Tag Archives: fostering

Lost families: “I can’t take one more step toward you because all that’s waiting is regret….” (Christina Perri)

This is the 2nd of three blogs on my adoption, to read part one please go to https://digalpin.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/adult-adoptees-and-identity/ and part 3 here

As my adoption file arrives I cancel my appointment, after 8 months you would think I’d prepared myself but apparently not!  My emotions get the better of me and I re-arrange the meeting.  In preparation I go over the bits of my adoption journey  that are known to me, those key moments, the most important being the first time I ever saw my natural mother in a photo.  

There are 3 photos, her with a small child (not me), one of her with a handsome man and a photo that looks like a passport photo of an attractive dark eyed woman, of about 30 years  of age, looking directly into camera, hair smart, her skin looks dark, or is that because it’s a black and white photo? (I find out later she is Anglo Indian).  I stare at the photos looking for similarities, are those my eyes, her chin, how tall is she, how thin is she, is that my nose?

It’s like ‘wah hey I look like someone’ , this is the first time I have ever had a resemblance to anyone.  This is very important to me because I share no physical features with my adoptive family and have always felt like a ‘cuckoo in the nest’.

After getting over the initial excitement deeper thoughts emerge, more  unknowns to be known, questions I would desperately like to ask her.

Turning the passport photo over there is a small faded date stamp “Jan 1960”, what does this tell me?   Repeating the date in my mind, “Jan 1960, Jan 1960”  the penny drops, of course this is the year of my birth.  More significantly its January, she is already pregnant with me, not more than a few days/weeks though, does she know?   The eyes look sad, did they before I knew the date on the back of the photo or am I seeing something that is not there?    We are in a peculiar position at this moment she and I.   The dark eyes that look back at me hold her secret, yet the eyes that look at her, mine, know her secret and  what is going to happen within a few months of this photo being taken.  I am looking at  a woman whose life is out of control as all that she loves, and might have loved, will soon to be lost to her forever but she does not know this yet.

The small child turns out to be my half sibling and the man her husband, but not my father. Within a few months of these photos being taken my half siblings life would be turned upside down as my (our!) mother loses a hard fought custody battle.  For her husband his beautiful wife, the mother of his first born, will soon break his heart as she tells him she is pregnant with another mans child. The unborn child within her, me, will spend just a few days with her in a hostel for unmarried mothers, the only time we have met.

Fifty years after the taking of these photos I learn the fate of my half sibling as we are happily reunited via an incredible stroke of luck, when in a moment of boredom I surf the internet and come across a website called ‘Tombs in Ooty’ (I know!),  this site leads to us finding one other,  but of the central figure, the one who has been totally absent in my life, and the one who has had the biggest impact, well …………..

When I reflect on the reasons for my adoption, basically because my mother was ‘unfaithful’ and pregnant by another man,  she probably had very few options as a minority ethnic woman in 1960.  It makes me realise how far society has advanced, and how proud I am of those advances, although others may not see it in the same way as me!

I know reading the file will not make up for these lost years or bring to life someone who only exists in my mind and in 3 little photos, I know all thats waiting is regret, but still the desire to make some kind of sense is strong, and so with some trepidation the file will be read, but just not now.

(The full story, and outcomeof my sear, can be read here <a href="here“>)

Adoption:A ‘good’ adoption is not just about being faster

 As the government seeks to speed up the adoption process with Michael Gove highlighting the value of a stable and nurturing environment, an adult adoptee suggests the actual adoption is just the beginning and more support post adoption is needed.

On this, Michael Gove and I agree, adoption has to be better than a child languishing in the care system, farmed out to a multitude of foster placements that may break down.  Just as Mr. Gove’s personal experience shapes his thoughts on adoption so do mine.

What I think the government and Mr Gove fails to understand is the change in reasons why children are adopted today compared to when we were both adopted.  In my case I was adopted  because I was illegitimate and my mother did not have the means to care for me in terms of a home, cash or family support, I think this is less the case today.  The reasons for adoption today are far more complex and involve problems such as mental health issues, substance mis-use, domestic violence and child abuse, these along with the knowledge gained from neuroscience means that some of the children who need to be adopted now may have far more complex emotional and psychological needs than I did, and thus require adoptive parents  able to cope with whatever this might bring.

Whilst the system does require reform, lets base it on facts and evidence not personal experience.  Yes personal experience is important, it can act as a motivator to improve the system, lets just make sure its the right change, otherwise we are in danger of letting down the next generation of adoptees.

