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Exerienced adopters, please tell me about reaction to children bonding and attachment

(30 Posts)
Italiangreyhound Sat 07-Sep-13 12:32:21

In our area people who are adopting do not meet the child before they agree to adopt, normally. I have heard of exceptions. Does anyone have examples of exceptions, please?

The social workers have said you will sometimes get a feeling this is the right child when you read the info. You might see a picture or video clip/DVD of the child.

Anyone willing to share....

When/How you 'knew' or 'felt' this was the child for you?

Is bonding different from attachment?

How does bonding and attachment work?

Does not meeting the child before you say yes have any detrimental affect on your ability to bond/attach?


Italiangreyhound Sat 07-Sep-13 12:35:28

PS I know we have all spoken a lot about attachment in the past so if anyone can link to one of those old conversations, please do.

In this instance I am really thinking of bonding/attachment in relation to matching and that initial choice to adopt a particular child.

Thanks. grin

Lilka Sat 07-Sep-13 13:53:10

I've also heard of exeptions but not met anyone this has happened to. Since some LA's are now doing adoption parties I think this will happen bit more now, but will still be pretty uncommon

Seeing a DVD is quite common now though

Does not meeting the child before you say yes have any detrimental affect on your ability to bond/attach?

No, not at all IME. Attachment is something that takes months at least and will only ever happen when you are living with your child.

When/How you 'knew' or 'felt' this was the child for you?

Well I felt a real click or some kind of connection I can't explain when I read DD1's information. I knew I wanted to adopt her very quickly. With DD2 there were more things to consider and some serious things so I didn't really committ myself and think/feel 'yes this is her' until I'd not only read a lot of reports but also met with people who knew her etc. That said, whilst I didn't feel an instant click like with DD1, I was feeling a connection by the time I had had her info for a week+ and seen her photo.

If you don't feel any real connection to a childs information, don't worry. I do know people who didn't feel anything, either because they were guarding their hearts and not letting themself, or they just couldn't connect with words on paper. Those people have bonded just fine smile It just didn't start until they were living together.

Is bonding different from attachment?

Yes it is. But people often confuse them for each other. I understand it as -

Bonding is from the parents side only, it describes the parent developping parental feelings towards the child. It's the first thing to happen. It can describe you feeling a strong conection, your first rush of love, when you start to feel protective towards your child etc. Parent start bonding at different times. Some on the first day of introductions, others (like me) won't start bonding until our children have been home for weeks and months.

On the childs side, they will have their own ajustment period, and will hopfully begin to feel some kind of liking for you and start looking to you to get their needs met, start deciding that they want to kiss you etc. People often think that if the child (having only moved in 2 weeks previously) is hugging, kissing and seems very close to their new parents, that they have attached. But no, that's not attachment, the child has not developped a deep emotional realtionship in two weeks. That's either the childs equivalent of bonding and they're starting to develop feelings, OR it's a defence mechanism and they're acting out 'love' to keep themselves safe and might secretly be very scared inside.

Attachment you could describe as an 'enduring emotional relationship'. It's two way, you to the child, and also the child back to you. Because it's the long term emotional relationship, it takes months or years to build.

I guess i could draw a slight comparison to partners? It's not quite the same but - when you have your first dates you might build a very strong connection, and then you want to spend all your time with each other etc etc. Compare that to a couple of years later when you're fully fledged partners and you have a very deep long term emotional relationship and love each other unconditionally

Lilka Sat 07-Sep-13 14:01:08

I found this thread you started, we were talking about how long it took to bond/attach -

I felt I started bonding with my older children after a few months, but I didn't really get rushes of love, so for me it wasn't like what I wrote above. With DS it was like that, and plenty of adoptive parents will tell you when they first felt protective and connected etc smile For my older girls, I took a good 18 months to 2 years to feel 'attached' on my end (unconditional love, the very idea of being seperated is devastating etc) but I felt that because they were reciprocating a bit on their end so we were developping a two way relationship, and it took years for us to have a close attachment. But they have attachment issues and other emotional so attachment was never going to be quick for us.

I can't remember where I heard it, but I heard that if a child is able to form a secure attachment, they should be showing signs of attachment (not just their version of bonding) at the 6 months marker. Since traumatised adopted children often have attachment and trust issues, I would add quite a few months on to that for them.

