What adoption meant for me! An adopted adult’s story.

As part of National Adoption Week, we spoke to Rebecca who is an adopted adult. Rebecca reflects on her life story, shares her feelings of adoption, and gives her views on some of the things prospective adopters need to know. Here’s what she had to say:

How old were you when you were adopted?

My parents adopted me from birth. They were working in Malaysia, and expressed an interest in adoption because they thought they could not have children. My birth mother had informed the hospital that she wished to relinquish me at birth and she left the hospital soon after giving birth to me. So I was placed with my parents when I was 2 days old.

When did you find out that you were adopted, and were your parents openly discussing adoption and sharing information with you?

I’m Chinese Malay and my parents are both Welsh, so I’ve always known that I was adopted. It was something that we always discussed, and it was never hidden from me. I know they didn’t have any choice but to tell me as I clearly didn’t look like their biological child. However, I think that always knowing was a positive thing. It meant that, it wasn’t a shock finding out, I grew up knowing that my parents chose me to be their child and because my parents always shared as much information as they could, I never felt that it was a taboo subject. I learnt that my birth father had passed away in a motorbike crash, but there was never much information about my birth mother. I know she was 16 having me, and I’d like to think, that her age led to her decision that she could not care for me.

What did it feel like as a child being adopted?

As I didn’t look like my adoptive parents, this inevitably marked me out as different. This was even more evident when my younger sister, who is their biological child was born two years later. However, they never made me feel that I was anything other than their first daughter because they treated me exactly the same as my sister in terms of love and telling me off!

Naturally and perhaps even more poignant for me because of my ethnicity, I went through the phase of wondering if I looked like my birth mother or father, whether I had any brothers and sisters or whether I was good at something because my mother or father were. However, wondering about these things didn’t mean I loved my adoptive parents any less or indeed that they were less important to me. I recognised as I was growing up and perhaps even more so as an adult that it is their love and commitment that has formed me into the adult that I am, given me the opportunity to formulate the principles that are important to me and given me the foundation and drive to pursue what I have achieved.

Was your experience of adoption positive?

Most definitely. I know it might sound strange but being adopted is something I’m very proud of. My parents gave me permanence, and whatever reasons my birth mother had for giving me up, I know that it has given me opportunities I would not have had if I had remained with her.

However, I appreciate that I have had a very positive experience and that is not the case for everyone. I have met other adoptees and their stories haven’t been as positive as mine and I know adoptive parents who have gone through difficult times with their adoptive child but to be honest I think that parenting is a difficult job whether you are the parent of an adopted or biological child. So  ultimately it boils down to, all you can do as a parent is to provide a positive, loving and healthy environment for your child to meet their potential and become whoever it is that they will be.

My parents did that for me and my childhood was full of rebelliousness (on my part) and arguments but a whole lot of laughter and much love too and for me the difficulties we faced have as much shaped my experience being a positive one as all the laughter and good times. As it was the process of working through the difficult times that sometimes proves to us as children, that despite us being difficult and annoying you still love us.

What are your greatest achievements?

I am proud of the achievements I have made in terms of my career, and that I had the opportunity to go to university, but for me my greatest achievement is my family.

My mum and dad provided us with amazing opportunities whilst we were growing up, my sister and I travelled around the world with them and we had some great experiences and some truly harrowing ones like being stuck out in the Iraq/Iran war and the Gulf War. Both my parents coming from Llandeilo meant that we settled back in Wales when I was in my early teens. My mum sadly passed away when I was in my 30’s but my father, who is nearly 80 has a really close relationship with my son and they are both football mad. My husband, being Welsh is more a rugby fan but seeing the three of them going off in the car on a weekend to watch my son play football really does give me the best feeling. When I have my sister, her husband, my two nephews and niece who I absolutely adore and their black Labrador and my dad come over on a weekend,  it’s a mad house but when we all get together, and I watch my family laughing around our table, clichéd as it sounds I know that this is my greatest achievement.

