I adopted a child with an unspeakable history of abuse and neglect. I love my child beyond words and would do anything to protect him and keep him safe. He tells me it is thanks to me that he is alive – as I got him out of the care system not once, but twice. Fighting battles I should never have had to fight, alone, helped me have great empathy for birth mothers whose children are taken into care, as my son was, when I asked for help.
My son’s trauma has already had a massive impact on him and on our relationship and family life. My adopted child’s early life trauma will continue to affect him for the rest of his life, but unfortunately no one wants to think about this with me, his adoptive mother, especially now he is over 18. I do not wish to blame his birth parents who were clearly trauma victims/survivors themselves and it seems that no one also wants to hear about our appalling experience of services.
My child is not a young person who can speak out. I try and support him as much as possible but everything in his body defends him from talking about horrible experiences, which includes his/our appalling experiences of services.
No one seems to understand that my son wants to forget and move forwards and that he wishes me to speak about his experiences of services on his behalf – so others don’t suffer. He cannot bear it when I describe children or young people suffering in care or when this is reported on the news. Protective amnesia and DII (Dissociative Identity Injury), help him to forget the past. DII or DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder), as it is more usually called, is not a mental illness. I use the acronym DII because survivors have told me this is what they prefer. Some don’t like being described as having a disorder, and I respect this. DII is a human being’s way of dealing with unspeakable trauma. It used to be called multiple personality disorder. For those who would like to know more, here is a good resource about it from First Person Plural.
I have found there is literally nowhere I can go to be heard by the DfE and the organisations they work with, or by legislators – in a way that we can be part of the dialogue about what needs to change. The infrastructure, as it is now, doesn’t support us to be heard. Adopters like me, who have had extremely negative and traumatising experiences of ‘the system’ – our experience is that we are effectively rendered unable to participate in dialogue about change. Organisations and institutions seem to have a remit that excludes us, finding reasons why they cannot include or allow us to participate in dialogue about change in a meaningful and productive manner, and unintentionally (one hopes), organisations and institutions seem to exploit out children’s vulnerabilities and our need for privacy.
We can tell our story anonymously on social media or through blogs and books – but this doesn’t really help create change. It means we can offload and discharge some of the burden carried, but ultimately it leaves us feeling exposed and frustrated.
We can participate in research, as research subjects – if it is about us and we hear about it. The infrastructure supports funding of policy research of a limited nature, where people with no lived experience design studies, ask us questions and analyse our responses. Charities produce surveys for us to complete, sometimes with publicly owned media – the BBC – but these organisations do not consult us about the design or questions asked. They don’t seem to care if their questions cause us hurt and offence and fob us off, finding reasons to justify themselves. Raising concerns to organisations about exclusion or informing them that the language used about us is having a negative impact – this has not been a positive experience.
My question is how can we come together to learn from each other to create the change that is so clearly needed – if people like me and my son cannot be part of the dialogue?