'It's appalling. I would never give back a child. You're cowardly [more insults here]. More fool me for being your adoption referee.'

These were the last words my sister texted to me before cutting me out of her life. And with her went my much-loved nieces, goddaughter and nephew. Children for whom I'd been a constant since birth. 

Why? Because my wife and I experienced an adoption disruption.  We were grieving the loss of our child. 

It's been almost a year since we lived with the girl who would have been our daughter; nearly a year since we saw my sister.  She thought she'd seen enough to judge us. 

But if she came to our house, she would have got to know our daughter's younger brother.  A little boy who was, day by day, overcoming his disordered eating with our patience and love.  Learning not to pull away when we tried to help him. Eating meals happily without shrinking with fear from the ear-splitting screams in the next room.

Our little boy.  No longer being told, by the person he trusted the most in the world, in whispers when we couldn't hear, that he would be hurt or lose his Mummy if he didn't do as he was told. 

Instead, giggles rang out every day as our son began to relax and trust us to keep him safe.  He began to laugh again.

He and his sister both had a chance to heal. My own sister didn't see any of this or get to know our son. A boy who needed family more than ever. 

Sadly, this is not uncommon. Adopters who experience disruption lose a child. They grieve and experience the intense pain of loss. But, unlike other parents who lose a child, they often process their grief alone. They often lose family members and friends - support withdrawn when they need it the most.

Worse, they are subject to abuse steeped in misunderstanding.

Many adopters have already lived through daily trauma, tried to help their children despite experiencing physical and verbal abuse, and faced intense scrutiny of their parenting skills from social services.

Finally, they suffer the loss of their child.

Losing a child in this way often comes after unimaginable trauma. What adopters who disrupt need is compassion and understanding. They don't need isolation and rejection from the communities they might look to for support.

You might ask yourself – what parent willingly gives up their child? 

Answer: those who know they have literally no other choice. 

When my wife and I looked to adopt, we were excited. We'd talked about adoption since the day we became a couple. Being accepted onto Stage 1 marked a huge milestone in our lives. Attending training, reading books and watching documentaries, we were committed to being the best adopters we could be. Aware that any child we may parent through adoption would have suffered trauma, we hoped that the research we'd done would prepare us to be the best parents we could be. 

Confident that none of the challenging stories about adoption would happen to us, we did everything we were asked to do and more, volunteering and gaining childcare experience before panel.  And after a full year of training, the social workers matched us with a beautiful girl and boy sibling pair.

We couldn't wait to start our lives together as a new family. 

But nothing prepared us for a child whose trauma meant she could not settle in a new family. Whose trauma could not tolerate seeing her little brother attach to new parents. Whose intense anger was triggered every day, leading us to fear sibling-to-sibling traumatisation. It kept us up at night, and every day, we woke up fearful, knowing our training had not prepared us for what we were facing.

When we asked for help, it was suggested that we were at fault.  Blamed for the trauma of a child who'd lived most of her life in neglect before meeting us.

Nobody wants to read about disruption when they are starting out, excited, on their adoption journey.  Then, when it seems that disruption is the only option, your first instinct might tell you that you have failed.  That all the training was for nothing. I'm here to challenge those preconceptions and tell you that it isn't true.

That may be the moment your child needs you the most.  To advocate for them and ensure they get the best care possible, even if that means not staying with you. That's when training really comes into play.  To fight until the right plan for the child is found. 

So, if you're in the first stages of adoption, don't shy away from the challenging stories.  They might well teach you to be the best adopter you can be.  They might well show a different side to adoption that you may not have considered.  And remember that we, adopters who disrupt, were once hopeful prospective adopters just like you.  We fought because we had to.  We are good people, just like you. 

And if you're wondering how our children are getting on? I'm pleased to tell you they are thriving.  Both settled in their homes – one with us, one not – they are happy, incredibly resilient children.  No longer competing with each other for attention and continually triggered by one another into excruciating memories of their past, their cheeky smiles have returned. 

Monthly contact maintains the sibling relationship; we celebrate both children at birthdays and Christmas.  We see the cheeky smile of our almost-daughter on video calls once a month, and we miss her.  We display her photos around the house and talk to our son about her every day.  We are thankful that recent social services reports talk of both children now being where they need to be.

We are tired of the fight, but the fight made us parents.  Adoption is hard, but it is incredibly worth it. We'd do it all again if we had to. 

Author: Crunchyleafmama

Note to reader: 

At Adoption UK we recognise that the language we use to discuss sensitive topics is important. While there are different views about the most appropriate language to use when a child leaves the family home prematurely, the author of this piece has chosen to use the term ‘disruption’ to describe her own family’s experience.