Tag Archives: adoptee

CITIZEN SMITH #ParentPower

 

 

 

 

Life Story Work – There must be a better way?

Hey Sarah, let’s sit down and look at that book about that time you got molested in the park, I’ve got some photos of your assailant. Let’s have a look at them, I know he loved you really. Look here’s you and the police officer that did your forensic examination. How are you feeling?

There are many important things we have to handle as adoptive or foster parents, but to me helping a child make sense of ‘their journey’ has always felt like the most overwhelming.

In this aspect of our role we must act as both counsellor and parent – because what is termed ‘life story work’ is unquestionably counselling and it is unquestionably work. Work we are uniquely ill-equipped to undertake. Work that, in my mind, is important beyond our imagination.

Life story work makes me feel grossly inadequate and it can turn me into an arsehole because when I hear on the news, following one hideous event or another, that “counselling has been made available” to the victims I actually feel jealous on behalf of my child. Jealous! Jealous that I’m left to bumble my way through helping my child make sense of their own traumatic experiences. Jealous of people who have experienced horror I cannot imagine and who are perfectly entitled to receive support. How screwed up is that!

And I am not sure I believe that the PTSD experienced by those who witnessed, for example, the London Bridge attack is so different from those feelings experienced by an abused child, or one whose very life was repeatedly threatened through neglect. Or indeed the additional traumas of severance following removal.

If I were a counsellor being fairly paid to support a person who had experienced what our children have experienced (Complex PTSD) I would be putting a deposit down on a holiday home after the first meeting. It’s for the same reason that I fully understand why parents delay or avoid it, or those who often, like me, wait for their child to prompt us with an enquiry so that I can steel myself and say “Oh I’m glad you asked me that” before dragging out ‘the book’.

These events need professionals, and when I think of us, the army of amateurs coming to counsel our children through their PTSD I wonder how the media would treat our arrival at the scene of a terrorist incident. Equipped, as in my case, with good intentions, tissues and a spiral bound wipe-clean book of their tragedy.

But we know that there is no army of free counsellors to help our children, it can take 18 months to get just one CAMHS referral, and even all those counsellors who, in my imagination, descend on the scene of a tragedy like robot hoovers have to go back to their charging points until the next time they are needed.

So as always we must step up, and equip ourselves to become the professional, the counsellor, equipped to help our children process the events that brought them to us, and to do so over the course of many years. We’ll buy more books, attend more courses, learn from each other and our mistakes but always with that voice in our heads “There must be a better way than this”.

@mistersglluest

The Potato Group News

Bamboo Scaffolding: part 3: makes more sense if you have read parts I and 2

How we avoided a Thai jail and . . .did we get home safely?

I arranged a late checkout for one room, asking D to bring all his stuff to my room before noon. Our airport transfer was at 4pm. I Whats App’d a reminder the night before and at 11am . . .miraculously he was nearly ready at 12 and allowed me into his room to help him carry some of his stuff. I was able to flush his loo and put some rubbish into bags so the cleaners didn’t have a fit! . . .how much chaos can a traumatised young person create in 8 days? Then we set off for our last brunch.

Mistake number 1: His anxiety was already rising in anticipation of the long plane journey home. Why did I suggest we tried the café 50yards to the left instead of the one 100 yards to the right, at which we had eaten 2 or 3 times already? When stressed, D becomes more rigid and less able to manage even small changes. He sat at the table, refused all food and drink and put his head down.

Mistake number 2: I should have paid for my order without waiting for it and left. Instead I waited for my food and gave D my room key as he stomped off back to the hotel. After eating, I hurried back, asked for a second room key and spotted D head down skulking in a corner of the lobby. I put my remaining Thai Baht on the table beside him and encouraged him to order a snack or drink. I went back to the room saying – ‘come up for a shower when you want’. No eye contact, not even a grunt.