HappySunflower Sat 07-Sep-13 14:06:22

The only adopters I know of who have met their child before being matched with them, are those who were related to the child, and those concurrently fostering them.

I saw photos of my dd before agreeing the match- no video.
I felt a strong and very immediate pull on ading her profile and seeing the first photo. Hard to describe really but I just instantly knew that I was meant to be her Mother. I'd seen profiles of other children before and felt less sure about that.

Man adopters don't feel like that though....its hard to let yourself feel anything sometimes as there are still so many unknowns until matching is officially agreed/approved.

Devora Sat 07-Sep-13 22:43:01

I've never heard of exceptions.

I saw photos and video of dd before agreeing to the match, and also met the foster carer. To be honest, I didn't ever have a sense of 'this is the one' - I'm not sure how much you can expect a SW to convey of a child's personality when they're six months old! So with younger babies, I think it's a more rational process of reading the child's background, health status, how they are developing and reaching milestones etc.

(Though I did have some strong responses to what we were told about birth parents. We got offered a match with a gorgeous baby girl whose backstory was so shocking, birth family the stuff of nightmares, that I didn't see how I could help her come to terms with it all. That wasn't the only reason we turned down the match - we were also in the middle of moving house and other stuff was going on - but I realised it was almost a relief to me that the timing wasn't right. But I should stress that this reaction wasn't to the child herself.)

I should also add the caveat that I am a very rational person, not romantic or intuitive, so I'm less likely to be guided by emotional response.

I wish I could promise you that you will know The One, that you will fall in love instantly and that will wash away any doubts or ambivalence. My experience was that that wasn't true - I felt ambivalent all through the process and throughout much of the first year after our daughter joined us. I felt similarly about my birth child, though, so that's just me smile

FamiliesShareGerms Sat 07-Sep-13 22:57:40

I've never heard of exceptions - our LA was very clear about not meeting a child until after the match has been approved at panel.

We saw photos of DD as part of the initial info pack and then a short video clip after we had decided to proceed. We made our decision after writing out a pros and cons list that included such trivial things as "she has a lovely name", but for me it was quite an instinctive decision (she just was my daughter) but less so for DH. We know couples who waited a long time after a match that fell through but came good in the end because they felt almost like they were cheating on a partner by looking at other profiles, that's how strong a connection they had had even just looking at a picture.

I guess it's a bit like meeting a partner - some people have a crash, bang, wallop, he's The One experience; some people only realise after years that actually they love their best friend. Ie it's different for everyone and in different circumstances.

I see that initial connection as the bond; attachment is more fundamental. It's the bit that means that when DD falls over and cries for me, it's because I am her mother and the primeval bit of us that cries for our mums when we are hurt has kicked in and she wants me. This takes time to build - for me and DD it was relatively quick, for DD and DH it took much much longer (and a period of me not being around so that the issue was almost forced).

FamiliesShareGerms Sat 07-Sep-13 23:01:17

Oh, and I also think that if you don't find it all a bit peculiar and surreal to go overnight to being the parent of a child, there's something not quite right! It is bizarre, even more so than having a baby where at least you have the benefit of hormones to help you along the bonding process.

allthingswillpass Sun 08-Sep-13 11:20:50

I've heard of indirect meetings - ie watch child in a park but have no personal experience.
We felt that as we read more about our little one, there were more and more things that were right for a match.
As Lilka said meeting the people who actually live with your child makes it all very real.

LEMisdisappointed Sun 08-Sep-13 11:31:56

Can I just say - i think you are all wonderful people. I cannot imagine being able to do this so i have the utmost respect for those who do.

Does it ever happen that it doesn't work out? ever? Do people un-adopt because for whatever reason the relationship just doesn't develop? Is that even allowed? It all seems so very complex and heart rending. On one hand i would think it unfair to a child to have them stay with a family if it wasn't working out but then it would be equally unfair (or even more so) for them to have to leave? I was really just wondering about that side of things, just curiosity and understand if you don't want to answer.

PacificDogwood Sun 08-Sep-13 11:39:43

I am another not-adopter and don't have superior knowledgy wrt to bonding and attachement when adopting.

Just felt the need to add that both don't necessarily happen as a sudden event for birth parents. And that it can be different from child to child for the same parents.

