Adopting a Sibling (Parrot’s Story)

Next weeks #WASO theme is Siblings. Because I won’t be blogging next weekend, I’ll write my entry this week instead.

This is Parrot’s story, but it starts with his older sister, Kestrel

I adopted Kestrel in March 2004, very shortly after her 8th birthday which fell in our introductions. Kestrel was one of 10 siblings at that time but had to be split up from all the rest, for reasons of age and special needs (I have addressed the topic of splitting up siblings in a 3 part post series talking about why it’s done, explaining and living with it, and post adoption contact).

I knew from the start that Kestrel would be challenging, had many difficulties and that she didn’t do well with sharing attention – hence social services decision that they would only look at families who were childless or had adult/nearly adult children.

Therefore, adopting a sibling was definitely not on my mind that March.

Less than a month after she moved in, in April 2004, a sibling was born. Social services informed me shortly after the birth. The plan was adoption and the sibling was removed and placed with foster carers on discharge from the hospital. My adopting this baby was never a consideration given how recently Kestrel had been placed and her special needs. The two of us were still adjusting to being in the same house, Kess was starting school and starting to show very challenging behaviours as well.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t feel sad though. I cried because Kestrel had lost another sibling. Another one she would not be able to grow up with, another relationship lost. Another loss.

It’s okay to be really sad if you have to say no to a sibling. It is sad. But we all have to do what’s best for our families and our children.

I asked for letterbox contact with photographs twice a year, which I thought would be best for Kestrel. I asked that the family be open to the possibility of direct contact in later years although it wasn’t a good idea at that point in time.

The baby was adopted quickly, to a wonderful mum and dad, who write the most lovely letters to us and send the most beautiful, great quality photographs. I am so glad. It helps Kestrel. Direct contact has not happened because siblings parents judge it would not be a good idea for them, which I understand.

So back to 2004 /2005. Kestrel and I carried on getting used to being a family. Adopting a child with learning difficulties, complex PTSD and challenging behaviours was never going to be an easy ride, but it was what I chose and I got to like having Kestrel around, and she accepted that she lived with me now (that unconditional love and attachment did not come quickly for either of us).

A call from social services….and the next bombshell. Another pregnancy. And the next bombshell. Kess’s mother has been engaging with professionals and made changes in her life and circumstances. And the next bombshell. Therefore the baby will not be removed at birth, but there will be monitoring and support to see if she can parent her 12th child where she couldn’t the first 11.

The baby (a boy) was born in February 2005. Kestrel and I marked one year together the next month. I called for updates from social services, and asked for a photo of the new baby to show Kess, which mum kindly agreed to give to us. Although in hindsight it was a big mistake to tell Kestrel the baby was staying with mum, it caused a lot of issues and questions and upset.

Sadly, it was not to last. It all broke apart and K and P’s birth mum lost her last child, although this time she did consent and ask for the baby to go into care because she couldn’t cope.

I remain very glad that their birth mum made those life changes in her pregnancy. Because of those changes Parrot was not exposed to alcohol in the womb, and so he does not have the issues that Kestrel and some of his other siblings have with FASD.

In September 2005 I recieved some updated photos and was asked a question – do you want to adopt this baby?

I said no.

Kestrel had only been home a year and a half, and we had just come out of the end of a really hard few months. I had successfully battled the LA for a statement of SEN so she could attend the right school for her (a special EBD school). That September Kestrel was starting her new school, after an appalling year at her last (mainstream) school. And I mean appalling, she was excluded in the last month after some very serious problems just to cap the whole bad year off.

Not only that, but K and I had finally recieved the green light and funding for assessment and therapy at a specialist centre, due to her complex PSTD.

Social services said they understood. I asked for letterbox and photos twice a year. I cried and felt the loss.

And then…

everything stalled on SS’s end

Kestrel and I carried on our lives. We attended therapy. She settled into school and did so much better. Her behaviour improved. I noticed we were getting closer together, her attachment was growing, and so was mine.