Fascination with weapons and fear: Since I met my son, aged 4 years, D has had a fascination with weapons. Developmental trauma and insecure attachment, with an avoidant and disorganized pattern, leave D fearful for his own safety (e.g. found alone in a flat by police aged 2y). For years he has kept a symbolic weapon under his mattress, a small wooden Maori spear, later pieces of ‘found’ wood or metal, later still a baseball bat, a machete and a crossbow . . . . . All the latter we confiscated on discovery, facing his rage, on the basis that ‘rage without machete’ is safer than ‘rage with machete’. He quickly discovered that Thai market stalls (where I bought sarongs and elephants) sold a full range of weapons. He told me that during the week he was offered cannabis and an AK47 . . . . . . .a micro moment of positive maturation, he said he declined them. However, he did produce a flick knife, a taser torch, and a metal kosh, which he insisted were legal to transport home in our shared suitcase.

D skillfully places me in no-win situations regularly. Do I refuse to pack them and risk the inevitable meltdown with him destroying the hotel room and/or storming off and missing our non-transferable flight, or showing adolescent to parent violence to me leading to arrest by Thai police, or do I pack them and face arrest at the airport? I packed them. We shared one small check-in suitcase and each had hand luggage.
I assumed D was still in the lobby; he did not respond to my infrequent ‘Whats App’ messages. I Whats App’d him encouraging him to chill in the room while I spent an hour by the hotel pool.

When I left the pool, some 3 hours after he left the café . . . . .I sat across his table in the lobby, ordered myself an ice cream, and asked if he wanted a drink . . . .he finally accepted his first food or drink in 15 hours. It had taken him 3 hours to emotionally regulate himself enough to be able to eat, drink and join me to finish packing.

Despite having given me dodgy items to pack, he became acutely disregulated when he saw I had a wooden broom with my luggage. I didn’t make Mistake number 3: I left it and a few other items in the room with a note for the cleaner.

Back down in the lobby, I checked out and we waited for our transfer: luckily this was a short wait and we set off to the airport in a heavy tropical storm.
The airport: Drug smuggling and Thai airports are often in the news; I was fairly certain we didn’t have any drugs. From stepping into the terminal, I had a bodily sense of fear – just an inkling of the fear that my son endures most hours of most days.

Checking in: We checked in, the case sped off down the conveyor belt. A repeat of the slow zigzag through security checks, then a large and very noisy airport lounge. Between us we had enough small change to get D a Subway. Bland globalization gives D reassuring familiarity whilst I seek local, quirky and different. D always finds even the shortest wait a challenge. The loud tannoys in several languages, including barely decipherable English, were steadily winding D up; there was no quiet corner to retreat to. As his agitation increased, a woman from Thai tourism approached me to complete a lengthy questionnaire. – that could have been the tipping point to meltdown. Why didn’t I politely decline.

I had tuned out the tannoy, but D said they were announcing my name to go to the desk at our gate. I was asked about the contents of my case, which was being brought off the plane. I was escorted into a private part of the airport, abandoning D in the airport lounge, hastily thrusting his passport and boarding pass into his hands. I was more fearful for D’s reaction to abandonment than what was about to happen to me.
Look out for Part 4 : . . . . .did we get home safely?

www.thepotatogroup.org.uk 

The Potato Group News

 

 

Bamboo Scaffolding: Part 2: What we did when we got there and the advantages and disadvantages of social media

We had arrived!. . .’Let’s freshen up and grab some food’. I rang D’s hotel room. I waited and waited and tried not to provoke a meltdown by ringing again . . .and said ‘Knock on my door when you are ready’ . . . .eventually he appeared. ‘Shall we find a restaurant nearby or eat in the hotel?’ . . .knowing D would choose the safety of the more familiar hotel. After eating ‘Do you want to crash or shall we have a walk and explore?’ – to my amazement he opted for a walk and we went two blocks to the beach.

Returning to the hotel we passed an Aussie bar with Sky Sports and I commented ‘You could go there for a drink sometime’. We arranged to download ‘Whats App’ so we could communicate while on hotel Wifi (D has me permanently blocked from his Facebook and Messenger) and so to bed. I arranged to message him in the morning. A social media positive. The next day I discovered D had been on an all-nighter. He met a Canadian in the lift and set off to the bars of Bangla Road with him . . . . .later going their separate ways, sitting on the beach for a while . . .and with no idea of the name or location of our hotel, he showed a moped taxi driver his room key, and was transported back safely in the early hours! – I was well impressed.

