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How to contact a child that was adopted? (long sorry)

(123 Posts)
Cotswaldsue Thu 23-Jan-14 15:28:10

I'm asking on behalf of a friend and have name-changed.

We've tried googling but have just got more and more confused.

DF gave birth to a son 17 years ago. At the age of 3 the child suffered an accidental injury but social services believed her DH was responsible. The police and the CPS said there was no case to answer and there was no prosecution. Nevertheless her DS was taken into care by a very aggressive social services department who said he would be adopted unless she left her husband, which she was not prepared to do. A very long story but he was eventually adopted (aged 5) by his foster family against the wishes of his parents following several court appearances in which they fought to keep him. They were told that any future children they had would be taken into care immediately. They had regular supervised access until the adoption went though so they hope he may remember them.

9 years passed and she became pregnant while on the pill. They got a good solicitor and fought SS tooth and nail to keep the child and they won their case. They also won an apology of sorts for the forced adoption of their DS1. They have subsequently had another child and there was no SS involvement at all.

They have kept every piece of paperwork and photos taken when he was with them to prove to their son that he was very much loved and taken from them against their wishes. And that they fought hard to keep him.

He will be 18 later this year and they very much hope he will try to contact them. DF was told that it may be possible for them to contact him once he was 18. Can anyone tell us if that is the case? Or do they have to wait and hope that he will find them?

KristinaM Thu 23-Jan-14 16:24:16

There is information here that will help your friend.

KristinaM Thu 23-Jan-14 16:25:06

Sorry that link didn't work

KristinaM Thu 23-Jan-14 16:31:36

I would strongly advise your friend to get some counselling for herself and her DH. If she is able to make contact with her biological child, it's very important that she gets some support to help her deal with her feelings about what has happened and advise her how to approach this.

It's understandable that she is very keen to put her side of the story, but you will appreciate that the young man concerned probably has very different views and feelings about it. It would be very easy to drive him away , perhaps for ever, if she can't see it from his perspective. Some documents and photographs are not going to suddenly overturn what he has believed all his life.

I'm sorry, I know this must have been very hard for her.

Cotswaldsue Thu 23-Jan-14 17:15:57

Thank you for that link.

She had extensive counselling after the birth of her second child as did her DH who had chronic depression after the forced adoption. But I will mention that they should consider more.

His adoption file will contain the facts of his adoption, so he may ask for it himself at 18 (if I have that right) and before she's able to get in touch. His adoptive parents will have had to explain why his birth parents/grandparents disappeared suddenly when he was 5, so he may know some of the history already. What he may not know is that his birth parents were innocent of causing him any harm and that he now has 2 full siblings.

She hasn't said so but she's hoping for a fairy tale ending, which may well not happen. However, it is important to them that he knows how much he was/is loved, of how hard they fought to keep him and that his father did not hurt him.

Her worst fear is that they will never be able to tell him that which is why she's trying to find if it's possible for her to get in touch with him, even if only to write a letter explaining what happened.

Lilka Thu 23-Jan-14 17:35:49

I would completely agree with Kristina and say that counselling is a very good idea - the counselling she has already may not have focussed on reunion related issues, and if it didn't then IMHO she needs to access some more in which reunion can be focussed upon

She does need to be honest with herself and ask herself what the impact on her son is of her doing what she wants/plans to do

For instance, what does 'fairytale ending' mean? That he believes her and they go on to build up a good relationship? Or does she want him to abandon his adoptive family and consider her his only mother? The former is very different from the latter. She will be most able to handle everything that comes up if she is honest with herself in the first place. And actually seriously thinks about how doing x,y,z will impact on her son.

Also...18 might be the legal age, and of course I understand why they are thinking "as soon as possible", but 18 is very very young in many ways, and his youth might cause issues. 18 year olds aren't normally as mature as 25/30 year olds and are usually much less able to deal with all the issues reunion might throw up than an older adult. My 17 year old is in close contact with her mother and half of the problems that happen (all the time, it's not been in any way shape or form a fairytale) are related to immaturity and lack of empathy for what the other one wants/is feeling. Also can she think about the timing of making contact? I know a family whose child went from doing pretty well at college to failing everything because of contact made by birth family in the middle of the academic year. The stress and confusion it all threw up made the child totally lose all their focus and drive. And now the child has a much harder road ahead of them for jobs etc. And lets be honest, your friend is thinking of dropping a bombshell on her son, however sensitively it's done - is she doing it at a good time in his life to do something like that?

