This article first appeared in The Door, February 2006 and we are grateful for permission to reprint.
People who adopt say that it is incredibly rewarding – but you do have to be prepared to wait longer for those rewards with adopted children than you do with your own flesh and blood whom you have known since the second they were born.
Caroline and Roger are adopters through Parents And Children Together (PACT), a voluntary adoption agency operating in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. In this part 4 (of 6) of their diary, they talk about the very special challenges they met.
“Within the first few months of Jon being with us, we came up against things we could never have predicted. One example (with huge ramifications for health and happiness for a considerable period) was that Jon could not tell the difference between hot and cold, even though he was by then a schoolboy. Social workers now tell us that it’s a common “attachment issue” – that children in care have previously not rated themselves terribly much and so looking after themselves in the most basic of ways, like dressing appropriately for the weather, has to be learnt.
“Another habit to be acquired was the sense that he had the right to have emotions: to recognise them and to articulate them. We still make the point of having a lot of bedtime conversations, even after two years, about how the day was. Was it an ordinary school day? And if so, was Jon disappointed at that? Did they do something special? Did that make him excited, happy, frustrated perhaps (if it was an unexpected change to events)?
“That’s another thing – being spontaneous is not one of Jon’s strengths. I suppose it comes from his years of dreaming he would one day have a proper home. He is getting better at not living his entire life in the future, but we do have to anchor him with talking about the present (often quite mundane compared to his plans for seeing the latest Harry Potter or flying to the moon!) and help him answer questions about his past. Jon has, in fact, devised his own way of fond remembering, ‘If I had my time machine here right now, I’d go back to the time when …’
“We’ve had support from a play therapist who helped us help Jon with the hot/cold issue and emotions and great support from both the PACT social worker and Jon’s original social worker. It’s also been vital to have small – or at least not too overwhelmingly large – groups for Jon to attend, like Junior Church, or the reunions with the friends we made on our adoption workshops before we chose him.
“Schooling’s another thing to mention: we chose his primary school carefully, not just enrolling him at the most local one, and it has been fabulous, but I am aware that it will become more difficult at secondary level. Then it’ll be less easy to talk to the teachers about every little thing or find out about the curriculum in advance and head off things like requests for photos of the class when they were a baby. (As it happens we did get some nice photos from his birth grandparents, but we were just very lucky with that.)
Life with an adopted child is never going to be a doddle, that’s for sure! But next time we’ll relate some of the real ‘highs’ of our time together so far…”
PACT can be contacted on 0800 731 1845.