Our daily pattern became me arranging to message D at 8am or 11am depending on our jet lag and time confusion . . .usually getting a grunt, him missing breakfast, and me arranging to message him again at 1pm. He spent a lot of time in his room – time when I could explore. First mission – find the Muay Thai gym I had emailed, and book D some training. I found a derelict building! Trip Advisor showed a map of the derelict location but an address that Google Maps showed at the other end of town.

I soon discovered that in the steamy heat I should be less frugal, behave more like a traumatised teen, and spend money on taxis! Waking D at 1pm, I took him to a café for brunch and then by taxi to the gym to book a one-to-one for the following day. We explored a few shops before we wilted and taxied back to the hotel. D retreated to his room, I used the small pool and had a few hours me time.

My inclination would be to rush around and explore but the holiday had to meet my son’s needs first and foremost, his hotel room becoming a safe base. I became an armchair traveller, or in this case a hotel balcony traveller, trawling the local tourism on TripAdvisor knowing it was impossible for us to join any organized tours to offshore islands or wildlife sanctuaries as that would involve being ready at a set time and fitting in with the demands of a minibus full of strangers. Provocation and emotional regulation or lack of it.

Most evenings I messaged D at 7 or 8 to plan our evening meal and then had a long wait for him to knock on my door. As far as possible I avoided messaging again or knocking on his door as he finds that intensely provocative. I find it intensely provocative waiting patiently when I am starving . . .but the difference is that even after 20 years of adoptive parenting I can still emotionally regulate, helped by offloading a few ranting messages to my partner or my Potato peers, my social media lifeline. Now for the social media negatives. I soon realized my son was spending hours on Messenger group chat to his friends, much as he would at home.

He was angered to learn that a friend had had a confrontation with a bouncer, a passer-by had called the police, and his friend had been issued with an ASBO. He had had a burst water pipe in old outhouse plumbing as we set off. His friend who was ‘keeping an eye on’ his house and my partner were going to get this sorted. This friend was messaging him that my partner wanted to go into the house to turn off the stop tap – result RAGE, demands to fly home immediately and my worry that he would carry out his threat to trash his room. Would we see the inside of a Thai jail? I messaged my partner, was assured that he knew our son could not cope with him entering the house but the ‘friend’ would try and turn the stop tap off . . .crisis averted and we got to the pre-paid Muay Thai training session with my son in a calm enough state to manage training.

Muay Thai – my son has never let me watch him train at home. We shared a taxi to the gym and I said it was up to him, I could spend an hour at the beach or in the adjoining café . . . . .I think because he was anxious about the new environment he said I could come in, and could I video some of his training. By being crazy English people and booking a session in the midday heat, the gym was deserted apart from his one to one session. It was so positive to see D work hard and concentrate for an hour of hard physical training. I was able to take photos and videos. The trip was worth it for this first hour of training alone.

We fitted in two more sessions later in the week. Absorbing rubbish rants – It is a long time since D has chosen to spend social time with me. I see him daily to ferry him to and from supported work, to get shopping, or to appointments. It is even longer since he has sat down with me to eat a meal, so our shared evening meals were something special and mostly went well as long as I could absorb his ranted conversations without comment or challenge.

Rants described a seedier side of my home town, police, fights, how easy it is to get hold of a gun and a sort of parallel universe to the one I live in. Attempted burglary – some of the extra challenges of travelling with a traumatised young person are the direct effects of trauma, poor emotional regulation and extreme and unpredictable stress responses. Some, like the timing of the burst water pipe, are the extra bad-luck we seem to attract, and some like an attempted burglary because you have dodgy mates who know you are on holiday . . . .are because a traumatised young person is a magnet for ‘dodgy mates’.

About halfway into the holiday my son knocked on my door at 4 am (10 pm UK time) in tears. Through social media he learned there had been an attempted break-in at his house, luckily foiled by a neighbour who had called the police. The door was damaged but the burglars had not gained entry. Again his immediate response was to demand his air-ticket to fly back NOW on a ticket that was non- transferable and THREATS to trash the hotel room or leap from his fifth floor balcony . . . .I have years of practice at absorbing these intensified emotions . . .but it felt a long and lonely night . . .preparing for the worst while hoping for the best. Would I end up in a Thai jail? . . .or how do you arrange to fly a body back? . . . . .my partner and a few Potato peers hung on in there with me as my online support.