We made so much progress. It’s amazing how far you can go in just 13 short months. Not that those 13 months fixed most things, no, her issues were still there. But the difference when school know what they’re doing, are supportive, and teach/discipline appropriately, the difference when your child mostly stops spitting at you and angry outbursts reduce, the difference when your child is able to ask for hugs, and call for you after a nighmare, the difference when they start to trust…well, it’s an amazing difference.

During those 13 months I got a few baby updates and pictures but little else.

Sadly, Parrot’s story is one of a huge amount of poor social work. He changed social workers like he changed nappies. Delays, delays, delays.

In October 2006, I was called again. Over a year after adoption became the only option, a placement order had been applied for. Court in early December 2006.

Did I want to adopt the baby? Sorry I know we’ve asked already but it’s been 13 months, we’d better make sure you still feel the same way?

But I didn’t feel the same way.

I agonised through October and part of November.

This is some of what I felt -

  • I can cope with another child as well as this
  • Can I? Are you deluding yourself here?
  • I don’t think so. But what about Kestrel? How will this affect her? It will definitely be very hard at first, how far will she regress?
  • But therapy has already addressed some of those issues
  • I’ve always wanted a large family. Not just two children. And Kestrel does ask for a new brother or sister as well. It’s not like she doesn’t want this.
  • But Kestrel doesn’t like sharing attention and she doesn’t really understand what a sibling would be like
  • Does any child understand that? This is her birth sibling, if you don’t adopt him Kestrel has lost another sibling. This isn’t like an unrelated child
  • But this is number 12, there’ll be a number 13 in a year surely?
  • You sure about that?

Etc!!!

In November 2006….I said yes

And in February 2007, 2 years and 11 months after this story started, 23 months after he was born….I walked into Parrot’s FC’s house and into his life…his forever mummy. At last.

Has it been easy? No. It’s been hard. Really really hard, especially the early days. When he was grieving for mummy and daddy and home (his foster carer’s), when Kestrel struggled to cope with the change in her life…

In the last 6 and a half years, I have had days where I’ve thought ‘this was a mistake’, and then shouldered on, because mistake or not, I’d made a decision and it was final. And I loved my son.

I don’t have those days now. Not seriously. Sometimes I feel very sad that living with Kestrel means living with very challenging behaviour. It also means that Parrot, who has no interest at all in meeting his birth family and is in fact a bit scared of his birth mother, has been forced to live with Kestrel running off to meet her, which has shaken him badly. I feel awful about that.

But the bottom line is – he’s my son. I love him. Unconditionally, leap in front of a bullet without thinking, to the end of the earth/galaxy/universe and back again. He loves his mummy. He loves Kestrel and Rhea – both his equally real sisters. He is mostly happy. So am I. And Kestrel says she is very happy that we adopted her baby brother.

Where would we all be without our Parrot?

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3 thoughts on “Adopting a Sibling (Parrot’s Story)

  1. What a very moving story, and a powerful insight into the conflicts faced by adoptive parents when siblings come into the equation. I have been warned that my son’s birth mum’s circumstances make ‘that’ phone call fairly likely, but I have decided not to worry about it right now – who knows how I’ll feel about it if it happens? As you say, changing circumstances mean that the answer may well be different at different times. I’ve found it really helpful to read about your experiences, thanks.

  2. Thanks for sharing this…we had intended to adopt our son’s sibling, but then our circumstances changed. So many things to think about and process, your own emotions and your other children’s. It’s really interesting to read your own thoughts and identify with so many of them.

    Thanks for linking up to the Weekly Adoption Shout Out, we’ll try to link it to next week’s themed WASO for you too :-)

  3. I found this very moving, most insightful into the way adopters feel, the whole process of thinking it through, trying to do the best in difficult circumstances. From my perspective, as a birth relative (not mother, but cousin) of an adopted child, I found your description of your experience quite heartening. Thankyou.

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