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Newbie - keeping contact with extended birth family

(16 Posts)
Narnia72 Sun 16-Nov-14 15:04:32

Hello, new here and looking for advice in a heartbreaking situation.

SIL has extensive MH and physical issues. She had her first baby (from a fling - father not involved) in May and was initially supported from birth in a parent Mh unit, but SS decided she couldn't solo parent and so baby is to be put up for adoption.

We are heartbroken about this, as is the mum, but recognise, very reluctantly, that it is the right decision in her case. We thought long and hard as to whether we could take her into our home under an SGO, but we and SS felt it wouldn't be in baby's best interests, as we are also the only family support to SIL. She lives minutes away from our home, and we wouldn't be able to maintain the distance from her that the SGO would need to work. SIL wouldn't respect those boundaries and can be abusive when her MH deteriorates, and it would be so hard for baby to grow up in that environment. Also for our own kids.

We are preparing information for her life book, and its been agreed that we can meet the adoptive parents, but what we'd really like to do is maintain some sort of contact. We've been told that we can have letterbox contact yearly, but anything else is up to the adopters, and as she is so young, it's very unlikely.

To those of you who have adopted, can I ask what your honest reaction would be to such a request. We recognise that it would be very minimal contact, and would have to take place in a neutral environment and no mention made to SIL. We would be happy to agree to all these things. However, it's heartbreaking to cut the bonds completely, not only for us, but for our children, who love her and are desperately sad that they can't see her anymore.

I'd also love suggestions for what to put in her life book. I've ordered a photo journal and am going to put all the photos of her with us that we have in there, I also have the first photo of her ever taken (I was with her when she was born and stayed with her as she had to go to NICU so sat and held her hand for the first two hours of her life). I will write about how she was born into love, and how much she is and will always be loved by us, and that we will always be there for her.

I also want to buy her a charm bracelet and send her a charm every year on her birthday, to let her know that we are thinking of her. The guardian is happy with this - do you think that would be a good idea?

Any suggestions as to how to make any of this more positive for our children (6,5,2) would be welcomed. Are there any books for children about adoption from the birth family's perspective?

This is so hard.

Thanks for your help

MerryInthechelseahotel Sun 16-Nov-14 15:17:04

It is very difficult for you all but you and your family sound lovely and you are thinking of the baby. When the child grows up it will mean a lot to her to know she had people who loved her and also that those people were being there for her birth mum.

As an adopter I would be totally up for contact with you but I know people have different views on this.

Barbadosgirl Sun 16-Nov-14 15:32:41

Narnia, I actually got quite teared up over this and I am a fairly stony soul! I think you are wonderfully brave and caring to take the stance you have.

As adopters we said we were open to considering/discussing any form of contact other than direct contact with bps. I think my stance with your request would be to say a definite yes to indirect contact but to be cautious re direct contact due to your ongoing contact with bm. Not to say you would do anything inappropriate or which crossed the line but I would want to get to know you and be 100% sure we had a comfortable/trusting relationship first. My codicil to this would be that if I felt contact stopped being the right thing for her, if it was unsettling her or if she was having issues which made it too difficult then it would need to stop either temporarily or permanently. As much as I feel for you and would be overjoyed to be able to tell my daughter there was someone there at the beginning of her life like you to look out for her, contact would have to be for her benefit and I could not let my sympathy for you cloud that.

As an adopter I would welcome and treasure the charm bracelet and keep it very, very safe for her. I would also love to be able to give her the kind of details you can provide about her early life. I have so very little from my son's bf and it is exactly the sort of details you can provide that I am missing.

Bless you and my heart goes out to you x

Lilka Sun 16-Nov-14 16:04:22

Hello and welcome

First of all, I'm so sorry you are all going through this. I understand how utterly heartbreaking it must be to not be in a position to care for her yourselves.

I think gathering photographs and information for her is a wonderful thing to do, and might be really important to her later on. Those very earliest photographs are often missing for adopted children, and to actually have a just post-birth photo...well, I would give so much to have that for my children, I really would. And it's important to tell our kids wherever possible that they are loved very much, that it's a matter of 'could not take care of you' rather than 'did not want to care for you'

I don't know of any books on adoption for birth family, but there are books about loss for children, do you think your children would benefit from any of those? I don't know whether that might help them process what's going on. I guess you can also talk to them about the positives of the adoption, on an age appropriate level, so they can understand that she will be okay and why that decision was taken

Life book - as well as photographs, any factual or interesting information you can think of. What would you want to know if you were adopted? Do you know why her name is X, why was that chosen for her? Do you have her birth measurements in there? What was the birth and her early days like? What kind of a baby was she, did she especially like or dislike anything? Did she enjoy her feeds? Do you think she is 'taking after' anyone in the family particularly? Things like that. That information is largely missing for my children. Also any family information, for instance anything special or interesting you know about her birth mum, if she herself is unable to provide this information currently - achievements, hobbies, talents, interests. Or anything notable about her wider family/grandparents etc.

