Wow! Potato’s first weekly blog for The Adoption Social. Many thanks for asking us to contribute.
I am June (Mrsjellies to tweeters). I am the present chair of Potato. Along with 4 other families in the late summer of 2013 we decided to branch out from a well used and loved forum. We had to do that because we found that our needs as the parents of traumatised adopted teens [organization] didn’t quite fit in with that forum or the governments’ rhetoric at that time. We were and increasingly are, parenting adopted teens who are suffering each and every day from a system that denies a really strong truth.
Love is not enough; our children, young people and their parents (all of their parents) need solid support if `our’ children are to become tomorrow’s good enough parents and citizens.
You will know exactly what I mean by the above truth.
I took a while to consider what I wanted to say in this first blog from Potato. I decided to tackle the tricky issue of
Some of you will have read Lord Justice Mc Farlane’s “Bridget Lindley Memorial Speech” of last month. If you didn’t, I think you should. He talked about meeting Potato, about our difficulties of parenting traumatised adopted teens (we call them tats – keeping up the Potato theme) and questioned whether the present day system around all things adoption needs to change.
Personally, I think he is right to question much of the system and what follows are my personal (not Potato’s) questions.
Last year, Amanda and I talked long into the night about these and many other questions about the system. We gave a joint presentation to a group of interested folk who attended the Child Protection Resources Conference in Birmingham. Some of those people knew a little of Amanda and Jazz’s journey. Some knew a little about the difficulties of adopted teen’s complex steps into adolescence. They left the workshop under no illusion about the difficulties for `our’ young people.
`Our’ children come to us with many a varied history. Some from families who despite their best efforts, are unable to parent their children safely due to an equally wide variety of circumstances. Some special parents under duress – Spuds (another potato themed name by which we Potato members call ourselves) have voiced whether, if ‘our’ children’s first families had had the solid support they needed when difficulties first became evident, would `our` children have needed another family to care for, nurture , fight for and love.
So that is my first question about language – are `our` children’s first families always to be known as birth parents or as often said by professionals ‘natural parents’? I would love for ‘our’ children’s birth families to be known as their first families. Let’s face it, they absolutely were and are. That can never be disputed. Their first mum conceived them by making love or having sex with their first dad. I say `our` children because adopted children, the young people and adults they become will always have a minimum of two sets of parents. Whether we like it or not, they are `ours’, not just ours.
When ‘our‘ children are living with their second families does it mean that they should never hear mention of their first families until they reach 18? Is that right, acceptable or even sensible in today’s climate. Of course not. Letter box has been well established for over 25yrs but I wonder how well that `system’ has evolved to meet the needs of all in the adoption triangle. How can we, adopters of today, influence that so that `our` children are safe and emotionally secure enough to manage their feelings of having minimum of two families. Let’s start by NEVER using the word `contact’ again. Let’s talk about writing to them, seeing them, visiting them not having `contact’. Let’s reframe the language from the time our children come to live with us. Then as time passes and our children grow, we will be able to feel confident that, if and when the time comes for our tats to get to know their first families again, they won’t be thinking that it is like talking to the bank, ISP or Amazon about a transaction or a delivery, it will be about talking about relationships, human relationships, their first family.
Long term permanence, be that in foster care, kinship or special guardianship was needed to give `our’ children what they needed. Many tats, especially those whose parents are members of Potato, absolutely needed to have a second family and that meant adoption as a form of permanence. Adoption absolutely needed to happen for them. They needed a life away from neglect, maltreatment, domestic violence and substance misuse. BUT, what we now know, to our children’s cost, is that the legacy of that maltreatment has far ranging implications for ‘how’ they can become the good enough citizens and parents of the future. However, to call that permanence (or any of the other form of permanence) a placement is ‘draconian’. Let’s get rid of placement and call it home shall we? For that is surely what the child needs and that is what they deserve.
My final thought about language (I am running out of words) is about where our children live and about our lifelong commitment to them. Many readers will know about the Selwyn research, Beyond the Adoption Order. The research, that many founder members of Potato took part in, was about adoption `disruption’. Sadly, many a spud that took part in the research were in the ‘no longer at home’ category. Those tats left the family home due to a variety of reasons, but all in some part, due to the legacy of previous maltreatment. Many of us that were in the `challenging but remain at home’ category, now have tats that are `no longer` at home. The vast majority of our tats re entered care via Section 20 of the Children’s Act 1989.
Lord Justice McFarlane’s comments in a radio 4 interview last week and his speech did not make one thing absolutely clear; We `our` tats second families, live with and love our traumatized adopted teens unconditionally. That we cannot have them live with us in their homes does not mean that we do not continue to parent them. Whilst a few spuds are estranged from their tats, the vast majority continue to parent at a distance. The adoption has not disrupted, our tats can no longer live at home. They have new homes. Not what any of us wanted but that is maybe why those questions about adoption need to asked and why they need answering.
Let’s make sure that we, adopters, and where possible`our’ children and young people help those given that job to understand that the language has to change first.
Offering support and information to those parenting traumatised adopted teenagers.