We are very glad to welcome a guest post by Clare, Shannon and all the people in the “Adoption Disruption UK” support group.

I met Clare a few months ago on Twitter. Clare and Shannon, her partner for this project who lives in Canada, met via the Facebook group “Adoption Disruption UK” where they forged a friendship and shared their adoption breakdown experience.

We believe adoption breakdown is an aspect of adoption not talked about and often kept too quiet. Many adopters who are going through the experience or struggling with their adoption don’t know where to find support and emotional help. We hope this post can be of help to all those people, and it can be a starting point for a more open talk about the struggles and thrives of adoption.

Are you ready to have your family life sabotaged every day? Are you willing to keep fighting for support for your child and get nothing in return? Are you happy to not be listened to or believed by the authorities? If you can answer “Yes” to any or all of these questions, then continuing with the adoption placement may well be for you.

However, if your very last ounce of resilience has gone and your belief systems have been shattered, you probably find yourself in the position of considering ending the placement. We understand – this is not a decision which you are going to be taking quickly or lightly.

Adoption disruptions and family breakdowns are the areas not really covered in any pre-adoption training, not portrayed in the happy “forever family” images on adoption marketing materials, or indeed on any television or media programmes that we have seen. Adoption nowadays is not the same as when girls “got into trouble” and the child was put up for adoption so as not to bring shame on a family. The children who are placed now are traumatised human beings whose needs have not been met, who do not know how to be parented and often do not know how to attach. Disruption as a potential outcome from an adoption placement has to be seen as a reality and should be explained up front as such. None of us adoptive parents enters into adoption thinking a disruption will take place or wanting it to, but the fact is, adoptive family breakdowns do happen and this is a global issue, not one just confined to the UK.

Expectations and excitement levels are high on both sides when a match is found, but would placements be better if a child (UK cases) was placed with an Adoption Support Fund “budget” pre-agreed and pre-approved alongside a parenting plan to match the child’s established needs? Would placements be less at risk of breakdown if they were always “foster to adopt”? Should the words “forever family” be replaced with “growing up family”? If phrases like these were used instead, then neither the child/ren nor the adoptive parents would feel the same pressure to “make it work” and could try to get on with building the family unit in a much less pressured environment. Maybe, any subsequent breakdown might then not be so impactful.

We all know the adoption application process is tough, but building the family is tougher, surviving living with children who do not know how to attach is heartbreaking, and, making the only decision possible for everyone concerned is devastating. But, it doesn’t stop there, the aftermath, grief and loss of a family breakdown is hugely traumatic for the adoptive parents who thought adoption would give them the family they so longed for or who wanted to add to their existing brood or wanted to be able to change a child’s life for the better.

When the placement ends and your family unit has been broken and the child or children have left your home, the only way to describe it is a mix between (a) when you know you have ended a relationship for the right reasons but you still want to know how the other person is, what they are doing and if they miss you, and, (b) as if someone has died. Some people have experienced great support, kindness and empathy from their family and friends following the family breakdown, others not, leaving them isolated. In addition to losing the child/ren, along the way, some people have also lost friends and family members who could not empathise or understand.

Adoptive parents are left feeling anxious, with high levels of stress, guilt, concern for the child, loss, grief, anger, frustration. We have to start rebuilding a new life which we never thought we’d have. We feel disappointment and huge sadness it didn’t work. We think about our children every day.

Adoption breakdown stories (well, they are not “stories”, they are real people’s real lives), are all different but also all so very similar. We are members of an online support group and amongst ourselves, we’ve shared what some of the reasons are which caused our adoptions to break down and discovered that the breakdown can happen from as early as during the Introductions stage, right through to 10 years or more post-adoption order, and at any time in between. There are so many reasons for adoptive families to break down – lack of support from the authorities, “new” medical diagnoses that were not provided in the child’s paperwork, lack of therapy for the child, false allegations by the child and involvement from the police, the child becoming beyond parental control due to drugs and violence brought into the family home. The list goes on and is not necessarily even just one of these reasons in isolation.

There is a need for change.

We know this blog will be read by people in different situations and we thank you for reading thus far.

If you are an adoptive parent who is considering ending the placement, or you have already experienced this type of family breakdown, or you are just trying to find answers and kindred spirits, then do get in touch. We understand living through and surviving the fallout.

And if you are a person reading this who was adopted and then the placement later disrupted, please know that the family you were with did everything in their power to try to prevent this from happening to you and ended up having to make the only decision possible for everyone.

We also recognise that, in addition, birth children, adoptive siblings, grandparents, wider family members and social workers also suffer the impact of adoption disruption – its ripples are far-reaching.

Thank you to Laura for giving us the opportunity to post on this blog as a guest and open up this discussion to a wider audience. We appreciate being able to start the ball rolling to remove the taboo of adoption family breakdowns and hope that we have provided some food for thought to stimulate discussion – and we ask you to remember, do not judge us, you have not walked in our shoes.

Just to finish, we are running a survey and also a book project for adoptive parents affected by adoption disruption. Again, if you are in a similar situation and would like to contribute, do get in touch. Through this work, we hope to raise awareness of this very important adoption topic.

Please help us bring about some change in the system – for the right support and therapy for preservation of adoption placements, for services to be put in place to help future families who will face making this very difficult choice. Talk to us, not about us.

Thank you for reading!

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