An adult adoptee and ex social worker describes how it feels to be a ‘service user’ as she attempts to access her adoption file

Adult Adoptees and Identity: the adoption process is currently under government scrutiny, getting it right is so important for adoptees futures. However, getting it right is not just about policy and procedures; it is also about social workers being professional and flexible in their approach. An adult adoptee, and ex social worker, describes how it feels to be a ‘service user’ as she attempts to access her adoption file.

(this is the 1st of a series on the ‘adoption file’, read ‘Lost Families’  if you want to see what happened next)

Whether who we are is determined by some invisible invention of science called genetics or the parenting skills of our parents is commonly known as ‘nature vs nurture’ and is the subject of much research. The truth is we may never know the exact ratio of influence, it may well vary from individual to individual, but it is fair to suggest both play a role in making us who we are. Whilst for many this is just an interesting debate for some, like me who have been adopted, it is a significant factor in shaping my understanding of who I am and how I feel about myself.

This blog is not written by me as a social worker or academic but as ‘adoptee me’. I was adopted over fifty years ago and have been trying to find information about my genetic family and my birth mother for thirty four years. Many years ago I accessed my adoption file in the hope it would provide me with information that might lead me to her. Unfortunately, it did not, although it did give me some useful information regarding the circumstances of my adoption.

Fast forward thirty years to August 2011 when I decide to have another look at my file in the hope that being older (possibly wiser?) it could still hold something useful that was missed before and might take me a step closer to finding my birth mother. And so with high hopes I contact the local authority where my adoption took place, hence forth known as ‘Never Never Land’. After being diverted to several departments I eventually reach the right one and speak with someone. The first question asked at this point is “why do you want to see the file?” Although taken aback, and to be honest rather annoyed to be asked this, I answer “because it’s about me and who I am, my family history”. The social worker explains the process to me. No I can not contact ‘Never Never Land’ direct to access my file I have to go through another authority, hence forth known as ‘La La Land’, and they will request access to my file on my behalf. Okay, why a third party needs to be involved is not explained. When I asked if I can have a copy of the file the response is guarded “possibly, but no third party information would be shared unless the third party agreed”. Okay, what if the third parties are dead i.e. my adoptive parents…..no reply, it felt like the worker was following a script and this question did not appear on the script, we end the conversation with one last question ”why do you want to see your file?”, “because etc etc etc……”.

My main concern at this point is who is going to decide what I am allowed to see, and will they leave out that one vital piece of information that might lead me to my birth mother? I feel powerless.

To say my first contact from the other side of the fence, so to speak, was unsatisfactory is an understatement, even after one phone call I felt frustrated and disempowered. It was clear there were hoops to be jumped through, and I was going to have to jump! I felt I had to fit the system regardless of whether it fitted me, or was appropriate.

Next step, phone call by me to ask how long the process might take, “No idea!”, followed by explanation they only worked part time, was going on leave and this was non urgent so would not be prioritised, expect a minimum of 6 months, that’s not including any delays in ‘Never Never Land’ responding. Further contact with social services is equally unsatisfactory, and still they asked “why do you want to see your file?” ………….”because…etc.etc!”

I eventually meet my adoption social worker and am pleased to report they are experienced and professional, they do not appear to stick to any particular agency approach and make me feel I am listened to as an individual, I do not feel like a service user with this social worker, this is an equal partnership.

So, have I seen my file? To cut a long story short the file is still in ‘Never Never Land’, however, it is going to arrive in ‘La La Land’ soon. Reasons for delay range from workers and mangers going sick, people working part time, supervision being cancelled and window repairs (don’t ask!!!). In all honesty, I am not interested in knowing any of this it only serves to heighten my annoyance and sense of powerlessness.

I do understand the pressures in practice, and of course the protection of vulnerable children must always come first, however, whilst not urgent it is actually very important to me. Seeing my file again is a desperate measure on my part because I’ve exhausted all other avenues, my mother is approaching eighty years of age, time is not on our side. An acknowledgement of how important this might be for me on my first contact with services would have been nice.

How does all this make me feel? Angry, powerless, frustrated, sad. My contact with services is minimal and time limited, unlike many others. The professional social worker in me knows the pressure systems, and people, are under and how my request is insignificant in the scheme of social work practice with Children and Families, but, it is important to me. Whilst at an organisational level it is just an old file, for me it is my life and about who I am. This process has made me reflect on my own social work practice, I’d do things differently now!

(This is one of several blogs, if you would like to read the complete story of what happened in my search for my natural mother you can read it in a free ibook here <a href="here“> You will need an ipad to read it)