Hope it's ok to ask my questions here(12 Posts)
I have been reading an awful lot on this board for the last week or two and have finally plucked up the courage to ask some questions of real-life adopters. I say "real-life" as I am having to accept that what is happening to my family is "real" and I am utterly heartbroken.
I posted on the legal matters board a few weeks ago (I am new to Mumsnet and I'm not sure how to link to my post, sorry, but the title is "SS took my baby at 6 days because of my MH"), that probably explains the situation I am in slightly better than I could at the moment. I have tears streaming down my face writing this and also have severe mastitis at the moment which may require surgical drainage so am feeling physically dreadful too and cannot hope to be articulate, for which I apologise.
I am a birth mum, my baby is 2 months old and was taken from me at 6 days old from the hospital on the "future risk of emotional harm". I have MH problems and had a breakdown in mid-2012. I have been stable since, but SS made me undergo a psych assessment during my pregnancy which deemed me in need of therapy as a result of abuse I suffered as a child. I am totally committed to this therapy, which I have begun, as I know it will make me a better and stronger person and would be a disservice to my baby were I not to engage and work my bum off. However, the therapy may take around a year to complete and SS believe it is not within my baby's timeframe. It is felt until I complete I am still vulnerable to abusive relationships (though have been single since October 2012) and therefore may have another breakdown. SS say my baby must then be adopted.
I have fought since before my baby was born and will fight until the end because I know I can keep myself safe and well and therefore baby too. But I must be realistic and hence the reason for my (lengthy) post.
I wanted to ask some questions of you all if it's ok, just so I can understand the process better. I was literally discharged from hospital with no support from services and despite SS plans for adoption, no one has talked to me about anything. I hope you don't mind me asking for your help, if anyone can answer any questions I'd be most grateful. I've not been specific in terms of gender or anything identifying.
1. what information are you given about prospective baby and what makes you "make your mind up"?
2. do you meet baby before you've decided 100%?
3. do you meet foster carers and do you meet birth mum?
4. do you adopt in a different area to birth families?
5. do you change babies names? my baby's sibling chose their name so that's an important one.
6. what are the options for any contact with birth mum? what's the "norm"? is there ever any way birth mum can see baby and stay in their lives? (I am desperate for this)
7. what about sibling contact, what's the "norm"? my baby has an elder sibling who lives with me and is utterly destroyed at the idea of losing baby.
8. do you "have" to tell baby they are adopted? could it happen that an adoptive family wouldn't tell the child and would just write birth mum out?
9. if you do "have" to tell child, what age do you do it? and how?
10. I've read about the "life-story" book on this board, I've made my own for my baby, well it's a box with hand and foot prints, scan photos and photos of actual birth, videos and photos of every time I see baby, everything I bought, clothes, things I made during pregnancy (blankets and soft toys), hospital tags, cord clips, cards from friends, messages and pictures from mw (midwife is distraught at what's happening), even my postnatal notes I photocopied. desperately desperately need baby to know how much they were wanted and loved.
question then - can I keep all of that for when and if baby grows up and wants contact so I can show them myself (and in some ways retain that "bit" of them) or do I have to hand everything over?
11. does baby get to know how hard birth family fought and tried to stay in their lives? that they were breastfed and birth mum continued to express milk to give them best start? in short, that birth mum did her absolute best?
sorry - I know some of this is probably totally inappropriate to ask you all and is hugely emotionally driven - I am in pieces writing this. But you are real people and I don't know anyone who has been through this, I am so so terrified of it all and totally traumatised still from the moment the midwife took my baby out of the room and away. I have flashbacks constantly of their little fluffy head going out the door and the foster carer holding my hand beforehand and crying her eyes out.
Totally understand if no one wants to answer the questions, I just had to find the courage to ask.
I'm sorry you are in this position
I am quite happy to answer the questions, I don't think any of them are inappropriate.
There are women here whose children have been adopted. You aren't in their position right now and you may win this case and never be - but I'm sure one or two people might pop up and talk to you about their experience. You are not alone
1. Lots and lots of information - a lot of information and reports about their background, parents, family, medical history, developmental stuff, personality etc. Adoptive parents are told a huge amount nowadays
2. No - you don't meet the child until you've committed yourself. You have to read all the information, and you'll meet with social workers, the foster carer/s, paediatrician or medical advisor before making a decision. After you say yes, then you have to go to a panel and be approved by them to adopt that particular child. Only after all that - which takes months - do you meet the child. The meetings are the very end point
3. You always meet the foster carers, both before you meet the child to help you make a decision whether to adopt this child, and also every day in introductions. Introductions is the week or so (for a baby) where you go to the foster carers nearly every day to meet the child and you slowly take over the childcare.
