grateful?

I follow a fair few people on social media, and there is always been lots of discussion. around whether adopted people should be grateful to have been adopted. Grateful to their parents for adopting them. It’s one that I’ve always found interesting, because being adopted myself, and having also adopted my daughter, I think I can bring thoughts and experience from both sides. What I do want to make clear now though, is that there isn’t a right or wrong view. Experiences are personal and they shape people’s opinions. It’s ok to think differently to others. It’s ok to disagree.

I think the old view of adoption is that the adopted person is very lucky to have been adopted. That they are lucky to have escaped the terrible situation they were in. That they are lucky to have the chance to grow up safe and loved. Lucky to have such amazing parents who saved them. Historically adopted people have been expected to feel grateful for the new life and everything that goes with it that adoption has given them. They have been expected to be seen to be grateful to their parents.

This view I think comes from a much less acknowledged and openly talked about knowledge and acceptance that although adoption can be, and is a good thing, everything about it also carries loss and trauma. I think we now understand how adoption is a loss of identity, a loss of family. For most, the reasons for adoption are traumatic, the repercussions of which will stay with that person for the rest of their life. The actual adoption in itself, although healing can also be traumatic. Imagine being taken from everything you know and living with people you’ve only just met. Imagine not seeing those you people you trusted, and thinking they’ve gone for ever. Of course steps are taken to minimise trauma that results from adoption, but it’s always still going to be there.

When you think of all these things, it’s easy to see why adopted people are often not grateful or thankful to have been adopted. Some didn’t ever want to be adopted. Some never asked to be. Some were never given any chance to say what they wanted to happen to their lives. For some, despite the difficulties in their birth families, they’d rather have them then have their connections to their biological family severed by adoption. I can really see why some adopted people are angry they were adopted. Some are angry at the system, some at their adoptive parents. Some at everyone/everything.

Now, I personally struggle with the view adopted people shouldn’t be grateful and thankful to be adopted. For me, adoption has been a overwhelmingly positive. I am indeed grateful and thankful to have been adopted. I know my story, and I know that the alternative to adoption would have resulted in a very different life for me. Adoption has literally given me life. I know I wouldn’t be where I am, or have achieved what I have without it. I know I am loved, and have learnt to love because of adoption. I feel incredibly blessed to have the parents and siblings that I do now, and I wouldn’t be without any of them. It was my positive experience of adoption that made me want to adopt a child myself.

I don’t think I should change my views or opinions about being grateful for being adopted. I don’t think I’m any less of a genuine adopted person because I feel like I do. And, yes, sometimes I have been made to doubt myself, my experiences and feelings because they don’t match with others. Feeling grateful and thankful doesn’t take away from the difficult bits. I still lost my birth family. My identity was still changed. I still have unanswered questions and lots of gaps of knowledge about my early life. I still wonder about what life would have been without adoption. There is still trauma there, there will always be. However, it hasn’t made me feel that adoption has been a negative or bad experience for me. I feel incredibly lucky to have what I do because of it.

So, now I am now an adoptive parent, I do think a lot about how my little girl will feel about adoption as she grows. We talk quite a lot with her about adoption. We talk to her birth family, and are in regular contact, both directly and indirectly with some of them. We have talked about her being lucky before. Not because she’s adopted, but when we’ve donated to charity or given things away to people who might not have the material things that she has. We talk about being thankful for the things we do have.

I absolutely do not expect her to be thankful/grateful for being adopted. I don’t expect her to be thankful/grateful for us being her parents. After all, we have contributed in part to her trauma. I don’t think I realised that at the time, it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve really understood that adoption in itself is trauma. I think we do try to help her work through her thoughts and feelings, and we validate what she tells us. We are honest with her about adoption. She knows how much she is loved by us, and her birth family. We try hard to help her still have connections to her life before us. We work hard to try to help others learn how beneficial and important these connections are.

If she does express that she is grateful to have been adopted, or thankful to us for adopting her, then that’s ok. I can’t very well say I’m grateful to have been adopted, but she’s not allowed to be. Our stories and experiences of adoption may be different, so we will probably feel differently about it it. But, it’s ok to feel the same too. What I will tell her though, is that we are incredibly grateful and thankful to have her in our lives. She has bought so much love and joy. She has enriched our lives so much. We came to adoption, yes because we thought we could give a child a safe, loving home, but also selfishly because we wanted to be parents. We chose adoption for our family. She did not. We know that love does not fix everything, and she really doesn’t have to be grateful to us. I’d quite understand if she were the opposite.

