Adoption IS Wrong

2008-07-05 5 comments

If any one wants to argue the case for how wonderful adoption is I beg you to read Adoption Undone by Karen Carr. I read this story through a haze of tears and choked with anger. When Karen and Jon Carr adopted four-year-old Lucy as a sister for their six-year-old birth daughter Hannah, they though they'd completed their happy family. But the adoption was fraught with difficulty, and the turmoil that followed brought the whole family to breaking point, forcing Karen and Jon to do the unthinkable.



Once we'd made the decision, we were very excited. We would have a new family, and a sister for Hannah. We'd always wanted another child, a playmate, but by the time we got round to doing anything about it Hannah was six, which we felt was too big an age gap. By adopting, we'd be able to choose a girl just a couple of years younger to be her sister. We thought that, with love, everything would fall into place. We'd just returned from holiday in 1999 when Valerie, the social worker who'd assessed us for adoption, contacted us to say that a child had been identified who matched our hopes: a little girl called Lucy, aged four. Within days, Lucy's social workers were sitting in our living room, drinking tea and discussing her history. We were shown a photo of her aged two, and saw a video of her around the same age. They said she was a bright child and that our situation was ideal because our family replicated her two previous homes, with Lucy being the younger of two sisters. (Lucy had been living with a foster sister, Shahida, who was two years older than her, and she also had an older birth sister, Jade.) We had no reason to doubt this logic. From then on, the introductions had to be done in haste, as her foster carer, Tracy, was being admitted to hospital and the social workers didn't want Lucy going to a new carer for just a few weeks. Instead of the usual fortnight introductory period for adoptions, we were given two days in which to meet and bond with Lucy. Tracy had said that Lucy wouldn't be particularly bothered by the move; she'd walk away without a backward glance. It amazes me now that this wasn't considered a problem. So we met Lucy on the Friday, took her for a picnic on Saturday and on Sunday she came to stay for good. That was it! We didn't know any of her routines, likes or dislikes. It was a huge disruption for her with very little preparation: she'd only been told two days before that a 'new mummy and daddy' had been found for her.
Both Jon and I went into the adoption assuming it would work. We both wanted it 100 per cent. And at the start, Lucy and Hannah seemed to build up a good relationship and would play outdoors together. Things were slightly difficult for Hannah, though, because Lucy felt allegiances to her sister Jade, with whom she still had face-to-face contact, and Hannah felt she was being shut out. Lucy was supposed to meet Jade about five times a year, but if she mentioned she was missing her we'd arrange it – she was her sister, after all.
'When I told Lucy that she had to move out, she just wanted to know when and counted the days on her fingers, "Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday"'
From the start, Lucy was a very demanding child and craved my attention, always wanting to sit on my knee. She was also loud. Day in, day out, it was draining. But what became apparent quite early on was that Lucy and Jon weren't bonding. Their relationship was distant. If we went for a walk, Lucy would always hold my hand, determined to be next to me. Hannah felt sorry for her dad because he was being left out, so she'd take his hand and they'd walk ahead. I'd tell him that he shouldn't let this happen as it just encouraged Lucy's clinginess.
It got to the stage where every night we were arguing about Lucy's behaviour and his reaction to it. After she'd been with us about six months, I rang the social worker for advice about the distance between Jon and Lucy. She said, 'Well, she can't stay there if she's not bonding with one of the parents.' But I was determined to make things work so I reassured her and said, 'Oh, it's OK. I'll make sure she's fine.' So it was left at that.
Lucy had some funny habits. She insisted on wearing short socks all the time, and would put dozens of slides and pony tails in her hair in the morning. It was a constant battle to get her to look more acceptable for school. One day I was trying to negotiate with her, and Jon said, 'You look stupid, Lucy! Take them out!' That evening, I blew up at him, saying that he made things worse by talking like that. He'd sometimes call her a 'nuisance'. He was never cruel to her, but offhand and sharper than with Hannah.
Of course, I didn't help matters by not disciplining Lucy enough. Even when it was her own fault that she fell out with Hannah, Lucy was the one who would end up on my knee. I just felt sorry for her. Jon and I spent hours discussing her, but the arguments were getting worse so, at the end of 1999, we sought support from a charity called After Adoption.
They recommended 're-nurturing' to build an attachment. This meant simulating experiences that occur naturally in birth parent and infant relationships. For example, tightly wrapping Lucy in a shawl and rocking her while keeping eye contact. And giving her a piece of soft cloth to keep in her pocket, which she could touch at any time and know we were thinking of her. It helped up to a point, but Jon felt foolish doing some of the exercises, and didn't feel he should have to work so hard to have a relationship with his daughter.
He really did try. Occasionally he'd spend time playing on the computer with her, and when she was seven he took her on a caravan trip because our After Adoption worker suggested they might both benefit from lengthy quality time together. During this break, Lucy mentioned that she'd noticed he spoke to Hannah differently, and Jon discussed her behaviour with her. When they returned they were both positive and he felt emotionally closer to her. But after a while things just went back to how they were before.
By now, her relationship with Hannah had worsened. There were a couple of incidents at school where Lucy had been incredibly disloyal to Hannah – befriending a girl who'd been mean to her and, along with some other girls, pushing her into the mud while she was wearing her new coat. Although we didn't realise it, Hannah's self-esteem was rapidly declining and she was depressed. She wouldn't play with friends and stayed in her bedroom for hours. She would call herself ugly and fat, and we noticed she wasn't eating much.
I always blamed Jon, not Lucy, for the lack of a bond and now I realise that was unfair. Lucy probably should have had therapy of some sort before coming to us. In hindsight, I think that her abrupt separations – from her birth mum and then her foster mum – led to some sort of attachment disorder, preventing her bonding easily.
We didn't seek help for Lucy till towards the end. The GP referred us to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, but the adoption broke down before that got under way. We were already having family therapy: in fact, despite our problems we decided we wanted another child, and in August 2003 I became pregnant.