Just some thoughts

Cotswaldsue Thu 23-Jan-14 18:01:49

Yes, I see what you mean. We're meeting up again tomorrow so I will mention counselling. She knows I'm posting here for advice.

The fairy tale ending she wants, I think, is for them to have a relationship with him but, more importantly, for him to know his siblings and for them to know him. This is why she does not want to wait. His siblings are growing up fast and she feels they have a right to know their brother and he them. She talks about it in a very matter of fact way but I know a lot of emotions are simmering under the surface.

I'm not sure when would be a good time to drop a bombshell like this. I have no idea how many adopted children look for their birth parents. She is convinced he will have some memories of them and will want to know. I imagine his birth parents will have spoken to him over the years about him being adopted. I would hope they'd tell him the truth because it would be very easy for him to find this out from SS files. She says they seemed to be decent people when they met them as foster parents.

Cotswaldsue Thu 23-Jan-14 18:09:14

I forgot to mention she's also concerned that he should have the chance to meet his grandparents again. One grandfather is quite frail.

JammieMummy Thu 23-Jan-14 20:08:52

I pause before saying this but your friend appears to be looking at it from her point of view, what she would want if she were him. Much better than just what she wants but still doesn't take into consideration that for the last 13years her son has considered other people to be his parents, he will not look at her and her family in the way she wants him too. He is likely to both feel a connection and feel disconnected from them at the same time.

Also it is much rarer for boys to search for their birth families (I have no idea why these are just the statistics) so she needs to prepare herself for him not wanting to find her or deciding that now isn't the right time for him.

I would echo comments about counselling so that she is as emotionally strong as possible incase things don't work out the way she wants.

Italiangreyhound Fri 24-Jan-14 01:50:28

Cotswaldsue I am very nervous to reply to this. I am not yet an adopter and so I don't speak from any great wisdom and certainly not from any experience.

I am sure that this experience for your friend has been totally devastating and has almost certainly been a very major factor in her life, affecting it to a huge degree.

I am sure she is longing to see her son again (I am thinking of this from her point of view, not her husband/the boy's father, simply because you wrote about your friend, so I am sticking to that). As well as a huge desire to see him again I am also wondering if her desire to meet up with her son is to be able to tell him what happened and so (in some way) righting the wrong that was done to her, her husband and their son. I can't imagine how I would feel and I am sure I would want to in some way try and right the wrong/make up for the past etc etc.

This is all totally natural and understandable but I wonder if this approach will be able to reach the young man in the way your friend wants. My reason for thinking this is because I am trying to think how the boy/young man will feel.

Of course your friend will want her son to meet his siblings, but how will he feel? It may not at all be your friend's fault that he did not get to grow up with his siblings, but it is also not his fault. And he may find it quite painful to consider that his two siblings got to grow up with both their birth parents and he did not. I know that this is something that will be terribly painful for your friend and it may well be that he is very keen to meet them and get to know them. I think your friend needs to be prepared for either eventuality, so that she does not put too much pressure on him early on to try and fulfill the ending she wants for this tragic story.

You mentioning his having the chance to meet his grandparents again. I am sure that having this opportunity may be good but I am also aware that this frail grandparent may introduce a ticking clock in the sense that your friend will want the boy to meet his grandfather while he is still around. This is, again, totally understandable. I am just concerned that for the young man meeting a grandparent may not be a priority, he may already feel he has grandparents who he has developed a relationship with.

I really hope all will work out very well for all concerned and I think you sound a very wise and kind friend, and will hopefully be able to support your friend through this.

All best wishes (if I have said anything offensive or 'out of order' please please ignore it and please do not pass it on to your friend.

Cotswaldsue Fri 24-Jan-14 06:34:32

Thank you for your thoughtful words. She says she is braced for him not wanting to see them but I'm not sure she is.

