Not sure where to start...

(11 Posts)
DandyDindie Wed 14-May-14 11:44:41

I have no BC and I'm never planning to (just never felt the urge to procreate), but to me its always made sense that if there are children without a home to be in then the first step would be to offer them a home rather than create my own (I'm very attracted to the idea of being a parent, just no desire for them to be BC). I have a large extended family and lots of experience with nieces/nephews etc so the realities of child rearing are fairly familiar to me and I have absolutely no doubts that an adopted child would be 'my' child. I work in a very ethical field and this very much influences my perspective, in terms of overpopulation, welfare of existing children in care etc.

I know that already this potentially makes me a bit unusual as for me adoption is a first consideration. I'm in a stable, loving longterm relationship and my partner is incredibly supportive and also very happy to pursue adoption, but I realise the adoption process is a very invasive one where SW will dig through our histories etc. Now onto the crux of the issue...

When I was a teenager I was medicated for depression and referred for counselling relating to abuse I suffered at the hands of a family member as a child. None of my other family are aware of this and I've always felt a strong duty to protect them (it would destroy my parents). For other reasons all members of my family are already NC with the abuser (he's generally not a nice man and his behaviour means that I and my extended family no longer ever see him). I've absolutely come to terms with what happened to me and it doesn't affect me in any way, my psychologist was excellent.

HOWEVER (sorry this is LONG!). My current partner has no idea of this history. I have told previous partners before and each time (twice) it resulted in the end of the relationship as they found it difficult to reconcile the abuse. One accused me of lying as I ought to be more 'damaged', the other became very tearful, overprotective and suffocating (my general grumpyness was excused by the abuse - nope sometimes I'm just a grumpy cow - pull me up on it!). I genuinely don't feel as if the past influences the person I am today and hate the idea of people 'judging me' on my past experiences.

My question is - would the adoption process automatically lead to exposure of my past abuse (its on my medical record as my GP referred me for treatment.) I have no issue with the SW/medical professionals accessing this info, and no issues with discussing it directly with them. However I think it would change the way my partner views me and I don't want to challenge our healthy, loving relationship by giving him information which means he would very much judge me by my previous experience rather than who I am.

For me the whole process of accessing professional help and addressing these issues is to give me 'clean slate' I hate the idea that my abuser's actions could still influence my current life and relationship despite the progress I've made, and despite the fact that I rarely even consider him or the influence he's had on my life (minimal except to say 'f* you' and be very successful!).

I understand this is probably quite a unique situation but any experiences would be very much appreciated.
Thank you

64x32x24 Wed 14-May-14 12:49:05

No experience really but it strikes me that personally, I think I would not be happy in a relationship where I couldn't trust my other half to some information about my past. Some info about my past may affect our relationship, may change it in some ways. But if I thought it would change it so much that it wouldn't survive - that it would be, I need to keep this secret or the relationship will end - that would make me uncomfortable.

I agree it may be a test of your relationship to tell him about it now, but if your relationship would not survive this disclosure, better end it now than after you have adopted a child and it all comes out by accident.

If you adopt a child, their experiences of abuse may trigger your own history and you may realise that some things are less 'over with' than you thought.

Even if that didn't happen, and importantly, you'd also be depriving yourself from being able to empathise with your child, as you would not be able to mention your own experiences to them. For fear of it passing on to your other half and then causing the end of your relationship, which by then includes a child in the mix, compared to now where it would just affect yourselves. Instead you would sort of be teaching your child that experiences such as abuse must be dealt with through secrecy, and that a child has a duty to protect the feelings of their parents.

I think over all that would be the main problem. Your assessing SW would interpret things such as that your way of dealing with issues is to do it by yourself, not draw on family for support, keep things secret, and that you feel it is a child's duty to protect their parents/family from bad feelings.
They may also feel that your relationship is not strong enough to cope with/survive the difficulties inherent in adoption, given that you clearly feel it is not strong enough to survive the disclosure of your own history; and that it depends on secrecy.

On the other hand, if you tell your DP about your past experiences and it leads to a strengthening of your relationship and things keep going strong, then the fact of your childhood abuse would, if anything, make you even more suited to adopt.

pinkmonkeymum Wed 14-May-14 16:57:16

Hi, I am a recently approved adopter with a similar background/childhood to you.

We were approved at panel as I was able to demonstrate stabilitiy and a strong support network around me who are aware of my past.

