When we adopted a child from the care system I expected to grieve for the neglect and abuse that she had suffered in her birth family.
I did not expect to grieve for the fact that she was failed so badly while in care.
I realise that her needs, the needs of her foster career, the other foster children in placement, the birth family, the emotions of the social workers are important. We should handle their feelings of loss with sensitivity, respect and kindness… I did not realise that our needs, and those of our birth children would always come last.
They chose us because they recognised I would be a strong advocate for my daughter. Then punished us with silence when I politely asked for a small change of practice to avoid retraumatising her .
We have been trained to recognise trauma and loss in my daughter, I feel her pain, I have wept for her confusion and bewilderment when she lost everything she had, twice. I mourn the fact that her transition to our home was done without proper preparation or explanation. But I did not expect to unpack her bag to find all the resources she needed to help her transition, unknown to me, neatly packed away by her foster carer, but never used.
I did not expect to feel so very alone.
As adoptive parents we are asked to be the full time, on call, unpaid, therapeutic, forever carers of precious children who through abuse and neglect have brains that have not developed normally and who have PTSD. We are advised to empathise with their loss and their traumatic past and when confronted with their violence, defiance, self harming behaviour to response with playfulness, curiosity , empathy and acceptance and most of all love.
Their damage is so great and our calling so high that we could live our whole lives feeling guilty that we can never achieve being the parent we are being asked to be.
I am used to analysing complex information and making informed conclusions about reports I read. I did not expect other professionals to get their assessments so wrong. When I asked to speak to the medical advisor and they realised what I job I do, the reply came:
“I am sorry I wrote her report without meeting her, and now I realise there were lots of mistakes and I feel so embarrassed.”
Is this really how we should treat the lives of children in care and their future parents ? Don’t these children deserve societies’ best attempt ?
We were told:
“She does not remember her siblings .” – yet on the first day we met her she said their names repeatedly, after a few weeks I realised, she was asking me if they were safe.
“She does not remember what happened the day they were taken into care.”
If this wasn’t so deadly serious, one would think this was some sort of pantomime, because, guess what?
Oh yes she does.
She can act it out.
You see when the social workers underestimate her trauma, they do not appreciate her bravery and her resilience. When people say that she can’t communicate they insult her intelligence and belittle her attempts to make herself heard.
Star’s placing social work team withheld very significant information from us. This caused us a great deal of pain in her first weeks in our home. On my darkest day, a quote came to my mind, unusually for me, from Shakespere:
Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds or bends with the remover to remove.
Oh no it is an ever fixed mark that looks on tempests and is not shaken.
” Looks on tempests and is not shaken.”
My experience is that to adopt is to look at the tempest or storm in the life of a child, to live with them in that storm and – while I have been shaken – to keep on loving.
“Not bending with the remover to remove.”
I was told that adopting would make me a better person. (This is by the same people who said things like “adopters need to be resilient” to cover up failings in their own professional practice.) I did not do it to become a better person. We did it, because we felt God was asking us to to give a child without one, a loving home and a forever family.
I don’t know if I am a better person.
I am here, living and loving my precious family in the middle of the storm;
I am grieving that I was not there to protect my youngest daughter from her past. I am praying that we will always be there in her future;
I am trying to accept that I am doing my best, and that my best is good enough;
I feel like my family are like a little boat sailing through a stormy sea.
We knew the risks, we chose to leave the harbour and to drive into the storm that is inviting neglect, loss and trauma on board our family vessel.
We are in this boat together,
we are a forever family,
at times we feel bruised and broken as if we have been repeatedly tossed in the waves,
however when we ask for help we are told that our bruises aren’t that bad enough and that most other adoption boats are navigating a much worse storm.
So we continue on,
Some times we batten down the hatches and huddle together until the stronger winds pass,
and we carry on learning to dance in the rain.
(I wrote this post for an adoption support forum 5 months ago. After a season of battling for our daughter. I became exhausted and overwhelmed. In my pain and anger I think I lost sight of God’s good hand on my life.
I am posting this today, because I now realise, he did not loose sight of me.
After dinner this evening Hannah, Ben, Star and I danced together to our favourite song. Can you guess what it is?
“My lighthouse” by Rend collective
“My light house, my lighthouse ,
Shining in the darkness
I will follow you.
My lighthouse, my lighthouse
I will trust the promise – you will carry me safe to shore.”)