Picking it apart I think what most matters to them both is that he understands that his father did not injure him and that an injustice was done to them all. They want him to know he was loved and wanted and not rejected by his birth parents. He may have grown up believing his father deliberately hurt him which must be difficult to live with.

I wonder if his adoptive parents will have been told that SS admit a mistake was made and if they are likely to pass that on to him.

Hels20 Fri 24-Jan-14 06:58:25

Gosh - this is a horrendous situation all round. Awful for your friend and her DH, awful for the son who was adopted and awful for the adoptive parents.

If this had happened to me, as an adoptive parent it would destroy me. As adopters, we have no say in whether a child is adopted or not. Of course, miscarriages of justice (though I believe, extremely rare) are tragic - but please also ask your friend to consider the adoptive parents in this. This would be my worst nightmare.

I also really counsel your friend to think of timing here - yes, selfishly (and she has every right to be selfish), she wants him to know as soon as possible - maybe she is worried a grandparent might die etc. But actually, the son must come first in all of this - and my sympathy for the mother (your friend) would deplete if she decided to tell him in his A level year - rather than wait until end of June to drop the bombshell.

However hard it is for your friend, who feels a massive sense of injustice (and rightly so), please, please get her to think of timing for her son. A few months is not going to matter hugely. If a grandparent dies in the meantime, obviously awful - but I think as a mother, she has to think that her son should be able to take his A Levels without all this emotional turmoil.

Please also get her to consider the adoptive parents - it wasn't their fault he was adopted.

You sound a good and wise friend.

Hels20 Fri 24-Jan-14 07:02:55

Ps has she had letterbox contact with her son? As for whether adoptive parents would know the massive error done by SS - I am not sure. Not entirely sure SS would be obliged to tell (they should have told adoptive parents about other children born to the birth parents).

NanaNina / if you are out there, do you know whether SS would tell adoptive parents that in fact the birth parents had been exonerated?

I sort of hope

Cotswaldsue Fri 24-Jan-14 07:40:47

All they have been allowed is one photograph a year which the adoptive parents stopped sending when he was 12. They are allowed to write one letter per year but don't know if it is passed on.

They have been keeping a series of beautiful scrapbooks which they update at Christmas and on his birthday where they place cards, photos of family events and write about what they have been doing.

He will be 18 in the summer. I won't say which month but his exams will be over by then, if he is taking A levels. She wants to be ready in case he contacts them. If he gets his original birth certificate he will be able to find them fairly easily - unusual surname.

Cotswaldsue Fri 24-Jan-14 07:51:46

Posted too soon.

They both feel it likely that his adoptive parents will know that they will try to make contact because they knew the reasons he was taken into care and the family denials.

She genuinely wants what is best for her son and if he wants no further contact will accept that reluctantly. But she is determined that he needs to know the truth and that he is loved. They hope his adoptive parents will support him if he decides to look for them and that he has been happy with them.

She doesn't think that the adopters "stole" her son. SS did that. She's grateful to them for bringing him up and hopes it will be amicable. She knows they may resent any contact but what her son wants is more important than their feelings in her mind.

I'm trying to keep her feet on the ground but she's waited years for this. Her DH is more realistic and thinks it's possible that the son won't want to know them, even after he learns the truth. He's beating himself up for not trying hard enough to keep him and is afraid their son will feel the same. Although they did everything they could at the time from what I can see.

JammieMummy Fri 24-Jan-14 08:50:19

Sorry to be the bearer of bad new again but if the photos of her son stopped when he was 12 this is the age that SS advise the child is given the choice as to whether photos are sent or not. So it is likely your friends son has chosen for the photos to stop.

If you friend was receiving yearly photos up to the age of 12 (some 7 years) then they suddenly stopped it is very likely he decided to stop them, for what ever reason. I hate telling people this part but I think your friend needs to be aware that this is a possibility.

Hels20 Fri 24-Jan-14 08:50:47

Well, I think it is good that your friend won't make contact until the summer - when his exams will be over.

If your friend has been sending a letter - then the adoptive parents may or may not give the letter to him - it depends if they think it is too emotive/appropriate. But if it is just full of loving words etc then (speaking as an adoptive parent) I would want to share it with my son. However, the letter will be on his file - which he will be able to access from Social Services when he is 18.