Eventually the adoption didn't break down because of Lucy or Jon, but because of what happened to Hannah. Just before Christmas 2003, Hannah showed me a mark that she'd scraped on her stomach with a pen. She sat on my knee and cried, saying that she got worried and angry. She didn't blame Lucy explicitly, but she did say that she liked our time after Lucy had gone to bed the best. I resolved to give Hannah lots of attention over the holidays, and Jon and I decided to take her to the doctor after Christmas.
Then on 10 January 2004, when Lucy was in bed and I was running a bath for myself, Hannah ran ahead of me to jump into my bath water and I saw two new scratch marks on her belly about six inches long. She ran into her room and pulled the quilt over her head and wouldn't speak to me. Eventually I coaxed it out of her. 'I can't hurt Lucy so I hurt myself,' she said. 'If I go to you, you tell me to be more tolerant, and if I go to Dad it starts arguments – so I just hurt myself.'
As I sat crying in the bath, it suddenly became clear. Despite our best intentions, our whole family was in tatters. Hannah was so distraught that she was turning her anger against herself. I told Hannah that night that, despite our attempts to make things better through family therapy, her dad and I had decided that Lucy would have to leave. She was horrified and kept saying, 'She won't go to a children's home, will she?'
I reassured her she wouldn't. Then I told Jon. He protested – he was determined we could make it work – but I threatened to leave with Hannah if he didn't agree. The truth is that my need to protect Hannah overrode my need to care for Lucy.
It took a month for Lucy to leave because, at first, the local authorities said we just needed support. We discovered later that they didn't believe what we told them about Hannah, and were convinced that we wanted Lucy to go because I was pregnant with a 'miracle baby'. They didn't realise I'd always been able to conceive and had chosen to adopt instead.
Eventually, Jon threatened to bring Lucy to their offices and leave her there. The result of this was that they rang one Friday and said, 'OK, we'll come and get her on Monday.' In tears, I begged for more time to prepare her but they were adamant. So, again, she was to have an abrupt separation.
It was the worst day of my life when I had to tell Lucy she was leaving. I was crying and saying, 'I'm so sorry, Lucy,' and she said, 'Do I have to move?' She'd guessed.
When I said 'yes' she just wanted to know when, and counted the days on her fingers, 'Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday.' Then she said, 'I thought I was going to stop breathing and die when you said that.'
I said it was because of her dad's relationship with her – which I know was wrong, but we didn't want her blaming herself and we were trying to keep Hannah out of it. We didn't want either girl to blame the other. Over that weekend, Lucy's reactions changed constantly. She'd been told that the reason her birth mother couldn't look after her was because she was ill. 'But you're not ill!' she'd say to us, accusingly. Then she'd wonder about the place she was going to and was almost excited, saying, 'They might have loads of money.'
On the day, Hannah decided she wanted to go to school but Lucy stayed at home. We must have spent a great part of that day packing, but it's a blur to me now. My only recollections are of Lucy sitting next to me on the sofa and asking me the time frequently, and then asking, 'So how long have I got left?'
At 4pm two social workers arrived to take Lucy. Then she was gone. I used to say I don't feel guilty, because guilt is attached to wrongdoing. But I did and still do. And I grieved. I noticed a massive gap after she left.
In hindsight, there were some crucial errors that meant the adoption was bound to fail. The two-day introductory period just wasn't enough. Also, although we knew that Lucy was used to being the younger sister when she came to us, we didn't realise that she'd had two very competitive relationships with older girls.
Her birth sister Jade was allowed contact with their mum while she wasn't (because Jade was six years older and the court ruled that her attachment was therefore greater); that must have made her feel terrible. Then there was an older girl in Lucy's foster family, Shahida, whom her foster carer was adopting; again Lucy must have felt unwanted. She should never have been placed in another family with an older sister. We later found out that in the last year Jade had been passing her messages from their birth mum saying that they were her real family and that one day they'd all be together. Jade's influence must have confused Lucy about her sense of identity and who she really belonged to. Jon firmly believes that, had she not maintained contact with Jade, everything might have been different.
I'm still very pro-adoption. For many children it provides years of fulfilling unconditional family love. But anyone considering it should arm themselves with as much background information on the child as possible, and make sure the introduction period is handled properly. Wanting to do 'good' is not enough.
Lucy is with a different foster carer now but still feels like our absent daughter. Because we adopted her legally, we continue to hold parental responsibility for her, but it's not in any real sense, just on paper. She's 12, which makes her chances of being adopted by anyone else very slim as people tend to want younger children. We send birthday and Christmas cards but last year didn't get a response. I've been told that she talks about us affectionately, but who knows? We've since had Macy, who is four, and Hannah is now 14.
In Lucy's file we've placed a letter saying that if she ever wants to contact us we'd like to hear from her. Perhaps the story has not ended after all.
All names have been changed. Karen Carr's book, Adoption Undone, is available from baaf.org.uk for £7.95. For more information on adoption, visit BAAF's website or call 020 7421 2600
There is so much I want to say about this story but I don't want to respond to it with a rant of anger and venom towards the vile selfish adopters. The point is this isn't just a story, this is a child's life. No thought or consideration was given to her needs and interests. This was a child who was little more than a designer convenience to fill a selfish whim.
Every single person involved in the child's adoption, from the adopters to case workers and agencies should be charged with child neglect. Right down the line people neglected to protect her best interests. What is the saddest reflection of all is that without exception from the adopters down to the officials on every level all feel a tremendous sadness and all have praise for the adopters bravery and courage in telling the 'raw' and honest account of their heart ache.?? Anger, WHY are there no feelings of anger.
Am I really just a hurt and bitter angry adoptee... NO, and that I am sure about. These people didn't only crush this child's mind and heart they have gone on to make money out of the situation in the form of a book.
Adoption is wrong.

