My son has lost a lot of people in his short life. Birth family, yes of course. But others too – foster carers, family of foster carers, foster siblings, social workers, friends of mine and also members of our wider family left behind when we moved.
Whilst of course we remain in close contact with family and most friends, it seems odd to me that contact with the other people in his life before adoption was not encouraged or promoted.
Take his first foster carers. They looked after him whilst he was a tiny baby, but he lived with them the same amount of time he lived with his birth family. I was told that his first foster carer bumped into him shortly before he came to live with me and that she burst into tears upon seeing him – his two foster carers blubbed together over him, in united grief and a sort of joy that he had a new family, in the reception area of the LA! This first foster carer also passed on a book to us through his old SW about his time with her family and a disk with about 50 photos of him at that time. But we have no contact or way of contacting them to say thank you. I can’t ever ask the names of the other children in those photos and so every time my son asks, ‘who’s that?’ when we look at the pictures, I have to say, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t know’.
Then there are his foster siblings. One foster sibling in his last placement was only a couple of months older than him. My son only had a few ‘proper’ words when he came home, but with this foster sibling he had a whole special language and they could understand each other – a bit like twins – it was thoroughly bizarre to watch. At nursery, my son would seek out his foster sibling and stay by their side. When the foster sibling was moved up a class a head of him he looked everywhere for them. It wasn’t all idyllic – in the foster carers journal are accounts of squabbles, punches flung from both sides, stolen toys, banged heads, biting, all sorts! And yet, during introductions I saw a great deal of joy between them too – dancing together in the kitchen and bursting into fits of giggles at the same time for absolutely no reason that anyone else could see. My son lived with these siblings for a long time in his short life – much longer, again, than he lived with his birth family – but again we have no contact or way of contacting them. When he asks me when he gets older what happened to them, again I will have to say, ‘I’m sorry darling, we just don’t know’. At the LA Summer party last year I looked out for them in case they had been placed with a new forever family and I could ask if we could exchange details, but they weren’t there and its unlikely we’ll attend another.
I understand that biological relatives are all that is considered important in contact. And they may well be all he considers important as he gets older. But I do wonder if it is time to be a bit more embracing of the whole of an adopted child’s past and all the losses they have experienced. Yes my son has a birth family, but he was also a part of other families too – who also loved him, cared for him deeply and who also experienced a loss. Why does there need to be a severing of those ties? I know it wouldn’t be right for all families and I know it would be a nightmare if it was made ‘official’. But if, as I have been told repeatedly by professionals, contact is really meant to be about supporting his identity and helping him to piece his story together, then I believe the opportunity some sort of wider informal contact for my son could have been really beneficial in helping to minimise all the losses he has had.