I too think adoption is a wonderful thing to do and I remember 'bonding' as a child with my new cousin (who arrived in my uncle's family when I was 8 and he was a few months old). I have no idea what my aunt and uncle felt (I was too young and anyway it was spoken about), but he just became part of the extended family with time.

I sometimes do fostering/adoption medicals and I always feel vaguely intrusive to have to ask the questions that are demanded. I hope will all have the family you want x.

Lilka Sun 08-Sep-13 11:59:13

Does it ever happen that it doesn't work out? ever? Do people un-adopt because for whatever reason the relationship just doesn't develop? Is that even allowed? It all seems so very complex and heart rending. On one hand i would think it unfair to a child to have them stay with a family if it wasn't working out but then it would be equally unfair (or even more so) for them to have to leave? I was really just wondering about that side of things, just curiosity and understand if you don't want to answer

Yes, sadly not all adoptions work out. No one can force a parent (any parent, birth or adoptive) to live with their child, and some children will be placed back into voluntary care. When a child goes back into care it's known as a 'disruption'. It's not normally just because of a lack of bonding/attachment - normally disruption happens when a child has serious emotional/behavioural issues which the parents find themselves unable to handle any longer. Disruption also happens more in some areas than others - disruption rates can be lessened by providing more support and not hiding information in the matching process etc.

My eldest daughter had an adoption disruption before I adopted her which yes, badly effected her. The placement just wasn't right for her and they couldn't cope with her needs. I don't think that's their fault mind you - both my older children have (or had in my adult DD's case) emotional behavioural and mental health issues. I chose to adopt children with these issues, but many parents who didn't think they could cope with such children find social services didn't tell them and hid information about the child from them. It's a recipe for disaster

In fact, in my worst moments in the first couple of years of DD1's placement I thought about disruption. Rarely, but it was so awfully hard living with her sometimes and I wasn't being supported properly. And I knew it was a terrible thing for a child to go through and I knew that if I disrupted DD would probably never recover.

If the parents can no longer cope then disruption will be the best thing for the child though

Lilka Sun 08-Sep-13 12:03:25

But adoption orders can't be reversed

So if the adoption fails AFTER the finalisation, the parents remain the legal parents for life, even if their child doesn't ever live with them again. Unless the child is readopted by someone else

The disruption rate is not really known. Figures are thrown around, especially 1 in 5. So 1 in 5 adoptions end in disruption at some point in the childs life. I think 1 in 5 is probably not too far out. It's lower than that when a child is adopted very young (although as those children reach teenagerhood things can still get very tricky). It's probably a bit higher than that for older child adoptions. But there are no accurate statistics kept.

Maiyakat Sun 08-Sep-13 12:20:52

I'm going to totally contradict myself in this so apologies in advance wink

The only instances of people meeting their child before intros I know of are on the adoption activity days, which have started in our area in the past few months. Personally I'm glad I never got asked to go on one as I'm really not sure what I think of them. It is so hard removing the emotion from the matching process, but to some extent you have to be quite detached about it (especially at the initial stages) as you have to be very realistic about what additional needs you can take on (and all adopted children will have additional needs, it's a case of which ones you have the ability to manage). How on earth you can do this when you've already met a child I have no idea.

However.... I was being all sensible and detached looking at profiles, until one arrived in my inbox that I couldn't open (the LA had a security setting on it that bamboozled my laptop), and of course it was Friday evening so couldn't ask SW to resend until Monday. And I couldn't leave it that long. For some reason I just knew this e-mail was very very important. So I went into work on my day off to try and open it there (didn't work), and eventually e-mailed it to my sister, who opened the profile and e-mailed it back. As she was doing this, I was thinking 'I can't believe my sister is going to see a photo of my daughter before I do!' The photo she saw first is now on my mantelpiece, and the little girl in it is napping upstairs.

As for the bonding/attachment, it takes time, and it is really tough initially caring for a child where that bond doesn't yet exist. And just because I was so sure so early that the match was right I don't think it made me bond any quicker. I remember in the first week DD teething and crying and crying as she didn't really get any comfort from me holding her, she wanted foster carer. Now it's totally different and she comes to me for comfort.

