This is a guest post from a friend in the adoption community who needs to remain anonymous, but wants to share their experience of meeting their children’s birth siblings in the hope of helping others.

meeting-siblings

We have been a family brought together by adoption for over 10 years. There are a few of us in the family, however, it always struck me that given we read our children’s CPRs and all the other information we receive, if we are lucky enough to receive it all, there are extended family who naturally become our family.

My children’s siblings are always a part of my life, they are family too.

Over the weekend we were lucky enough, after three years of trying, to meet the now adult siblings of our children. A surprise message out of the blue three years ago instigated this meeting. It has taken us all this length of time to be able to feel able to do it. Our children were not involved. You may think that cruel, but right now they are not ready for it, and they may never be.

We met in a train station coffee shop – we felt that it needed to be somewhere that we could all feel as comfortable as possible – as we all knew that the anxiety for us all would be immense.

I hugged sister – I was not sure how it would go, but she hugged me back. I got emotional but kept it together.

We bought coffees and we began to chat. There were no awkward moments. It flowed.

Our first lesson

We knew all about them. They knew nothing about us – NOTHING. They lived for the first few years not knowing what had happened to their siblings. No one had told them they had been placed for adoption. Youngest was removed from a holiday he was on – and that was the last she saw of him.

Our second lesson

Appreciation that they had been adopted. Despite the first few years of their not knowing, they have learnt enough about our children to know that they have been well looked after, and cared for, attempting to repair the damage that they have all experienced. They acknowledged that the trauma will have been more intense for our children as they had differing placements and the worst experience of our care system you can imagine.

Our third lesson

If only we knew then what we knew now… Yes, contact is a scary thing, and it would have needed careful planning, facilitating and reviewing. But had I known that these siblings sat not knowing, not knowing where they were, who they were with, were we monsters, were we cruel, did we love them – that could have been easily remedied.

Their first lesson

They now know that their siblings have been loved and cared for. To see the relief on their faces was worth every single minute of over ten years.

Their second lesson

They discovered that their siblings have very similar issues with attachment, trust, anger to them.

Their third lesson

Never assume adoption is always a bad thing. Family and friends had been rather critical of adoption, as you would expect, and that was the siblings impression as a result. They see the difference it has made.

*

I did cry. I felt so patronising and insulting to these two brave souls in front of me, who had been through just as much in their childhood as my children – and I was the one crying. To be told that they are grateful that their siblings have such fantastic parents blew me away. I sniffed, sister held my hand, and I gave myself a good talking to – this was not about me.

We spent three hours together, and we have so much in common. We’ll meet them again, and that was a mutual decision by us all. We feel they are more a part of our family now than ever.

Their decision to share what their message will be when they do all eventually meet was upsetting, and I leave you with some of it:

‘If you are expecting to meet our parents and for them to be the parents you hope for, then don’t – you will be very very disappointed.’

Thank you for reading.


Further thoughts?

Have you met any members of your adopted child(ren)’s birth family? How did it go? Has anything changed for you or your children as a result? What advice would you have for others considering direct contact? Maybe you’re weighing up the pros and cons for your family at the moment. I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts too. Please leave them in the comments so others can benefit.

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Gratitude is officially good for your mental health. (Harvard says so, so it must be true.) As a self-care practice, it’s great to record things you’re grateful for – big and small. So here’s Thankful Thursday – my list of things I’m grateful for this week.

Susan-Calman-Kevin-Clifton

This week I’m thankful because:

  • Susan and Kevin are still in Strictly and I love them. Their joy is contagious.

  • Our family had our first actually enjoyable bonfire night (if you missed my blog it, you can read it here: Fireworks… without the ‘fireworks’.
  • I’m still feeling the love for autumn. (Sausage hotpot in the slow cooker for the win.)
  • Pete wrote an excellent measured-and-polite-but-assertive ‘enough of your nonsense’ email to our social worker expressing our disappointment and frustration that various things that are supposed to have been done are still not in place. I married him for many excellent reasons, not least his culinary talents, but my word that man writes excellent emails and this makes me happy.
  • I’m looking forward to the Adoption UK conference and meeting lots of my Twitter-friends this weekend. (I’ll be wearing this – if you spot me please say hello!)

thelmatopia-badges

What are you thankful for this week? Are you a fellow fan of all things autumnal? Let me know in the comments – it’s good for you! 😉 

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It’s the morning after Adoption Sunday and I’m still upset. My Facebook and Twitter timelines are peppered with stories from Home for Good and their advocates, calling on people to adopt and celebrating gatherings around tables, which has been this year’s theme.

I used to be among them. I have spoken at church, encouraging others to adopt and foster. And yet this year it all rings hollow for me. Why? Because after these gatherings around tables – to use their metaphor – who stays to help with the washing up?

washing-up

As I said during National Adoption Week, the recruitment of new adoptive parents and foster carers has to go hand in hand with the recruitment of people who will provide genuine support to those families. Not just childcare for toddlers, not just a lasagne and a toy when the children move in. Full-on, long-lasting support.

  • Support that mows the lawn and mends the holes kicked in the doors and walls.
  • Support that’s there when you need to talk without being judged.
  • Support that comes to training with you to learn to cope appropriately with dysregulated older children.
  • And yes, support that sometimes cleans the kitchen too.
  • Support from the sort of people you can be authentic with, instead of perpetuating the ‘adopters are superhuman’ idea that some seem to have.

Where are these people?