Some people meet the birth mum, other people don't. My local authority try to get a meeting wherever possible, so did the council I adopted my younger kids through. I've met the birth mum of my younger two kids more than once though usually people only meet once. You might meet the adoptive parents before they meet the baby, or during the introductions week, or after the baby has moved.
4. Totally different for different people. You wouldn't be living very close to the birth family. But usually in either the same county or a neighbouring county. It's not often people adopt children from the opposite end of the country
5. Some do, some don't. It's impossible to know what would happen. I changed my sons name because I needed to - there were people who are violent/dangerous who can't find out where he is. But I have told him that he used to be called x. X is now a middle name, I never got rid of his old name completely. IF your son were to be adopted and you met the parents, they will probably want to know why baby is called Y. You can tell them who picked the name and why.
6. Normally contact for a young child is one or two letters a year. It's not common for there to be visits (again, one or two a year), and normally it's older children who visit their birth mums and dads. With a baby, I think a letter or two letters a year is the normal thing.
7. I don't think there is a normal. There might be a visit a year or so, but there might not be.
8. Social services really drum into everyone from day one, how important it is to tell the child their story. Nowadays it's really rare for a child to not be told because adoptive parents know how important it is. IF your son were adopted, he will almost certainly be told.
9. Most parents (like me) tell from day one. The idea is the child never 'finds out' they just know. My son was 23 months old when I adopted him, and I have talked about adoption since the very start. When it was little it was really simple, eg. when he saw a pregnant woman I would say "Yes, all babies grow in someone's womb, you grew in X's womb". Or "I'm so happy that you are my son and I adopted you". So he's always known. Now he's 8 we talk a lot more in detail and he knows his story and why he was adopted (in child friendly language)
10. You don't have to hand over anything. You can keep all your precious things and make them into a lovely scrapbook or anything else you would like. IF your baby was adopted then you might think about making copies of some of the photos and giving the copies to the adoptive parents. that way your baby would have their own baby photos, which might be special for them when they are growing up
11. Adoptive parents will tell their child their story, but won't say a lot until the child is older. I wouldn't tell a young child about court and fighting - when they were older maybe.
I would tell a young child 'your birth mum loves you and really wanted to look after you, but sadly she couldn't do it because __'
If my child every asked 'was I breastfed' I would try and find out the answer and I'm always honest. Otherwise i wouldn't talk about it. I don't think it would mean anything to a young child.
Most adoptive parents will tell their children that their birth family love them, as long as that's the truth.
My 8 year old knows that he is adopted, why he was put in care and adopted, and that his birth mum does love him. He has a life book made by me, photos and some keepsakes and presents from his foster parents and birth mum
Hope that helpful xxx
Oh, you poor love. I'm so sorry you are going through this. Before I answer your questions, I have to ask if you are getting the right legal advice and emotional support?
I actually wrote the world's longest post in response, which then disappeared into cyberspace, so I'm relieved to see that Lilka has done such a brilliant job covering the specifics.
So this is what I want to say:
- During preparation for adoption, it is drummed into you how important it is to be completely open and honest with an adopted child (in an age appropriate way) and to be positive and respectful about the birth family while still being truth. (So, for example, I wouldn't romanticise the birth family or deny their very real problems, but I will say, "Your first mum loved you and wanted to keep you but she wasn't able to take care of you herself because of x").
- I would have loved to have met the birth mum, but sadly she didn't turn up for repeated appointments (I don't blame her for this - it must have been extraordinarily painful for her). I think it would be reassuring (though difficult) for the birth mum to have met me, and I would love to be able to repeat to my daughter little things her first mum had said.
- You don't have to hand over any of your mementoes of your child, but I would urge you to consider sharing some. My daughter has a locked wooden box in her room - only she and I know the combination - and inside it are a few teddies, notes and babyclothes. I imagine these will be very precious to her as she grows older. Sadly, I have no photos at all of her first six months (even though she was in hospital and foster care for that time)
- indirect contact is the norm, and it usually means an exchange of letters once or twice a year. Direct contact is possible but I think you have to be realistic about your ability to convince the social workers that you and your older child would be able to handle this without getting emotional, upset, angry. I think the majority of mothers would find this impossible, and it could be very confusing for the child.
