Tuesday, 22 April 2014
Chapter 38 - Matching: Further investigations
We were finally considering a child. There was a fair amount of paperwork to look through. A huge number of documents to analyse and draw conclusions from. Hundreds of lines for read between. There was a description of this little boy, a potted history of his short life to date, a description of his birth family and their circumstances, a family tree (which looked like several intoxicated spiders had crawled across the page, so fractured were the various familial connections). There were medical reports on the little man and his wider family. There were some headline psychological reports on his parents and feedback from his foster carers on his progress to date.
It was an awful lot of information to assimilate. And of course there were worries... What if we miss something? What if there is something important in there and we don't realise the significance of it? What if there is some vital element that is missing from the reports? What... If... They're... Hiding... Something...?
We desperately tried to push these worries aside and concentrate on making the impossible decision on whether this was our son we were reading about. We were struck, reading through the paperwork, a just how random our place in life can be. Both my wife and I grew up in what we would describe as loving, happy homes. Sure there were the issues that so many families struggle with... Illnesses, periods when financially things were really tight, moves, family crises... The stuff of life. However, for both of us we had, at all points, felt the very basic needs for love and a sense of safety and security being met by our parents. It made us think back to the adoption preparation exercise where we charted the pivotal incidents of our lives and assigned each one a big up arrow or a down arrow. At the time we had both been surprised at the sheer number of individual down arrows in comparison to the "ups". However, they were more than counterbalanced by a huge, diffuse up arrow smeared over the whole of our timeline. Where there had been difficult times, trauma even, these were formative rather than simply traumatic. It was so easy to see how, if a few circumstances had been changed, if the attitudes, psychology and backgrounds of our parents had been different, this could have been reversed.
We did a lot of this type of thinking over the next few weeks. So often our minds were driven back to the things which we had done and discussed throughout the adoption preparation process. Other times it caused us to reflect on our own lives, our own attitudes, our reaction to the experiences we had had. Most of all, however, it called on us to understand and empathise with this little boy, his family, the circumstances which had led them all to where they were today and how that might affect the person he was and would become.
It is odd to talk about being "fortunate" when considering the circumstances which lead to a child being taken into care and placed for adoption. But in comparison to the spectrum of experience of many fostered or adopted children, this little boy had been fortunate in many ways. It wouldn't be right to share so many of the things which were disclosed in his paperwork. They are things which are private and personal. Things which are, ultimately, not for us to share. One day, that will be his choice. However, there is some context which we can give around the circumstances which brought him to us.
Our little boy had been "in the system" pretty much since birth. His parents had been on the social services radar from long before he was conceived, let alone born. And that, of course, speaks volumes of their upbringing and how well equipped they were to care for a child. It reflects how equipped they were to provide the loving, safe environment which he would have needed to thrive. It is a theme repeated, so often, across the adoption world. It may not be the sins of the fathers which are being visited upon the children but their circumstances, experiences and the shortcomings of the parenting which they received can be reflected across successive generations. Our hope can only be that the terrible interventions which are necessary when the State must step in to provide care for vulnerable children can be positive and break those negative cycles.
And so, in the early weeks of this little boy's life, the opportunities for neglect had been minimised. The periods of fracture, trauma, chaos and change had been constrained and, we hope and pray, their long term effects reduced. Given his unfortunate start in life this little one had, indeed, been relatively fortunate - something for which we will eternally be grateful. Since he was only a few months old he had been in the same foster placement, cared for by a family who adored him and loved him as if he was their own.
Yes, of course, there were still issues. There were still things to consider. There were still potential concerns to weigh up. We wanted to ensure we had a good understanding of all his circumstances. The paperwork flagged a few potential health issues both with this little boy and across his wider family. Those would need to be looked into. However, for now things were looking very positive.