Have you had contact with any siblings/birth family?

As I was adopted abroad and in the 70’s it would not be as easy to get in touch with my birth family as it might be for children adopted more recently. However, I’ve never felt the need to go looking for my birth family. For me, it simply wasn’t something that I have had a strong urge to do. I thought this might change when I had my own child, but now I finally have someone in the world who looks like me I feel even less inclined to seek out my biological family.

I do sometimes wonder whether my mum thinks about me on my birthday, whether I have brothers or sisters and if I look like or have characteristics of either of my parents but I think this is something that all adoptive children will naturally consider at some point in their lives. Just as biological children often wonder if they look more like their father or their mother or have any of their attributes. However, having discussed it with some of my other friends who are adopted and have sought out their biological family, the need to find our biological families is individual and not necessarily a barometer of the how they feel about their adoptive family. I know my adoptive family would have been fully supportive if I wanted to explore this and the safety of knowing I would have their support and was able to do this with their blessing makes me love them even more.

As an adopted person yourself, what advice would you give to prospective adopters? What do you think they’d need to know, to support an adopted child?

Every child is different. However, I feel that it is important to be open and honest and to share their child’s life story with them. I don’t think adopters should worry about their child’s history, it’s a part of who they are, and they should share the information with them (in an age-appropriate way), when the time is right.

I was naturally curious about my birth family, and because my parents shared what they knew, which wasn’t very much, it’s something that I grew up knowing and it was not a shock or big secret. My parent’s openness helped me to understand my history and allowed me to accept why I was adopted. As a child I did not realise how distressing the experience was for them until recently, when my dad explained how scared they both were that up until the point the papers were signed and the adoption order was made, my mother could have asked for me back.

Talking about the fact that your child is adopted with them and showing them that you are comfortable answering questions about birth family or indeed any other queries they might have, will mean they feel they can be open with you. It will also reassure them that it is not a subject you do not want to discuss with them. Even if it is hard for you. I felt I could and wanted to discuss being adopted with my mum and dad because they were my safe place and it laid good foundations for us being able to work out lots of complicated and challenging issues that did not have anything to do with being adopted.

If Rebecca’s story has inspired you to consider adoption as a means of starting or expanding your family, then please contact us. https://adoptionmwwales.org.uk/contact-us/

We need adopters from a variety of backgrounds so we can place children with families and individuals who share their own culture, language, and religion, and many people now decide to start a family later in life.

We are interested in what you can bring to a child’s life. Ultimately it is your capacity to make a commitment to providing a loving and permanent home to a child which makes a difference.

There are many reasons why people think they are not eligible to adopt, but here are some of the myths that surround adoption. https://adoptionmwwales.org.uk/adoption-myths/

‘Some things you are prepared for, other you get caught completely off guard.’

A NEW campaign launched by the National Adoption Service for Wales hopes to encourage more people to adopt those children waiting the longest.

There are 119 children currently waiting to be adopted in Wales, with 29 of those children waiting for nine months or more.

For boys, sibling groups, children over three, and those with complex early histories, the wait to find a forever home can last a long time.

But a new campaign launched during National Adoption Week (18th-23rd October) wants to change all that by debunking the myth that babies and girls are easier to adopt.

To open the hearts and minds of potential adopters to those children currently waiting to find a family, #ChooseFamily will hear from parents across Wales about the realities of adopting a child, regardless of their age, sex, or if they are part of a sibling group.

Single mum Natasha adopted through Adoption Mid and West Wales in 2014. With an open mind, Tasha, researched adoption thoroughly before she began the process alone.

Tasha, who is a teacher, adopted siblings of Thai heritage – a three-year-old daughter and a 20-month-old boy – because she knew that boys, minority ethnic children and siblings typically wait the longest to be adopted.

