I come from a family of nine, twelve if you include pets (which we usually do). There’s my Mum, Dad and then seven of us children: four boys and three girls. There’s quite an age range amongst us siblings, with myself at twenty-two and the littlest at just five years old. As I’m sure you can imagine, my parents are a big fan of children and are both very family-centric; so much that we’ve been fostering on-and-off as a family from when I was just a baby to when our littlest was really quite little. Although I’ve been growing up myself through this time, I can still remember six of the children that we looked after for some time; including two of whom we were lucky enough to adopt and welcome into our family permanently.
As the eldest sibling, I have been in a privileged position to be the big-brother to every child who’s been a part of the family whether temporarily or permanently. I’ve had the opportunity to watch children grow-up and be an active part of their upbringing. Which, I have no doubt, has shaped my personality and made me into the person I am and want to be. Today, I would like to share some topics that I feel need to be addressed and discussed more openly in our society. There are some questions and actions that are quite common that can be harmful to these children and their families, that I will be bringing up. Unless you have a first-hand experience in the world of social services, there’s no reason why you would know these are harmful and this article is not meant to attack or blame anyone who may have done or said these things, only to inform and educate those who may have not had the chance before.
So, which ones are your real siblings?
This is a question that I’ve been asked countless times and every time this is asked I feel a pang of pain in my chest and there’s a damn good reason why: they are all my ‘real’ siblings.
To a family of adoption, this question is both ridiculous and unintentionally cruel. Ask any family with adopted children and the whole idea of adoption is a bit mad; the idea that there is a separation between us and them is incomprehensible. I remember when our littlest got adopted and we had the official ceremony in court, someone said to me: ‘You must be so pleased that they’re a part of the family now.’ This was asked in perfectly kind and innocent manner but entirely misses the point of adoption. Sure, it was nice to have the paperwork sorted and the legal-side finalised but that was all. There was never a time when they weren’t part of the family; from the first day we fostered her, she was already a part of our family and, three years on, when the adoption was finalised, the idea of life without my little sister was insane. She was my sister. No question of a doubt. To imply that she hadn’t been up till now is heart-breaking and wrong.
Now, if I’m asked this question or one of my parents then we can explain this without any feathers ruffled. But, saying this sort of thing in front of the adopted children or, god forbid, to the adopted children can be incredibly damaging. To end up in need of adoption, chances are some things have already gone wrong in the little one’s life. This means that they may well need more affection and reassurance then most children. So, by insinuating that they are in any way different to the rest of the family can be challenging and detrimental to their development. It can also cause issues if the family has other little children. Imagine someone telling you at five years old that your brother or sister is not your ‘real’ brother or sister, how would that make you feel?
They’re so lucky to have you!
Even writing this makes me feel a little bit ill.
No. No they’re not. They are in no manner the lucky ones.
Every child deserves a loving home and a caring and supportive family. Every single one. And any child that doesn’t have these things has been let down by society and it is a tragedy each and every time. That my siblings were adopted and given these things does not make them lucky, it means that they have got the very minimum that a child deserves.
Want to know who are the lucky ones? We are, the rest of the family. I am so lucky to have been able to have these wonderful children in my life and in my family and I love them endlessly.
Oh, I’m sure one photo won’t hurt
We’ve all been to see a school play with kids dressed up in adorable little outfits singing their hearts out on stage and never wanted the moment to end. So, what we do, we take pictures of our little ones – of course we do! We want to remember this forever and they help us to do this. There is nothing wrong with taking pictures and keep them for your family.
Unfortunately, that’s often not where these photos end up. Instead, they’re popped onto our social media streams and plastered over Facebook or Instagram or wherever else people are posting their lives nowadays. If you want to post pictures of your kids over your social media then great that’s your business but please (PLEASE) never post photos of other children. You have no idea what these kids have been through or the measures in place to make sure they’re safe and protected. The moment a photo is on social media it’s impossible to take back and, regardless of your privacy measures, you have no idea how far these things can spread and who might see them.
There are plenty of instances where these images have ended up in the wrong hands and have puts these kids into dangerous situations. Adoption UK, for instance, note the story of Molly and her adopted son, Fred. After information was posted over social media, the birth family who had been denied contact to protect Fred, managed to find the address and the phone number of Molly and began harassing her and putting Fred into a dangerous and traumatising situation (“Social Networking”).
For the future…
Thank you for reading this article and I do hope that you’ve learnt a little bit about adoption that you may not have known previously. If I can leave you with one thing, please for the sake of my family and families like mine, consider how words and actions can be hurtful to others.
“Social Networking”. Adoption UK Charity, 2019, https://www.adoptionuk.org/faqs/social-networking.
Liebermann, Julianne. Man Carrying To Girls On Field Of Red Petaled Flower. 2018, https://unsplash.com/photos/O-RKu3Aqnsw. Accessed 18 Dec 2019.
Manley, Benjamin. Woman Between Two Childrens Sitting On Brown Wooden Bench During Daytime. 2018, https://unsplash.com/photos/QkflfhJn1KA. Accessed 18 Dec 2019.
Pagan, George. Untitled. 2019, https://unsplash.com/photos/f-PH16nZHKI. Accessed 18 Dec 2019.
Whitt, Jordan. Three Boys Running On Field. 2015, https://unsplash.com/photos/b8rkmfxZjdU. Accessed 18 Dec 2019.