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Step parent adoption - we've bitten the bullet

(16 Posts)
PipsPotatoes Tue 09-Jun-15 10:48:37

Apologies, it's probably going to be a long one.

Yesterday we had the first meeting at home with the duty social worker so that she could gather more information regarding the back story from us.

My dc haven't seen their biological father in over 4 years. He's made no contact with me or them in that time. No birthdays or Christmases have been acknowledged. No maintenance has been paid. The csa haven't been able to track him down.

The social worker said we have a good case.

We want to provide the dc with a solid family unit now that we're married and we have dc together. My dc call my DH dad.

So the social worker told us that we would need to tell the dc more about my ex and what's happened whatever 'route' we decide to go down. They are young. The youngest is 4 and her real dad was last seen when she was 7 months old, needless to say she doesn't remember him at all, the others don't really either and don't talk about him. We were terribly nervous about revealing to them, but, we have done it, in a child friendly way, and they're ok. They want my DH to be their 'forever daddy'. They said that they will be happy talking to the social worker about it.

I'm a bit worried about how much they get though, am I worrying about it too much? The social worker told us that children can deal with more than we realise, but do we keep reiterating what we've told them? I'm going to have a meeting with school to inform them and keep an eye on their behaviour there and I intend to keep the dc informed of what's happening throughout the process.

It's going to take months obviously so advice, if anyone has any, would be greatly appreciated.

Devora Tue 09-Jun-15 12:32:48

Our sw advised us to start talking to our dd about her adoption BEFORE she was old enough to understand, and then keep raising it, so that she can't remember a time it came as a 'surprise'. I started telling her about her birth parents etc when she was 18 months, so long before she could attach any meaning to the words, and as she grew older she understood more and asked more.

She is now 5 and talks frequently about her birth parents, her half-siblings and about why she can't see them. She is often upset and angry, and of course it is very hard for her to understand some of the big issues involved. I try to follow her lead: I don't bring it up constantly, but I try to refer to it in a natural way. If she hasn't said anything about it herself for awhile, I might drop in a light comment just to show that the topic is not taboo.

I think your dc will not 'get' all of it. They are too young for a sophisticated understanding of your family situation. You will probably find that right now they're just a bit 'yeah ok' about it. Then as they grow older they will need to keep returning to the issue, to ask questions and express emotions. So don't see it as a one-off big declaration, then return to normal. See it instead as a lifelong conversation, one that will change over time as they get older and start becoming more focused on personal identity issues. Expect anger and shouting at your dp that he is not their 'real' dad, as they test whether his love and loyalty really is permanent.

But you have everything to gain from keeping this as an open subject within your family and demonstrating that questions and feelings are ok. That will really help set the tone for your children to see it as a calm, everyday issue.

PipsPotatoes Tue 09-Jun-15 12:47:58

Thank you for taking the time to reply, what you've said is very helpful.

We've told them about how babies are made, trying to get the genetics of it through to them, they know that dh did not help me to 'make' them but we told them that he has chosen to be their daddy. They've chosen to call him dad, obviously their friends have male figures they call dad and over time they began to refer to him in that way. We let them and didn't correct them on their parentage. Maybe that wasn't the right way to go about it, I'm not sure.

Anyway, my eldest is quite clued in, he never misses a trick so to speak, so our conversation with him was more frank. I asked him if he remembered. He has a vague recollection of a man that "wasn't a good daddy or a good man to mummy" (his own words) and we've discussed the life we have now. We talked about not seeing that person anymore, although I'm not sure how to say that it's my ex's choice and that he wants my DH to adopt them (we know this from my ex's brother who contacted us as a bit of a go-between) We've told them that nothing will change in terms of our home life and that daddy (dh) will always love them. We've encouraged them to talk to us, it's not a closed subject.

Devora Tue 09-Jun-15 13:30:02

I'm sure you're right not to correct them every time they call him dad. Children make their own sense of these things, and sometimes I think it is wise to go with a bit of wishful thinking. For example, my dd2 sometimes talks about when she was in my tummy. She also calls my dd1's father (who doesn't live with us) 'dad'. I know she knows she didn't come out of my tummy, and I know she knows that dd1's dad isn't actually her dad. With the former, I might either just humour her or say, "Oh, I wish you had!". With the latter, we let her just call him dad (he's fine with this) but I make sure that we regularly chat about her birth father, too.

Your dc will grow up knowing the love and care of their dad (your dp). Occasionally there may be tricky moments as they negotiate what that means, how they feel about their absent birth father, and other people's questions. But if they know you are both there to help them make sense of it, I'm sure they'll be fine smile

PipsPotatoes Tue 09-Jun-15 13:59:24

Thanks so much. I feel much better.

Kewcumber Tue 09-Jun-15 15:31:48

"some people are not very good at being part of a family"

... is what I told DS about my absent brother.

"XYZ isn't very good at being part of a family and Dad is, so we all want the law to be the same as we know - that Dad is your father in law not just in our hearts" - you can call your ex by his name which is what we do with DS's birth mother if the Dad/Dad gets a bit confusing or you can call him birth father and stick with Dad for your DH.

PipsPotatoes Tue 09-Jun-15 15:49:44

Kew - that is an excellent line to use and one I'd not thought of. Thank you.