The low points, two near meltdowns survived by the skin of our teeth. The high points, three fantastic one to one Muay Thai training sessions, one morning of sight-seeing in a private taxi to the Big Buddha and to a shooting range! More about D’s fascinating with weapons in Part 3.

Look out for Part 3 – How we avoided a Thai jail and . . .did we get home safely?

www.thepotatogroup.org.uk

The Adoption Social Times

TAStimes

Our monthly round-up of all things Adoption Social…

Well that’s another year over and a brand new shiny one just beginning. For those of you who celebrate Christmas, how was it?
Weekly Adoption Shout Out
We had an extended break over the Christmas period and decided to keep #WASO open during that time. Lots of blogs have linked up and you can see the list here. Go and have a read?

Themes for forthcoming weeks are as follows:
15 January – If I were a child…
29 January – Dear teacher
12 February – Personal hygiene

TASawardstas awards
Did you get around to voting? Was your favourite tweeter or blogger in the running? Perhaps you were up for an award yourself?
Well, come along NEXT Thursday evening 9pm GMT to our awards party on Twitter and see if you or your nominee have won! Use #tasaward to join in. (We’ve had to change from our previously advertised date – hope you can still make it).

TASpic
We’ve loved seeing all your #festivefun #taspic images this last month. Come and find out tomorrow what our next theme will be – and keep posting those #taspics and sharing your favourites. It’s nice to see so many using their creative skills photographically.

Sore Points
We’ve been busy planning our next Adoption Sore Points week and as we mentioned last month, it will take place 8th – 14th February. The theme will be Personal Hygiene – periods, puberty, body odour, hair washing, soiling, wetting and everything else between. We’ll be posting book reviews, hosting a #TASchat and the #WASO theme that week will all be around Personal Hygiene, so make sure you come along to share experiences, pick up advice and chat.

If you’d like to write a guest post on your experiences for publication that week then we’d love to host it. Just get in touch at theadoptionsocial@gmail.com.
**We’re looking for professional experience and advice too, so please forward this on to anyone you think might be able to help**

New columnist wanted
We’re sad to tell you that Anna will no longer be writing her fortnightly ‘Anna Writes’ column at The Adoption Social. Anna feels like she’s running out of things to write about, and is concentrating on all sorts of other things, and we wish her all the best for the future. We also send thanks for her thought provoking and interesting posts, and are grateful for those she’s written.
But now, this opens up a new spot here on The Adoption Social. We’ve never really advertised for a columnist before – both Life on the Frontline and Anna Writes came along quite naturally. However, we feel a regular adoptee voice on The Adoption Social has been very worthwhile, interesting, informative and makes the site more inclusive and meaningful. So if you are an adoptee (or birth parent, family member or professional – someone who can offer an alternative viewpoint) and can commit to a regular spot reaching a variety of readers, please get in touch at theadoptionsocial@gmail.com

Guest editor applications still accepted
We’ve had several very good applications for guest editor, but we’re still considering who to take on. This means you’ve still got a little more time to let us know if you’re interested in taking over The Adoption Social in March. Find out more here and get in touch if you’d like to be considered.

That’s all for this month folks…

Adopted Voices Conference

logoIn today’s Adoption Social Times we mentioned  our support for the next conference from The Open Nest, which takes place during National Adoption Week. Here we bring you a post from The Open Nest explaining all about Adopted Voices.

Many adopters have a good understanding of what effect social care systems have had and continue to have on their adopted child. How they as parents are part of that system and the tensions within it. Trying to advocate for your adopted child’s rights as they grow up can be exhausting in a system that views you as the final solution and adoption as the cure.

If some adoption professionals and therefore some prospective adopters have little informed understanding or training around the impact loss and constructed identity has on some adopted children as they grow up, or don’t have access to detailed life story information, things can get off to a confused start and it can be possible to pathologize the child’s response to trauma and loss along the way. Focusing on the perceived failings of the child rather than the system the child has found itself in can cause failure to support adopted children fully.