I agree with another poster on here - unfortunately, I think it is more common for girls to want to find out about their birth families than boys (and I have heard that, if boys do want to find out, it is usually when they are in their mid to late 20s, maybe when they are settling down/considering a family of their own). I have a friend who was adopted - as was his sister. He has never had any interest in finding out who his birth parents were but his sister did. (He was adopted as a baby, rather than as a little boy.)

I am relieved that she holds no animosity towards the adopters. For what it's worth, I have gone into adoption knowing that I would support my DS finding out about his birth parents (and I have tremendous sympathy for the BM - and think that, actually, we could have been friends in another life) and, although I think it would initially be a struggle, I do think that I would be ok about her coming back into his life at a later stage.

Wow. What a tough few months your friend has ahead. I wish everyone luck and hope some sort of happy ending materialises - even if it is just that he becomes aware of the circumstances.

Remind your friend that teenagers these days (and more so, boys) now (apparently) don't reach emotional maturity until 24 or 25 and even if he rejects her now - as long as she makes it clear that he will always be welcome to get in touch years from now - she might find that after a few months/years, he does get in touch.

Kewcumber Fri 24-Jan-14 11:58:51

I think its also quite common for adoptees to not search until their adoptive parents have died for fear of hurting them or sometime when a big life event happens (eg birth of a baby). I'm not sure if this is so true when adoptive parents have been very open about the adoption.

Anyway - contacting one of the organisations linked to above by Kristina will hopefully mean that your friend gets some support from people who have been through this many times.

drspouse Fri 24-Jan-14 14:12:47

I'm afraid a couple of other things spring to mind here: I would imagine that the adoptive parents have been honest about the process which led up to their son being adopted. And that will include the fact that his birth mum was told if she left his dad, her son could be returned to her. But she chose to stay with her husband over her son. And how is that going to make the son feel? He was a child, and she was asked to choose him or choose her husband - wrong maybe, but she still chose the husband. So he's got to have felt at some point that he was rejected by her.

Other points that spring to mind are:
Even if you are absolutely certain nobody ever harmed the child, he may remember that this happened (children's memories are not always accurate, and you may be wrong).

The idea of a "loving scrapbook" worries me with respect to the letters that they have sent. Have they written that they are the boy's "only/real" parents? That they "will be together again"? Those are the kind of things that upset children to read, and adoptive parents for that matter, and tend to mean letterbox gets refused.

I'm sorry to be the bringer of doom - but I know at some point I'm going to have to say to our DS that his, in theory very loving bmum, refused to make changes in her life that could have meant he stayed with her. And how is that going to make DS feel? Why didn't his bmum love him enough to do that?

Cotswaldsue Fri 24-Jan-14 14:47:21

Thanks for the replies. It's really helping me try to help her.

My friend and her DH were stupid enough to trust social services to see the truth. She felt (early on) that if she agreed to leave her husband that would be seen as an admission of guilt and that they would never be a family again. Her DH did not hurt their child and they were convinced this would be realised. By the time it dawned on them that SS were going to try to take DS away permanently and may get away with it they were told it was too late for her to change her mind about leaving her DH, which is what he urged her to do. She accepts that her son may find that hard to deal with but they do have proof that Dad did offer to leave the home but they were told it was too late. Whether he will be able to forgive that, I don't know.

Their DS always denied his father had hurt him he said from the start that he fell and that was what he always said, time and time again. Somehow their panic at his injury and worry that he would be ok was translated into guilt by a doctor in A&E. If he has any memory of the event he will know his father didn't hurt him.

Their letters only contained family news and the trivia of every day life. They had been warned about what they must not say. They did "sign" them Mummy and Daddy because that's how they thought he'd remember them and that's who they are. I've seen the scrap books and some of the letters - they put copies in the scrap books and they aren't as you describe drspouse. I suppose the adoptive parents could have refused them but that's something they will have to deal with if he ever asks for his file.

We spent a long time this morning talking through your responses and all the possibilities.

In the current digital age people aren't that hard to find. I've said that maybe she should wait to see if he tries to find them but I don't think she will. She's asked for my help (I'm a genealogist) but I've said I won't until he's 18. If I don't help her I think she'll pay a private detective and I think it would be better if it was me.

