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face to face contact

(24 Posts)
OurMiracle1106 Sun 08-Nov-15 09:11:35

My son is adopted. After almost two years of contact the social worker has suggested we approach the adopters with the suggestion of face to face contact once a year as per court recommendations.

I am torn on this .I would love to see my son .To cuddle him and to watch him for a while but the other side is saying this is going to be too confusing for him he's only 5 and then I'm going to be there and gone again.

So after much thought I have come to a proposal which is less damaging imo . I was thinking a public place (swimming or ball pool etc) where I could sit and watch him for a while but him not know I was there. It would mean so much to see him in the flesh .I would leave before they did or after whatever they felt comfortable with. I would have a social worker present. I just feel face to face would be too much for him.

I know it's going to be heartbreaking to see him but not be able to touch him but my heart breaks every day I'm not a part of his life. Even a glimpse would be heaven to me.

So as adopters how would you feel if this was proposed by a birth mum? Would you consider it?

Hels20 Sun 08-Nov-15 09:28:11

Yes - if I trusted you and the SWs trusted you and the court had ordered it. I actually think it is a very enlightened proposal and I would be happy with it. I do often think of BM and in some ways would love her to see how amazing our son is. Unfortunately, for security reasons, what you are suggesting wouldn't be possible.

Five is very young. So I think I would hesitate (at this age) in direct contact. (I know a little girl of 8 who had lived with BM for the first 4 years. She had direct contact with BM at 7 and it really was quite traumatic for her - because it resurrected all the memories of abuse.)

But in your circumstances and what you have shared on this board - if SWs are behind you I think it should work.

My only question would be if your son asked about it later and asked why he didn't see you face to face.

OurMiracle1106 Sun 08-Nov-15 11:11:52

I know it will be hard to explain to him but he will see the judgement at 18 he has the legal right to all the paperwork .So how is he going to feel if I just don't see him at all or at least try to .I can explain to him when he is older that this proposal was put forward with him in mind .I didn't want to undermine his identity or his family .They are his parents. It wasn't and isn't I don't want to see him, I just feel it would be emotionally damaging for him to see me once a year and me be gone again. Its going to confuse him further and unsettle him. That's not fair on him or his parents

fasparent Sun 08-Nov-15 12:01:40

Perhaps should prepare with SW and Adoptive parents , meet with them discuss appropriate way's, and preparations, May be via Skype or video's in the interim ( of course monitored) . Childs best interest will always be paramount.

OurMiracle1106 Sun 08-Nov-15 12:20:38

Ideally I don't want my birth son to know I am even there to minimise disruption. A day out to the ball pool or swimming is normal just me being able to watch him isn't .He ideally wouldn't know I was even there so Skype with him imo would be more disruptive

Kewcumber Sun 08-Nov-15 12:34:44

I would be happy with this suggestion in your circumstances though it might depend how confident and secure the adoptive parents feel.

I also think it might be best to meet a-parents if they are amenable beforehand to discuss how it might go. Also worth stressing exactly what you've said here - that you think it will do him good in the long run to know that he wasn;t abandoned by you but that at present you think it might be too unsettling for him having face to face contact.

I would be very reassured by the fact that you had our childs best interests at heart.

combined02 Sun 08-Nov-15 20:03:28

Did the court recommend face to face contact only once a year? Or is the once a year thing a starting point? I am only asking as it seems surprising that a court would recommend only once a year as, as you think, it would be unsettling. It would surely be recommended as either regular or not at all? I don't know - just asking the question.

purpledasies Sun 08-Nov-15 20:09:49

I can see it might work with a 5 year old. But how would it work when he's older? Wouldn't he need to know you were there, or else he'd find out later that you had been there and might feel a bit as if you'd been kind of stalking him, or that people hasn't really been honest with him.

TeamAcorn Mon 09-Nov-15 07:05:09

Combined02 I think the idea behind once a year is that if it were regular then this would actually be far more confusing. The child could become very confused about who the parents are that are caring for them if they see two sets all the time. Once a year is a way of staying in contact but having clear boundaries, which in fairness is probably needed by all involved. We don't have face to face to contact but written contact (letterbox), this will be quite upsetting once a year to drag up old memories but good to not feel abandoned so worth it. If this was happening every month our children just wouldn't be able to get on with just being a kid. I'm sure others could expand on this because I dont feel that explanation has quite covered it!

Miracle, I think you need a sit down meeting with adoptive parents too. If they know everything you say on this board they're probably fine with it all. If face to face contact was already agreed they'll probably be ok because they knew this was coming. I agree with you though. I think it's very hard for a 5 year old to understand that you can't be with tummy mummy, so you have another mummy too, cue huge trauma, child gets to coping stage, but now you can see tummy mummy again but you can't live with confusing for them sad I personally love your idea but agree with last poster, it's probably only going to be possible for a couple of years, then it becomes almost stalking in the eyes of the child. But I think for the first year it's a good idea. But definitely get a sit down meeting with all involved in room and discuss as a group. And can I just say, I'm so very impressed at your ability to put the needs of your child above your own. I can see why someone such as yourself would be the exception the rule when it comes to face-to-face contact.