Also, if you know of any family medical history that you don't think the social workers know about, I think that's very important to check on and make sure they know everything relevent

My honest reaction to a contact request now - I honestly don't know any more. I'd be more than happy for letter writing and card exchanges. I'd really want to meet you in person (just us) before the adoption, because I've found that so hugely beneficial before. I think with exchanging photographs, gifts, and direct contact, I wouldn't want to come to a decision without meeting family first. Years ago I leapt straight into meetings and presents and it's been very complicated, so I guess I'm more cautious now, though still positive about the benefits it can bring. I think for me, if we adults met each other and it was all very positive, then I would deeply consider meeting up several times a year in a fun and neutral location. However I'm also acutely conscious that increasing contact later is better than having to reduce it because it's not helpful (my DS chose to cut all contact with his birth family relatively recently). So I might want to start off with just letters and cards, then add in a meeting, and then if it's still going well in a couple of years and if my child is feeling comfortable and happy with the contact, then add in gifts etc. My instinctive reaction to receiving gifts was 'not straight away, but possibly later'.

That's just an instinctive reaction though - really, every situation is different and I'd be basing my decision on a whole lot more information than just a few paragraphs. So maybe if it was really happening to me, I'd do something completely different, I don't know.

I would say that based on the adoptive parents I've known, the vast majority start out committed to letter writing (I say start out because sadly it's common for birth parents to never send anything to the child in return which is difficult and painful) and an initial meeting. The majority of people aren't so comfortable with meeting up or present exchanges, but having said that, it depends what social workers put on the childs profile. If they ask specifically for potential adopters who have indicated willingness for more contact that is normal, then those that aren't comfortable with anything more than letters might well not enquire on the child.

I hope that is in any small way helpful

fasparent Sun 16-Nov-14 17:52:34

Would ask SW and Childs Guardian too apply too the courts for reasonable contact in best interest of the child perhaps a few times a year in the first instance, leaving too the digression of further contact too the Adoptive parents. Often Grand parents are unfortunate Casualty's through no obvious fault, WE FOLLOWED THIS PROCESS with our A Children extending contact after a number of years. Now have unsupervised contact, in all is a very satisfactory and healthy situation for all the children who love their grand parents very much. Has been a long but steady process developing trust and understanding on the way, nice too see them at school for productions and taking an active part in children's achievement's.
Think all situation will be different though.

Potatoaddict Sun 16-Nov-14 20:42:09

Hi Narnia,
We have just started intros with a 3 year old and he has a beautiful book made by his aunt, it has photos and a letter in, all the photos have a little story with them about times they spent together (he hasn't had contact with her for some time). It made us cry.
We have found it a real comfort to receive this and imagine it will be important in the long run.
There was no contact with extended family but we have requested an initial face to face meeting as we feel it'll be important in the future and the social workers have been great at setting this up. We have requested letterbox contact long term, my understanding is the extended family wanted it but the court didn't consider it as it was too complicated (sorry if vague).
From a letterbox contact point of view we are asking for stories about the children as we want our son to have an awareness of his extended family and may even consider direct contact further down the line. We are also requesting family photos if they'll let us.
All the best x

Narnia72 Sun 16-Nov-14 22:12:14

Thanks all for your kind words and help. It means a great deal - we are feeling our way with all this in what feels like a minefield.

It is great to know that adopters wouldn't necessarily shun contact - even if indirect. I just hate to think of her disappearing out of our lives for an unspecified amount of time, and for her to grow up without any knowledge of us. I totally understand what you're saying Barbados Girl and Lilka about contact - it would definitely have to be of benefit to baby, and I can see that it may just be easier for her to grow up without our involvement.

fasparent I didn't know you could apply for contact, so will make some enquiries about that. Thank you for sharing your story - that gives me hope!

potatoaddict congratulations! I'm really glad that things like making books/giving background help.