LEMisdisappointed Sun 08-Sep-13 12:37:56

Thanks lilka, tht is really interesting - thank god for people like you x

Kewcumber Sun 08-Sep-13 14:12:43

"As for the bonding/attachment, it takes time, and it is really tough initially caring for a child where that bond doesn't yet exist

Amen to that! One of the worst phases for me was early on when DS DS had lost his self soothing mechanism but hadn't yet learnt to be comforted (he was institutionalise so hadn't ever been rocked as comfort or at least not very often).

Screaming child with (very common) sleep issues, stressed new mother convinced she is doing it all wrong, no real attachment yet = nightmare.

I imagine very similar to newborn with mother having PND affecting bonding.

I think if you expect to take time to bond and fake it until you make it then that helps. Also depends on age of child but lots of things suggested to promote bonding from prep course worked well for us- putting DS back on bottle was crucial for pre-bedtime feed and rocking him to sleep against all non-adopters advice!

snail1973 Sun 08-Sep-13 14:34:55

We did meet dd before panel. In fact at that time (6.5 yrs ago) it was a rule with that LA that you had to meet them before panel. I guess they'd had a few instances of people being matched and then when they met they felt it wasn't right for them.

With Ds (diff LA) 2 yrs ago they thought I was mental asking if we could meet first and said they never do that. Mind you I find SW s say they never do lots of things that you later find out that they do...

I don't think a meeting is important with a little one, but for a 4yrs plus child I would totally push for a meeting.

FamiliesShareGerms Sun 08-Sep-13 16:06:33

LEM, just to add, in case you didn't know: there is an initial period when a child is placed with adoptive parents when they are still technically in the care of the local authority before the adoption order is granted. In fact, it is a legal requirement for the child to have been resident for at least 10 weeks before the parents can apply for the adoption order.

So if things go really wrong quite quickly the placement could be disrupted but without it being a failed adoption, IYSWIM. I think the figures for this are also vague. Even though our placement with DD was going brilliantly, our great SW was really insistent on checking that we were really really sure that we wanted to apply for the adoption order. I guess that is the last chance to pull out before it is a legally irreversible situation (though no less devastating for all concerned, I would imagine).

aladdinsane Sun 08-Sep-13 16:52:37

Our LA do this more frequently not but its not a meeting as such. Its the potential adopters being able to see the child in a normal setting- park or soft play is typical- but without, hopefully, the child being aware

Maryz Sun 08-Sep-13 17:18:24

I only met each of my two the day I brought them home. With ds I had a week's notice, with dd I had three days.

It was bizarre and surreal, and wouldn't happen these days.

They were babies, both under 10 week,s and I got basic information - boy/girl, weight, birth date - that was all.

With both of them I felt sorry for them when I saw them, I was pretty protective almost straight away, but it took a while before I could really say I had "bonded" with them. And with hindsight it was quite a while before they "attached" as well - I'm not entirely sure ds1 ever did, and dd would go to anyone and everyone for about a year. We didn't know anything about attachment at the time, so probably did it all wrong.

aladdinsane Sun 08-Sep-13 18:47:03

I felt the same as maryz
It took me time to love DD but I did feel an incredible responsibility for her and SW tease her in FC and I thought - She will not get away with treating her like that when shes my child

aladdinsane Sun 08-Sep-13 18:54:02

Missed out words sorry
I meant I felt so protective towards her and when SW teased her I was not happy
I think the feeling responsible and protective is very important
Its what keeps you with them through the tough times before the love

Kewcumber Sun 08-Sep-13 19:28:45

yes I did also feel very protective and responsible almost immediately.

Lilka Sun 08-Sep-13 19:43:50

I agree with the others. I felt responsible straight away, protectiveness took longer but still came pretty quickly. It's the feeling responsible and being committed that get you through until you start feeling warm loving feelings. Take every day as a new day.

Maryz Sun 08-Sep-13 20:19:59

Oh, and the best advice I've seen is the old fake it to make it adage.

If you pretend to love them, then suddenly you find you do confused

It works when they are obnoxious teenagers too.

I do worry a bit about people being shown too much in the way of photographs, dvd's etc before placement. Some children are naturally photogenic - for example dd was a beautiful baby and I could have fallen in love with a photograph quite happily, ds1 wasn't half as attractive and I can imagine being handed a photograph and spending a few weeks wondering about how I could possibly bond will such an odd-looking child (he is very good-looking as an adult, but was not an attractive child grin).

Ironically ds2 looked like a plucked chicken. I certainly wouldn't have picked him, given a choice!

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