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Family matters

(9 Posts)
LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 23-Jan-14 12:04:36

To make it easier for people to comment on our guest blog posts we have given them a new home <ta da>

This week, we hear from Keren David on adoption, and its varied consequences.

How does a family absorb an adopted child? The question goes to the heart of what a family is, how much is inherited through nature and how much through nurture. Are some children too damaged by a difficult childhood to be adoptable? What should happen to children with no family at all?

These were the questions on my mind, when I wrote my latest book, a novel about two teenaged siblings who, at the beginning of the book, wouldn’t recognise each other if they passed on the street. Cass was adopted by a wealthy Home Counties family when she was four, and seems to have successfully left behind her neglectful birth family. She’s a star pupil, heading for Oxford, a future Head Girl of her grammar school, well-behaved, hard-working.

Her birth brother, Aidan, grew up in care, moving between foster homes and children’s homes, interrupted by a brief disastrous stay with his birth mother. He’s almost illiterate and verging on alcoholic, but is trying to build a life for himself with a partner and her child. Aidan is haunted by the fear of losing everything, as has happened to him so many times before.

I tried to imagine what would happen if Cass met Aidan after twelve years apart. How would they feel about each other? How would their lives be changed?

This is a scenario which is being played out in families across Britain. Social media sites have made it much easier for birth families to trace children lost to adoption. Adoptive parents often react with fear and horror when their children start meeting birth siblings in secret, reaching out to a family they hardly remember. Many react by trying to ban them from Facebook, taking away their mobile phones, a strategy which can further alienate a rebellious teenager.

Adoption has changed a great deal in the UK in the last few decades. It used to be that the majority of adopted children were the illegitimate babies of single mothers. Now they are far more likely to come from neglectful or abusive homes.

We’re used to seeing heart-warming reunions on reality programmes between middle-class mothers who were forced to give up their babies, and their loving, forgiving adult children. It’s not the same at all if your beloved child was rescued from severe neglect. But often the extent of the neglect has been hidden from the children themselves, until they are deemed old enough to cope with their full history. The "Life Books" they are given by social workers often don’t tell their whole story - but when a vulnerable child is building a new life, would it be appropriate to remind him or her of the horrors of the past? You can understand the instinct of caring adults to save the brutal truth until children are older – an instinct that can backfire when their children are approached online by the people who abused them in the past.

Of course, birth parents may have worked hard to rebuild their lives, courageously leaving abusive partners, giving up drink or drugs, changing their lives. Is it so terrible for them to reach out to the children they lost many years before?

Social workers are there to support families, and yet many adoptive families don’t want outsiders interfering in their family life. It’s not so long ago that adoption was seen as a shameful secret in British homes, and that can prevent some from asking for help.

My book is told from the alternating points of view of Cass and Aidan. I love writing teenage voices, I think it’s fascinating to see the world from their limited viewpoint. Their lives are very different. But the question they ask - what is a family? – is one that affects us all.

Keren's new book, Salvage, is published by Atom and is out now.

chadsky Thu 23-Jan-14 17:06:05

I guess this hits me on both sides - I was adopted at the age of six weeks, as you say from a single mother, not young she was thirty and had 2 daughters from her first marriage met my father after, and became pregnant my birth family grandfather was very strict and Victorian - she had to come away from her home to have me and my sisters were in the care of the grandparents - she was told by him that she could come back but under no circumstances could the child - she was left with no option really as my father did not want to know.
I was adopted, and as far as my memory tells me I was happy, until I was told I was adopted, at the age of 7 - from then on it seemed the most traumatic of my life - I felt as if the carpet had been ripped up from under me - by then my adoptive parents had, had there own natural child - he was a twin, but the daughter died - it seemed from that point my adoptive mother hated me - whils I can now perhaps understand a little, I grew up in an emotionally abusive family ( on her side) my adoptive father had no chance he was bullied and downtrodden. so adoption for me was not good -
Then many years later I had my own children - they grew up knowing they were loved and cherished from the start - but my son then had his own daughter whom he harmed and she was taken into care - I fought the social services fro 2 years to get her into my care as they wanted her to be adopted - over my dead body - it may have changed adoption by the feelings of the child are not considered then or now - I have deep feelings on this subject - I will explain to her what happened in a gentle and loving way slowly and to her undrstanding

gingermeggs48 Thu 23-Jan-14 20:39:26

For those of you seeking to understand why the various members / vested interests develop and act in their different ways as time evolves in the situations which Lucy describes. It helps substantially to learn about paradigms. This is our inbuilt subconscious mind, personal and inherited learned behaviour patterns. As the events of life imprint on the subconscious, we develop auto action / reaction patterns to events in life as they occur.
Most of us never get to comprehend or understand why at times we do some of the things we do, but if you look back through your life experiences; the young child hood and in utero ones in particular. One can see events which have caused subconscious imprint patterns to develop. This then sets these paradigms for how we act / react through out all of our adult life. Sometime for some a traumatic event in adult life adds to this in built response list!
A few of us manage to learn how to understand this process and then consciously override these negative habits. Some enlightened people out there are providing teaching for us to better understand this process. Then from there one can, with determination over ride the wrong desires and actions as you see then developing and evolving in your daily life.
Bob Proctor presents very good courses which enable real understanding of this process. You can connect with him via my web site and the icon RESULTS THAT STICK. on my web site www. warfarin wizard .com Another who comes at this learning from a different perspective but equally effective is Harry Palmer at www. avatarEPC pacific .com
Getting a better understanding and way of thinking around life's as it unfolds for each of us can, will and does have real benefit for us all. This is a way for us all to break through that old testament proverb of "the sins of the fathers (and mothers) to the third and fourth generation". There by giving ourselves and our descendants a better handle on life.
All these insights have been a major help to me and my story, and I see the benefits developing through into my grand children. Check out my story via my web site. It gives you another perspective on how you can help yourself change your life and perhaps those around you.
Some of us who come through life in relatively comfortable family situations seem to perceive parts of this truth via established religions. For me snippets of it all made sense but the doctrines and prejudices just confused the bigger picture and reinforced some negative paradigms. After learning to see the different sides and how to cope with these paradigms, life now makes a lot more sense. Then on top of that I get a better perspective on where the spirit fits in! smile

