Eleven years ago Mr D and I left our home, just the two of us, and two hours later returned with two children, Jamie and Rose. Jamie and Rose are birth siblings. National Adoption Week 2014 has the theme of siblings. It can be a week which polarises adopters, prospective adopters, agencies and local authorities. Unsupported families living in great difficulty don’t always appreciate the marketing of National Adoption Week (a gloss job?). Those seeking families for children don’t always appreciate those in difficulty talking openly about their difficulties (pissing on the parade?). In the interests of balance and honesty here are my thoughts about National Adoption Week and about adopting a brother and sister in particular.
1. Keeping siblings together is thought to be a universally good thing. Each situation is different. Some siblings thrive together and some don’t. The impact upon children of early neglect complicates sibling relationships greatly. This is under-appreciated by many.
2. I am still in a state of flux about whether Jamie and Rose should have been placed together. They needed to maintain contact, but sometimes living together and sharing a family has been very challenging for them. They’ve only recently become able to be in a room together without the presence of either Mr D or me.
3. Families with adopted siblings should have support around them which takes account of the complex sibling dynamics of attachment and trauma.
4. Being an adoptive parent has on occasion brought me to my knees and close to breakdown, but it has also taught me to appreciate small and precious moments.
5. I would do it all again.
6. The difficulties we’ve experienced would have been greatly alleviated if the services around us had been better quality and more understanding of our needs.
7. Our family life is very different to other families around us, but this isn’t always necessarily a negative thing. (Sometimes it is though.)
8. Children who have experienced neglect and/or abuse require a different style of parenting from healthily raised children. Not a bit different. Very different. Families need much more help with this than they are given but knowledge and training around therapeutic parenting is improving.
9. With hindsight I’d be much more savvy. I would talk to many more agencies and Local Authorities and opt for the one that offers the best long term post adoption support. This is my number one tip for prospective adopters.
10. Issues around lack of support aside, I remain convinced that done well (meaning with honesty, humanity and professionalism), adoption can be transformative for children (and their families). It offers something with other options don’t find easy to achieve, and that’s permanence.
Adopting brothers and/or sisters is not for the faint-hearted. It will change your life in ways you never imagined possible. It may bring you to the very edge of what you thought you were capable of and then push you further. It will cause you to see the world differently from other people, which can be great (‘I’m a much better person for having adopted our children’) but also not so great (‘where have my old friends gone?’). It may also open up your life to a wealth of new experiences and boundless love and unexpected glorious moments. This is my experience*.
*other experiences are also available