My feed

to access all these features

Here are some suggested organisations that offer expert advice on adoption.


All the horror stories - but what is the truth

56 replies

Aeschylus · 29/10/2011 14:52

Having completed our prep course we are about to make a final application for home study. However my dh is concerned about some of the stories we have heard and as a stay at home dad, needs to be 100% so my question is this...

We do not expect a child to be adopted with no additional social and emotional needs or to not to have to deal with their experiences. Although every child is different and there is no definitive answer, how have your children reacted to being adopted and do any children accompish the sense of belonging in a family without having intense behavioural issues?

We have a child in the family already and feel ok to support attachment difficulties, low self esteem etc (I know there are lots of etc!!!!) but do not want our ds to feel threatened or have his world turned upside down (with long term negative effects). I know a child coming to the family would be younger but biting and scratching or breaking all of his toys etc hurts however old the child is!!

Please don't think I am being niave and expecting things to be easy, I am not and I know it probably sounds awful to even ask but it is just a question that I want to pose to people who are 'in the know' but also not trying to do the initial 'scare everyone off to see who is serious' thing.


OP posts:
Lilka · 29/10/2011 20:33

Hi Aeschylus :)

I think prep course nowadays is very different to when I did it - I wasn't told a thing about behavioral issues etc! I am told it's now all about telling you the worst things you can come across. I think it's better than what I had but must be quite scary at the same time!

Most children have some problems but many do settle well and don't have major behavioral problems. There are many families who are not dealing with big behavior problems

A significant number of children do have issues though. Both my daughters came to me having many quite severe issues. However, it was obvious that these problems existed and I adopted them knowing about many of their issues (not all of them). So if you simply asked me do my children have issues and how severe are they then the answer would I think be very scary Grin But I chose this path, and I chose to accept children with moderate-severe issues. You wouldn't be because of your son, so wouldn't even see the profiles of these children

That said, adoption is just full of uncertainties. You aren't just taking on a child, but also taking on a lot of uncertainty and things you don't have control over. It isn't possible to know how anything will turn out - if you choose to adopt you have to accept this uncertainty. The younger a child is the less you know about them in many ways. So my honest answer is yes, there are a lot of children out there who have only minor issues. It is certainly possible for a child to settle well and not have major problems. My DS for example. No one can guaruntee though that you will adopt such a child. You have to accept the possibility of behavioral problems IMO and also accept you don't know how a child will react when they are adopted (behavior frequently changed following adoption). You have to be very willing to adjust. But as long as you are prepared for the worst, you should and can hope for the best, because it does happen as well no matter what you hear on prep course!

Lilka · 29/10/2011 20:44

To add - answering your question of how my children did react. Both girls have psychiatric dx's and have or have in the past had moderate to more severe issues. Both however are definitely my daughers and fit into the family well. DD1 has come through many of her issues and is a happy young woman now. DD2 is very challenging to parent right now, and she has the most issues with adoption. DS was adopted at 23 months. He grieved for his foster mum badly, and he does have quite bad seperation anxiety, which has affected his behavior in school - we've had a few incidents where I've been called in. He is however generally delightful although constantly on the go! He sometimes gets jealous of the attention I give his siblings so he acts up then. These issues are pretty minor in my experiences and I think pretty standard issues. He is interested in his first mum and we have started talking a lot more about adoption in the last year. He is setttled, very much part of the family and is definitely a mummy's boy Grin

BleedyGhoulzombiez · 29/10/2011 20:54

Is adoption really any more risky than having biological children? Everyone tells horror stories about adoption, but we all know far more bad tales about dysfunctional biological kids. Nobody cites them as a reason for not conceiving.