However I also never told my parents what had happened and I did have to talk this through with my social worker in depth and justify the decision not to tell them. Also my husband is fully aware of everything and the effect it had on me as a child/teenager. My social worker was very worried that I had not disclosed to my mother, in the end I was able to prove that I had a stable relationship with her but as I do not rely on her as a main source of support we were able to move on from this issue.

I would advise you to fully disclose everything to your current partener before even apply to adopt. A social worker will have big issues with secrecy between you as a couple as you need to be able to honestly share all of your feelings with each other and your social worker!

Also it will be hard going when you get to the matching stage and are having to actually read about the sometimes terrible things that some children have been through in there birth homes. Personally I find it very upsetting at time and my husband is a great source of emotional support!

BarbarianMum Thu 15-May-14 20:47:46

I think you should speak to your partner. If he is not strong enough to deal with the abuse you suffered as a child in a mature and sensitive manner, then he is quite clearly not going to be a good father to a child who has suffered similar, and unfortunately many children who are up for adoption have abusive backgrounds.

And I'm really sorry that your previous partners have given you any reason to think this is something you need to keep to yourself in a relationship. sad

Lilka Thu 15-May-14 21:24:25

Hi and welcome Dandy

I'm afraid I really do think that you will it very hard to adopt unless you have told your partner about this

Part of the homestudy is assessing your relationship with your partner and the strength of it, because not only can adoption and parenting a child with emotional needs test relationships a lot in and of itself, but also social services want to be as sure as they ever can be that the child is going to a home where the parents relationship is strong and isn't likely to end soon (I mean, things change and that can never be guaruteed, but if one parent is hiding something they think will cause the relationship to break down, that will be a really serious worry for SS), and where both parents are equipped to meet the childs needs which may well include dealing with very difficult background issues, perhaps abuse. If the agency are perceiving secrecy and maybe a lack of trust over this issue, I don't think they would likely want to proceed with an asessment of you both.

If your relationship would genuinely break down if your partner knew about your history, then social services would be unlikely to want to place a child with you, because they would see it like a ticking time bomb and inevitable that it would 'come out' and that the child would then go through another very difficult experience

If you hadn't disclosed to another family member then as pinky found this may well be okay because they aren't your principle source of support, but when it's the person closest to you, social services are looking for a relationship where the parents are honest with each other and support each other with issues like this.

But seeing a psychologist and seeking help that way, is all really positive and seen as a good thing. Whatever the issue, showing the ability to seek out help for yourself, is a really good quality for an adoptive parent to have. Even having the experience of abuse could be seen as a plus because your experience gives you more understanding of what your new child might have been through themselves.

Choosing not to try to have BC but go straight to adoption, is not the commonest route, but it's not rare either, and I'm sure we have couples here who also chose to adopt first. I adopted without trying for BC first, but I was (am) single, so not quite the same! I think agencies are getting much more positive about this as time goes by.

DandyDindie I am so sorry you have had these awful experiences but so glad you have come through them.

Ordinarily, I would 100% say it was anyone's choice to reveal the experiences they have had to others or not. And I would totally respect you for this if this is your choice. Having said this there are a few points to consider:

I think it is very sad that your feelings and needs have had to be swayed by the need to keep this secret from your parents and also from your partner. I don’t think you should have to keep this a secret but I do understand your choice.

In adoption things are different and I agree with Lilka and others- you are becoming the parent of a child who has had a tough start in life and it would be (at least) unhelpful and (at worst) potentially explosive to have to keep a secret from your partner in this. There is a chance your new child could have experienced sexual or physical or emotional abuse (or neglect) or a combination of these.

On another level you could be able to help the child with their experiences if you could share how you had ‘overcome’ your experiences.

I think you could at the very least ask to speak confidentially to social services and explain your situation.

If you had a birth child I would not feel you had to confide in them all that had happened to you so in one sense I could see that if you adopted a child who had not experiences the same type of abuse as you then it should be perfectly possible for you to parent them successfully without ever revealing this part of your past. But if the secret came to light and your partner and you broke up then that would be more devastating for a child who had already lost at least one set of parents (birth) and possibly multiple sets of parents (foster).

You may feel you wish to avoid adopting a child who had abuse if at all possible as this may trigger things for you. However, I think it is quite hard to know with looked after children exactly what they have experience so it is hard be 100% sure that a child has not had some physical or sexual, or emotional abuse.

