Adopting With a Troubled Past

There are many myths when it comes to adoption. People often question if they can become an adoptive parent. If it’s even worth registering an interest and applying. Perhaps thinking they have insufficient financial stability, are too old, have health concerns. That being single or not owning their own home would be seen negatively. All things that in fact would at least be welcomed to consider.

But what about the more emotional aspects. What if you have experiences of a troubled childhood. Of fractured family relationships. Of breakdowns in support networks. Even of abusive or neglect. Does that make you incapable of being a good parent? Or perhaps it is quite the opposite.

What is certain is that social workers have a huge responsibility. They hold a life in their hands. Must do all they can to ensure love, care and protection is abundant. These elements are non-negotiable. They are not a privilege; they should be a given. Every child deserves a happy and stable home to grow and develop. Sometimes adoption can be the only route for these fundamentals.

But how does the adoption assessment process work if you have had a turbulent childhood yourself? I am so pleased to say that Chels from @roo.and.mummy.adventures (Instagram account) can help fill in some of the gaps from her own experience…

Back in February 2019, following lots of discussions at home, my husband and I sat in a room of a conference centre eagerly anticipating a Local Authority adoption information evening. We were excited and nervous and couldn’t wait to take it all in. By the end of the session, we knew instantly we wanted to register our interest there and then. So, we sat with a social worker, (who ended up being our stage 1 social worker), filling out the necessary forms. But there was one huge question hanging over my head – “can I adopt because of my complex history and family relationships?”

The answer I got was not an instant yes, but a “we need to explore everything in more detail.” I took this as a good first step.

As a child I grew up living with my non biological grandfather, but to me he was, and always will be, my grandad. I lived with him due to a family breakdown and drug addiction within the family. When I first lived with my grandad, my grandmother was also there, but this relationship broke down. After a grueling court case I was placed in the care of my grandad. I do not have the full details or reasons for this, but what I do know is all this happened by the time I was a toddler!

Throughout my life I continued to see close members of my family struggle with addiction, crime, and mental health issues through to my early adulthood. Along the way I became a sister to my younger siblings, who went on to struggle with their own issues. All the trauma and chaos led to strained adult relationships with some of my family. Often complex and distant. I had chosen a different life path to them.

I shared all this with social workers. Although they were non-judgemental, kind, and supportive, it felt like my life was picked apart piece by piece and finely combed over. All the information I gave about my past and my family was checked and double checked against Local Authority case records.

So many questions were asked over and over again. Unfortunately, my grandad passed away in 2019 just as we finished stage 1. That made it difficult for me to answer some things being asked. During stage 1 and stage 2 our case was often regularly reviewed by the social workers manager who contacted and visited us alongside our social workers. More checking of our complex situation.

Moving towards panel, extra risk assessments were carried out on certain family members and our relationships. This caused delays. We had to put in place action plans of how the relationships would be managed and difficult decisions had to be made such us; allowing certain members of my family to be involved in our child’s life. Or not.

It was emotionally grueling and stressful to say the least, but to us it was a no brainer. We knew this was what we wanted. From that minute onwards we started to make sacrifices and put our future child first. A child we hadn’t even met yet. But longed for.

The layers of assessment continued. We had to identify 2 people within our support network who were able to offer support with managing the complex relationships and risk assessments once our child came home to live with us. There was so much to consider but we knew it would be worth it.

All of this was difficult to tell my family and it put even more strain on our already troubled relationships. Our social worker in stage 2 and her manager contacted those family members to speak to them personally about the situation. They asked more questions and explained the risk assessments and decisions that were being made. Having this support from our social worker made this part of the process a little less stressful, but it did not take away the emotions. Nothing could.

Between stage 1 and stage 2 we took a 6 month break. I had counselling to help process my grief and talk through my history and trauma. Never in my life had I ever considered any part of my life traumatic, but the more I read and learnt about adoption it felt like I was opening up a wound I never knew was there. Having counselling and learning more about childhood trauma helped me to understand myself and my life more clearly. It helped me to open up, be honest and realise how my experiences would help me to become a good parent. How I could not only relate to and support a child with similar experiences, but also with birth parents circumstances and their life experiences too.

Finally, the long awaited arrived – “yes you can adopt”. It was all worth it. Everything that drove me to want to adopt also felt like it would stand in my way, but in the end, how I worked through it was seen in a positive light.

Since becoming a parent, I am very aware of my own parenting skills and making sure my little one always comes first. I’m very conscious of not letting her down. Not only because of what she has already experienced, but because of my own experiences and knowing what it feels like.

Having a very strong, stable attachment with a non-biological parent was a huge positive for me. I didn’t worry about not being able to develop an attachment or love someone who I was not biologically linked with. Of course, on the flip side, experiencing what I did with my own family has definitely made me very aware and critical of myself as a parent.

I am however determined to do better than I experienced. To be just as fantastic as my grandad was at being a loving, caring and protective parent. I am so lucky to have had him in my life and to pass on all he taught me to my own very special little girl.

This is such an honest and insightful blog. A reminder that life is not a bed of roses. It has a habit of throwing challenges our way. Some more than others. But this is a tale of how overcoming adversity can change a life. Forever.

How we work with the cards life deals us is the important thing. What we learn from it. How we use it to impart our own values and morals on those we love. How we do all we can for history not to repeat itself.

The adoption process for Chels must have been hard. Bringing up emotions perhaps buried deep. But that is the whole point of it. No stone can be left unturned. Bringing to the surface difficult situations. Allowing the professionals to assess how they have been dealt with. That is the key.

It sounds flippant but I used to think if you can open your heart and your home, then adoption could be for you. Of course, there is far more to it than that. This blog shows us this. But I still believe it is a good starting point. The message here must be – don’t discount adoption without finding out more. There are no guarantees, but speak to the professionals. They will do all they can to support you. There are children out there needing homes, and it could be you.

I have so much admiration for Chels sharing her story. For letting us in. What I love most of all is the life lessons she learnt. How she has taken her own experiences to make her the best mum she can be. What I do know, without hesitation, is that her grandad would be very proud of her indeed.

You can follow her on Instagram – @roo.and.mummy.adventures