Lilka · 29/10/2011 22:05

Bleedy - risky is not the word I would use, but adoption truly does involve far more uncertainties than having a child does, and you have to confront many issues that other parents do not. Abuse and neglect can have massive effects and you need to accept that before adopting. It is completely different to having a child biologically

Aeschylus · 29/10/2011 23:04

Thank you for your comments. I think the main issue for us is that issues (particularly behavioural) will occur more quickly than if we were to have another biological child. If a child joins our family and after being adopted has a change of behaviour, I think the 'settling' process that had already taken place would help, particularly our ds as he would know his new brother/sister already and obviously any child's behaviour can change and we would cross that bridge when we come to it. I suppose my real worry is behaviour issues starting immediately - a new born baby can be draining but generally it would not pose so much of a threat to my son who will all of a sudden be having to share his parents, his home and his toys with another child and at that, a child who might exhibit aggressive behaviours (again, something a newborn would not). I agree though Lilka that if we are honest with our offer then behavioural issues would be considered during the matching process.

I know that no child will come with absolutely no difficulties, it is mainly aggression that I am concerned about, as I said, we feel fine to cope with anxiety, attachment, self esteem, withdrawn behaviours etc and have experience of doing so - my main concern is for ds.

OP posts:
BleedyGhoulzombiez · 30/10/2011 00:01

Lilka, yes, I certainly don't imagine that adopting is exactly the same as having your own. My beef is with people who tell horror stories and end with '...therefore adoption is a bad thing and you should run for the hills instead.' Obviously some adoptions do have terrible consequences, but not all are horrific. I know at least 5 people (parents and children) for whom adoption has worked brilliantly. However, you never hear the horror brigade talking about the positive adoption stories.

Aeschylus, I wish you well with your decision and planning for your family's future. Smile

hester · 30/10/2011 00:13

Aeschylus, I feel for you. They do seem determined to make you confront the worst case scenarios during prep, and it is very scary. Then you go onto and read some of the posts there, and it's terrifying...

I am way too early in the process to be able to give you reassuring stories, and most of my friends who have adopted are still parenting pretty young children. All I can say is that our adopted dd came to us with high risk factors, and it is way too early to be able to say that she has no physiological, psychological, behavioural or learning difficulties (she is 2). However, right now she is developing normally - reaching her milestones quicker than my birth child did, she is as sharp as a box of tacks. She is also delightful, loving, sociable and only as mischevous as you would expect of a 2yo.

KristinaM · 01/11/2011 23:20

They ARE tellimg you the truth. Any child you adopt will be traumatised and probably have suffered neglect or abuse. There is no guarenteee that they will not act out that distress by being violent or destructive. If you are fortunate enough to be able to adopt a baby then the odds are better. But no where like as low as if you have another bio child

You cant say " oh we can do attachment issues but not violence" . Many children with attachmnt problems ARE violent. A child who acts out their distress at 2by being withdrawn might be dstructive at 3. These are different coping styles and survival mechanisms.

If you cannt consider parenting a child who has behavioural problems then you might struggle to get an agency to assess you, unless you have other factors that make you high demand, such as offereing an unusual
Ethnic and /or religious background or you have useful connections.

Im sorry to sound so negative but You asked for the truth

KristinaM · 02/11/2011 12:03

You can attempt to reduce the risk factors but usually a great deal of relevant information is unknown. Or the SS wont tell you as it "breaches the birth familys confidentiality"

You can say you will omly adopt a very young baby. This minimises the risk of abuse and neglect post birth. But you need to ask yourself why a very young baby woudl be in care? The usualy reason is that the birth mother has abused and/or neglted several other children. She probably has addictions, mentalhealth problems, a persoanlity dirorder or learning difficulties. Many of these can be inherited and the baby can have been exposed to drug or alcohol pre natally. Often these babies are premature and /lr low birth weight which affect them for life. They might have FAE or FAS or be affected by IUGR

So even restricting your options to a new born guarentees nothing. Aside from the fact that no agency will assess you for only a new born, a " baby" is up to two years old.

If you adopt an older child, more will be known about them but there there still many risks. Many children who do ok in foster care or a residentaio setting cannot cope with close atachments, so they willl act out more in a family setting. As lilka said, you need to be prepared for anything.

usingapseudonym · 02/11/2011 13:11

I've got several friends who have adopted children and although they are lovely children and it has definitely been "worth it" and they are very loved they do usually come with "baggage" (for want of a better word). There was an interesting interview yesterday on radio 4 with a single woman who had adopted and an adoption agency but I can't for the life of me remember what the programme was.