Mama1980 Mon 09-Nov-15 11:00:14

As an adopted I would not have a problem with a meeting once a year. In fact I think it's progressive and has the potential to be very beneficial. Honestly my own opinion is that I would prefer a face to face meeting though rather than the observation you suggest. I think that could become problematic as the child gets older and setting a precedent as a young child is generally easier than doing so later on. But others may well disagree.
I wish you all the best.

combined02 Mon 09-Nov-15 14:56:40

Teamacorn, thanks for your reply, and I understand what you are saying, but my understanding is that there is a lot of research to show that more contact is better rather than less, although assessed on a case by case basis. My concern was the once a year thing - and so wondered if that was supposed to be an interim - the OP's gut instinct is that it would not be very unsettling and upsetting, and mine would probably be the same in her shoes, and I'd want to talk to a child psychologist about it. Having said this, my perception is that the UK approach to contact is confused compared to other countries.

My understanding is that there are various benefits of contact, including preventing the child from building an imaginary perfect image in their head, and also seeing and taking comfort from similar traits physical and personality. The frequency would mean that it became the normal for that family. A SW managing the contact would ease the confusion?

But I don't know and I am no expert myself. OP, I hope you find an approach you feel is best, and best of luck.

TeamAcorn Mon 09-Nov-15 16:59:48

I'm no expert either combined02! smile Just basing it on my own experience which is British system and where my own children, 3+ when adopted, have had a big emphasis on the goodbye meeting with birth parents, to allow them to move forward (not move on, just forward with both families!) so I suppose in my eyes reversing that a year or so down the line would be confusing. I have definitely not read enough research. I know the US is very different and face to face contact is the more the norm, but it was my assumption (perhaps wrongly) that these children were normally relinquished by their parents, as opposed to in the UK where its the norm they are removed from parent's care. So in US the trauma to child is leaving behind birth parents for the adoption to go ahead, in the UK the trauma experienced is both the adoption itself and what harm the birth parents did to the child whilst in their care. My children would be quite traumatised to spend any time with one of their birth parents. But it's like you said, case by case basis smile Literally every case is unique and there should be no one blanket rule for all.
Sorry Miracle, going down a side street there with that one! Will stop derailing your thread! But thanks Combined, love a civilised conversation where I can learn more, even if my learning on this one is to get off my butt and do more reading, thanks for the butt kick!

combined02 Mon 09-Nov-15 17:05:32

Butt kick not intended! I wish I had more time to look into it more too.

combined02 Mon 09-Nov-15 17:25:36

* sorry i meant OP's instinct is that it would be very unsettling and upsetting, not "not" be, hopefully that was obvious.

TheCokeMachine Tue 10-Nov-15 12:27:32

I'm an adoptee, it would have been very confusing at that age. A letter explaining this on file would be my thought.

Just a glimpse of a happy, loved child may settle you. You'll probably go home in tears but you will see he is fine.

I don't think direct contact is right, you are intuitive and know what's best.

You are very brave and thoughtful. He will seek you out in the end and the letters in the file will mean a lot.

Italiangreyhound Tue 10-Nov-15 22:34:44

OurMiracle my gut feeling is 'yes' I would be happy for this as a one off but I am not sure it would be what was best for you or the child in question, it would just be my gut feeling to do this for the mum because I would want to do what is best for her/you in the situation.

In some ways I wonder if a dvd of your child might provide you with the evidence he is thriving but I can totally see that you would want to see him, I would too in your shoes or in my son's birth mum's shoes.

I think seeing if it would work out for a one off would be good but just be aware that is he sees you and recognises you then it could lead to some distress for either of you.

combined02 re "... my understanding is that there is a lot of research to show that more contact is better rather than less, although assessed on a case by case basis. " Would love to see this research. I am also curious if it is from the USA where many adoptions are arranged in a different way to the UK and for different reasons, as someone else mentioned.

researchbookworm Wed 11-Nov-15 10:39:04

While I think that direct contact can seem a scary/unsettling prospect for all involved I believe that it could be a really positive thing for all parties. As has been mentioned, there have been long running studies done in the uk, dealing with nonrelinquished children, that show direct contact can be extremely successful, and crucially, that the AC, adoptive family, and the birth family all rate this as the most meaningful and reassuring form of contact in the long run. I've linked to the studies on these boards in the past - if anyone can't find them I can try and dig the link out again...
On a less scientific note (and I apologise if this is at all hurtful) but you say that your son was adopted 2 years ago and is now aged 5. I assume that prior to the adoption he was in foster care and that your contact with him was limited (please correct me if I'm wrong). Therefore he last spent a significant amount of time with you when he was aged 2.5? My own son is 4 and I think his memories of a couple of years ago are pretty sketchy. I'm not suggesting that your son wouldn't remember you at all , but because of his age, and his level of understanding when he went into care, you may find that he would cope well with meeting you in person now, as he doesn't have the same complex understanding of the situation as an adult does. If you were to begin yearly direct contact now, by the time he was maybe more critical or questioning of the situation then he would already be used to seeing you at the yearly meetings and it could mean that the whole thing remains more low key and is just normal for him. I believe that it's this sense of 'normality' about meeting the birth families that is what most people value most about direct contact.
Sorry for the essay, and good luck with however it turns out...