Veggran Fri 24-Jan-14 20:54:35

Looking from an adoptive mother's point of view, we adopted our daughter when she was nearly seven. She had been neglected, physically and emotionally, and had been in care permanently for 2 years after placement with her natural grandmother had broken down and she was made a ward of court. My husband and I love our daughter dearly, my husband has two older children from a previous marriage but I have none. The relationship was always challenging from the start but we both worked very hard to give her a normal family life, helped her to raise her educational standards and join social clubs to interact with her peers but she made few friends because of her difficult and aggressive personality. We even agreed to facilitate contact with one of her sisters who remained with her grandmother until we found out she had been stealing from us. Our daughter always made it clear that she was not happy with her life with us but became jealous of any attention paid to other family members. Early teens, as is often usual, became more of a challenge and she left home at 16 to live with her boyfriend at his father's house. We still kept in touch but she did not want to return home so we used to give her food and money. Neither worked but she tried and ultimately succeeded in becoming pregnant and gave birth to our granddaughter at 19 after a complicated pregnancy. The father abused our granddaughter and does not see her now nor provide any financial support which has placed a great strain on us, particularly as my husband is now receiving his state pension and I only work part time.

The birth family ultimately went on to be a family of nine children with only one remaining in the care of the natural grandmother. From our limited knowledge we understand that some have suffered mental health problems and at least one has spent time in prison for prostitution and drugs having her own children taken into care. Our daughter immediately reinstated contact with her birth family after she left home as she believed that they would welcome her with open arms. The results were very disappointing for her as, in her words, they could give nothing to her financially and they all felt she had had a better life and would be in a position to support them. The parents ultimately did separate with the birth mother sadly passing away due to heart problems. Knowing this, we are proud that our daughter has avoided many of these pitfalls however she spirals from relationship to relationship accumulating debts as she goes, refuses to try to find any sort of work and is attracted to men of a similar opinion. We have advised, paid bills and tried to guide her over the years finally accepting she must make her own way in the world along her own path. I worry constantly about the effect of this unstable life has on my granddaughter who is now nearly ten especially following the birth of our grandson last year after another traumatic pregnancy, risky birth and problems afterwards. Despite the health risks of her last pregnancy within weeks she was talking about another and if I voice any worries I am told that I have never had a baby so I cannot understand. We support our daughter emotionally and also pay for school costs, uniform etc in the thought that if she is happy and stable then our granddaughter will be so too but as time goes on I wonder if this is the right thing to do as her only focus at the moment is the new baby which means my granddaughter seems to be more unsettled than ever. I always thought that if a child was fostered or adopted into a loving and stable family then love would be enough but I have come to believe that sometimes nature can surpass nurture. I would never wish to be without the love of my granddaughter but I have often felt like the typical small bird nursing a cuckoo chick placed in her nest and sadly, if I could go back in time I cannot honestly say I would make the same decision to adopt.

Nonu Fri 24-Jan-14 21:05:39

Ginger , I found your post rather hard to fathom.
veggran It all sounds rather sad and I send good Karma across the miles to you & yours

whenim64 Fri 24-Jan-14 21:27:57

Good to see you on here, chadsky. You had quite a struggle, I remember, and it's heartening to know you kept going for your grandaughter. We have a couple of adopted family members who are now parents themselves, and a long-term foster child who stayed and is now adult. Blended and adoptive families bring their own complex issues, but so do families where the children are born to the parents they grow up with.

My son is planning to adopt a child, and we are learning about new issues - forever families having contact with birth parents, do we have to be so vocal about having a chosen child in the family, just keep it to close friends and family, or does that leave the child unprepared for questions as they grow up? And does that make the child feel different, give them a feeling of being special, how does it impact on the other children....and so on. My guess is that we'll all just take it in our stride and our new little person will take the cues from the adults treating it all matter-of-factly.

seasider Wed 29-Jan-14 21:05:46

Children may not need to meet birth parents but they do need to know who they were as otherwise a massive piece of the jigsaw is missing. I meet so many single mums who do not want contact with their child's father but a child has a right to an identity and a relationship with both parents unless there is a safety issue.

devongranny Fri 31-Jan-14 16:33:22

I was adopted at 2 and was brought up with the story about going to collect me on the train and my brother coming as well and so knew from the word go that I was adopted. When my adopted parents died I traced my birth family. Both my parents had died and my siblings, aunts etc did not want to know me at all. The programmes on television that all seem to have a happy ending are not always true to life and it is then a second rejection which is extra hard to deal with. My husband was supportive but was worried that this could happen and of course you are changing the image that the family had of my mother. I am very fortunate that I have a fantastic husband and a very close family of children and grandchildren without this support it would have been doubly difficult.

devongranny Fri 31-Jan-14 16:40:31

I was adopted at 2 and was brought up with a story of how my parents and brother went to fetch me on the train and so knew from the beginning that I was adopted. When my adopted parents died I traced my birth family. Both my parents had died and my siblings, cousins etc didn't want to know me at all which was a double rejection. Television programmes always have a happy ending but this is not always the case and your expectations are high so it is a difficult time. I am very fortunate that I have a very supportive husband, children and grandchildren otherwise it would have been even more difficult to deal with.