Somebody is going to be very hurt, aren't they? But I think it's better if the truth does come out, on the whole.

drspouse Fri 24-Jan-14 15:08:22

Unfortunately unscrupulous people do tell birth parents to refuse to go along with social workers' requirements to have children returned in case they are seen as "guilty" but if you were a child, would you not want your parents to have done absolutely everything to keep you?

To be honest I'm not convinced we're hearing the full story. Children are very very rarely removed for just one injury. I'm not saying there were more injuries or that your friend is right that her husband didn't cause it (but you really really don't know that this is the truth), but there must have been at least a wilful failure to engage with SW's requirements, mustn't there?

I'd also be very wary of the failure to acknowledge that the adoptive parents are now Mummy and Daddy. That is the kind of thing that definitely means adoptive parents and adopted children get upset by letters. His adoptive parents are no longer his foster carers. They are his parents, and signing Mummy and Daddy suggests don't accept that.

And honestly, you don't know what he'd remember. Children's memories change and (assuming there was no deliberate harm) can easily be accurate to start with and then change later to be inaccurate.

Very sorry not to be all sweetness and light!

whatsagoodusername Fri 24-Jan-14 15:28:04

Would it be possible to meet/speak with the adoptive parents prior to making contact with their DS? I know nothing of adoption, so possibly not a good idea, but they would be able to find out if there is anything major going on that they should wait for (exams, a big holiday, etc) and give the adoptive parents time to prepare. And maybe find out how their DS would feel about bring contacted.

Again, I do not know if it would be a good idea, but maybe it would help?

Cotswaldsue Fri 24-Jan-14 15:35:29

drspouse please don't apologise for not being sweetness and light. It's what we need to hear.

The "wilful failure to engage" (as I understand it) was that neither of them would "admit" that the father hurt his child. They were told that if he admitted it then that was the start and he could have anger management and they could both have counselling. It was their refusal to say DS was hurt deliberately that seemed to enrage SS (and one SW in particular) who wouldn't entertain that possibility.

I didn't know them at that time but have come to know them well since and have learned about what happened over the course of time. They do blame themselves for not getting a decent solicitor early on but they couldn't believe what was happening. And they believed that because they were telling the truth everything would be all right in the end. They are a lot less naïve now but they were young and trusted the wrong people.

When they did get a solicitor when the courts were involved SS seemed to take that as proof that they had a case to answer. One reason (she says) that the court made the adoption order was that her child was settled with his future adoptive parents. But he shouldn't have been with them in the first place.

The social workers who dealt with them after their second child was born do believe them.

It's such a mess but I understand why she wants the truth to come out and to at least explain to her son what happened.

Cotswaldsue Fri 24-Jan-14 15:39:35

whatsagoodusername I think the adoptive parents would be likely to be very defensive, given the circumstances. They may well feel that "never" is the best solution. I'm not sure I'd trust them to tell the truth.

Hels20 Fri 24-Jan-14 15:42:01

I sort of second what DrSpouse says. Have you read the CPR of the child? Were there other things? Did your friend read the CPR? When I read the CPR of one child I considered, there was accidental injury to a child but there were also other things. Your friend's birth son will see the CPR - if all that is in there is the one thing about the injury, then it should actually be not that difficult to convince birth son that it was all a huge miscarriage of justice etc - and rightly so. But there may be other things. And why could birth son not go to a family member (the preferred situation). Was it because grandparents also didn't agree that DH hadn't caused the injury?

The other thing I would say is this. 18 is such a difficult age. My cousin grew up thinking X was her father when in fact it was my uncle. (X adopted my cousin.) She found out the truth when her mum died and she was 37. She says that if she had found out truth at 18, she would have disowned X who had brought her up - because she was in a "I hate my life, my home, my parents" moment. She is pleased in some ways she found out later when she was more mature - and it meant she didn't break X's heart by rejecting him.

I understand why your friend wants to do this (and I would want to do the same) - but someone/some people are likely to get hurt.

Also - consider that if there is financial imbalance between adoptive parents and birth parents (in favour of birth parents) at 18 this could be a hard thing to accept.

But pleased you are going to wait until he is 18.

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