I gave up my 16-year-old daughter after adopting her as a baby
‘We hear you. We believe you. We are here to help you. You are not alone.’
When these words popped up on my Facebook feed from an organisation helping parents facing abuse from their children, I was floored. You see, I’ve never felt heard or believed or understood. I’ve always felt isolated.
Because I’m the mum who gave up on her daughter, who took her to Social Services with a suitcase packed with all her belongings and said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’
It’s inconceivable. Unforgivable. What kind of mum would do that to her child? Friends and family looked on in shocked disbelief. Social workers and support workers made their disdain for me clear.
I’d failed as an adopter. I hadn’t tried hard enough. If only I’d attended one more parenting course, been firmer with my daughter, been more consistent.
I’d been told by my Adoption Support Worker to find a way to ‘ride it out’. His exact words. However bad life was, it would get better at some point and all I had to do was hold out and hang in there.
Easier said than done. How could any of them know the living hell of our daily existence? How could we find the words to describe the unrelenting fear and heartache?
By the time my daughter was 16, she was lashing out at my husband, biting him and hitting him, reducing him to tears almost every day.
Our other younger adopted children were terrified to be around her, scared to go to bed at night, because she threatened to stab us all in our sleep.
For five long years, she’d been messaging me every day, saying that it was all my fault, that they would all be better off without me, that she wished I was dead in a ditch, that her birth mother would have done a better job than I had, that I had never loved her.
And yet whatever she said and did, I never stopped loving her. I’d loved her from the moment she came into our family.
On the day we were approved as foster carers, this eight-month-old baby entered our home and our hearts. She’d suffered severe neglect, we knew that.
What we didn’t know is how that would affect her attachments for the rest of her life. We were not given specific training. We thought that love would be enough.
We fed her and clothed her and stimulated her and loved her. She thrived and flourished. When she was two and a half, we jumped at the chance to adopt her.
Adoption had never been the long-term plan, but how could we let her go? It all seemed so simple and right. We didn’t think twice.
Our birth sons loved her. She was family long before we received that formal adoption paperwork. We celebrated with a Little Miss Sunshine cake. She was our ray of sunshine.
When I went to Social Services on that day, it was the hardest, bravest thing I’ve ever done
She was our little crazy maker too: chaotic and always full of energy, but creative and caring and sociable. Then as she approached her 11th birthday, the stealing and lying and verbal abuse started. She would take anything from anyone in the house without conscience if she needed or wanted it. Mostly it was targeted at me.
I was told she was testing my love for her, that it was to be expected. I hadn’t however expected to be pulled in and pushed away on a whim, to have my love and help rejected, to have my self-esteem and confidence as a parent eroded day after day after day.
I hadn’t expected to fight for help from all the professionals to be then humiliated in meetings when she refused to engage, and I was expected to ‘make her’. As if I could ‘make’ her do anything!
‘Why do you let her treat you like that? Why do you let her talk to you like that?’
No one got it. No one understood. I stopped talking about it to most of my friends and family. It just made me feel worse, like I was making a fuss about nothing. Thank God for the few who stood with us.
I knew it wasn’t her fault, but I didn’t know how to help her. She didn’t want to be helped. She was great at presenting well when she needed to. No one saw what we saw. She was perceived as ‘delightful’ and we were perceived as the problem.
We couldn’t win.
We didn’t win.
Our home and family and marriage and mental health were being destroyed before our eyes.
It was abuse: child to parent abuse. Emotional. Physical. Mental. Verbal. Nothing had prepared us for this. Ten years ago, there was nowhere to turn. Child to parent abuse was not discussed or recognised. I tried but no one was prepared to listen.
Now are you beginning to understand? When I went to Social Services on that day, it was the hardest, bravest thing I’ve ever done. I wasn’t giving up on my daughter; I was trying to save us all (including her).
She didn’t believe we would go through with it. She thought my husband would give in and take her home. She told us we would never ever see her again if we did this. We did it anyway. We were that desperate.
When I meet other couples thinking of adopting, I never know what to say. It’s hard not to focus on the negatives, because surely people need to be prepared: but how can I prepare anyone to deal with what we have been through?
But while there was no support for parents like us 10 years ago, it does feel like things may be changing. When I got the message on Facebook from Parental Education Growth Support it gave me hope for others in similar situations.
Now, my daughter and I talk and see each other, but our mother-daughter relationship will never be what either of us hope for. I long for more but hold back to protect myself. I have to. All I can hope is that maybe things will be different one day.
Adoption Month is a month-long series covering all aspects of adoption.
For the next four weeks, which includes National Adoption Week from October 14-19, we will be speaking to people who have been affected by adoption in some way, from those who chose to welcome someone else’s child into their family to others who were that child.
We’ll also be talking to experts in the field and answering as many questions as possible associated with adoption, as well as offering invaluable advice along the way.
If you have a story to tell or want to share any of your own advice please do get in touch at email@example.com.
- Why we’re talking about adoption this month
- How to adopt a child – from how long it takes to how you can prepare
- The most Googled questions on adoption, answered
Visit our Adoption Month page for more.
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