Beginnings and Endings and Everything A-Swirl

I have been having many conversations with my [adoptive] mum recently about some very real problems that we are facing as a family. We are actually facing several problems but there is one that stands out and haunts us night and day.

One of our relatives faces a lot of challenges in their everyday life and this is having an unacceptable negative effect on others. This relative has always caused and/or attracted drama of some description (which is exhausting as I only like drama of the Lewis type) but the stakes are now extremely high.

In one of these conversations my mum voiced her upset: I just wanted to give a child a good life and I don’t know if I’ve made his life any better at all. I tried to reassure her that she had made a difference. I replied, completely honestly, that she had definitely made things better and that without her input his life would be significantly worse – who knows where we would be – and the situation now facing us and everyone else would also be far, far worse. I also pointed out that she had stayed true to her promise (I have no idea how – she’s a saint really) and was still involved, even though I think many people would understand it if she just completely wiped her hands of the situation. I think that many people would think she has done her bit; she can just let it all go now. But nope: she’s still there. And I can see that. And I thanked her.

But you see, this whole breaking-the-cycle thing is not something any of us can do on our own. My mum can’t do it. I can’t do it. A mental health professional can’t do it. And can it be done without the ability and willingness of those who seemingly want to perpetuate it? My life has long involved dealing with all sorts of (other people’s!) drama that puts EastEnders and Jeremy Kyle to shame. But the situation can in reality only be made less worse and by a whole collection of people acting together – and even then it’s hard because God things are complicated and hard.

We are adoptees, adopters, care leavers, birth family members and foster family members all trying to come to a solution. And you know what? Where are the barriers between us now?! The barriers are falling and our identities are dissolving and merging and changing. But there is a positive here – insofar as there is one – in that over the last couple of years a whole series of things (including this) has brought greater empathy and understanding all round and a shared sense of all of our experiences. We are now all changing places on the board and seeing it all anew.

But like anyone – whether that be a birth parent, an adopter, a care leaver, or anyone else – we can only do what we can with the resources we have. And ‘resources’ includes things such as mental and physical health as well as support networks, education, and income.

But some of our resources are impaired, including my own to some extent. I completely understand why one of the others, a care leaver, feels completely unable to get involved because to do so would necessitate engagement with social services. Back in the day their local authority made some utterly shocking decisions. In this particular care leaver’s case, I liken their reaction to the one you would get if you told an adult who had been abused by priests as a child (and this was covered up by the hierarchy) that in order to help they must let priests and the hierarchy back into their lives. I understand their reaction because I can also remember a time when the words Social Services or Social Worker made me feel sick to the core on an involuntary visceral level. But your own recovery has to come first: you cannot help anyone else if you yourself are drowning.

I just hope that our collective resources, and especially my own, will be enough.

But I must go now. But there is so much that I cannot even begin, let alone end. (I have not even begun).

I don’t know if all of this is the beginning or the end or the conclusion to what came before. Or maybe a bit in the middle of a never-ending cycle?

As I go to bed my mind un-exorcised, I am reminded of some lines from one of my favourite poems:

But huge and mighty forms, that do not live

Like living men, moved slowly through the mind

By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.

 

Wordsworth, The Prelude

Launching Adoptee Corner!

A few years ago a mainstream, non-tabloid newspaper ran a series of articles about fostering and adoption. In these articles they interviewed and directly quoted thirty-two people. Some aspects of the coverage astounded me so much that I wrote my first ever letter to a newspaper:

The nine articles on fostering and adoption in X featured welcome discussions of important issues and told the moving stories of a diverse range of adopters and carers. However, whilst it was a pleasure to read everyone’s experiences, it appears that no one thought to speak to any foster children or adoptees. Instead, they were constantly spoken of, not to, and when their stories were told (which was often), they were told by their parents, carers and professionals. The articles contain the words and perspectives of nineteen professionals, nine adopters, two foster carers, an adopter’s mother and the birth child of foster carers. In a series of articles on the joys and challenges of foster care and adoption, were you unable to include the comments of a single child, adolescent or adult with experience of being fostered or adopted?

This was never published and I never received a reply.

My astonishment was rooted in the fact that whilst I had learnt about the lives of many adoptees – including about their lives prior to adoption – I hadn’t read a single interview (amongst thirty-two) with an actual adoptee. I – and many other adoptees – have experienced this phenomenon many times over. It is a lamentable fact that a person is more likely to hear an adoptee’s story as told by their parents, carers, or professionals than as told by the actual adoptee. There are far more adoptees spoken about than there are adoptees speaking.

There have been some initiatives to address this. For example, The Open Nest’s Adopted Voices conference in 2015 featured only adoptee speakers and Coram’s The Adoptables project helps to give voice to adoptees aged between 13-25. However, there is a still a large under-representation of UK adoptees and adoptees are still more likely to be spoken about – and their (real, projected, or perceived) experiences invoked by The Powers That Be – than spoken or listened to. And there is certainly not the adoptee community that one finds in the US.

As an adoptee, I have been writing about foster care and adoption and related topics for a long time. However, this has mainly been for my own personal viewing and I have always come up with reasons not to have a blog. However, the cumulative effect of experiences such as that above mean that a tipping point has now been reached – like the slow erosion of a cliff edge – where the reasons to set up a blog now outnumber the reasons not to. I am extremely excited as I have been thinking of setting up a blog for a long time but only now feel able to. And whilst I will be posting about my own thoughts on adoption, I really hope that other adoptees will join in too with their own thoughts and experiences.

The online presence of UK adoptees is very small relative to that of UK adopters or US adoptees. I think that there are many reasons for this, which I will explore in my next post. But I believe that adoptees have valid – and essential – contributions to make to the conversation.I hope to add to this conversation and invite all adoptees, especially UK adoptees, to join.

But this blog is also because sometimes adoptees just want to know that there are other adoptees out there! They want to meet each other and talk between themselves. They want to talk about adoption or life in general. I know of other adoptees who would welcome a bigger adoptee community and a space to write, talk, and network. Therefore I hope that other adoptees will feel able to post their own guest blogs here (or link to them if they have their own blog) or to comment. Blogs and comments can be anonymous or under a pseudonym (all comments will be moderated). Anyone can comment, adopted or not, although I ask for it to be respected that this is intended as a corner of the internet for adoptees. Far too many conversations happen about adoptees, but not with or between them: hopefully we can start rectifying this!