Adoption has changed a lot over the last fifty years. Long gone are the days when young girls were shamefully hidden in homes for unwed mothers until the baby was born and then the wee one given straight up for adoption. In most cases in the UK the children who are free for adoption have been removed from their birth family because of abuse or neglect.
When Jay and I made the decision that yes adoption was for us, we contacted our local council adoption and fostering department. After an initial visit by a member of the social work team we waited to start an Adoption Preparation Course. These courses are a kind of parenting class, as well as to give the prospective adopter an insight into what kind of trauma our future children may have lived through and how we, as the parent, will need to help them with it in the present and the future. We also got a chance to speak to parents who have adopted and listen to their stories.
When we decided that AJ and Bart were the girls for us, we had been told AJ had Attachment Disorder. Ironically that was the session which had upset me the most during the preparation course and something I did not think I could cope with, but in our hearts we had already claimed these two girls after hearing their story and I knew AJ was supposed to be mine. So we read books and searched the internet on the subject to prepare ourselves for what may come.
Like many who adopt children, Jay and I are unable to have a birth family, so our knowledge of parenting was limited. We were Uncle and Auntie to nieces and nephews as well as spending time with children of friends, totally different to becoming a parent yourself, I know. But we finally met out girls and they moved in with us ten days later (as our social worker said, we went from 0 to 60 in one breath).
I have to be honest, the first months were hard. AJ and Bart were getting used to living with us, grieving for the wonderful foster family they had left and testing the boundaries in their new home (the way children do). Jay and I were learing how to be a Mummy and Daddy and just cope with the day to day of suddenly becoming responsible for more than ourselves.
It’s true, AJ was challenging at times, much of it directed towards myself and to begin with we did analyse everything she did. Some of it was a result of Attachment Disorder, but after chatting to other parents (including our own) we realised a lot of her behaviour was just because she was three years old.
Yes, many of these little ones needing their forever family will come with huge problems and issues, which is totally understandable considering what they have faced in their young lives. And yes, these problems and issues can and probably will result in some behaviours which are baffling to us parents. But we need to keep in mind that first and foremost they are children, laughing, playing games, running, shouting and getting into mischief. Also arguing, screaming, temper tantrums and sulking. That is what kids do.
Now almost two years on, Jay and I know our girls well and have mostly learnt which of AJ’s behaviours are because she is five and which are from something deeper. (She can still surprise us though!) We have also learnt to take a deep breath, try to relax and enjoy being a family.