Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Sibling separation: words from an adoptee

(c) Carlo_it's
Karen Lomas adopted her daughter Emily when she was seven-years-old. Here she recalls Emily’s frustration and anger at being separated from her brother.

The day after our adoption had become legal I met my daughter Emily at the gates of her primary school. On this day there was no greeting, no kiss, no cuddle from my usually affectionate girl but what I can only describe as an "explosion" of the worst fury every: 'If they wanted me to be specially looked after, don't they know that my brother did that for me and my sisters, and he can still do that? Those stupid people!'

On and on she yelled. Her arguments were clear, reasoned and extremely well-articulated – she hated, with a passion, the social workers she thought had taken her away from her beloved brother and sisters. I felt impotent in the face of her rage. I also felt that what she was saying made a lot of sense.

Her anger did eventually abate, although she is still given to rants from time to time. Yet the vital importance of her siblings, especially her brother, was something I understood even more acutely on that day; a day, it should be said, when everything was sealed and our daughter was secure in the knowledge of the legally binding commitment we had made to her. Thus she felt safe enough to give full vent to her anger for the very first time. Until that point, all her energies had gone into ensuring that we were hers and that we would not reject her and send her away.

In the early stages of the adoption I was unable to relate her personal history to close family and friends without becoming tearful about the enormous loss she continued to feel, particularly with regard to her separation from her siblings. Emily still struggles a great deal to cope with the acute pain she feels as a consequence of living without her brother and two sisters.

Her yearning for her brother is stronger than anything. After a few months have gone by without contact, Emily's mood fluctuates and she often cries to see him. She misses him desperately and pines before our very eyes. Her frustration and anger at the situation naturally focuses on us, although she knows intellectually that we are not responsible. She is getting better at trusting that we do all we can. Emily is desperate to be with her brother, despite being happy and loved within our family, and we ensure she has regular contact, which now includes regular reciprocal visits. In some ways this appears to have helped Emily and in other ways it has increased her longing to be with her brother on a permanent basis. What is amazing, however, is that she says she would not live with him if she could because she would miss us!

You can read more of Karen’s and Emily’s reflections on adoption in the book I wish I had been born from you


Martin Narey said...

I can't imagine any seven year old who would not wish to be with a sibling from whom they are separated. But we don't know why Emily was separated and we cannot base adoption policy on the views of seven year olds. The decision on whether or not siblings should be adopted together needs to be taken in their best interests. The children's views should be listened to but in the knowledge that they are children. The soft option, the irresponsible option, the sure way to let children down, would be to dodge the difficult issue of separation because of the children's understandable views.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, it says in the story the brother was looking after the other children.

That maybe gives us a clue to why they were split up. I'm so glad Martin Narey has commented above as I think it's irresponsible for an adoption charity to publish this kind of story.

Readers, if you are thinking of adopting siblings, find out what a "Trauma Bond" is and at least you can make an informed decision.

_christinejones said...

I don't think this is a story about choice but about the day to day reality of adoptive family life ... managing difficult emotions and rethinking relationships

Anonymous said...

I too can totally relate to Martin Narey's response. I have three children all siblings adopted together. Sadly I know first hand what it's like to parent three children who really should have been separated.The children's therapist told me we are coping admirably given that we have been given an impossible task. What a massive cost to keep them together. My husband and I have become therapists to two of the children who are so damaged they cannot easily function in a family situation.The children's needs are so huge and so different it's impossible to meet everybody's need. We are exhausted. My parents retirement involes huge amounts of child care to enable us to cope. Adoption of severly traumatised children is not an easy task. Adoption of siblings who should be separated is a virtually impossible task and no one wins.There must be a better way.

Anonymous said...

I acknowledge the real and potential difficulties expressed above, but would like to add my own family's story. I adopted 2 half-sisters aged 6 and 9, five years ago. Their brother (4) was adopted by a good friend who lives in the same town. We negotiated and felt our way together as two families around our voluntary sibling contact arrangements and the children are together for a sleepover once a month, alternating between our respective homes. I can not emphasise enough how important that ongoing, regular as clockwork, proper amount of time to hang out has been to all 3 of them (who wouldn't change their adoptive parents either by the way). Its had its tensions but in 5 years the children (now 14, 11 and 9) have only quarelled on 1 occasion - their loving bond for each other is palpable. The oldest one had been the effective carer of the younger two and was devoted to their protection and well being. She found it hard not to be placed with her brother, and my/our commitment to ongoing contact was a critical success factor for her in our personal adoption acceptance process. My youngest daughter's attachment was/is to her sister, a deep connection I respect. All 3 children are different individuals, with different needs, but I really believe that facilitating sibling placement of the girls together and the ongoing contact with their brother has helped the 3 of them become the incredibally special and marvelous indivduals they are today. This is a happy story with a happy ending, and I thought the BAAF story was realistic and thankfully positive, as there is too much negativity around adoption in society. I believe we need a complete culture shift around adoption, to one that promotes the positive happy stories to balance out the perceived (and real) difficulties that put people off from adopting. Lets reduce the beaurocratic barriers to adoption, and reduce the practical financial and housing issues faced by potential adopters - who with the promise of a bit more support especially in the early days - might be more encouraged to adopt a sibling group or to commit to long term consistant contact post adoption. The needs of children should always be paramount, and thankfully my daughters 'needed' to be placed together. I really would encourage potential adopters to consider a slightly larger than they first thought of sibling group or to consider ongoing contact. It just might work for you too.

Anonymous said...

So eloquently said. Thanks for posting your story.

Rebecca Maxfield said...

What a bittersweet story. Such an emotive issue but one which adoptive parents and children have to deal with every day. I wrote a blog post about this actually which has got lots of comments - perhaps you would be interested in reading it. :-)


Anonymous said...

my opinion coming from a brother whos going through the trauma of never being allowed contact with my younger siblings its totally heartbreakin too the point i have tried to take my own life i miss my little brother and 2 sisters unreal amounts and think when socialworkers use the words at risk of emotional harm the sould look and think about everyone within the family unit

deprived teenager

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