Today we hear a thought-provoking piece from Jill, one of our adoption panel members, who has first hand experience of having to give up her child, many years ago. We hope this will make you think, and would welcome comments, below.
“I am a birth mother who gave up my son for adoption in 1967 at a time when adoption practices were very different from those of today. My son hadn’t been neglected, or abused. My only ‘sin’ was to be a 17 year old single mother. There was no support for me and I had no choice in the matter. I grieved for him over all the missing years until he contacted me 27 years later. Historically adoption procedures required adoptive parents to give the child a new name, a new identity, no information about the birth family, and in many cases to keep adoption secretive. This was my son’s experience and it served him very poorly. On our reunion I was extremely sad to hear of his negative perception, although I am pleased to say that our reunion has been a very joyful, emotional and healing experience for us all.
“I have in the past mentored contemporary birth mothers and I currently sit on one of Leeds Social Services adoption panels therefore I am aware of the all too familiar plight of today’s birth families, where violence, abuse, alcohol and drugs often play a big part in their chaotic and unsafe lifestyles. Birth mothers in particular are very often demonised by society but despite this they will remain a very important figure in their children’s lives. A birth mother is a mother for life, whether or not she is able to parent her child. I am greatly encouraged by present-day practices: keeping the child’s birth name enables that child to retain its identity from birth; life story work will explain its heritage to even a very young child; letter-box contact enables the link between birth and adoptive families to be maintained, and adoption leave in the first year of placement allows time for bonding for both parents and child.
“I don’t see adoption as the often quoted ‘triangle’, referring to the child, birth family, and adoptive family, because it also includes social workers putting into practice current legislation and recommendations. When it comes to thinking about adoption I believe all involved are a team. A child is a whole person therefore adoption has to be approached in a holistic manner and each and every one of us – birth family, adoptive family, and social workers have a lifetime responsibility to that child. As a birth mother separated from my child I always felt I was responsible for having brought him into the world and for whatever happened to him in his life. This will no doubt also be true of today’s generation of birth mothers, and regardless of the circumstances of the adoption many, like me, will experience a reunion at some time in the future. Hopefully for all concerned they will discover that because of today’s very good adoption practices their children will not have had the same issues my son had to deal with. I certainly hope so!”
Jill Killington, birth mother and panel member for Leeds’ adoption service
For more information on adoption in Leeds, see www.adopt4leeds.co.uk