Lilka - thank you for sharing and for the advice. Lots of things I hadn't thought about including in the book, so that really helps. Do you see the charm bracelet as a gift? I was seeing it more as something that the adoptive family could keep and give her at an appropriate time. She will be too young to wear it for a good long time, but I hope it would signify a connection from her birth family to show that we're still thinking of her.

Also, can I ask a ridiculous question - do children tend to come to families with possessions? The reason I ask is that it's obviously Christmas coming up and she won't be placed by then, so there will still be contact. I would like to buy her a present, but am not sure whether it would be passed on to her adoptive parents? The final court hearing is in January,

Thanks all xx

Barbadosgirl Sun 16-Nov-14 22:46:41

They do indeed. Our son's FC kept the stuff his BF gave him when he was born which we have kept in a box. He also came fully kitted out from FC and there are bits we will keep from this.

I assumed that is what you meant by the bracelet and the charms, something I would keep and then give her perhaps on a significant birthday. I have not yet had to face issues around contact and gifts, though, as I am early in so I understand too what Lilka is saying.

Italiangreyhound Sun 16-Nov-14 23:09:06

Narnia hi, I am sorry you are in this terribly difficult position.

Yes, children come with possessions, from their birth and foster carers.

I think sending a gift annually that builds up to a beautiful charm bracelet is a lovely idea. I think photos and information will all be very helpful in helping your niece to know that she was born into a family of love and care.

I think you will need to think personally how to manage your own children's grief and feelings, and it may be that different children in your family react differently, and you will know how best to help them. The idea of photos of their cousin in her new home and happy may help with that, if that is something the adoptive family can send.

I think information about your sister, what she was like as a child, positive stories etc, and anything you know about the birth father would be very useful indeed.

Lots of people have been very positive and I would like to be too.

Personally, I would not have a problem with my son seeing birth relatives (except birth parents) once or twice a year or so.

But can I just be a voice of some caution too. As others have said, it is quite hard.

Meeting up more often might be fine or might be difficult depending on so many factors. It also needs to be something to be aware of that the adoptive parents will want to put your niece first, this will mean for them putting her needs above your or your children's needs, and could mean contact starting and then stopping.

If your children have contact with their cousin and also with their auntie (your sister) could this cause problems, how can you be sure they will not say something about it, and to avoid contact with your sister would be hard. Plus could it mean them lying to your sister if she asks if they have seen their cousin etc?

Although it will be very hard thinking of your niece in a new family that does not include you and your children it may be for the best for you and for your children if they do not have direct contact, I don't know, it is tough. Logically, it would seem contact is best, everyone gets to see everyone and keep contact etc, and yet, your niece's new family may already have siblings, and cousins, and so in some ways juggling all those relationships could be hard.

I think it can be done, so I hope that social services will be able to find a family who re supportive to this, for the sake of your niece, and that you will be able to feel you have done your best, in a very difficult situation.

I think you are a very courageous and kind person and I really wish you all the very best with this terribly difficult situation. I also hope your dear sister is getting all the support she needs as this must be terrible for her and although it will be difficult for your children it is something I think they can overcome, with sensitivity and support, and your sister will need even more support to move on from what must be a devastating disappointment for her.

Lilka Mon 17-Nov-14 00:03:32

It's the 'sending a new charm every year on her birthday' which I see as gift giving. I do think it's a very loving idea but I (very personally) still would want to wait for the reasons in my above post. But a bracelet with charms already on it, which comes with the childs life book and possessions is different. It's the issue of something new arriving every year because the feelings associated with that might be complex for a child. All the important things my children came with, I have kept safe for them, and am so glad they have.

Absolutely all the childrens personal possessions should come with them. Any things they have been given by their birth family, toys, clothes, books, my older 2 brought their usual bedsheets with them so their bed looked the same for them made up. So any present you buy her for christmas should go with her.

But if it's a toy/books or anything which you can't tell came from birth family by looking at it, I would be telling the SW to make sure the present is in some way marked as coming from you, that the adoptive parents know it's from birth family rather than foster carers. Because as my kids have grown out of books/clothes/toys, the few they have from birth family have been put aside, in boxes in various places to be kept safe. But the clothes and toys from FC's have for the most part been given away or donated to charity, apart from a few with special significance. I would feel absolutely awful if say, I gave away a book I thought the FC's had picked up one day from the shops just because, and then found out it had actually been a present from birth mum.

Narnia72 Mon 17-Nov-14 11:28:53

Thanks ladies.

Re the charm bracelet, I want to send a charm with the letterbox contact every year - it would be up to the adoptive parents as to when they actually gave it to her. I hope that wouldn't be too upsetting for anyone, although I take on board what you're saying Lilka. I would hate to be the cause of any upset.

