My son is watching Peppa Pig – the ‘Baby Alexander’ episode – “Mummy if you have a baby, can I cuddle it?” Its an innocent question and one he has asked before – he doesn’t understand where babies come from, or the many reasons why I won’t be having any babies.
The truth is my son has a bit of an obsession with babies – we have been known to stalk them in the supermarket to avoid a meltdown. When one of the leaders at his old nursery brought their baby in for the day he didn’t leave her side! He has his own ‘baby’ (doll) who he ‘feeds’, cuddles, puts to bed, leaves lying around for our dog to abduct and so on. Today he spotted a baby at playgroup, it was asleep in a carrier in the hallway whilst its Mum was trying to sort out her tantruming older sister. My son saw it from the main hall and before I knew it he was by its side gently rocking the carrier and lightly stroking the baby’s hand and face, thankfully much to amusement of its Mummy!
He also likes to ‘be’ a baby a lot, especially when he is tired, poorly or anxious. Then I get regular requests to “rock [him] like a baby”, wrap him up in a blanket and for “milk in a baby bottle”. Interestingly he refuses to look at any photos of himself as a baby (we are in the unusual position of having baby photos) and he does not like to hear me talk about his ‘tummy mummy’ or what I know about his ‘babyhood’.
I don’t really need to wonder why my son likes babies so much – I actually think I already know its likely to be a combination of things. Babies featured heavily in his time in FC and he learnt from an early age how to act around babies. His own early life was chaotic and unstable, he had several main carers, each with their own parenting style. Each environment he experienced had its own rules and some where life was confusing, challenging and sometimes scary. I’m sure that there is an element of trying to work that all out and for me to provide him now with the things he missed out on to some degree then.
This chaos in this early life has left him with a degree of attachment issues – separation anxiety features heavily in our lives. He tells me frequently he “doesn’t like it when [I] go away” – sometimes ‘away’ is only as far as the room next door! Until recently, I never witnessed any other parents pick up their children from childcare. I presumed everyone’s else’s children greet them with the ‘enthusiasm’ that my son does – but no! My son cannot contain the sheer delight that I have actually come to collect him – he yells ‘MUMMY! MUMMY! MUMMY!’ at the top of his voice as soon as he sees me, even if that’s through the door of the outer building and he doesn’t stop until I get in front of him. He kind of jogs and jumps on the spot in excitement. He tells everyone around him that “Mummy is here!” oblivious to the fact that no-one could give two hoots. And then he throws himself at me. While all this is going on, the other children sit calmly on the carpet or smile sweetly and run quietly into their parent’s arms. Today I was at the back of the queue of parents and he couldn’t see me, he was asking total random strangers, “where’s my Mummy?” and looking quite panicky until he finally caught sight of me. Even now, there is the fear that I wont show.
This week I met with a friend who is considering fostering-to-adopt (F2A). F2A had only just come into being while I was going through the adoption process for my son. At that time there seemed to be a degree of confusion over the difference between what F2A would turn out to be and how it would differ to another scheme called ‘concurrency’. Because it was so much in its infancy and considered to be only for very young children, it was not something that my social worker and I discussed or considered. Now the difference appears clearer. My friend told me* that F2A is used mainly where there is a slim chance of a child being returned to its birth-family and after all the usual evaluations have been taken place the plan for that child’s future is most likely to be adoption. Perhaps where other older children have already been taken into care and nothing has changed in the family’s circumstances. In this situation a child (including very young babies) could be placed with a foster parent who is approved to adopt them once the evaluations have been completed. That way the child does not have to be pushed from pillar to post or have its attachment with a foster carer severed and have to form new attachments with its adoptive parents. Rather from the point of view of the child they have only experienced consistent care. Concurrency is apparently used where the plan for the child is not as certain. The child may need adoption, equally, it may not. There are two concurrent plans in place for the future of the child.
For some families who are keen to experience having a young baby that option is now open to them as they don’t have to wait for the correct process and the important evidence to be collated before the child can be ‘available’ to be placed with them. That evidence and process carries on in the background after the child has been placed.
Of course this scheme for the potential adopters of the child has its challenges. In both cases (but obviously particularly concurrency) there is uncertainty. The child may not end up being adopted by the family it is placed in. As the child is technically in foster care it will be likely to have direct contact with its birth-family until it is adopted. The F2A family may well be expected to transport the child to that contact and have a higher degree of involvement with the birth-family than in adoption.
I’m not sure that either of these schemes would have benefited my son had they been in existence then. I believe some of the chaos and disruption in his life was actually necessary to show him at a later time that everything possible was done to give his birth family absolutely every opportunity to care for him correctly. But for some children this scheme will make a positive difference to their early attachment experience.
At the moment I am in the process of going through the ‘Big Clean’ and sort out before I ring the LA to hopefully begin the process to adopt again. I had never considered adopting a very young child as I don’t believe I need (or necessarily want!) ‘the baby experience’ but I know a lot of adoptive parents do. Now due to my son’s age and the age gap between siblings required by the LA, I have to consider a younger child. I know that my son would be simply delighted if a baby came into our home! Therefore fostering-to-adopt is now also a consideration. A scary one, a challenging one but one I think I need to find out more about even if it is to dismiss it as not right for us.
* The information regarding fostering-to-adopt contained here was passed on to my friend at our LA’s adoption information evening.