Italiangreyhound Wed 11-Nov-15 11:42:06

researchbookworm you make a lot of sensible points.

I think another thing which you mention is the passage of time. For the child time has not stood still and they will have moved on. For the parent to some degree things are the same, the child is their child and loved to the same degree, I would imagine. The child may feel or act differently to when last seen.

Our son has regular contact with his former foster carer, over the last 18 months he has seen her about half a dozen times (yes, I know a lot but it works for us and most of all for him - we will settle into once a year now).

I have noted this contact is less and less significant for him. She was his foster carer not his birth mum. So it may be different. But she did care for him for a long time and was a special person in his eyes.

For example he does not hug her when we meet up, he did the first time, maybe the second, but that was al within a few months of last living with her. He smiles and is polite etc but he is not overly interested in her. We often meet at a play place and he is off playing while we chat. we meet because it shows him he is still part of her life and vice versa but now it seems less necessary and he seems to get less out of it.

I suppose I just wanted to mention that the passage of time passes and brings change/s differently for adults and children.

researchbookworm Wed 11-Nov-15 11:55:15

V true Italian- what works for the child might be v emotionally hard for the bm...

combined02 Wed 11-Nov-15 20:16:11

Italien, re the research maybe a new thread should be started, about the subject generally? I am worried Miracle will feel totally hijacked otherwise!

The contact you have organised with the foster carer sounds great (imho) - I read what you wrote on another thread too. Even if the contact stops, will you keep in contact so that contact could take place in the future? I know of children who lost interest completely for a few years at around that age and then felt an intense need for contact later on.

TeamAcorn Thu 12-Nov-15 06:54:45

So I read a bit of research relating to UK adoptions (clearly not enough but it's a start!). Interesting stuff possibly for you too Miracle. Pages 91-106 are good if you don't want to read whole thing, as it shows the conclusion of some of the benefits of you following it up as well as the negatives.
I must admit I was expecting to read that it was a great idea in nearly every case and that it went by without incident in nearly every case and in the end everyone was happy. Honestly, that's crazy to think i should think that isn't it, it's just that parental need for the 'happy ever after moment' for your child I think. I suppose I thought reading a bit of research would just change my mind instantly. However, I must admit that it hasn't entirely convinced me. Of the few pages of negatives just one sentence stood out when a birth parent told a child "if you're not happy at home you can come and live with me " as well as denial by birth parents that abuse has happened or was caused by them. This only happened in a few cases but the risk of the damage this could do I find very very hard to take a chance on. Maybe this is just because of my children's own personal situation and the likelihood of that happening. Also I doubt the UK could offer the level of support needed if this happened with most adoptions, but that's another story.

On the plus side Miracle for you I think you'll find the benefits will outweigh the negatives as you are good at putting your child's needs first and having a good understanding of what those needs are. Though I'm sure the findings of how it makes birth parents feel will ring home as hard.

TeamAcorn Thu 12-Nov-15 06:59:36

And Italian, we had tons of direct contact with foster carers and it worked very well smile

combined02 Fri 13-Nov-15 18:56:26

TeamAcorn, thank you for posting that – you have won the golden star!

It was really interesting to read. There are a lot of recommendations on what local authorities should be doing – provide assistance, mediation, an effective contact support system, to have an understanding of both the challenges to people directly involved and the potential benefits, and how to maximise the benefits. I wonder if this has been taken forward into policy making...

I really, really loved this quote from an adopter:

“We always make cakes and take them along, and the children always do pictures or cards or something, and I always make sure there’s lots of photographs and that birth mother can share in what the children had done.”

And these: “one adoptive mother said about her son, “he loves his mum, he loves his siblings and he just loves seeing them.” And “It stirs up memories ...but maybe that’s healthy in itself because I think sometimes there’s a danger that he could bury the memories that actually need to come to the surface for him to deal with.”

And a bit more sad was one adopter finding that contact made her want to “tighten her grip” on the child, and an adoptive father said how contact meetings made him feel that the child had another family “waiting in the wings”.

Italiangreyhound Sat 14-Nov-15 01:10:37

Thanks for finding this Acorn, I think all kids will be different and the situations will really vary so much.

I think adopters can be scared by the idea of contact but actually if it really is in the best interests of the child then it is probably a good thing.

But I would always say there are so many factors, really, like will birth parents keep contact going etc?

Miracle I really hope you will find what is right for you and your child and whatever you do it will go well.

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