Really helpful advice about existing possessions. I want to get her an anthology that my own children have loved, and will write a message in there from us. I will also pass onto SIL that she should mark things she's bought as from her.

Italiangreyhound - I think you're probably right - it may be easier for everyone if contact is not made until she's older. It's probably more for me than anyone, my heart is breaking at the thought that I won't see her anymore. I've cared for her a lot, and I don't see her at all any more, due to the contact arrangements. I would be allowed, but during SIL's contact time and I don't feel I can encroach on that.

I take your point about getting the kids to lie if we did have contact - it's not something I would feel comfortable with and they wouldn't be able to do it.

I don't know whether the family will send a photo of her in her new home. The restrictions on photos are quite significant - initially it was going to be no photos at all, but we've successfully argued against that. However, it would be a lovely thing to receive if we are allowed.

I just wish there was a way we could make this work so we could still be involved with her. I understand all the reasons why this can't happen and why it would be detrimental to the baby, I just can't get past the not seeing her.

Re SIL - no, she's not getting a great deal of help. I am terrified for the future for her. She has attempted suicide whilst pregnant, and at other times in her life and I really worry that she will do this again. The alternative is that she'll get pregnant again and attempt to hide it, so she can "escape the evil authorities" as she sees them. We know that any future child would be removed at birth unless she was in a strong, stable relationship and hadn't had any hospital admissions for at least 2 years. I don't think there's any happy ending for her at all. She struggles with relationships and tends to be attracted to people with similiar issues to herself, and the combination is often toxic - she's been in violent relationships, for example.

I veer between frustration and sadness at her. She is an incredibly intelligent woman, but her MH issues are just overwhelming and it's impossible to have a "normal" relationship with her. Sadly, the 3 months when she had her baby were probably the nearest we've got to that, as she had someone else to focus on and we were able to talk about the baby and children in general. Now the baby isn't with her she's back to being completely self-obsessed, in particular about her physical health issues, some of which are real, but a lot of which appear to be psychosomatic. She doesn't get that turning up late for contact or not turning up for her court dates only make a terrible situation worse. She refuses to believe that her baby is going to be adopted. I know it's all self-preservation, but it's hard to deal with on a daily basis. I (and OH) really struggle to manage her needs without resentment about what she's putting the family through.

Italiangreyhound Mon 17-Nov-14 13:04:06

Narnia I am so sorry you are going through this.

you said Italiangreyhound - I think you're probably right - it may be easier for everyone if contact is not made until she's older. I am not sure I said that exactly, I was just saying the possible issues. I think Explore all the options and get whatever contact is offered if you can handle it and feel it is right for all concerned, in my VERY humble opinion.

I think, in my own mind contact for you may be easier to manage than for your whole family but that is just my thoughts.

It is so tough for all concerned, can you access support from a charity as you support your sister?

Italiangreyhound Mon 17-Nov-14 13:04:57

Sorry... from a charity for you as you support your sister?

KristinaM Mon 17-Nov-14 14:02:08

Life story book -please put in photos and information about your sister as a child, also siblings and grandparents . Their hobbies, interest, jobs etc . Any pets. The kinds of things children are interested in

I understand that you really want to keep in regular touch, but please try to think of it from the child's point of view. She will have a loving family which is all she has ever know

Then she hears about you, you say you loved her but you didn't keep her . This will be fine when she is a baby or a toddler, but once she is 5 or 6 she may question it. It's not easy for a child to understand this and she may find contact with you upsetting .

It's often the case that children of this age want to stop contact , as they understand more about what happened.

Please understand , I'm not blaming you and woudl probably do the same in your situation. But there are consequences for how your niece may feel about you, it's not straightforward .

combtracksinmyfringe Sun 23-Nov-14 16:27:24

I agree with Kristina. The whole 'she gave you away because she loved you' thing is very hard for an adopted child. I never understood it...I still don't.

Good luck with this very tough situation. Hope you all come out as unscathed as possible.

Kewcumber Sun 23-Nov-14 18:06:45

you didn't understand it combtracks because it isn't true so yes it would be confusing.

It might well be true that she loved you, it often/usually is but it not why you were adopted. The explanation I give DS (who was relinquished) is that his BM didn't feel she had any other option or she wasn't allowed any other option.

I think it is fine to say you loved someone but that you weren't in a position to keep them yourself which you were unhappy about but were very very happy to know that you (baby) had become part of such a loving family.

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