- It is considered best practice not to change a child's name without good reason. But quite often this does happen because the birth family is threatening violence - this was the case for me, as well as Lilka. I shortened my child's name because it was very identifiable, but it is still pretty much the name her birth mother gave her - not a name I am particularly fond of, but it is her name and I respect that.
- The question of how adoptive parents talk about birth parents is quite complex. Certainly, I want to present my daughter's birth family in a positive way (because that will help her feel more positive about herself). But I also need to be honest and not romanticise the situation (because then it won't make sense to her why she had to be adopted). I can't comment on your situation, obviously, but most adopted children have been hurt or neglected, directly or indirectly, by their birth parents and that needs to be explained too. It's not easy to do this without creating further confusion for the child - I can tell my daughter her birth mother loved her, which is undoubtedly true, but I will have to tell her everything I know at some stage, including that none of her birth family visited her all the (long) time she was in intensive care. A grown woman would understand why that might happen, but it's harder for a child to. But this is life as an adoptive parent: you have to accept that your child had a first mum, that they have a history and heritage that is not shared with you, and you have to help them understand that and resolve the difficult feelings and the grief and anger they may experience.
I wish you all the best.
Yes I also wanted to ask whether you have legal advice/a solicitor?
Do you have people close to you that you can talk to? Going through what you are going through must be one of the hardest things in the world, and going through it alone with another child to support is even harder. You deserve support from people irl even if they can't advise you, but be a listening ear for everything
I also wish you and your children all the best x
I'm really sorry that you find yourself in this position. I can't imagine how you're feeling, but my thoughts are with you at this difficult time.
I don't have the experience of Lilka, we are currently going through the process to be approved to adopt a lovely little boy. I just wanted to try to provide you with some small reassurance on some of the questions you have, based on the current training procedures.
During the training great emphasis was placed on ensuring that adopted children know they are adopted and have as much information as possible about their birth family. There are specific training days on this subject, helping adopters to know how to explain the reasons for adoption in a suitable way. It is now recognised that it is very important for children to know about their identity.
The importance of contact was also stressed in the training. Whilst it's not enforceable, SS really encourage adopters to ensure that contact is maintained with birth families, including siblings.
Changing a child's name is strongly discouraged, unless it is an unusual name that would allow the child to be traced. A child's name is part of their identity and the source of that name will be explained to the child if known. Our plan is to add a middle name that is special to us, but there is no question of us changing his first name.
Any special items that you provide, even if they are copies, can be included in the life story. I believe that you would also be given the opportunity to write something that would be given to your child later.
Again, I can only wish the best for you and your children and my thoughts are with you.
Took too long to write a response. Devora said it much better
I am really really sorry this has happened to you. I can't imagine how you must be feeling. It is not inappropriate to ask these at all and I hope our answers give you some comfort.
I just wanted to add a couple of things to what others have said - from our experience:
3. Some LAs push for adoptive parents to meet birth mum/parents. We agreed to it but then it was cancelled by birth Mum a couple of days before (as it was too hard for her). A few months she asked again but just after she had seen DS out and about with my dad. At that point I didn't feel like I could meet her as I was feeling too sensitive out being recognised further down the line. I don't really feel like that so much anymore and I have a feeling that in time I will regret not meeting her and not getting the chance to tell her that we love DS more than life itself and we will do my very best for him. I don't know whether that would have given her any comfort but I felt like i wanted to say that to her.
4. We are in the same city as birth Mum and actually not very far way. A bit too close actually. It means I feel like I have to avoid certain areas as I know I wouldn't deal with bumping into any of the family very well. Also Birth Dad is a threat so am scared that he would track us down. More so in the early days but it still worries me.
5. I didn't change my sons name (apart from his surname obviously). Changing names is also really frowned upon in my LA. It also didn't feel like I had the right to as that is the only thing he has from his birth Mum. Also, it is a really popular name so I don't have to worry about him being tracked down based on his name.
6. We send one letter a year. No photos down to the risk of them being posted by birth family on social media sites. There is no direct contact with any of the family including siblings.
I haven't had a letter back yet (although I know she has collected the letters). I hope someday she will send a letter back. Primarily for my DS sack, but I also care about her and would like to know that she's ok.