I'm not an expert - but attachment disorder issues can raise their head in a variety of ways. A friend who has adopted boys had really adorable boys at 5/6 but they have been quite violent (towards her) as they were going through puberty. If they have had a difficult first 2 years that will affect how they grow up and if they have sufffered abuse/trauma as is likely then that will of course have an effect.

You will be doing an amazing thing by offering a warm loving home and it will be so much better for the child but there are little guarantees that there will be no difficulties with violence etc.

Adopting IS very different from parenting a biological child and its worht going in with eyes open, but like giving birth I think its one of those things you can do all the reading about but not really know until you do it!!

All the best with it :)

Aeschylus · 02/11/2011 18:55

Thank you, please dont think that I dont know about the complications and uncertainties that come with adoption. As I said, behaviours that 'come out' later, for us will be different from those at the initial stage as our DS would have also had time to adapt to the new family 'make up'.

I am hopeful that being honest during the assessment will help and any SW will undertsand the concerns we have for DS. We are not in a rush and would rather wait for a child who suits our family. Our DS is 3 so with the gap we need we wont fall into the htp age bracket but are not expecting to get a baby.

They allow adoptions of children into families with children and must have done this many times before considering this issue no??? Surely there is a duty to children already in a family home when considering matching? Don't they sometimes suggest a child should be an only child ad only match on that basis?

OP posts:
mycatsaysach · 02/11/2011 19:03

another post here that you may think is negative but it is truthful.

i have two friends who have adopted (they are the only people i know who have) and with both of them it hasn't worked out well.

one child has gone back to live with original carers and another has left the family to a live at a residential school.

sorry but i would never have believed it could all have been so difficult if i hadn't known these friends.

saralyn · 02/11/2011 19:54

I have not adopted myself, but have a close family member who is adopted, as well as class mates, friends of family etc.

None of these have had any major behavioural difficulties as children. My family member who is adopted has been a totally "normal" child who has done well in school, had friends and boyfriends, a university education and good career.

Also the other adopted children i know of has done well in life so far ( have partners/families/good jobs).

Now, of course i cannot know about any emotional problems which they have kept to themselves, but with regards to your question about major bahavioural problems and big problems handling a regular life, I have not seen anything like that.

Now, in my country, domestic adoption is almost non-existant. The adopted people i know therefore come from abroad (so usually have different skin colour to their parents), ususally from orphanages, at the age of 1-3 years (some older).

I have no problems understanding that children who come from more extreme backgrounds in the UK (neglect, drugs) might have bigger problems. Children with that kind of background are usually fostered in my country, and many have emotional and other problems. But what people seem to have been telling you is that almost every adopted child will have some major problems. This i find a bit strange.

According to research in my country about 70 percent of adopted children will do well, while 30 percent will have warying degrees of difficulties.

That is appearantly the same as in the general population, but within those 30 percent you might find "worse problems" than in the general population.
(a summary in english here
, see under Most people manage well"

Just to emphasise that I realise: for the people whose children are troubled, positive stats obviously wont help, and I agree as parents you have to be prepared for huge challenges. Adopted children will probably all require more emotional support, if that are the right words to use (aplogies if I use some english terms wrong in this post) . Still, at least on a purely anecdotal level, I can say that in many, many cases, adopted children will go on to thrive.

It would be interesting to see british research on this topic. Is it really so that british adopted children are much more likely to have problems than scandinavian adopted children? Or do the domestic vs international adoption difference muddle up the issue ? ( I have a feeling this might be the case)

Again, I want to stress that i am not trying to say that adoption is a completely fresh start and that you shouldn't expect any issues, but at the same time i can't see that it is right to say that most kids will have big problems.

or have I compeletely got the wrong end of the stick? maybe my outlook is just coloured by seeing how well adoption has worked in my family, and therefore have grown up with the view that adoption is just a different, but equal way of having a child?

I'll stop waffling now, but want to wish you good luck in the process!

