Very many thanks to today’s anonymous guest poster who is writing about one of those adoption sore points – disruption.
This time last year my DH and I were overjoyed and so excited. We had been linked with 2 full sibling boys, then aged nearly 6 years and 2½ years old. Our boys were in separate foster care placements, they always had been, In fact, they had only ever lived together for the short time of just over one week when the youngest was born. The eldest boy had been with his birth family for over 3 years until he was removed to kinship care with a paternal aunt. The youngest had been removed at 10 days old and ended up in kinship care with a maternal aunt.
Eventually both boys ended up in foster care and during the 2 plus years that both boys were in foster care they did have contact, all be it for just a few hours a week.
From reading their CRPs we were led to believe that the boys although separated in care, had a very good bond and attachment as brothers.
Indeed, when we met with both boys foster carers prior to matching panel it appeared that the oldest boy in particular wanted to be in a family with his younger brother. When we asked the boys social worker why there was no up to date sibling assessment for the boys we were told there was no need for one as they shared no trauma bonds. Although I would always like to think that we were very ‘savvy’ adopters we actually didn’t know enough at the time about what a sibling assessment actually was, and were guided by the social workers involved, both the boys and ours, I guess you could say we trusted them.
In October last year after nearly 3 weeks of logistically difficult and exhausting introductions the boys moved into our home, and our life as the family we had always hoped for began. The first few weeks weren’t too bad, it was shortly after my DH returned to work that real issues started. Education had failed our eldest boy spectacularly and no full time schooling could be established for him where we stayed due to a lack of support staff at the school. This resulted in him attending school for just 2 hours every day. The boys social worker left prior to introductions, and as we were to later discover she barely knew either boy at all and so had never been in a position to inform us about how the boys functioned as siblings. Our social worker went off sick just prior to placement, as did the boys new social worker, who really didn’t know the boys from Adam!
Both our boys had been assessed as having developmental delay, the oldest with a query learning difficulties also. The eldest boy had been day time wetting in foster care on and off prior to placement and post placement this became pretty extreme, with him wetting up to 12 times in any one day. He also started regularly soiling himself and it wasn’t long before he progressed to urinating and soiling around the home. We actually found ways to cope with these issues, it just became everyday life and we adjusted as best we could. The real issue that had a seriously devastating effect on the boy’s placement was that of sibling abuse.
Daily our youngest son found himself the victim of emotional and physical abuse. It became very apparent early into placement that our youngest son represented a ‘trauma trigger’ to our eldest. Our eldest boy who had come from a very lavish foster home where he was placed with an infant, and for a long time was the only child placed, simply couldn’t cope with having to share Mum and Dad with his sibling. Over a period of 4 months we were witness to, and documented over 35 serious incidents involving sibling abuse. These included trying to drown his brother, strangulation, kicking and punching his brother until he vomited, and forcing soil into his brother eyes, ears, nose and mouth. Daily the younger boy was subjected to verbal abuse and very intense mental abuse, to the point that at just 3 years old he started pulling at his own hair and head banging.
I was in constant contact with social services be it by email, or telephone. We pleaded for a CAMHS referral, play therapy, or just some help. Our friends and family felt helpless, unable to do much to help our ever desperate situation but baby sit and try to give me as the primary care giver some much needed time away. For months our cries for help to social services fell on deaf ears. We were criticised for not being therapeutic enough, or giving enough 1:1 time with our eldest. We were called impatient and told things take time to settle, especially when older children are involved. All the while we struggled daily to keep our youngest son safe, and more importantly to meet the needs of both the boys.
Eventually after one horrific day when our youngest was besieged and badly injured by his brother, my DH and I decided we simply couldn’t go on any longer with our older boy in placement. He had sustained far more damage from his time with his birth family than anyone could ever have imagined. His needs were too great to be met in a placement shared by another child, and more importantly he really didn’t want to live with us and expressed a clear desire to return to his foster carers. There was simply far too much that happened from the day we told social services that he needed to be removed, to the day that he finally left to discuss. Much of what occurred with social services my DH and I could never forgive nor forget.
In February this year the eldest boy left our care to return to his previous foster home where he is now to be permanently fostered. Shortly after the boys placement with us we became aware of many things that if we had known pre-placement, we never would have proceeded with the match. The boys original social worker lied, reports by the youngest boys foster carers and health visitor with regard to not placing him with his older brother were ignored, and we discovered that on two occasions when social services could have placed the boys together in care they chose not to do so, the reasons why remain unclear.
So now some 3 months on we still have the youngest boy with us and we’re not permitted to apply to adopt him for some months yet. The good to come out of this horrendous experience for all is that our son is absolutely thriving, having overcome almost 14 months of developmental delay. Thankfully, the oldest boy is also now also doing much better. Far happier and better settled with his previous foster carers, whom he always regarded as his parents, he too in his own ways is thriving.
The boys still have regular contact and although this is proving difficult since my DH and I have to facilitate it, both are managing it for just now.
We still to this day have never once had a social worker apologise or even admit failing in all that occurred. We were made to feel like terrible parents and failures because we didn’t just ‘persevere’. We have been actively discouraged from ever discussing the disruption, and for just now we are beholding to social services until we can officially adopt our son, without their support no application would be successful.
Adoption disruption, the elephant in the room that few ever want to discuss be it adopter or professional. We can attest that it is by far the most heart retching and traumatic experience of both mine and DHs lives. Yet, how must it feel for our son’s older sibling? A cacophony of errors led to him being failed by social services before we ever knew him. What he has endured should never have happened. We write to share our disruption experience not to invoke sympathy for ourselves, not to scathingly attack a very underfunded and under resourced social work department, but to highlight the plight of the children who have to live through the additional trauma of a disrupted adoptive placement. It is truly heartbreaking for all concerned, but for this boy it simply didn’t have to happen.