We thought we'd stick with something like birth father. I told my son that names were not important. Seeing as dh has been dad for as long as they can really remember, I didn't want to call ex their dad. They understand him to be the man that made them but not the man who cared for and provided for them. If that makes sense?

It's been suggested that we might use life story books, has anyone any experience of them?

PuzzledByLife Tue 09-Jun-15 16:46:15

It's been suggested that we might use life story books, has anyone any experience of them?

Yes, they are very helpful for adopted children. They help them to gain an understanding of sometimes complex concepts in a fun way, using pictures and stories. Most local authorities have specialists in doing this, although ours has just laid her off due to cuts sad

StaceyAndTracey Tue 09-Jun-15 16:58:31

I think young children struggle to understand the role of a biological father , to them a dad is the man who loves with you and looks aftre you .

When my kids were as old as 6 or 7, they woudl get confused and ask " who is [ adult step sisters ] dad ? ". When I replied that " It's Your dad " they woudl say " but he doesn't live with her " . Whereas they understand that her mother is X.

So for your kids, their biological fathers role in their lives has been very small . As long as they know what the facts are , it's really up to them who they see as their dad .

I would also refer to him by his first name , and not as dad . A dad is a relationship, not just being a sperm donor, it's the work of years not a moment . Their Real Dad is the man who cares for them every day for years. I would not want to dignify your ex By calling him dad, real or otherwise .

I would also explain that when you and your ex split up , he SHOULD have kept in touch with them . But he didn't and no one else can make him . That's a very poor choice and he has missed out on getting to know your lovely children . But he's an adult and It's up to him . Soemtimes adults make very poor decisions that hurt others .

I don't think you should feel the need to defend or explain his decisions to his kids - it's indefensible .

PipsPotatoes Tue 09-Jun-15 17:34:26

Puzzled - thank you. The duty social worker we spoke to said we'll have to do the vast majority of explanation ourselves, because we know the children better than they do. Not sure if that will change after they begin investigating and forming their basis for the report but initially she's made us feel like there's not going to be much help from them.

Stacey - it's a learning curve for us. You're right it's indefensible, I'm just trying to prepare in case the question "why didn't he want us?" comes up. It's hard to know what to say. Thank you for all the advice, I've been discussing what you said with dh and what you've said makes perfect sense.

StaceyAndTracey Tue 09-Jun-15 18:08:49

It's not because he didn't want them . They were just babies /toddlers,they had done nothing wrong .it wasn't about then, it was about HIM. He wasn't any good at being in a family .

PipsPotatoes Tue 09-Jun-15 18:11:17

Yes, but I'm sure that is what my 8 year old will say and the way he will look at it. He's very sensitive. And I want to know what to tell him.

StaceyAndTracey Tue 09-Jun-15 19:13:17

Something like ....

John isn't good at being in a family . He should have kept in touch with you but he didn't . That was a bad choice . A dad should still see his kids even if he splits up with the mum . He did the wrong thing . I wish I could change it But I cant .

It's ok to feel sad or angry at him . But you need to know it's not your fault . It's nothing you said or did . This is bad decsion that he , as a adult, has made . I don't know why, but I guess it's because of others things that are going on in his life . But there is no good reason, no excuse is good enough .

You deserved better and he has let you down . It's not fair .

A dad is a person who loves you and cares for you. That's why your dad is your real dad, not john . We are going to court to get a judge to change the rules , so dad becomes your legal dad as well as the dad who loves you and cares for you

John will still be your biological dad, but in every other way your dad will be your dad. It won't change anything about how our family is , it's just a legal thing .

StaceyAndTracey Tue 09-Jun-15 19:22:40

There are three bits of being a parent

- the biological bit, proving the egg and sperm and growing the baby and giving birth to it

- the legal bit, having parental rights

- the nurturing bit, caring for the child and bringing them up

In some families , it's the same person that does all three bits . In other families, it's not .in your family , dad does the second and third ones and John does the first .

It's the same in most adoptive families

PipsPotatoes Tue 09-Jun-15 19:30:14

Thank you for your help flowers

Devora Wed 10-Jun-15 00:16:01

My 'dad' was absent throughout my childhood. Like your ex, no birthday cards, christmas cards, financial support...

As a child, I very much took this for granted. It was only in late teens that I started getting angry with him (and that was when he remarried and started rather clumsily re-entering my life, but mainly to get angry with me for not babysitting his new child and for turning out lesbian, which had not been his Plan). Only in adulthood did I realise that his absence had made an impact, that it did hurt me on a number of levels.

I think I was very late in realising and vocalising it, partly because my mum had been so determined not to demonise him, so she always talked about him pretty positively. I say that, but she also made sure we knew that he was a violent adulterous alcoholic. I found the disconnect between what we knew about him, and her insistence that he shouldn't be criticised, quite difficult to manage. I don't think she was wrong not to criticise him, but she took it to quite an extreme - trying to defend him when his new wife would turn up with black eyes to family events, for example. I think I needed to hear some acknowledgment about his failings, in order to feel I had permission to air my own feelings about it.

So that's why I'm passionate about demonstrating to children that these things can be discussed. Having said that, there is also a danger in suggesting to your dc that they SHOULD feel traumatised by the loss of their birth father - they may genuinely not be that bothered, and that's ok too.

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