As a mother where draconian decisions were made when I asked for help for my traumatised adopted child, I needed a place where I could speak out about injustice, and where it was safe to do so. I needed to be heard and to feel a sense of hope for the future. I am not going to talk about what went wrong for us as a family and the reasons for this – not because I don’t want to or need to – but because I can’t. We need privacy as a family. In essence this is why I started SG&AT – because in order to speak out we need a collective voice, so we can tell our stories – but in a safe way. We started as a group of adopters, but when we saw how badly special guardians were being treated, and they are raising the same traumatised children – but getting far less than us – we could not stand by and let this happen.
I have been a therapist for more than thirty years now and I know how important it is to be heard and to tell one’s story – how this can be part of the healing process. The therapist provides containment and a safe space heard – where as a bare minimum one will be shown respect and consideration. Therapy is a personal journey however, and if our lived experience is to help policy makers and legislators learn what is to be done – we need to be able tell our stories to them – and for them to listen. We need to have a sense of safety and containment when we speak because many of us will have been through extremely traumatic experiences. We do need people to speak for us sometimes too – but not people or organisations who take our voices away from us because our stories will show the government in a poor light when we have been let down as families – and our children’s futures have been destroyed.
Groups like ours and POTATO (Parents of Traumatised Adopted Teenagers Organisation) potentially have such an important role to play in co-creation of a better system. Each person can share their story and be heard, not necessarily in the group even, but in the friendships that come about in a natural way when we connect with each other. We offer each other support – and support from another who has been through a similar experience is worth its weight in gold in the healing of trauma. We develop an understanding and sensitivity to the challenges that we each face personally – and over time we understand the reasons that things are going wrong – when the same things happen over and over again.
We need for government to listen to us now -to groups like ours – if we are going to achieve meaningful and worthwhile change. Hopefully our contributions to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Adoption and Permanence will pave the way for better understanding and a way forwards that offers hope for all families living with traumatised children and young people – or parenting them from a distance.