I mentioned in my last post bumping into an old friend and finding out that she was adopted. I'll try to relay the essence of the conversation here - forgive me if it gets a bit garbled - but it was very interesting.
It turns out that she and her two younger brothers were adopted, and she was 5 when placed (I think when placed for adoption, rather than when first fostered, but I'm not sure). I think she said that they were separated in foster care and then adopted together, but because her brothers had more moves than she did, or possibly because she spent more time with her birth mother (that's her interpretation), she was able to form better relationships and to pull her life together when older.
And she does indeed have her life more than together - she is a mum to two lovely children and has two separate qualifications - she was in a more technical occupation when younger and then switched to social work - and she used to work in adoption (I don't think she works in children's services any more). But by her account her brothers do not.
There were a few other things she said that stuck in my mind - we were discussing the US and UK adoption systems and what happens when a child would be removed at birth and the parents know this. I was also explaining that we might consider concurrent placement (fostering with a view to adoption) and she said she'd prefer if all adoptive placements were actually long term fostering. I am not sure if she agrees with me (that children shouldn't be moved around) or if she thinks that permanency shouldn't necessarily mean adoption.
She also said, and actually I agree though it's a bit more complex than that, that it sounds like Nella very much had Baby Spouse's interests at heart when she decided to place him for adoption. Nella did not want him to be removed without any input on her part into who the parents would be, and she didn't want to risk him going through multiple foster placements. In fact, the risk of him being in multiple placements would have been greater had she been able to care for him temporarily at some point - so it now occurs to me that she put aside the possibility of her caring for him in order to achieve stability for her.
The complexity though comes when you see that she got a lot out of placing him, especially support from us, but also a more formal contact agreement (though still not enforceable) through Nice Little Agency, who I have no doubt explained to her their standard agreement. We explained what contact we hope to have - and she was firm in saying (and good for her, as many adoption social workers don't seem to think like this) that we have to remember it is not about us or Nella, but about Baby Spouse.
But one thing that I think we agree on is that parenting Baby Spouse is not like parenting a birth child - as I said to her, I think my family in particular think that it is now all done and dusted, and we can carry on as if I gave birth to him. We know we can't. Even if we never saw any members of his birth family again (which I have to say seems unlikely) it would not be the same.
I must remember to keep her updated - I think she's one of the few of my contemporaries who really gets it - I do have a couple of friends who were adopted at birth, but in my generation those adoptees seem to divide into [COMPLETE STEREOTYPE ALERT] "don't really want to know much about birth family" even including "would be disloyal to adoptive family" or else "I was lied to all my life, my family life was a lie". I really hope we don't end up either end of that spectrum.