Thank goodness Radio 4 has broken the silence about the heart breaking experiences of adoptive families in the digital age when children re-connect with their birth families on social media – and their life trajectory can radically alter. The programme used a case to illustrate the scenario. Ed and Clare were the adoptive parents whose teenage boys gravitated back to their birth family one after another – after the eldest first made contact on social media. Having raised the boys for 13 years, their legal parents now have no meaningful contact with them for the past few months. At fifteen and sixteen their children were settled and stable. Birth family contact meant a bomb was dropped into this family, who were utterly helpless. Wherever they turned no one could help. Soon the boys were involved with drugs and criminality – and no longer communicating with the loving parents who raised them.
You can hear Ed and Claire’s experiences at 1hr 33 with further discussion at 2 hrs 20 and 2hrs 40 HERE
For us this is an all too familiar story. We have many similar cases amongst our members. What can be done? Not very much it seems. The response we receive is always that there can be no comment or involvement in individual cases. How many individual cases does it take before someone decides this is actually rather cruel?
Like Ed and Clare’s boys, when one child re- enters care – siblings can become destabilised and torn. It is not unusual for both to end up back in the care system and reunified with birth families where there can be massive social problems and hatred towards the system that is misdirected onto us. Consequences can be tragic.
There are conversations happening about modernisation – but these are not with us and they are not conversations where birth families and adoptive families are coming together. The system divides us and leaves us with misconceptions and emotional distress. We fill in the gaps with stories and fantasies. Our children can be left hurting and sad. Vulnerable and destabilised. Meanwhile decisions are made about us by others who have no experience of losing a child to another family – in early life, or years later as a teenager. The third sector is powerful in adoption and kinship care with the Adoption and Special Guardianship Leadership Board. A board where no one can ever get involved in individual cases. Letters to government about systemic failure are met with responses that tell us to make complaints after its far too late and another young life has been ruined. Some families survive and come back from the abyss – when children are grown. We don’t hear these stories at all. The focus is on adopter recruitment. This means the honest conversations that need to happen don’t – it might deter prospective adopters. Are we fools to be deceived? Our desire to love and nurture taken advantage of?
One of the reasons why we wanted to come together as adopters and special guardians is that it is a way of connecting adoptive families with birth families and bringing about shared understanding. We are all dealing with grief and loss. With connection and disconnection. With pain and hurt. The same wounds – but different stories. Special guardians are often grandparents. Many raise children where siblings have been adopted. Many must deal with contact with the children’s birth parents – who hurt and self medicate. We learn from each other – mostly we learn that our problems are not so dissimilar after all.
How on earth can we help our children to become integrated and whole when the system is so segregated, dysfunctional and disconnected? Blind spots. Areas that are no go. Dialogue that isn’t happening. How can we create the safe space to come together to talk. To listen. To understand.
How can we make adoption more kind?