Tag Archives: face-to-face contact

Birth Mother

imageWe made it to the station with less than a minute to spare. The train was waiting on the platform. I gave Billy and his friend Edgar a quick hug and told them to run. I texted to ask whether they were on the train but got no response. I waited 10 minutes to make sure they weren’t still on the platform, then texted Billy’s birth mum to let her know that they are on their way.

It’s a momentous ending to 2014. It will be the first time Billy’s mum has ever had all six of the children she carried for 9 months and gave birth to under one roof. There was a seventh child, the first-born, who died as a baby. All seven were born by cesarean section, so the toll on Billy’s still young, very pretty and lovely mother must have been pretty heavy. I have tried imagining her feelings and thoughts at having all her children together, but don’t really know where to begin. The family represent a mini United Nations. The six children have four different fathers, two from the UK and two born overseas. Some of the family are brought up as strict cultural Muslims and others are  loosely Roman Catholic. Some have moved between the two. Some are small, with dark skin, brown eyes and black hair. Billy and his baby brother are stocky, fair and blue-eyed. The children don’t all know each other, although Billy has met them all before separately.  He only saw his ‘follower’, exactly a year younger than him, once, briefly. They were shy and didn’t say much to each other but shared mannerisms and had the same way of exhibiting nervousness. On a second visit only Billy’s elder sister turned up as his brother was still in bed. That too could have been Billy, so their teenage closeness in age as well as genetics is a common factor. This lad was brought up by his father’s sisters in London, so his mother has seen little of him either. Billy has photos of them all in his bedroom at home, and used to pin them around his bed in boarding school. I have heard social workers say that if children are not brought up together they can’t be said to have a relationship. True in some respects, but it has always been clear to us that Billy’s birth family are very, very important to him. The same can be said of Jo, also from a large family. To only hear of the birth of new siblings via foster parents or by other routes can be hurtful. There is a long way to go in terms of social work practice in the UK catching up with what birth family contact could and does mean for adopted or fostered children.

So my thoughts today are with Billy and his other family. I have done all I can in terms of setting up the visit, buying train tickets, booking rooms for the night, finding taxi cab numbers, making sandwiches, wrapping gifts and providing enough cash for a meal tonight for a large family, and for any contingencies.  The rest is up to them.

Birth Family Contact at Christmas

christmas-tree-man-singChristmas is a time when families should be together, and we treasured those early Christmases when the children were small and we could share their excitement. We did learn pretty quickly that too much excitement is overwhelming, and that anticipation, having to wait for things, and surprises can be distressing rather than fun, but we do still look forward to celebrating the festival together.

Christmas is also one of the times that our adoption agreement stated we should have letterbox contact with certain birth family members. This was not particularly satisfactory for a number of reasons, a key one being the slowness and censorship exercised by the local authorities administering the contact, or often lack of it. We have thankfully moved beyond that point. I have booked train tickets for Billy and an overseas friend from his last school, who is coming back to stay with us after Christmas, to visit his birth mother and the half-siblings who live with her. It will be the first time he’s been on his own. He didn’t want to stay at her house, which would be quite a squash, so I have also booked him into the guesthouse we usually use on our annual summer visits. I thought he’d probably like to see his birth dad as well, who lives in the same area with his partner and her two boys. We have just exchanged texts to see if he is free to meet up before Billy and his friend return home. It’s risky, I wouldn’t want Billy to be stood up by him. When we saw them in the summer they invited Billy to a baby cousin’s Christening in October. His dad had been asked to be godfather, and he said he would meet Billy at the station and put him up. October came and went, and I didn’t hear anything. I emailed and texted, no response. Billy didn’t say anything but it was easy to sense his disappointment and feelings of rejection, which I’m sure hadn’t been intended. I was pleased to get a text just now from his dad saying that the Christening had been postponed until after Christmas, so Billy wasn’t excluded or forgotten after all. I know many families are wary of face-to-face contact, and some have very good reasons to avoid it. That hasn’t been our experience, thankfully. All the family members we have met, and its quite a few by now, are kind to Billy, care about him and are proud of him. They are also thankful to us, and it feels more like one big extended family than a painful rupture in relationships between his family of origin and adoptive family. There was a hiatus, certainly, and damage was done, but at least Billy won’t have to wait until he is 18 to do some surreptitious searching. I don’t think any of us would have handled a closed, secretive adoption very well.