KristinaM · 02/11/2011 20:07

Yes indeed, many children have to be placed as only children, especiaily if they are considered a risk to other children. Or they are placed only with a very large age gap eg the other children are teenagers

And yes of course SS have a duty of care to children alreday in a family, whether adopted or bio. But their job is to find the best possible family for the child, not to find teh best match for you

The system for placing children is not a waitimg list. You wont get to the head of a list by hanging around for long enough. Each placing sw looks for the best match for the child they have. They couldnt care less how long you have been waitimg.thats not their job. Its like a job interview -one person might get the first job they interview for, others apply for years and never get an offer. Many families drop out after years of waiting as the strain of putting their lives on hold for years is too much

Remember if there are any significant changes in your family circumstances you might be asked to go back to panel or even be reassesed. This might include work or health changes, famy illness, your Ds being unsetlled at nursery or school etc

Yes of course you must be honest with yoursleves and your agency about what kind of child you could parent. But an agency will only accept you if you meet THEIR needs ie you can take the kind of child that they usually have available. So you need to be sure that you are willin to take on the kind of child that is generally available for adoption. That is why your agency are now telling you about their typical children . They are trying to enable you to make an informed choice. Its not a test or some kind of trick to scare you off.

saralyn · 02/11/2011 20:21

Hm, yeah, see the point Kristina is making in her last post. How adopted children are in general isn't really the case here, it's how the children this agency is placing are. apologies if my (too long) post was a bit on the side of the issue here.

Maryz · 02/11/2011 20:36

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Maryz · 02/11/2011 20:43

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Lilka · 02/11/2011 21:07

I think Mary is right. It's about the point where even if one childs behavior harms the other child, you would carry on being their parent because they are yours. Now, in some situations a child can be so traumatised that they are actually a danger to others. But that doesn't necessarily mean disruption. In my view, if a child needs a residential treatment home, or respite, or in any other way has to leave home for a while, then it isn't automatically a disruption, as some people seem to think. You can still be the parent, parenting from a distance, still the mother of this child, still fighting for ALL your children. Being a parent doesn't mean the child has to live with you. But it does mean you continue to be their advocate, to be in contact with them if possible, fight for their needs. (I will add that I know families who did disrupt by my definition of the word, and it was right for them, and disruption can sometimes be the only valid way forward, so no judgements here. I was close to it myself at one point)

Obviously, part of homestudy is a careful think about what behaviors you could not take on. I said I couldn't parent any child who had made false accusations for instance. You could say 'I can't take on a child who has or currently desplays very destructive behavior or violence to other children'. Thats fine, something you will go over in homestudy. At the point of matching though, you have to commit to whichever child you're matched with, saying that unless something very bad happens (either completely extreme behavior or it becoming quickly clear the match was totally wrong, in which case continuing would be a bad move for the child as well you) you will work with whatever behavior is displayed

Aeschylus · 02/11/2011 21:23

I completely agree Maryz and the reason I said I felt we would be ok with anything that might 'come up later' was because the child would be a part of the family and we would approach any situation as such. I dont doubt I could love a child who was not biologically mine or that I could offer all the support I have inside me to deal with his/her past.

I just feel that if a child lived with us for even 2 months then showed agressive behaviours then we would be more ready to cope with that as a family than if it happened on day 2! I do appreciate everyones honesty and thoughts but I too am just trying to be honest.

It is hard for me because I can see the validity in all points made but it does feel a little like you think I expect a child to have no difficulties and that is not the case. The stories we were told were like 'on the first night he went for my older son and hit, scratched and bit him' - I dont feel it is unreasonable not to want this to happen to my child (and would feel like this if he was a birth child or not). Children do fight and having siblings myself, I know my older brother hurt me loads (playing but it still hurt), I would just like a bond to be formed to help my child cope with this.

I understand the matching process is not about us - but it would not be in the best interests of the child if the adoption broke down (not that I think it would with us but it is a SW's job to consider this surely) therefore I believe our existing family and lifestyle should play an important part. I also don't think its like a list that we move up. I just mean that we need to be open about what we could and could not cope with and that is as much for the sake of the child needing adopting as us. Surely that would be better than if, as a couple we said we would adopt any child (because we were desperate for it to happen quickly) and then ended up with a child who had difficulties we couldn't cope with and the adoption broke down (again, I am not saying I think we would do this - just using it as a generic example).

