According to a recent survey by the BBC and Adoption UK, over a quarter of adoptive families are in crisis.
I'm part of that statistic. Are you?
Apparently, most adoptions are challenging but stable. Some are even fulfilling and stable.
But if you are living with a child who you love with all your heart, who is sometimes funny and kind and creative, but at other times, is unpredictable, abusive, violent and destructive, then this letter is for you.
If you're constantly treading on eggshells in your own home, never able to fully relax, if your home is no longer your safe place, then I'm writing this for you.
However, don't read this letter expecting strategies and answers and solutions. I'm so sorry. I don't have any. There is no quick fix. If there were, we would all be doing it right now, wouldn't we? However hard it was, we would do whatever it took, because what we want most of all is for our child to stop hurting, for our child to be whole, for our child to allow us to love him and care for him and bring him safely to adulthood.
All I can tell you for sure is this: You are not alone.
You may be feeling totally isolated, thoroughly misunderstood, entirely unheard. But you are not alone.
There are others out there living a similar nightmare to you. Not the same, for none of us parents are ever completely the same and each of our children is perfectly unique. But over a quarter of adoptive families are in crisis. That's a lot of families.
None of us entered into adoption lightly, did we? We were committed to making it work. We thought it through. We believed we could do this. We trusted those putting us forward to adopt when they said we were suitable. We trusted them when they said there would be the help and support we would need. We believed them when they told us what we could expect. We thought we were going into this with our eyes wide open.
We thought we were prepared. But what could prepare us for this? We were not trained for this. We wanted to be parents not therapists.
We gave all that we had to give to create our forever family. This is what we yearned for more than anything: a family built to last. We're not quitters, are we? We don't give up easily. We have big hearts.
And we'd all say we're glad we adopted. Of course, we are. These are our children. We love them. We've always loved them. We'll never stop loving them.
We haven't changed our minds about that.
But this. This is too hard.
I know because I've been there.
I know what it is to be bitten and hit and have food thrown at me and a bottle of shampoo poured over my head by my child.
I know how it feels to be told every day to go die in a ditch, that I'm useless and pathetic and that everyone would be better off without me.
I know that I have suffered domestic abuse, child to parent violence and emotional manipulation, even when no one would listen, no one would believe me, no one would dare to name it for what it really was.
I know what it is to be blamed by professionals and judged by the other mums for the behaviour of my child.
I know what it is to have to fight for the help that my child so desperately needs, at a time when there is no fight left in me.
And I did fight. I did struggle on day after day after day, right up to the point where I didn't have any energy left to fight any more or the words to articulate what was wrong, to explain my child to professionals who could never begin to understand what it was like to live with my child.
My first adoption broke down when my daughter was 15. You can read about that in 'The day I failed as a mother'.
My story is not over. I also have two other adopted children who are now nearly 15 and 16. Things are different, of course they are. They're entirely different individuals, finding their own way in this world and making sense of their own difficulties and emotions and identity. Having lived through the distress and anxiety and fear of those traumatic years, they have now cautiously begun to welcome their sister back into the home again on occasions. They will never forget the threats and aggression and doors being pulled off the hinges, but they are remarkably resilient. They've had to be.
Resilience is not something anyone ever chooses, is it?
People say that adopters are resilient. Would you describe yourself as resilient? My response to that is 'not out of choice'. We have to be resilient. There is no other choice. We have to get out of bed every morning and face the day. We have to survive. What option is there?
People say that I am remarkable. I don't want to be remarkable. I just want to be normal. I don't want to have to be strong. I just want to be normal. I guess being a normal mum, having a normal family, stopped being an option the moment I adopted.
If asked, I would describe my current situation as 'challenging but stable'. Which I never believed was possible and which I will now never take for granted.
But I'm still tired. I'm so, so tired.
That adoption breakdown has taken it out of me, drained me of resilience and confidence and strength. I walk through my life heartbroken, grieving for all that has been lost. I live in the constant fear that it may all happen all over again. I'm consumed by anxiety about the future for my beloved children.
Every day may be stable, but it's a fragile kind of stable.
How can it be otherwise when my kids are growing up with complex background and difficulties and behaviours in a world that does not have the time or energy or resources or money or inclination to be able to reach out and help them?
We still need help. The right help. But most of the time, I'm too tired to ask for it. Too exhausted to fight for the specific support and individual understanding my children need with the local authority, the school, the doctor, the health visitor, the social worker, the benefit system, the professionals....
And then I have to deal with the guilt that I'm not doing enough. That I'm failing them in some way. That it's all down to me. That if I'd done more, things would have been different. That if I do better, then things will be better.
But all I can bring is who I am today. That has to be enough, for that is all that I have.
Whatever you are going through right now, you are not alone.
My heart goes out to you, wherever you are.
I hope that you find the comfort and support you need to get you through today.
I hope that you find the energy you need to keep crying out for the help that you so desperately require.
I hope that you find the courage to do whatever you need to do. You will know what that is when the time comes.
We didn't sign up for this. We're not remarkable. And yet here we are. This is the path we are on. It's a narrow, treacherous path for sure, but others are walking it too, who can reach out a hand to steady us when we stumble.
Let's walk it together.Suggest a correction