If fear of this coming out would mean you do not adopt then it does seem like the person who hurt you is continuing to hurt you by blocking your chances of adoption. Sorry to put it like that. Maybe that is not the case but it just feels very hard on you.

I cannot tell you how your partner will react but I feel it might be helpful for you to tell him your history and enable him to have the chance to be the first man in your life who can handle this. If he cannot you may well then wish to move on and find someone who can handle you and your history. But that must 100% be your choice in personal life and I am sorry that in adoption it has to be different, as it feels unfair in some ways that something that is not your fault can influence your ability to adopt. But of course this is also the case with people who experience illness etc or other things, that factors outside of themselves can influence their ability to adopt.

In one sense your past experiences are not influencing your ability to adopt, the thing that may influence is your unwillingness (totally understandably) to reveal this to your partner, and that is something that is in your control.

In terms of the way you dealt with this in your own life, personally, speaking I think how you have chosen to deal with the abuse in your life may not necessary mean you would advise a child to so the same.

You may have ‘protected’ your own parents form the truth for some reason but you might not necessarily advise your child to keep quiet to you and your partner about previous abuse or any negative situations going on in their life as they grow up etc, so although there is some weigh that this is how you chose to deal with it I don’t see you would necessarily mean you would do things the same with a child.

I hope whatever you do is right for you.

PootlewasthebestFlump Sat 17-May-14 08:12:00

All the replies are very thorough so nothing much to add except that if you did adopt, you may find that any disclosures, references to past abuse or even just normal childhood things (like playing with toys) may retriever memories or emotions in you. If your partner is unaware of your background he is not able to be there for you.

I don't have a very abusive background - more emotional abuse like belittling and shouting - bit when I could hear my neighbour through the wall talking to her children the same way it made me quite unwell. Things can catch you out.

If this man is an abuser and still at large the social workers may (should) also be duty-bound to ask more. If he poses a risk to children still then they cannot turn a blind eye.

Your history is not a barrier - it may be seen as an asset - but how you deal with it now could be the deal-breaker.

PootlewasthebestFlump Sat 17-May-14 08:14:04

That should say retrigger not retriever...

DandyDindie Sun 18-May-14 09:47:46

Hi everyone thanks for your responses
To be clear my decision to keep this information to myself is not because i don't think my relationships would stand it - they are strong and I would absolutely be supported. But my parents would be devastated - they didn't protect me and that would destroy them - why would I want to put them through that? Ditto my partner - the knowledge woud be incredibly hurtful and this seems pointless for something whih has no impact on our current lives. i've absolutely moved on - there's nothing triggering - it happened to me and I'm absolutely reconciled with it and comfortable discussing it with professionals or those with no personal investment in my life. I helped friends overcome sexual abuse without revealing my own history and have not found their pain to be relevant to what happened to me or upsetting in any way except that of empathy for a friend.

I don't ever want to be seen as the 'victim' because I'm not and I think its very difficult for most normal people not to see you through the lens of damage once they have that information - once they know they cannot unknow and all of your actions are judged/excused based on society's expectation of how damaged you 'should' be.

I don't see myself as a victim of abuse and it actually would have never occurred to me to think of it except its in my medical records - ironically the act of seeking help to ensure that this issue didn't affect my life appears to mean that the abuse will affect my life forever, and I will always carry that label, which I personally don't think is healthy. Why should my life choices and personal relationships be dictated by something that happened nearly 30 years ago, and why should I be punished for taking sensible stepss to deal with it?
What if I were to adopt as a single parent?

DandyDindie I know it is hard and feels very unfair, I agree with you.

I think that if I found out a friend had been abused in the past I would not necessarily think of them as a victim, I am not sure all people would do that, it is just very unfortunate you have had relationships with two people who could not handle your experiences.

In answer to your question, I think (IMHO) if you adopted as a single parent there would not be a relationship to be put at risk by revelation. That is what, I think, a social worker would think.

It agree it is totally unfair but I do think social workers will have trouble with it. If you want to test the water why not chat confidentially to social services in another county?

I totally respect your right not to say what the counselling was for but I agree with others that social services may find this difficult to accept. If this will bar you from adoption (not wanting to tell your partner) then you may wish to reconsider having a birth child while you are still young enough to do so. If you do not explore adoption until you are older then you may not have the birth child option. I know you do not want to at the moment but that may be because you think adoption will be an option, if you find it is not you may wish to reconsider and I can say, after years of fertility treatment, it is better to start when you are younger if you can.

All the best.

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