Friday, February 27, 2009

Adoption order not to be overturned

Slightly old news, but I've been mulling over this, and something that the very wise Thanksgiving Mom said clicked for me, so thought I'd blog about aspects of this case. It's been rather overshadowed in the blogosphere by the octuplets - I can only find a couple of ranty journalists and some legal types who've blogged about it.

Anyway, briefly in my understanding, the couple had their three children removed at the ages of approximately 1, 3, and 5 (all under 6 at least, and the youngest was 1). There was suspicion of non-accidental injury and no other good reason for the injuries seen, at least at the time. Normally if there is no reason to think that the birth family have changed then a permanency plan should be made within about 6 months (social worker drag notwithstanding) and finding a family and placement within about a year. Commentators have said "that's so quick if nothing could be proven". No, it's not quick - it's actually SLOW for a one-year-old. That's another whole half of their entire life during which they have uncertainty and are living with a temporary family and have no clue what is happening to them.

Ideally all three children would have been placed together, and I don't know if efforts were made to do this, but groups of three children are hard to find places for, healthy under-twos are easy to do so, but some families are happy to take 2 preschool siblings, which the older two were probably just about at this stage. They were found 2 adopted homes and formally adopted. They are now legally the children of their adoptive parents - they now have different legal parents.

Now all the debate has been about how wrong this is, with the majority of opinion coming down on the side of "it was a miscarriage of justice for the parents so it should be overturned" with added "only their birth parents can possibly love them" remix.

Thanksgiving Mom's post speaks to this. She says that she cannot imagine anyone else loving her Cupcake more than she does - but she knows that Cupcake's adoptive mother will feel exactly the same.

So, legally, and I feel in the best interests of the children, the adoption orders will not be overturned. I know I have a lot of readers who will agree with this next point:

It does not matter at all what the best interests or the legal position is of either birth or adoptive parents - it is what is best for the children that matters.

My understanding is that adoption orders would only be overturned in the same sorts of circumstances as those in which a birth child would be removed from their birth parents.

In this case, the children have all been away from their birth parents for more than half their lives (if I've done my calculations correctly), and the younger two have been with their adoptive parents for more than half their lives. Moving to a different home at a young age is disruptive enough - moving back would be worse. Children do not understand the reasons behind being moved against their will (and being moved from the only parents they remember will be against their will), and however loving their "next" set of parents would be, they would still think they could be moved again, they would still feel the situation was not permanent, and they would still worry that if they were naughty they could be "sent away" again.

In an ideal world (and some enlightened commentators on some of the broadsheet versions of the story have said this, in slightly different words), the children would have face-to-face contact with the birth family. For many families where the birth parents are even somewhat more dangerous than these birth parents (at least, if the latest evidence is true - I have no reason to believe it isn't), this happens. When I say dangerous, I don't mean they are likely to physically abuse the children in the presence of a facilitating social worker or adoptive parent, I have more in mind the possibility that the birth parent will behave in a rather immature manner with inappropriate conversations, or simply failing to turn up.

It seems as if these birth parents could potentially have mature face-to-face contact, but all sides would need to be clear that the children are not going back to the birth parents, at least not until they are 18. In an ideal (given the horrible background) world it might be possible to have something approaching US-style open adoption - but this would probably only work if the birth parents could accept that this was the best (from their point of view) they were going to get. On another recent case, a researcher has commented that perhaps grandparents (and other kin who cannot have custody) need not necessarily be willing to state up front that "yes, this is the best placement for the children". But I'm not completely sure. Is it good for a child to have contact with someone who repeatedly says "you'd be better off with me, I'm your real family", when professionals have decided that is not happening?

I'll remain agnostic on that point, but perhaps my commenters won't.


Bernardeena said...

In an ideal world the mistake would never have been made, but like you said it has and what matters most now is what is best for the children. It is a whole life time to them and to spereate them now would be a huge upheaval emotionally for them. I think in an ideal world that there would be contact between all the families though, but I can see that has a whole new set of problems too.

The thing that really got me with this whole story though is the complete disregard and belittling of what adoptive parents go through and the strength of the love they feel for their children. Not in the article, but in the comments I have seen on it in various places. It just saddens me that some people are so closed and small minded and can't see that blood ties don't equal more love.

Thalia said...

I agree it should be in the best interest of the child, but I think that's actually quite hard to judge. I remember the baby M case, where the surrogate (and genetic) mother tried to get her child back after she had been given to her other family - biodad and non-bio mother. She was with that family for 30 months or so before the court ruled she should go to her natural parents, which seemed a horrific thing to do to her - to take her away from the only family she had ever known. When she is interviewed now - she is about 13 - she says that she doesn't rmember them and is very happy she is with her bio family. I think people who treasure the biological bond - and there a lot of vocal adoptees who do - they think it is better to reunite teh child with its biological family even though there is short term trauma, because long term the child will be better off in the bio family.

It's really really tough, and I feel pretty bad for everyone involved in this case. Not easy.