To end, I want to say thank you to those adopted people who have opened my eyes to the bigger picture of adoption. You’d have thought that as an adopted person myself, I would have ‘got it’ before I did. I’m sorry that I didn’t. Even though it’s been hard and painful for others to share their experiences and feelings, I’m grateful they did. Hopefully by taking them on board, I’ll be a better, more understanding parent to my daughter. I hope she grows up knowing we tried to do what we thought was best with what we knew. I hope she grows up feeling loved, but under no obligation to feel grateful or thankful for being adopted.

Six!

Dear Darling,

Tomorrow you are six! For us that’s 3 1/2 years of loving you. I know you’ve been loved since the day you were born, you are so loved. We may not have known you since that beautiful day 6years ago, but we will love you forever more, for sure. I don’t remember what we were doing that day, but I did take this very pretty picture. I’d written that I love spring and the new life it brings, little did we know that on that day, a very pretty little girl was born. We waited another 2 1/2 years to meet you, but it was so worth the wait.

So, this year, it’s flown by. You’ve continued to get taller, and more clever. Your feet at size 2, and you’re in age 9-10 clothes! You’re starting to help to do your hair, and you love a pamper session at the hairdressers. You can properly read and write now. You’re really good at maths too. You love music, and it’s lovely to hear you playing. Music really relaxes you. Hopefully this year you can start learning to play an instrument. I can’t wait to hear what you play. I love your stories and drawing. So creative and expressive now. You’ve done amazing at school, and have become a school councillor. You’re great at thinking of other people, and wanting to help them. You’re a really caring, thoughtful girl. We were really proud when you got a merit certificate before Christmas, for your writing. It certainly has got so much better recently. Very well deserved.

You’ve loved gymnastics, and have now got two proficiency awards. You work really hard in lessons, and always come out telling me all about how you’ve done. You’ve got a new bike, and hopefully once we can go out and about again, you can practice a bit more. You still love scooting, and love the little seat we got to put on the front, so the doggies can have a ride.

We enjoyed a lovely summer, and had some great fun. I think your favourite activity was swimming in the outdoor pool. You did really well at holiday club, and often brought your creations home. We went on holiday in the hottest week of the year. Luckily we went to the seaside, so you spent a lot of the time cooling off in the sea. And eating ice-creams. We were very grateful for our air conditioned room, so we slept very comfortably at night.

We are so proud of how you have taken to increased contact with your Birth Relative. It’s a lot, for the grown-ups to take in, so you as a little girl have done so well. I’m so glad we get to see your relative more now, I’m sorry we didn’t do it sooner. I love it when we see them. I love seeing how happy and relaxed you both are. I love that you have this connection. I love that we have lots of happy photos as memories. I love that we are finding out about your life with them before you came to us. I am sorry you can’t see them as much as we’d like, but what we’ve got is a start, and hopefully we can build on that as time goes on. It was so special you being able to speak to them on your birthday. I know it will have made their day, and made them very very happy.

You are such a sunshine girl, and bring smiles, laughter and fun on the hard days. This year has had its fair share of hard days for sure. In the summer we lost the 2nd baby in my tummy. You didn’t know, I’ll tell you one day, but I didn’t want to make you sad. You would have loved to be a big sister. One day I hope you will. Until then, we’ll make the most of having you to ourselves. Having you here on those tough days have kept me going. You are the best medicine I could ask for. One of our favourite songs to sing to each other is 🎶 ☀️ You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey. You’ll never know dear how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away☀️🎶 My little love, you have no idea how much sunshine you’ve bought to my life on those dark days. Thank you.

This year has certainly been a challenge, and we’ve only had a few months. I am so incredibly proud of how you’ve coped with everything thing that the Corona Virus has thrown at us. You woke up on the Monday morning to be told you weren’t going to school, and now 5weeks later you’re doing amazingly. Your whole world turned upside down in an instant, with no warning. But then I think about how you’ve sort of done this before. Every time you moved to a new home, you started all over again. I hope that having us with you this time has made it a little more reassuring for you. I hope you feel safe. For a little girl who is so sociable and friendly, it’s really really hard seeing you not be able to play with your friends or family. For someone who loves being out and about, it’s frustrating having to keep you indoors so much. But, I have loved spending this bonus time with you. I have loved watching you learn and play. I have loved cooking and reading with you. It’s been fun to document what we’ve been doing. I think it inspires others. Hopefully we’ll look back on this time as a fun, relaxed time. Hopefully we won’t have to do it again, but I am so grateful to have had you. I don’t know how I would have got through it without you. You have kept me busy, you have kept me motivated. Thank you!

