The very fact that a child has been adopted suggests that the birth parents were ‘bad people’ un-loving, not caring. Not so! Over the years I’ve been involved in hundreds of adoptions. I was once a local authority adoption officer and I have an adopted daughter. In the vast majority of cases the birth parents I met and worked with absolutely wanted their child and had just as much love as any other parent. The problem was, usually, that for a host of reasons the birth parents were not capable of ensuring that their child was safe and well. Not because they wanted to harm the child but because their skills were not there. Sometimes this was due to mental health issues and sometimes it was simply due to the parent’s own early learning.

Julie, was in this category. At birth she was taken into care; by the time she was 7 she had been placed with six different sets of foster-parents. None of these were professionally trained and all failed to properly engage her. In one of the foster placements she was subjected to a regime that included her being put into a cold bath when and if she wet the bed. Social workers were well aware of this practice but failed to remove and protect her. She stayed in that placement for 13 months eventually being moved at 5 for her ‘bad behaviour’.

At 7 she was labelled as ‘disruptive’, placed in a children’s home with 11 other children ranging in age from 18 months to 15 years all with complex needs. She was then subjected to years of disruption, children coming, children going, not to mention the 16 changes of her social workers and 58 different members of care staff.

At 15 she was sexually assaulted by one of her residential care-workers, removed from the home she’d been in for 8 years and placed in an ‘out-of-county’ children’s home more than one hundred miles away from her home town.

At 16 she was forced to leave her care home and found herself living on her own in a run down area in a one room bed-sit. A social worker visited her once a month, but often didn’t bother. Here she met Keith. They had two children before they married at 20 and a third was born before they were 21. Julie had post-natal-depression. Without any extended family help or any idea of how families work, Keith and Julie lived in a volatile, physically abusive and brutal relationship, subjecting their children to continuous episodes of domestic violence often ending in one of their parents leaving the family home sometimes for weeks at a time.

Eventually social workers removed the children and placed them for adoption. It was accepted at the freeing for adoption hearing that both parents loved their children but did not have the skills to properly care for them.

Neither parent has seen the children since. Keith is now in another more stable relationship with no children. Julie at 26 had too much to drink one night, slept with a guy she can’t remember and is homeless and 7 months pregnant. She is adamant that she will hide from the authorities and keep her baby.

I wish I could say that this is an unusual set of circumstances but it’s not. This is happening everywhere.

In part it happened to my daughter and we insisted that she should have regular contact to her mother and birth family including her 5 siblings (we couldn’t track dad down).

It’s easy to dismiss birth parents but they too need help to come to terms with the adoption of their children.

 

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