The adoption system and agenda within the UK is informed by a constructed view of adoption as the best permanence option, in fact a golden opportunity for all involved. There is some truth in that, but it is only part truth. There are difficult aspects of the culture of adoption in this country that are yet to be openly discussed let alone thoroughly researched. There are also gaps in knowledge in health, education and social care and as a result there are uncertainties in practice that are passed on to adopters. With gaps in knowledge and a lack of access to adoptee led training and research material, adopters and professionals can find themselves learning on the job which is not really fair for anyone involved, particularly children who are bottom of the ‘having any choice’ in adoption list.

Adopters may feel they want to question standard advice or information given from LA’s on issues such as contact, life story, parenting and choice of interventions. This can be hard to do, especially when you are at the beginning of a process and may not be used to the workings of the culture and system. Adopters begin from a point of having to trust, and take as red, the information and advice professionals are giving them in order for them to best support their adopted child. Sometimes this works out really well but other times there becomes a clear mismatch between the expectations and limits of parents and services and the needs and rights of an adopted child.

In recent adoption reforms, media attention has been given to policy that champions the rights of prospective adopters to receive a quick and efficient adoption service and one which removes potential barriers to accepting or receiving a child. Against this back drop, some individuals, organisations and charities have called for an emphasis on improving support to adopters and have cited the reasons and quoted research to demonstrate why support is important.

These calls seem to elicit some opposing responses. Openly discussing or representing the difficult parts of adoption does not appear, for some adoption professionals, to fit easily alongside the governments positive marketing of adoption. On the other hand, with talk of adoption support on the political agenda, specialist support agencies, and charities are being government funded, improved and formed in order to be commissioned to address the recently highlighted needs for support. This shift in thinking has been largely informed by government funded research with adopters.

The Adoption Support Fund has been used as a positive adoption marketing tool in that it acknowledges support is needed. This acknowledgement alongside resultant funding are a way of reassuring prospective adopters that lessons have been learned. That they will not struggle supporting an adopted child  in the ways some of those that went before them have, that we are in a new era of understanding adoptees. If the adoption support fund budget extends well beyond it’s pilot year in 2015 it has the potential to do some good work.

As a charity we feel that although support is improving for some adopters, there are currently gaps in support information that is produced by and for adopted adults.  We would welcome a long term policy commitment to hearing the many voices of adopted children, young people and adults. This would mean funding and finding effective, accessible, longterm ways of listening to, recording and publishing the views of those who are adopted rather than those who wish to adopt, or who have already adopted.

Including adopted adults in all discourse around adoption that leads to policy making would be a great start. Further to this, funding independent research by and with adopted people, inviting adopted adults to take leadership in reform and promoting equality in support systems for all adopted people regardless of age.

At our charity trustees meeting in April 2015 we committed to organising a conference where all speakers would be adopted adults. We decided the event should be held during National Adoption Week to encourage open debate and discussion. Delegates of the conference will hear varying and unedited experiences and what it means to the individual speakers to be adopted in the UK.

Speakers are:

Liz Blakey: psychotherapist, mental health trainer, mother, writer. Liz will be introducing her new research project ‘Growing Up Adopted’

Lucy Sheen: actor, writer, film maker. Lucy will be showing her amazing documentary ‘Abandoned Adopted Here’  looking at International transracial adoption.

Fran Proctor: care manager, inspirational speaker, mother. Fran will be talking about her incredible life story so far and promoting adoptee rights.

Peter Sandiford: CEO of adoption support charity PAC-UK. Peter will describe the experience of spending his early years in residential care prior to being adopted in the early 50’s.

Charlie: historian, researcher. Charlie will examine the policy and practice that affected her as a child who was adopted from care aged 12.

Kay Purcell: actress in television, film and theatre. Kay is going to talk about how adoption is seen through the eyes of her adoptive family members and their individual experiences.

Speakers are looking forward to welcoming other adopted adults, adoptive parents, and social care professionals for what we hope will be a really interesting day.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to look around the museum which has been privately hired within the ticket price.

