A common held belief is that once a child is adopted into a nice family, all the issues that they had will vanish. There is a whole battalion of adoptive parents who would like everyone to know that is it simply not the case, but our voices are generally overwhelmed by other people who claim to know better.
For a child to be adopted, they have been removed from their birth family. And no matter what some elements in the press would have you believe, there has to be significant cause for concern before a child is removed. There has to be real reason, children being abused or neglected or a serious belief that children are being harmed before children are removed to care.
Children who are adopted have been through trauma, all of them. The level of trauma might be different. The effects of the trauma might be different. But their common bond is trauma. And you need to know trauma leaks.
I can hear people saying, yes, but what about those children removed at birth. And I would respond, yes, even them. Whilst in utero a baby hears sounds and starts to get to know it’s mother. A child removed at birth, is taken from everything they know, and placed with strangers. And that is in a simple pregnancy. Some of our children are exposed to alcohol and illegal drugs. Some of our children’s birth mothers spend their pregnancy stressed or fearful or in a dangerous situation, cortisol passes across the placenta and has lasting effects on those children.
Adults who go through traumatic experiences are often diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. Not so children, children suffer with developmental trauma (or at least in this area of the country they do, not sure if it is the same all over the country). However when you talk to people outside the world of adoption (i.e. health professionals, educational professionals etc) they have no idea what developmental trauma is. And this is part of the problem.
People want to believe that adoption fixes all that has gone before. That been loved* by a nice family is enough to sort all problems. Is it acceptable to say to an adult suffering from PTSD that all they need is time and love and they will recover? Because if it isn’t then how can that be a cure for children who have suffered trauma?
The problem with the belief that adoption fixes everything, is that as adoptive parents we start with our feet well behind the starting line. Every bit of support we need has to be fought for**. Every time we meet a new professional we have to educate them. Every time we need to access a service we have to explain why there is a need
Many adopters I know both in real life and via social media are having the same fights that we find we have. They are going through similar things. Having similar conversations. Living similar lives.
If only there wasn’t this general belief… if only people realised that the effects of trauma cannot be fixed by love and time alone. If only people came alongside and offered support and understanding.
For me, I am worn out. I am worn out at having to fight for support. I am worn out at having to explain why my boys are different – and explain whilst I might parent differently to other people I am not a bad parent. I am worn out by having every request for help denied or questioned. I am worn out by therapeutically parenting two*** children who I adore. I am worn out because I can count on my fingers the number of full nights sleep I have had in approaching 5 years.
I have no solutions, other than to explain, time after time to anyone who listens, anyone who needs to hear that adoption is not a magic cure. I long for a time, when I no longer need to shout this loudly, when people understand.
*The idea that being loved by a nice family is enough to solve all problems supposes that the birth families didn’t love them…I know for my boys, that simply isn’t true.
** I am aware that this isn’t a problem only for adoptive families but many families of children with additional needs (especially those with undiagnosed conditions – the world needs a label).
*** In all fairness, Jelly might have his problems but they are mostly relating to his speech development and not trauma related.