OP posts:
Aeschylus · 02/11/2011 21:35


Again, I agree with you and this is kind of what I was actually asking (maybe I didn't word it very well!). I am not saying that I would 'give up' on a child who was matched because of difficulties but I would not be a responsible parent if I was not at all concerned about an impact on my ds.

I came away from the prep training knowing that this was right for me and being absolutely sure that I wanted to adopt a child and offer a loving home to help them overcome their past and build a new life (knowing that love alone won't fix the past).

Maybe all of you who adopted went through the process and never had to question or think about anything? If thats what I need to be to adopt then it can't be for me because I am very analytical and like to consider possibilities and think about how I would handle them. Here I was thinking that that would be a good quality for someone who could adopt as I am someone who can easily see from another person's prespective and I always try to understand how they feel and why. I potentially, if this all goes ahead have two children to consider and throughout the homestudy that is the way I will be seeing it when discussing our situation with the SW

OP posts:
hester · 02/11/2011 22:11

Aeschylus, it is normal, natural and desirable for you to consider carefully what might happen and whether you are up for it. Don't feel bad about that. There is a bit of a balance to be struck here. It is always a bit of a leap of faith to embark on parenthood - the drawbacks and risks are obvious and tangible, while the rewards seem a bit intangible. Adoption is that and plus: we are all motivated by some fantasy of what it will mean to our lives, and that means that at least part of us is probably sticking fingers in our ears and going la-la-la to drown out negative voices. And of course you don't want to welcome a new child into your life and be instantly and constantly looking out for problems.

I don't know how to get the balance right: to be informed and realistic while keeping alive the spirt of joyful hope. I had many, many doubts along the way - kept reminding myself I could pull out at any point - and then all of a sudden she was here and I was preoccupied with looking after her, and then I fell in love with her, and now I know I am her mother and we will deal with whatever comes. You must of course be honest with your social worker and yourselves about what you think you can take on. And then you just have to decide whether you can take that leap of faith or not. And then you jump!

Very best of luck to you and your family.

Lilka · 02/11/2011 22:16

If you never had to think about anything during homestudy, then it would be a very short process!

The whole point of it for the prospective adopters is, IMO, to do serious reflection. I found out a lot about myself during the process, I really did. Examining and going over your own past helps you to understand more about you. I learnt even more the second time. For instance over a long conversation with the SW about how I dealt with some of DD1's behavior, I realised why it was I reacted so strongly to one particular thing she would do. It was to do with my own upbringing. I know some experts are really big on this now - to help the child, you have to help the parent first (not as in parenting class, but helping them work out why they parent the way they do, and why they react certain ways, and what really pushes buttons)

Part of thinking about what behaviors you would say no to upfront is thinking about you. Every parent has something different which pushes their buttons. I mean, a behavior that you would find really hard to cope with, because you might be really upset or angry. That's not about the child, it's about how you the parent would emotionally react and respond. For some, it's the idea of telling lies. Others, it's agression or maybe stealing things/borrowing without permission. Usually it's linked to the parents own upbringing and experiences. Thats just an example of one of the things that really preoccupied my mind when I applied the second time as a parent already

As for what I could accept, it changed over the period. Some things in the child I knew I could take on from the start and those didn't change on either the first or second homestudy (eg. mild learning diffs, HIV+, some heart conditions and so on). Some things were always a no (eg. profound/very low functioning autism and Reactive Attachmnt Disorder). But many things changed! Things I originally thought were a no became a yes, things I thought I could cope with, I realised I couldn't. That only came through much thinking and questionning of myself

Aeschylus · 02/11/2011 22:28

Thank you both - was beginning to think I was actually deluding myself and that even thinking 'can we cope' was wrong!!! I generally feel fine with most things (my husband is a bit more cautious). My main concern is physical aggression towards my ds. I can take all the hitting and biting (and have done many times looking after children with SN) but dont think I could handle it against my ds immediately. Anything that comes later we would deal with when/if it happened. Noone in any walk of life knows what is around the corner!

OP posts:
Maryz · 02/11/2011 23:07

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Maryz · 02/11/2011 23:09

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Please create an account

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.