The conference is taking place at The Foundling Museum in London on Monday October 19th 2015. Tickets will be on sale from 1st September via The Open Nest website and payment will be in the form of a donation. In line with our policy the conference will be non profit making. Tickets are £35.

There is a hashtag for the event so please feel free to use it #AdoptedVoices2015

Further details will follow shortly via the charities Facebook and Twitter

Feeling Different

Today’s post is from John, an adopted adult who shares his views and feelings…

When reading the stories of other adoptees, I often feel that I am odd or unusual. Going for a walkTheir stories talk of a yearning to find out their roots, or of feeling a sense of loss or anger. Yet, I have never had a deep longing to discover my roots nor I have ever felt a sense of loss or anger. I have always just accepted my adoption as a fact of life and feel secure in my identity as my adoptive parents’ son.

I have met my birth mother. She gave me up voluntarily and clearly loved and cared for me. I wanted to let her know that things had turned out well. We do get on and I do see our similarities but, for me, there is not the deep connection others sometimes speak of.

I often wonder what makes my story different from so many others.

I was given up voluntarily by a loving, responsible birth mother who cared for me in the womb and for the first week of my life. I believe that I was given up because of her love for me. I am sure that she would not have given me up had she not felt it was in my best interests. I was also adopted as a month and a half old baby into a well matched, loving home by parents who were utterly devoted to me and who told from me from an early age that I was adopted. I cannot remember not knowing. I also look very like my adoptive parents so I could easily hide that I was adopted if I wished. I did have difficult times in my teenage years but I don’t believe these were any more difficult than any other teenager trying to find their place in the world.

I have been reading the Primal Wound. As an adopted person, I do not particularly recognise myself in it but I do believe what it says is true of other adopters. I see much of what it says in the experience of my sister. She has felt a deep sense of loss and anger which she has had to work through over many years.

Clearly, there is something subtly different in my sister’s experience of adoption and my own experience. We have both enjoyed a similar upbringing and much of what I describe above about myself is true of her yet her emotional response to her adoption is completely different to my own. I have my theories on why this is. From reading the Primal Wound and from considering my own experience and my sister’s experience, I believe that first few days after birth are critical. I was cared for by my birth mother for a week after my birth. She was not.

This is why it is so important to hear from adoptees. Each adoptee has their own, distinctive story of adoption. We need to hear their story to understand why one adoptee has one experience of adoption and another a different experience so that we can use this information to improve the experiences of the adoptees of tomorrow.

We must give adoptees the space to share their story. It will be in this patchwork of adoptee experiences that answers can be found that can help the adoptees of the future.

Anna Writes: Who and how and what to be

Anna WritesSo that’s National Adoption Week over for another year and I for one feel strangely flat about it all.

 

 

November 1st sees the start of National Adoption Month in the States and as with groups like The Open Nest over here, there are some trying to prioritise the voice of adoptees (lostdaughters.com and #flipthescript are good ones to follow if you’re interested) but somehow… I still feel strangely flat about it all.

I have been trying to work out why this is- perhaps falling into that minority means that lots of things feel like an uphill struggle?
Perhaps being exposed constantly to media which reinforces old stereotypes about adoption feels negating?
Or maybe its because I live in a society that tells me I’m ‘normal’ in one breath- having assimilated into a family not of my origins- but yet ‘demanding’ and ‘traumatised’ and ‘difficult’ in another.

Sometimes it’s really hard to know who and how and what to be.

A lot of people have an opinion in how adopted people ‘should’ be- I’ve written about it before in the context of gratitude and other peoples expectations.
I have experienced it since making myself visible on social media, with suggestions that I am too old to have a ‘relevant’ view on adoption, or that I am somehow ‘opening old wounds’.

I don’t have an opinion on how other people should share their experiences, and I am a strong believer in people owning the things that have happened to them, sometimes that is the only way that their power can be redressed.

I have never considered myself defined by my adopted status- although if I did I don’t see that there would be a problem in that- what I do recognise- as lots of adopted people do- is that I am indelibly changed by the experience of having been adopted, the ‘sliding doors’ effect if you will.

