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A recent case that was reported in the Lancashire post about a mother having to give up her £30k a year job to look after her son prompted lively discussion on a forum for adoptive parents who often find themselves unable to work.

One adoptive father made some very important points about work and the loss of identity when work is not possible because of the commitment we make as parents to a traumatised child or young adult -and when the support we need as parents is not there. Of course these compromises must be made by anyone raising a child who is not neurotypical and/or who struggles with the legacy of early life/infant/womb trauma, abuse or parental neglect.

I feel angry and sad that so many adopters have found themselves in situations that have led them to feel the need to give up work in order to enable the family to survive. Age, gender, ethnicity, education, social background are all part of our identity, but as adults occupation is a major element, on passports and other official documents, even in the Mastermind black chair. Occupation gives us opportunities for achievement, challenge, power and control, independence, status, social interaction with colleagues, customers and clients, validation, income, and more. Often it is also fun.

There is an all encompassing identity we give to ourselves, our personal qualities, and then the specific identities others ascribe to us that depend on our interactions, whether social, work related, family oriented, permanent or transient. A whole host of labels. To have that taken away because of necessity is a great loss, and the dominant feature of our lives can be the frequent or constant interaction with professionals who ascribe to us an identity, where the dominant characteristic is adoptive parent (and not a particularly good one in their eyes), ignoring the vast range of qualities and experience everyone has that have helped them survive.

To feel forced to give up work, an avenue of escape, a daily jailbreak from the rigours and challenges of adoption is a major sacrifice, made because support has been inadequate and ineffective. Life proceeds along a trajectory we would never have imagined. So it is possible for our identity, in the eyes of many others to become almost solely “adoptive parent “ and the identity and label of so many of our most troubled and traumatised children becomes “ looked after child “, a misnomer, and a heavy burden to carry.
Somehow we survive, but at a price inconceivable to most. 

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