The rhetoric says that this is what is available to us at church. But it just isn’t. I don’t know where these people are. Lots of people we talk to at church (when we’re able to get there) say ‘that sounds difficult’. I believe a precious few genuinely pray for us regularly. But who is there we can call when Joanna runs out of our front gate and across the park? Who will come and help us find her and bring her home?

In an emergency of course we’d call the police. But we’d rather have friends. We’d rather there were people at church who celebrated with us the Sundays we were able to get there, and helped us engage the children in some calm, low-key way, perhaps having lunch with us occasionally, lending us their presence so we could get home safely without the usual post-church transition meltdowns that are some of the most dangerous, violent and frightening we see?

In an emergency of course we'd call the police. But we'd rather have friends. Click To Tweet

Church as family

Home for Good have an excellent booklet on support which I plug whenever I discuss this subject. I recommend it. But I would dearly love to see them go further, taking the focus off the prospective adopters and foster carers alone and talking about who we are as the church, and how we are family to those who are struggling. Not just children who have come from care, but adoptive parents and birth children who become adoptive siblings with all that entails. I’d like to see Adoption Sunday generally being broader in approach – taking the family model that step further.

Pointing to his disciples, [Jesus] said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”’

Matthew 12:49–50 (NIV)

There is so much more I could say. I’d love to discuss the parallel – if I can speak in the church’s language for a moment – between adopter recruitment and support on one hand, and evangelism and discipleship on the other. I really think we need to see it with the same long-term perspective, otherwise we are setting people up for a very painful, lonely journey.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.’

James 2:14–17 (NIV)

Come on, church. Let’s do this better. Let’s offer meaningful, long-term support to families – to our collective family.

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In our house, the start of November brings a strange mix of excitement and concern. Will they or won’t they cope with fireworks this year? Will the children put on their own ‘fireworks display’ as a response to all then bangs and flashes outside?

fireworks

Feeling the love for fireworks

I am a big fan of fireworks. So much so that we ended our wedding reception at 6pm so that me and Pete could slope off to a fireworks display 10 miles away for the rest of the evening. It’s something I hoped to share with our children – wrapping up warm to stand in a cold field, eating hotdogs with fried onions, and hoping that each squealing rocket shooting skyward would burst into one of those huge rosettes that changes colour twice before it fizzles out with a crackle. I have great memories of standing on the village rec, cold feet in two pairs of socks inside my wellies, the waiting all worthwhile for those few minutes of pyrotechnics. I loved it. I’ve never celebrated Halloween, so bonfire night is the autumn celebration as far as I’m concerned. I love a firework.

My children, though, have been known to see it a bit differently.

fireworks

Inauspicious beginnings

For their first three Novembers with us, the sound of our neighbours’ fireworks was enough to frighten the life out of them. Coming from a birth family where sudden loud noises meant parents fighting, the bangs made them scream and hide under their duvets at best, and completely freak out and rage when it was really bad. We didn’t even try to go to a display, though we did occasionally manage to coax them into watching through closed windows – we live on a hill with great firework viewing potential for others’ home displays.

Last year

Last year was our first proper outing to a proper display, back in the village where I grew up. With hot dogs. It was just like the old days, with the addition of a couple of fairground rides to keep the children amused until the display started. I had wrapped the children up in plenty of layers, with scarves and gloves and hats and, importantly, earplugs.

It worked.

Yes, Charlotte got a bit cold and tired towards the end, but she mainly coped really well. Joanna, who had been the most scared of fireworks previously, loved it all. She was awestruck in exactly same way I’d hoped for. It was one of those rare parenting moments where you think ‘This is what it is supposed to be like’.

This year

We made sure that they were (a) filled with hot chocolate and biscuits and (b) wearing lots of layers before we headed out. When we arrived, we went straight to the hotdog stall to make sure that box was ticked. I also made sure I had a couple of cups of mulled wine early on to help me cope with proceedings.

Our fireworks display involved half an hour of standing watching a ‘fire dancer’ and some people with glow in the dark hula hoops before proceedings started. Pete and I muttered about the appropriateness of wearing a leotard and fishnets and dancing in a cold field at night, but the girls loved it. It helped that Pete procured some toasted marshmallows at this point. Nice work, husband.

marshmallows

Finally the fireworks started. They were excellent. They were also loud. I wasn’t sure how the girls would cope – last year there was a lot of holding hands over ears – but this year they took it in their stride. Boom.

Shh. I think we’ve cracked it. We’ve done fireworks… without the fireworks. And they loved it. Long may it continue.

The girls’ fireworks pictures from their activity club today:

 

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Gratitude is officially good for your mental health. (Harvard says so, so it must be true.) As a self-care practice, it’s great to record things you’re grateful for – big and small. So here’s Thankful Thursday – my list of things I’m grateful for this week.

thankful-thursday

This week I’m Thankful because:

  • Pete and I had a lovely couple of days in the Cotswolds for our wedding anniversary. Thank you grandparents!
  • The clocks have changed and the evenings are lovely and cosy. Log fires and soup and blankets and happiness. Love it.otter page markers
  • The children are back at school and we’re all in our routines again. Hooray!
  • NaNoWriMo has started and I’m back in my book-writing groove.
  • I made some lovely new stationery purchases at the weekend including these little otter sticky page markers. (Swoon.)
  • Christmas lights have started to go up in our neighbourhood – we spotted the first ones on Tuesday. Spotting the Christmas lights is an annual ritual for us (and a great distraction for tired and hungry children on the way home from school).
  • My December Daily kit has arrived ready for documenting the delights of the season next month AND I had a shipping notification for the new December Daily journal. Did I mention I love stationery? 😀

What are you thankful for this week? Let me know in the comments. It’s good for you! 😉 

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