Your sixth birthday, wasn’t quite what we had planned, and you missed out on so much. But do you know what, we all had a lovely day, and it went as well as we’d hoped it would. I am so proud of you, you haven’t moaned or complained once. For a little girl who is only six, a lockdown birthday is really not what you’d want. I hope you still had fun. I hope you feel very special and loved. I’m so glad you loved your cake. Daddy and I loved making it for you. I know you said you never ‘happy cried’, but I think you did, and it made me cry too. I’m so glad we made you happy on your special day, I hope we do everyday. Once we’re allowed out again, we’ll have another birthday for you. We’ll have another cake and a big ballon too. So, you’re a special girl with two birthdays this year. Hopefully looking forward to that will keep us all going u til we celebrate with family again.

So, here’s to this next year. I’m sure it will be filled with fun and adventures, and exciting experiences. You’ll be in year 2 at school, I’m sure the teachers have lots of interesting learning planned for you when you go back. Hopefully we can do some more cycling and swimming at some point too.

Lots of love, Mummy Dearest….. XXXXXX

Family Time

This week we had our 2nd independent ‘contact’ with Little Love’s Birth Family. This time we arranged it (nearly) entirely ourselves. It was (nearly) independent of any professional input. I say nearly because there was one brief intervention from the support worker at Social Services because the family member had sent a message to us via them.

Since talking quite openly about our direct contact (we prefer meet up, or family time), I’ve had a few people ask about how they can do it too. So, I’ll let you know how it works for us, and hopefully it might help others. As I’ve said, we are not professionals in this area, so I don’t want others to think that our way is the only or right way. I want to stress that every situation is different, and that’s ok. What might work for one may not for another. I would advise to seek professional support and advice. But, also to go with you intuition and gut instincts. You know your situation, your child, your family. You know what’s best for them. I’d say be careful. Really think about the risks involved for everyone. Don’t underestimate the impact it will have on you, the child, the birth family. It is exhausting, it is intense, it takes time to sort. But, it can be so beneficial. It can be beautiful. And it can be fun too.

So, we are now at a stage where we can arrange and meet our time on our own. We have a second phone we use, so as not to use our personal ones. But, to understand how we got this far, I need to take you back a few years to the beginning. When we were being considered to be matched with Little Love, we knew from the start that direct contact with a member of her family was going to be requested. This information was on her Link Maker profile, so we knew about it even before we knew very much about her at all. It was something we said we’d definitely consider, but at that point hadn’t really learnt much about how it works. It was quite uncommon 4years ago I think, so I don’t think we knew anyone else who had direct contact. This person is not a Birth Parent, but it is someone whom she lived with before she went into care.

We were fortunate enough to meet the family member before Little Love came home, and this really helped us to confirm in our minds that direct contact was going to be a positive thing (we hoped). It was lovely to meet the person we’d be seeing again, and to hear how much they loved our daughter. To hear how much they wanted to still see her and be involved in her life. To hear how they would take precautions to make sure contact worked as safely as possible. They were fully committed to direct contact, and it helped us to be as equally as committed too. At that meeting we started to build a relationship, that is still growing now.

The next meeting was arranged and supervised by a support worker from the placing Local Authority. It took place about 10months after our daughter came home, which was about 11months after she and her relative had last seen each other. It was in a place where neither of us live, about half way in between. The support worker provided transport for the relative as they can’t drive. This first meeting was really quite emotional, and the relative clearly found saying goodbye hard. They knew they weren’t going to see Little Love for another year, and that must have been so so hard for them. It was only a couple of hours, but it was lovely. Little love was initially a little shy, appropriately so. But she soon warmed up and was quite happy and comfortable with her relative. At this point we knew we’d made the right decision to agree to contact. The 2nd and 3rd meet-ups were in the same place, and took pretty much the same format. It was great to see LL and her relative pick up where they left off the last time they’d seen each other. The meet ups were each a year apart. They often felt like long years, but also seemed to pass in the blink of an eye.

At some point during those initial meetings we were informed that the LA we’re planning to withdraw their physical support for these meet-ups. They said that this was normal practice, but came as a surprise to us, as we didn’t think it hadn’t been communicated clearly to us. We were committed to continuing this invaluable family time, but were concerned about the lack of support would affect the relative. They relied on support workers not only to provide transport, but also to be emotional support before and after the meet-up. We have each other, and get to take our daughter home with us. Her relative attended the meet-up without other family, and has to say goodbye for another year. It didn’t seem fair for them to have to do it alone. The LA told us that the alternative arrangement was that the relatives son would provide transport, but that they were not to get involved in the actual contact itself. We had concerns about this as we didn’t know that person, whether they would be a risk. Yes, they weren’t going to physically be at the contact, but they would be around surely? We requested the LA to do a risk assessment, which they reluctantly did & we agreed to proceed.