8/9. Our DS knows he hasn't always lived with us and he still has some contact with foster carers. We don't use the word adoption as for me that's just the legal bit and until he understands what that means we will keep the language a bit more simple. The language he uses at the moment is that he came to live with us and became our 'darling'. He isn't 'told' per se, we have just kept the dialogue going so that he will always know. He asks questions already (he's 3), and we always answer honestly and we will continue to do that.
10. As someone else has said I would encourage you to share some of the mementoes. Can you take photos and copes of some of the things to pass on? These will be precious to her and I think maybe more important as she grows rather than her having to wait until she's older and can trace you.
11. I have a letter from birth Mum for him. The original one was angry and bitter and not factually correct (Although I understand why as she was asked to write it at the time she was the most distraught). Because it was factually incorrect I asked his SW to get it re-written and she said she couldn't. I then mentioned it to the reviewing officer and told her that unless the letter was factually correct that i didn't feel like i'd be able to pass it on. She then forced the issue. The 2nd letter I got was beautiful. A letter written from the heart which is a better representation of the feelings she had for him. I will be honoured to share that letter with DS when he is old enough.
Make sure you get the opportunity to do the same as you can include the information you want her to know - such as breastfeeding, fighting for her and your feelings for her etc.
I wish you all the best and if you have any more questions, don't be afraid to ask. x
I can't thank you enough for your replies so far, I have read each one about ten times and your responses are enormously helpful to me - thanks ever so much.
I feel a little reassured with what you've told me - it means an awful lot to understand the process from your point of view. The love you have for these little ones shines through and that helps me.
I am praying and praying that this is not our future as a family though - with all due respect (very much hope that doesn't offend). I will do absolutely anything to keep my son in our lives, in whatever guise that may take. Friends around me are at a loss to understand why this is happening to us, a very close friend (well, she's more family to be honest - in all but blood) is a foster carer and is so confused and distraught for me and my eldest, particularly when she knows SS think I give "higher than average care", and she herself constantly tells me what a good mum I am (my confidence is in the toilet since they took my baby). She has been a rock this week - I think feeling as ill as I am with mastitis is colouring everything and I'm really struggling. Last night I dreamt of my son, he was sitting in his car seat and spoke to me (he's only 9 weeks but in my dream he could converse like a three year old!). He said:
"I know you're frightened that you think I don't know who you are but I do - I know your voice. And whenever we're apart I just keep waiting and listening for your voice to come again". Woke up in tears, naturally. I just can't describe the pain of this, it is torturous.
The information you've given has helped me to make some choices. I know I definitely want to meet the adopters, I want to tell them as much as I can about my life and my family, and I want to tell them I'm not a bad person. I think spending an hour with them would be incredibly precious to me and I would treasure that time with them. When the foster carers came to the hospital at first it was just before I had to go to court (I left my hospital bed to contest the ico), I was respectful and pleasant to them, but I believed in my heart and soul my boy was coming home with his family, so I really didn't speak to them much. After court, I returned to the hospital and they came with the SW to take my son from me. I was in a million pieces. But I needed to spend time with the foster carer and asked her to come into the postnatal room to meet my son properly. She cried, I cried, the midwives all cried, as did my friends and my eldest. But it was so precious to me. It was one mum to another asking her to take care of my baby. I will always treasure that moment, that she could do that for me. And the fact I had only just met her, yet it affected her to the point of tears, meant to me I knew she would take care of him - I could see how much it meant to her. I know she heard me scream when they took him out the room, I can't imagine it was nice to hear. That noise haunts me. It was a noise a bereaved mother makes. It was primal. I am absolutely petrified of having to make that noise again.
I've also decided to make copies of everything after what you've said. I recognise that it will be an important part of my son's heritage. I've so many pictures but each is beautiful and I want him to know how precious he is. I know that he will never ever think I just "gave up" on him because literally no one could fight harder than I am to stay in his life. My paralegal regularly tells me out of all her clients that she has never had a mum fight more or try harder to do the best for her children. My lawyer says "you never ever hear from you what you want, it's always about what's best for the children". So I know my boy won't ever think I just didn't care. I think if children know they were wanted and loved - that's a bloody good foundation. And my boy was and is wanted so very much.
I think it's imperative that the tone of anything I give my son doesn't make him feel insecure, so I'd probably not labour the point about how hard I'm fighting. I wouldn't want him to feel conflicted in later years. I just want him to know I love him.
I will be extremely envious of the adoptive family but I don't see the situation as "their fault" and wouldn't dream of putting them at risk. it's sad that some of you have had to deal with the threat of violence, I don't understand that mentality.