I could have remained in my birth family, I could have been adopted by any number of other families, I could have been brought up in the care system. The possibilities are many. For non- adopted people (because is there a word for them? birth children? families of known origin? the norm?…) I suppose there aren’t all of those possibilities because they were born and kept.

Imagine being told you were a mistake, or an accident or that your mother had tried to abort you.
For me, being adopted is kind of like knowing all of those things, all at once. And that’s ok, because the flip side of that is that if I hadn’t been adopted I wouldn’t be where I am now – which is a pretty good place. I am fortunate and grateful for the family that I now have.

Being adopted has shaped me.

It has impacted my sense of self (including esteem and worth) ,my identity, my relationships, my personality, my interactions, my emotional resilience,my interests, my career, my parenting, my politics and my ability to watch films or programmes containing maternal separation (I think Bambi would destroy me!)

I wrote very early on about adoption running through me like the letters in seaside rock and that’s the only way I can define it. But it still doesn’t define all of me.

Too old at four?

We’re delighted to bring you a guest post from Charlie, an adopted adult with her thoughts about the theme of the recent National Adoption Week…4th birthday

Do you think you were too old?

A few years ago my parents asked me: ‘do you think you were too old?’.

I answered: ‘yes and no; it depends on what you mean’.

This year the theme of National Adoption Week has been ‘Too old at 4?’. This is a reference to the fact that older children in care for whom adoption is the plan tend to wait longer than younger children for adoptive parents. I met my parents when I was 10 and the Adoption Order went through a year later. As someone who was much older than 4 when adopted, I’m going to attempt to answer the question of whether or not I was too old.

The first thought that comes to my head is ‘too old for what?’. People often mean different things when they ask whether a child is ‘too old’ for adoption. I want to think about this question in broader terms than the question(s) meant by the National Adoption Week campaign committee and think about all the questions encompassed by my parents’ question.

I also want to give my answer as succinctly as possible and without disclosing too much personal information.

I will therefore answer some of the questions that I think the question hides.

Some questions have more than one answer.

  1. Was I too old to be written off?

No. No human being should ever be ‘written off’.

  1. Was I too old to be appealing to prospective adopters?

Yes, I was too old. It took years to find adopters willing to adopt me, which may have been in part (if not wholly) due to my age.

No, I was not too old. My parents eventually adopted me, and older children do get adopted.

  1. Was I too old to love my adoptive parents as my parents?

No, I was not too old. My adoptive parents are my parents and anyone who puts the word ‘adoptive’ in front of their names other than for the purposes of clarification will have to deal with some very sharp words from me.

This has nothing to do with age but depends on many factors.

  1. Was I too old for the adoption to last and not break down?

No, I was not too old. We are now over 20 years in and we are still going strong as a family. We were never near disruption or dissolution at any point.

This has nothing to do with age but depends on many factors.

  1. Was I too old to not have problems / be successful / be an independent adult?

No, I was not too old. I have been independent since 21 and have always lived a rather unexciting existence.

This has nothing to do with age. It has far more to do with a child’s history, their personality, their age when they experienced things, chance, their relationship with their adoptive parents, and so many other factors.

Let’s ask this question again.

When I was younger, if the topic of older child adoption came up I was always keen to use myself as an example that older child adoption could work out well. I had not been too old for adoption. However, I now realise that I was answering the question and assessing my adoption according to the sorts of questions that I thought other people were asking. Thus, I would point out that I loved my parents, but wouldn’t speak about the daily cost to myself or about how I hadn’t wanted to be adopted. This was, I think, a defensive reaction against the negative stereotypes I have always had to fight against, first as a child on a council estate and then as a child in care and then as an adoptee.

But now that I’m old enough to think for myself, the questions that come to mind when I’m asked ‘do you think you were too old?’ are very different. Here are just some examples:

  1. Was I too old to be adopted without my consent?

No, I was not too old. It went ahead without my consent, so my consent clearly wasn’t required.

Yes, I was too old. Considering the fact that I didn’t want to be adopted, that it ‘worked’ is something of a miracle. Perhaps if I’d been 12 people would have thought to ask me.