The first non supervised meeting went ahead about 4months after then previous meet up. We thought that as we weren’t restricted by when support staff would be available, we would increase the number of times we see Birth Family from once a year to 3-4times a year. This seemed like a more ‘normal’ wider family relationship, and we might as well whilst we still can. Our brilliant support worker at the LA was really helpful, and acted as the ‘middle man’ to help arrange it. She even provided a contact number for the day (at the weekend) should we need it, so we felt well supported. The meeting went brilliantly, it was everything we’d hoped for and more. Everything ran smoothly, and everyone had a great time. We spent around 4hours with each other that day. It was so nice to have the freedom to take the time we wanted with each other. Although the support workers had been lovely at previous meet-ups, it was lovely to not feel watched or supervised. We were free to relax a bit more, and to really start to build a meaningful relationship with each other. We realised that the relative’s son was sat in their car waiting whilst we spent time with them. We went with our gut instinct, and decided that even though we didn’t know this person, they were keeping their end of the deal. They were keeping out of the way, whilst still being committed enough to drive their relative to see us. We decided to let them join in and meet our daughter. We’re so glad we did. It wasn’t planned, but it was ok. It was beneficial. They hadn’t seen little one for over 3years, so they were delighted to see how she was doing. They are part of her family, so we felt she should have the chance to grow up having the opportunity to start to get to know them. It might lead to contact with more birth family members, it might not, and either or neither is ok.

Between meet ups we do send texts and pictures with updates of how our daughter is getting on. We sent each other Christmas greetings, and we were able to send them a picture of her with the Christmas present they bought her (they send a voucher via letterbox, and we choose the gift on their behalf). Previously we had to wait until the next letterbox to tell them what we’d bought, but now we could tell them in real time. This is amazing, and much more normal. The relative doesn’t always reply, which can be frustrating when we’re trying to sort arrangements, but we have to be patient and appreciate that they have a life to live too. They’re also not so tech savvy, so it’s not so easy for them to use their phone. We do know that they read the texts though, so they do get updates. Every time they send a message back I still can’t believe that we get to do this.

The most recent meet up was again a great experience. Because of the weather, we couldn’t go outdoors, so we went to a pub for a meal. It was a good opportunity to spend time chatting, and getting to know each other a bit more. We had the chance to fill in some gaps from Little Love’s time with them. We heard stories of things they did together. They shared their precious memories with us. The relative’s son joined us for the whole time, and it was comforting to see that they are well supported buy him.

During this time we were able to film a short video with the relative. We help to deliver our Adoption Agency’s training session about ‘Contact with Birth Families’ to prospective adopters. We tell our story about contact, in the hope that it will encourage them to think about it being an option for their families. We share the positives and benefits, as well as the hard bits and challenges. We show a video of our daughter talking about her experience of seeing her relative. It’s very well received. We think it’s vital that the adopted child’s voice is heard. We as adopters and professionals are usually the loudest voices, and we didn’t want the adopted persons voice to be missed. We thought it was important that Birth Family are given a voice too. It’s their story as well, and without them, we can’t do this level of contact. I rang the relative a few days before to explain and asked them to think about it. They agreed to do it, and seemed to appreciate being included. Hearing them tell their thoughts and reflections is powerful. I really hope it helps others to be more open as to what they could offer their children and their families.

So, that brings us back to the present time. It’s been a journey these last nearly 4 years. It’s not always been easy. There has been worries and every emotion there is. But, it’s been so incredibly positive. It’s been so beneficial to everyone, and has really helped to build on life story work. Meeting up with family has given us a natural reason for us to chat to Little Love about her family, her story. It’s made it an easy, positive conversation to have. It’s absolutely the right thing for our daughter, us, her birth family. We have been two families coming together, with a shared love of our precious little girl. We only want what is right for her. I wish we’d done it sooner, but then, maybe we wouldn’t have been ready. We certainly haven’t done it on our own. I think it shows that these sort of things absolutely do need professional support and guidance. When others have asked me ‘how do we do direct contact?’, it makes me realise that we’ve been very fortunate. It was set up for us, given to us on a plate. Yes, we’ve actively engaged in it, but it was thanks to the social workers who were forward thinking and proactive that it got started in the first place.

As we move forward, we plan to meet up every few months, nothing confirmed yet for the next one. But that’s ok because everyone trusts that the others are equally as committed to make this work, and so it will happen. We plan to ring the relative a bit more, because they might manage this more than texting. When I rang them prior to the last meeting, they told me it had made their day! I am excited to share the videos, and get those voices out there. I hope it encourages more people to consider direct contact for them too.

Real

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….