Thanks for letting me know your experiences of contact. I can't again understand a birth mother not writing back. No matter how hard, the security of knowing a letter may make my son feel loved and wanted, or just help to explain his beginning, would offset the pain for me.
I know if this goes ahead I would have to write such a letter. I think I would need a bit of help from you good people for that if it's ok.
Question - is it not normal to send birth mum photographs of little one growing up?
I do have legal support, though I am considering self-representing as I am not getting anywhere. My post on the legal forum probably explains better, but let's just say it feels as though my legal have written this one off and given up without a fight. I can't do that.
Emotional support - there is next to nothing out there. SS don't speak to me about anything, the SW is clearly very uncomfortable when she has to speak to me - her tone speaks volumes. I don't have any mental health support as I've been stable so long I am not eligible for services, so it's just friends who are supporting us really, and I don't like to put on them.
If I get through this I plan to set up an organisation/charity for parents who are faced with this as there is just no support out there and it's wrong.
Thanks again for responding to me, as I say - I can't tell you how appreciative I am of any support at the moment, and your experiences do help soothe me somewhat
Oh sweetheart I really am so sad to read this <<hugs>> And I also hope that things can turn around. We adoptive parents all know it's a tragedy when a child can't be raised by their birth family. We all know that in an ideal world adoption would not exist - sadly it's not an ideal world but we only want to adopt children who truly can't live with their birth family because it's not safe and their birth parents can't parent adequately. None of us would want to be involved in an adoption where the child shouldn't be adopted. I am hoping you get your little boy back again. And I'm glad you found the replies helpful
I'm afraid I can't give you any advice about fighting this, but I am glad you have friends around you
is it not normal to send birth mum photographs of little one growing up?
It used to be more common than it is now. I used to send photos and I think a majority of adoptive parents used to. Now it depends on your council and the adoptive parents. Some people still send them. Since Facebook became really popular sadly a lot of adoptive parents (I'd say the majority) find that their childrens birth parents stick the photos on facebook, with no privacy settings. It's a frightening idea for most parents, the idea that your childs picture might be put out on the web for anyone to see, and anyone could then recognise your child if they saw them in the street. So now a lot of adoptive parents are too worried to send photos, and some councils/social workers advise against sending them
I do think you should ask for photos with letters though - especially because of your other child. I think you would need to say very clearly that you wouldn't ever put the photos in public/on the internet. You could then send photos back yourself, so the little one knows what their older sibling and birth mum look like
I agree with everything Lilka said. There is another thread running at the moment where adoptive parents are explaining why they don't like it when people say their children are lucky to have been adopted by them. Our children are not lucky. They have lost heritage, siblings, stabiliy and above all their first mother, whose voice and heartbeat and warmth were their world. I, however, am lucky because I have the joy of my daughter, and with this comes the responsibility to help her live with this loss and to give her all that her first mum would wish for her.
I don't think can really add anything substantive to the wise words from Devora and Lilka and others, but just to say a few words about our experience of adopting a child who was removed from her birth mother at a couple of days old, in case it is helpful.
DD was 15 months when she came to us, which was caused by a mixture of court delays and SW working really hard with her birth mother to avoid needing to go down the adoption route. although she has very limited memories of her time with her FC and her contact seasons with her birth parents, we have always spoken to her about adoption so she is aware that, for example, she didn't grow in my tummy.
I am forever grateful to both birth parents that they individually put together a memory book of photos and details of them and their wider family. I met DD's birth mother about 4 months after she was placed with us. SW and I both thought that it would be better to do this a little time after she was placed, so that I could reassure DD's birth mother that DD was doing well and so that I could ask a few questions about the things DD was doing. We even had our picture taken together to go into DD's memory box, though we have not (yet) shown her that one, as we think she is too young to understand. We do look through the other albums from time to time, which DD enjoys.
We kept DD's first name, as most adoptive parents do these days, but gave her an additional name that is special to our family. We have a birth son who had a similar special family name, and we didn't want her to be different from him in that way.
We have letter box contact through an annual letter and the birth parents send a birthday card too. We send a photo of DD to be kept in the social services offices, which the birth parents may view there but not take away (because of concerns about Facebook etc). I'm happy this is a sensible compromise and might be something you could suggest.
Finally, I am truly sorry for the anguish you are going through. In an ideal world there would be no adoption.
Feel free to post any more questions on here and I hope that you manage to get some proper RL support