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5 comments: to “ Adoption IS Wrong so far...

  • Chris 5 July 2008 at 23:57
     

    The following is a post I submitted to the paper, but it never got published:

    This story beggars belief. Everything wrong with adoption is described in this appalling narrative. Why didn’t the adopters get a puppy or a kitten for a playmate. A child is not a commodity. Yet this child has been used in this way by this family who are so full of their own self-righteous that they are blind to it. Adopt for a playmate, the little girl doesn’t suit, so of course give her back. Feel guilty. You should do. One ounce of truth you felt more protective of your own ‘real’ child that of your adoptive one. You should be ashamed of yourselves for engaging in this modern form of slavery. Why don’t you do the right thing and give the child back to her REAL mother, and if the mother is ill – give her support. Adoption is a crime against children and should be banned and people like you should never be allowed to take possession of someone else’s child and then try to bond to it - bond – you don’t know the meaning of the word

    Phoenixmama

  • Chris 5 July 2008 at 23:59
     

    Following is a comment i posted after reading the article - it never got published:

    This story beggars belief. Everything wrong with adoption is described in this appalling narrative. Why didn’t the adopters get a puppy or a kitten for a playmate. A child is not a commodity. Yet this child has been used in this way by this family who are so full of their own self-righteous that they are blind to it. Adopt for a playmate, the little girl doesn’t suit, so of course give her back. Feel guilty. You should do. One ounce of truth you felt more protective of your own ‘real’ child that of your adoptive one. You should be ashamed of yourselves for engaging in this modern form of slavery. Why don’t you do the right thing and give the child back to her REAL mother, and if the mother is ill – give her support. Adoption is a crime against children and should be banned and people like you should never be allowed to take possession of someone else’s child and then try to bond to it - bond – you don’t know the meaning of the word

    phoenixmama

  • PatientGuard 6 July 2008 at 01:47
     

    What a tragic and moving story . And yes it takes far more than a couple of days to test the situation with a child from damaged family life

    This area of seperation and attachment too is complex in children and can lead to mental illness and a great many problems but you did your best and paid the price with conscience and pain - I think that shows quality, empathy loss and sorrow - good and deep parts of the human condition -

    Go easy on yourself - you forgive you

    I'm an adoptee

  • the need for a father? 6 July 2008 at 14:57
     

    Absolutely adoption is wrong. Having childen should not be a right. I see plenty of adopt-a-pet sites, so anyone might draw their own conclusion as to this sameness. At best people understand adoption is a complex and sensitive issue, and at worst as a rewarding charitable act.

    Please see

    http://about-orphans.blogspot.com

  • krisT2 14 December 2009 at 00:31
     

    Wow. This story is absolutely ridiculoush. I agree with Chris, a child is not a commodity. The people who this happened to are complete morons. They went out and got a kid because they wanted their daughter to have a playmate? That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard, well that and the fact that their new daughter was just such a nuissance. There was no point to that story and people like them are obviously immature and irresponsible. If you are not willing to take care of and love a child then why in the world would you adopt them. This story actually makes me sick to my stomach. WOW. RIDICULOUS. I disagree with Chris about adoption being a crime against children, give me a break. This type of adoption... yes. Generally people aren't arrogant idiots like this and they love and care for and provide a better home for the children. When people put their children up for adoption they obviously think that someone else can be a better parent to their child than they can. Get real people.