She said: “It is made clear very early on that all adopted children will manifest their trauma in one way or another at some point in their life. Some of this you are prepared for, other times it can catch you completely off guard.”

“My daughter was the more anxious and hypersensitive of my two children. I think that because she was older when she went into care she has more of a recollection of neglect. My family knew to be more cautious and to give her extra reassurance when it was dark or there were loud noises – but one thing we didn’t prepare for is how petrified she was of balloons and anyone singing Happy Birthday.

“She couldn’t tell us why, but she was storing a memory we can only speculate about. It caused her to freeze and cry or come running to cling onto me. Other parents would ask why I insisted on bringing her along to parties, but I didn’t want her to miss out or have to ask the class not to celebrate birthdays, so we worked together over time to help her find coping strategies. Now, she has been to a few birthday sleepovers and will get up dancing at holiday kids’ club – she’s come a long way.”

“I remember having a friendly debate with a social worker about interracial adoption and feeling strongly about not letting the difference in our skin colour be a barrier. I was challenged on this as the social worker pointed out that I wouldn’t be the one growing up different.

“In many ways she was right, and thankfully, we have navigated the conversations about our differences easily. We have multi-ethnic friends and he often likes to point out when I am the odd one out in the car or on family holidays.

“The world is made up of so many different families and society and adoption have caught up with each other. Not only did that make it easier for me as a single person to adopt, having examples to show how the nuclear family is varied is helping my son to understand that everyone is different. Just the other day he asked me when he was getting a dad, because everyone has one. When we revisited the story of his birth father and started going through the list of family and friends who were unmarried, had lost partners or are in same sex couples, he wasn’t so concerned that it was just the three of us.”

Suzanne Griffiths, Director of the National Adoption Service for Wales, said: “We know from research conducted within adoption services in Wales that myths in relation to age and gender continue to exist; some prospective adopters believe that younger children present with fewer issues and others feel that girls are easier to care for.

“This is not always the case as all children have different needs and experiences and often the quieter child can be harder to work with.

“Sometimes we know less about the experiences of a younger child whereas we might have more detailed knowledge where an older child is concerned. For these older children we are often in a better position to predict any future support needs should they require it.”

National Adoption Service is asking for people to share the moments that made their family @nas_cymru #ChooseFamily to encourage others to choose to adopt.

For more information about adoption, visit adoptionmwwales.org.uk

Welcome to the adoption community!

Congratulations on becoming a parent. This is an exciting time as you start or extend your family.

The First 1000 Days project is here for you from day one, to offer a helping hand and a listening ear from a thriving community of fellow adopters across Wales.

• Advice and support via phone or email

• Free training courses on topics such as Life Journey Work, Education, and Contact

• Family days for adoptive families

• Local community groups, including ‘early days’ groups

• One-to-one support during tricky times

• A wealth of information and resources

At Adoption UK, we know how amazing family life can be. We also know that sometimes we all need a bit of support from other adopters who understand. Come and join the community.

Welcome to the First 1000 Days.

To join in, please visit www.adoptionuk.org/first-1000-days

The school summer holidays have arrived, and as adopters, our children’s routines are thrown into disarray.

We spoke to Rhys an Adopter from Mid and West Wales, who has shared his experience of therapeutic parenting, and how he prepares his son for the loss of routine during the school holidays.

Please can you introduce yourself and tell us about what inspired you to adopt?

My name’s Rhys and I adopted with my husband. Being in a same-sex relationship, adoption was our preferred option to be able to have a family of our own. I was always worried about having children in a same-sex relationship, that they would be teased or bullied, but after getting married, I could see how much acceptance there was for me and my husband and we knew how much support we would get and could see that things were very different to what they used to be.

Can you tell us a bit about your adoption journey?

We approached Adoption Mid & West Wales in January 2017 and were on the preparation to adopt course by the March, before we met our amazing Social Worker who carried out our assessment. The assessment was very intrusive, and no stone was left unturned, but the process gave us the opportunity to reflect on our upbringings, our relationship and how we would be parenting our child. After Panel we had a match immediately and we got to meet our amazing son in May 2018.

