A little boy’s heartbreaking journey to adoption
Why we resigned and why these practices must end
We have been foster carers for many years, specialising in fostering children who go on to adoption. As a qualified professional working with vulnerable adults affected by their care experiences and extensive experience in the childcare sector, I did not enter fostering as a novice.
Noah came into our lives at just one week old, with a short and tragic backdrop, he spent the first and most formative three years of his life with us, we were in effect his de-facto mummy and daddy.
We dedicated our time to working with Noah to prepare him for his transition to having a new family, through play we explored it all as best as you can with a child of that age.
All was going well and introductions commenced, we were happy with the knowledge that the children’s services we worked for had finally modernised their approach to adoption and embraced the UEA model https://www.movingtoadoption.co.uk something I and others had campaigned for.
We were to find out however it was mere lip service. As Noah commenced his adoption journey with his new mum and dad he experienced four changes of child social workers during his transition, he knew none of them and there was no continuity, there was also a change of management in the adoption team and the Family Finders neither spoke to us nor consulted us, not once.
Then suddenly with no warning, there was an unexpected change in the transition plan. We were not consulted, and given the changes we now understood why – we had become too vocal about Noah’s needs, wishes and feelings, too outspoken about his rights and our concerns, too forceful in our advocating for him, too articulate and too well educated in, and sourcing, the research highlighting the impact of separation and loss. We had to be stopped.
The new plan implemented the archaic and now discredited ‘6 weeks to settle in plan’, basically a sudden cliff edge for the child, a sudden severing of their secure base, no longer would Noah have the chance to hug or connect with the people who had bought him up and spent the first three formative years of his life nurturing, loving and holding him.
Instead, he was to be left unable to express his feelings of loss, grief and abandonment, a loss that respected modern research shows us would have a devastating effect on Noah’s future mental health and attachment issues. Four weeks later our suspicions were confirmed when we discovered a series of false information and untruths at the centre of the change in plan to cover up the fact they were not following their own UEA model and to distract from any negative impact they were having on three-year-old Noah.
We had dared raise these issues and were being punished for it, hurriedly silenced, omitted from all the plans, one scant ‘contact’ heavily supervised in a public place by the social services ‘police’, videoed, monitored, watched over, like prisoners having contact with their children.
All to ensure we were silenced, discredited and disempowered.
As it turns out it was not us who were punished, not us who suffered, it was Noah. Evidence from information surfaced at the next and last short contact we had with Noah that he had been very unwell, he had not eaten for two weeks, had only drunk water and had lost a lot of weight. When we saw him it was evident, he looked so tiny and fragile, his immune system likely shut down in a common and well-researched reaction in pre-verbal children expressing loss and grief.
I held him, he fell into my arms gripping me as hard as anything I had ever felt, you have to experience a hug like that to understand its meaning, Noah was grieving and my heart was breaking for him.
That was the last time Noah ever saw us, ever hugged us, we vanished from his little life in a blink of an eye, forever. Nothing left but an empty void. At that moment everyone’s needs were being met, except Noah’s.
No one can speak for a three-year-old child but they do, for those who’s agendas it suits they make grand claims on their behalf that they are ‘doing fine’ and ‘terribly happy’. These are not experts in child development and early neuroscience, have no trauma-informed or attachment training, and are adopters who just want a fresh start, seeing any past attachments as threatening.
I might add none of these was the adopter’s fault, they had the best and most loving intentions at heart, just woefully unprepared, informed or supported, it reminds me that we can harm children even with the gentlest of hands.
We did hear from the adopters again, in a phone call, with no mention of the illnesses, weight loss, or emotional well-being, all they wanted to tell us was how ‘happy’ he was, in an effort to show us, and convince themselves, how ‘well’ he was doing, he was just three and a half years old.
None of the serious concerns surrounding Noah’s well-being were heard, never mind acknowledged and every email we sent went without a response.
Research and practice show that one of the most distressing aspects of being in the care system is the experience of broken attachments, leaving children with an underlying sense of impermanence and low self-esteem, and adopted children who, however much they are loved, with their history of broken attachments are vulnerable to underlying feelings of being displaced, unloved and insignificant (Sellick, et al,1996).
Even to the end, the local authority children’s services and adoption teams were sadly bereft of any ability to reflect or learn, working in a blame culture does that to you.
In a vain effort to apportion blame, to deflect from their own failings, they attempted to rewrite our resignation statement and misrepresent our reasons for resigning, suggesting we couldn’t handle it and had become too emotional, when the truth was, as written in our statement, we had resigned as a direct result of adoption transitions badly malfunctioning due to mismanagement and from feeling unsafe working for a service seemly incapable of following the government’s national minimum standards.
We also said we felt no longer able to work for people who had such a harmful and negative impact on children’s physical, and emotional well-being and future. These sudden separations are commonplace across children’s services, negatively impacting and emotionally harming children, and not just in adoption, but in fostering too, barbaric practices that need to end. No more excuses, no more claiming ignorance, and no more blaming foster carers, it has to stop.
It is clear to me that there is no need to break a bond to make a bond, and if you have ever had one of those indescribably tight and heartbreaking hugs from a child denied those bonds you will understand why it’s so terribly important we get it right.
If you or any of the children in your care have been affected by these issues the author of this piece would love to hear from you as she is campaigning end to these practices, if you would like to contact her or would like support please contact us: [email protected]
*Noah is a fictional story but based on true events from the many carers from across the UK who have contacted FosterWiki with their heartbreaking stories.
- FosterWiki Maintaining connection – https://fosterwiki.com/wiki/maintaining-connection/
- Fostering Network – keep connected – https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/media-release/2019/keep-connected-principleslaunched
- UEA model website – https://www.movingtoadoption.co.uk
- Children’s Act – https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1989/41/contents