Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Adoption Week: How TV gets adoption so very wrong

Whenever adoption is depicted on TV and in films I find myself becoming annoyed. Often it's a sideline story littered with inaccuracies and often just downright made up. Further down the line - if it's even referred to - there are no repercussions and it's all but forgotten that adotion ever took place. I've become agitated seeing Stella take in a looked after child without any assessment whatsoever and not so much as a visit from a social worker. Apparently all it takes is a phone call to say that he can stay with a random adult he once knew and it's done. Hollyoaks always used to leave me bemused as vulnerable young adults would wind up living with a family they had no connection with other than living in the same made up soap land. We are so used to seeing american imported TV shows that I suspect there are people who have an entirely erroneous idea of how adoption works over here. If you believed shows like Friends or Modern Family you'd be forgiven for thinking that adoption is like a shopping expedition. Monica and Chandler were interviewed by an agency - who they lied to by the way - and were chosen by the birth mother despite their lies. The day the twins are born they go and pick them up and bring them straight home. No assessment, no home visit, no paperwork, nothing. When Cam and Mitchell adopt Lily she is brought home and again we don't see any follow up at all. At the very least this is poor safeguarding for the children involved. 



I'm going to be honest with you about the reality of adoption. There is a lot of bureaucracy. I mean loads. We had so many visits from social workers that we amended our shopping list so she could have toast during our morning assessments and biscuits on afternoon visits. I developed a system of biscuit management. The simple biscuits for the regular meetings (ginger nuts, rich teas, digestives).  chunkier cookies for the really nice social workers (Waitrose oat and fruit ones) and chocolate biscuits if they were coming to give us good news (Foxes ones in a pack with foil on). At one point I honestly thought we'd never see the end of this process. You know how contestants on the Apprentice talk about proving themselves worthy ? Well that's how we felt. And when the idiots in the jungle undertake disgusting bushtucker trials I can empathise with the bad taste in their mouth in order to achieve a greater good. And let's be truthful it is for the greater good. If you're too lily-livered for the assessment process you just won't cut the mustard as an adopter. 

Another area where the media depiction of adotion veers wildly from reality is post adoption. We rarely see children struggle with a new setting. The sleepless nights, the anxiety, the fears and unknown monsters from their past that you didn't know about. Within weeks of being placed with us we learned that our boy was afraid of the dark when he freaked out in the theatre as the lights went down. We found out he wouldn't sleep on his own and had to reach through his cot to check I was next to him - all night. I realised that he would not be held if he didn't want to be and would make it very clear that he wasn't going to co-operate if anyone tried to impose on his personal space. The relationship between him and our older son was also far more fraught than I had anticipated. They both felt displaced and wanted me all to themselves. It was a constant battle to provide reassurance to both boys and they fought bitterly and cried and screamed and generally made me feel like the worst mother in the world for not being able to keep them both happy. One would push the other one out of the way then the other would hit back. At the lowest point I would close the door to the kitchen as soon as Hubbie got home so that I could just cry and be away from the pulling in two directions. No TV show depicts adoption breakdown. Or the possibility of it happening. 

Today I watched my boys running around chasing each other and play fighting. I saw Blue Bear's adoration of his older brother and Brown Bear's faux annoyance at his younger brother. He secretly loves being a role model and takes it very seriously that he can influence someone so impressionable. Blue Bear has developed an excellent skill of 'managing up' and flatters his brother's ego knowing he will have far more fun that way. I see his skills are so different and his personality is adorable. He feels safe with us and is clearly marking his place in the family with his sense of humour and stubborness. The jealously still rears it's head, but not so much any more. Hubbie worked away overnight a few weeks ago and I whispered to Brown Bear that when his brother had gone to sleep he could sleep in my bed just this once. He was delighted - he got to be my baby for one night. The other night Blue Bear woke up scared he called for me - he usually calls for Daddy. They both know that I am here for them and that I love them equally. It's taken time and hard work and is still a work in progress. 



Adoption is not the easy choice. It's not even the only choice. What it is though, is about the right adopters being matched with children who are waiting for a chance to live in a family. In some cases for the first time in their lives. I didn't learn about adoption from watching TV. I learned by living it. I am still learning. 

It's National Adoption Week: As in previous years, the need to find families for some of our most vulnerable children remains at the heart of this year’s event. There is now clear evidence that decisions for adoption and placement orders are on the rise. With this in mind, National Adoption Week 2017 is focused on the need to find the right adopters for sibling groups.


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