What is the PACE parenting approach and how do you incorporate that way of parenting?

We learnt a lot about parenting in a therapeutic way during the process, through discussions with our Social Worker and on various training we attended. The PACE parenting approach is Playfulness, which we found to be the easiest to implement. As an example, one thing we’ve learnt, instead of saying “it’s bedtime, up you go”, which would lead to sulking and a mini tantrum, we turn it into a game, where I would say “When I fall asleep, I’ll wake up and you’ll be hiding upstairs”, works every time.

With the Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy elements of PACE, it took more to put these into practice. Our son was 4 when he became part of our family and understood more about what was happening in his life, so it was vitally important that we showed him that we accepted that it was difficult for him to process things, like moving from his foster carers, where he felt safe, and we showed empathy around it, whilst reassuring him that we are his Dadi’s, and it was our job to keep him safe now.

We’ve used the curiosity element a lot with school. If we can see, after school that he was struggling, and we were made aware of something that had happened that day, we would start wondering out loud, we don’t necessarily direct the questions at our son, but would have a discussion between ourselves, so that he could hear.

Why would you recommend PACE?

I have fallen into the trap of asking, “why are you doing that?” on a few occasions, which can lead to him feeling shame, when he is clearly struggling with some big feelings, and finding his past traumas difficult to process. PACE has helped steer our parenting in a more positive light.

By following the PACE parenting approach, we can calmly redirect, by introducing playfulness, but we always try to come back to the feelings by helping him to manage them, and showing that we accept he’s found it difficult, and show empathy.

We’ve heard that you are a very organised individual! What do you do to stay organised and why is it important to you?

A major lesson we learnt in the early days of the adoption was the importance of structure and routine. When our son first moved to live with us, we stuck to the same routine that the foster family used, as any major changes would have made him feel even more unsettled.

We introduced routine charts from the very first night, to help him visually see what his morning and bedtime routines looked like. Our son loved the visual aids and they helped him follow the structured routines.

We have used various charts over the past few years, including one highlighting when he was going to be in school, going to breakfast club/after school club and when PE was happening in school, etc.

When it came to the time for my husband to go back to working shifts, and for me to start shared parental leave, our son found it difficult, when he woke up or was going to bed and my husband wasn’t there, so we introduced a chart that showed when he was going to be home for the morning and bedtime routine, which appeased our son’s anxiety to the situation.

We’ve got to the stage, that each school holiday, our son announces that “it’s half term, we need a new chart to show what we’re going to do in the holidays!”

What tips do you have for adopters going away as a family for the first time?

For the school holidays, we’ve always created a chart that counted down the number of days until school started back, where he would put a sticker on each day. When we were going abroad for the first time, we used the same chart to put 2 aeroplane stickers on the day we were flying out and the day we were returning home.

We spoke a lot about going on a plane and showed him YouTube videos of planes taking off and landing (top tip – watch the videos yourselves before showing to your child/ren, as some are not appropriate). When discussing going on holiday, we always reassure him that we are coming back. We’d never been on a holiday before where the main point covered was returning home, but it was important for him to know that this is our home, and we would be returning to it.

And finally, what has adoption meant to you?

Adoption has changed our lives. Our little boy has filled our house with so many toys and so much joy. Don’t get me wrong, we have our moments like every family, but the positives far outweigh the negatives by a long shot. I am very close to my family, and to see the way he has fitted in with everyone has been amazing. A very important part of our son’s life was the time he spent with his foster carers, and we very much see them as part of our extended family.

If adoption is something you have considered, but want to learn more, please contact us for an informal discussion. We’ll support you every step of the way and help to create your golden moments of becoming a family.

You can get in touch by phone 0300 30 32 505 or email adoptionenquiries@carmarthenshire.gov.uk

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