No. There should be no such thing as a prospective adoptee being ‘young enough’ for their consent to be dispensed with permanently. For an adoption to continue into adulthood, the adult adoptee should consent, even if this is the passive consent of not dissolving the adoption. There is a lot of discussion about birth parent consent, but not about adoptee consent. Why should someone else get to consent as to whether or not I spend my entire life under an Adoption Order?

  1. Was I too old to love my adoptive parents as my only parents?

Yes, I was too old. I consider myself to have more than four parents.

This has nothing to do with age but depends on many factors. Some people adopted at birth may consider themselves to have more than one set of parents whilst others adopted at fifteen may consider their adoptive parents to be their only parents.

  1. Was I too old to have no contact / for my adoption to be carried out how it was carried out?

Yes, I was too old.

Is there such a thing as being ‘young enough’ to have no contact? Is this the same thing as being ‘young enough’ for the adults to get away with it (for a while at least)?

Whether or not an adoptee should have contact has little to do with age but with all sorts of other factors. However, serious questions have to be asked if an older child has not a single pre-adoption relationship with a foster carer, foster sibling, wider foster family member, birth parent, birth sibling, wider birth family member, neighbour, friend, teacher, social worker or anyone else that can be sustained post-adoption because more harm would be caused by keeping the relationship than ending it.

  1. Am I too old, in my 30s, to be subject to an Adoption Order that was put in place for child protection reasons?

If I am still alive at 100 I will still be subject to an Adoption Order. I could serve a life sentence and be released before my Adoption Order is overturned. I have not been a child for more than a decade, which makes me ask: is adoption only performed for child protection reasons, or are there more factors at play? According to the law, I will never be too old for child protection reasons to necessitate that I be adopted. Or something.

  1. Am I too old, in my 30s, to have anything relevant to say about adoption?

Adoptees are rarely consulted about adoption and when they are, it is usually adoptees under 21 or under 25 who are consulted. I have worked out that the period of time in which my opinion as an adoptee was most ‘valuable’ was between the ages of 18 and 25. When I was under 18 I was too young to understand or know what was best; once I was over 25 I was no longer relevant (or too outspoken perhaps). My opinion on adoption was irrelevant at 10, and some consider it irrelevant at 30. It can be very difficult to get this age thing right when you’re an adoptee.
There are notable exceptions, however, and The Adoption Social hosts posts from adoptees of all ages (and from adopters and birth parents and others) and The Open Nest recently put on the Adopted Voices conference at which only adult adoptees spoke. At this conferenced Liz Blakey launched her research project Growing Up Adopted.

  1. Are children old enough, at 4, to consent to their life stories being paraded in  the media?

No, they are not old enough.

There is only one answer to this question, and that is that they are not old enough.

To return to the question ‘do you think you were too old?’, my answer is still ‘yes and no; it depends on what you mean’. I don’t know if I was too old to be adopted, but I was too old for what happened to me. And I’m finally old enough to talk about it.

Weekly Adoption Shout Out #WASO Week 140

waso140As we come to the end of National Adoption Week, we finish with the Weekly Adoption Shout Out.

It’s a themed week, and our theme is smile, but of course if you’d like to blog about National Adoption Week or something else, then please do and link up below. Next week we’ll be published The Adoption Social Times which will give you notice of the next month’s themes.

The linky is below, if you need any help with adding your blog to it, then please tweet us at @adoptionsocial or email us at theadoptionsocialtimes@gmail.com



Meet Me – Tom

Today’s Meet Me is from Tom, an adopted teenager…

  • Book –   Shiverton Hall (Emerald Fennell)
  • Music –  I don’t like music
  • TV programme  – Friends
  • Food – Anything, I love food!
  • Pastime – Riding my bike

Can you choose 3 words that describe your experiences?   
Decent, awesome, tiring

When I look in the mirror I see…
An awesome young handsome boy

The best thing I did this week was…
Going to my friends house for the day on Monday. We played on X box and had cuppa soup for lunch.

At the weekend I can mostly be found….
Watching TV

What do you think is your biggest source of support?
My mum and dad

What are your greatest hopes for yourself?
To become an author