National Adoption Week stirs up strong feelings of regret, sadness and anger for me and my husband. We did not expect Adoption to require quite such an intense level of emotional endurance or ongoing battles on behalf of our kids. We love our children dearly and will continue to fight for them until the day we die. I am not exaggerating when I say that day may come sooner than expected given the impact of many years of stress on our physical and emotional health.
That we took on a number of siblings when their needs were – and are – so great that two parents alone just aren’t enough to get those needs met. Most people’s instinctive reaction to the placing of siblings who cannot live with their first families is that they should be kept together. That seemed logical to us too, over 13 years ago. It seems at first look, unnecessarily cruel to separate siblings who have already lost so much in being removed from their first families. We knew we wanted more than one child and so why not take siblings all at once rather than go through the adoption process several times? We thought it would be much harder on each child to have to adjust to and bond with, a new, non-biological ‘sibling’ at intervals, as well as get used to their new forever Mum & Dad. We now think it would have been kinder to all of us to have adopted one child and left it at that. The trauma bond between siblings who have experienced abuse and neglect in their birth family cannot be underestimated. The symptoms of this trauma bond for our kids have manifested in secretive & sustained bullying of the eldest, wildly inappropriate acting out of sexualised and violent scenes during play, ganging up on us the parents when we intervened, running away together, manipulation, what looks like extreme and irrational jealousy; and blocking each other’s attempts at progress in positive behaviour and relationships within the family. With hindsight it is clear that due to their early experiences, combined with conditions such as FASD & ADHD & PDA, our children are not equipped to sustain healthy sibling relationships. Even in their mid to late teens, it is still not safe to leave any of them together unsupervised, and two are involved in an underworld of drugs and violence – perhaps subconsciously seeking out the chaos & danger of their early years. The norm, or blueprint for family life for our children when they came to us was one of terror, hunger, abuse and ad hoc abandonment. That was what was familiar to them. Each tried to recreate it at home with us and with each other. Each resisted and continues to resist our love and care. If we’d had just one child, I believe there would have been a better chance of breaking those unhealthy patterns and establishing an expectation and acceptance of safe, loving, committed parenting. With one child, there would have been a little time to look after my own needs in order to better meet those of my child. There wouldn’t have been so many plates up in the air at the same time. I would have had the time and energy to concentrate on the vast needs of one child and advocate for them exclusively. Maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have needed to give up my career entirely (doing so had a massive impact on our finances and my sense of well-being).
We’ve had a terrible time trying to work with our local Children’s Services. Initially, our Post Adoption Dept was very supportive, but after a few years found us too resource-intensive and passed us over to other teams with no understanding of Developmental Trauma, Attachment, Therapeutic Parenting or the Complex Needs of adopted children. With one child, perhaps we wouldn’t have been seen by the Local Authority (not the same LA we adopted from) as quite so expensive and could have stayed with Post Adoption where at least we might have expected to be heard and believed rather than castigated and blamed for our children’s difficulties. We regret ever getting involved with Social Services, while at the same time having no other choice when our children need help, as it is the gatekeeper for support and interventions.
There is regret, too, for the lack of help and support afforded our childrens’ first family. Perhaps with the right interventions there would have been fewer children born into an environment where addiction, violence, neglect and abuse were the norm. Perhaps with the right interventions our children could have remained with their birth family and not suffered the intense loss and sense of abandonment that will never leave them.
We are so sad for the damage inflicted upon our marriage by the intolerable levels of stress, the CPV (child on parent violence) we couldn’t & can’t agree on how to handle, the complete lack of time for us as a couple, the expert ‘splitting’ often achieved by our traumatised children, the tailing off of friendships we’ve had neither the time or energy to maintain. We’re sad about the sadness our families feel, when they see how exhausted and broken we are and how hard we have tried to get our children’s needs acknowledged and met.
I’m sad in advance for the lives my children will be left to lead as adults without having the necessary support & understanding for their Complex Needs. We’re Mum and Dad, not therapists, support workers or psychologists. We can parent therapeutically but that isn’t enough on its own and that fact causes us immense sadness.
Lastly, we’re sad for the deceased birth parents. Sad that our children will never see them again, won’t have their questions answered, can’t even express to them their feelings about being adopted. We’re sad that this Mum and Dad couldn’t take care of their/our children and for the dreadful legacy of never feeling lovable or good enough that they leave behind.
The anger we feel towards our Local Authority is of an intensity that would consume us if we let it. Despite the vilification, aggression, ignorance and abuse we have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of Children’s Services in response to our help-seeking, we will not allow it to destroy our lives and our family. Despite what is in our opinion a shocking dereliction of duty towards our vulnerable, complex, traumatised children, we continue to share with our LA the abundant evidence of our children’s Complex Needs together with unequivocal (non-LA) professional support for and endorsement of us as decent, loving, committed and – actually – EXPERT adoptive parents.
And yes, occasionally we feel angry at the birth parents for the damage caused to our beautiful children, that will dog them all their lives.