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.