Different Needs

The Curly Haired Thunderbolt and her sister were separated in seconds.

Taken from their mother’s side, and placed immediately into separate arms, driven in separate cars, and handed over to separate carers.  In one moment, their fates were sealed.

‘Different Needs’, it says in the records.

So much heartache, pain and trauma held in one, sharp edged decision. A wound so raw that no glue, no stitching, and no apology will ever touch it. Sibling bonds, cut with a knife.

Successive decisions tear them further and further apart. Apart in circumstance: adoption for one, care for the other. Apart in distance: one in her hometown, the other sent to unfamiliar far flung lands. Apart in experience: one to maintain links with family, culture, and roots, and one to be brought up with new traditions, new ways, amongst strangers. Apart in law: one to keep her name, one forced to change it by the thick wedge of legislation. Apart in trauma: both to grow up in the constant insecurity and pressure of separation. ‘Different Needs’.

So many questions that burn on our lips and our minds alongside the discord that haunts like an angry shadow at the very center of her being.  I search and unpick the disordered records over and over – but no reason, no justification can be found; nothing that reveals the nature of these ‘Different Needs’. The notes, the reports, the reviews, the different departments, the protocols, the risk assessments, the letterbox, the data protection – none of which list or identify any ‘Different Needs’. None of which find alternative ways to address them. Around one judicial recommendation that the girls be kept together ‘at all costs’, continuing pages unfold incomprehensible, unjustified contradiction from faceless professionals who fought to this decision to keep them apart.

In my search, I fail to find the heart amid the reams of paperwork. There is no recognition that the decisions made describe and control real lives, real people, real relationships. No sense that they hold fragile vulnerability, and laughter, and tears, and futures in their grip; directing and shaping the lives of two sisters who bore no part in the circumstances nor the decisions that sliced them apart, but bear the whole of the brunt of its effects for ever.

We can make no change to the past. Our only influence is the now, in how we navigate the situation to find love and sisterhood around the circumstances; in spite of them.  Make our own way through the maze of this impossible situation to make it somehow … possible.

In the everyday we speak of her as if she is close-by.  We bring her into our thoughts and plans and decisions in the ways she should rightly be. We acknowledge but override the fractures in our family with little heed for the rules, and we spend our precious time together building up those little things that make up the ordinary everyday life of sisters; baking, doing our hair, making, sharing. Shining out from these wonderful times are the clear as day ‘Shared Needs’ that no one took the time to consider or hold dear when it mattered most.

The more we look, the more we see that the only ‘Different Needs’ to be found are those dictated by the basic needs of the sisters, and the system that divided them. It is time for change to come.

Further reading: Siblings Together 

This post is linked to #WASO: weekly adoption shout out over at Adoption Social

9 thoughts on “Different Needs

  1. So sad , too many decisions being made without proper considerations .We can only deal with the cards we are dealt .As adoptive parents it is often only when we live with children of early life trauma can you see the effects of these mindless decisions .You are doing a great job , never be afraid to tell people how it actually is xxxxx

    • I have so much to say about this aspect of adoption, especially on how little as adopters we know and understand until we are deep in. You are so right; the levels and layers of complexity constantly reveal themselves.
      Thank you for your vote of confidence; we try so hard to be unshakingly honest, but there is too much to say! Its great having you on our team Mxx

  2. Having been around while decisions like this are being made, I can say that, in my experience, the decisions have not been mindless ones. They may later turn out to have been wrong ones, yes, but it is no easy task to take the information you have now and see into the future with it. Sibling separation is a tough one because sometimes, genuinely, it seems as though it would do more harm than good to keep them together. But how can anyone truly know? These decisions have to be made ‘on balance’ – they are Hobson’s Choice. Both are bad, but which will turn out to have been least bad? The crucial thing is that whatever decision has been made, the support and the flexibility are there afterwards to help all parties to deal with it as best as can be. The child I am fostering now has been separated from two siblings – one in kinship care, one already adopted – their very different ages and the viability of the potential kinship carers were factors. The one in kinship care has been denied visitation rights to the adopted one by his kinship carer – nobody else thinks this is a good idea but there’s nothing they can do. My little one, having come along later, will likely never know either sibling, unless they are traced in adulthood. I know this is not quite the same as the situation you describe but just an illustration of how unstraighforward these decisions are. The paperwork rarely tells the story.

    • Hobson’s Choice indeed – nail on head. Every situation different, every life important held in the hands of adults/professionals.
      All our experiences – put out there for people to see – can help others navigate, and give awareness to the complexity involved. Your situation is stretched in so many directions! My plea here is simply that the heart be put into such decisions.
      Thanks you for sharing Mx

  3. These are the decisions our children inherit and we can only ever make the best of them. I’m sure you’re doing a fantastic job. But I have to say whilst I would never be without either of ours, seven years in and after over 3 years of reeeeally challenging behaviour, I think we would all have had a smoother ride if our children had not been placed together. Yes, they would have then been traumatised by that decision, and we would have had to do a lot to support their separate relationship, but the constant restimulation by each of them of their earlier trauma has made it so difficult for them to move on and that affects all of us on a daily basis. I think we are getting somewhere, after 3 years at Family Futures and a whole lot of other support – but there is still a lot of therapeutic work to be done.

    • Such a perfect description ‘The decisions our children inherit’ – thank you plumstickle!
      Yes, my close friend has three all constantly triggering each other; your lives make mine feel all of s sudden simple! I am not pressing for one rule or another, just for a more humane and empathic consideration.
      We are about the same time into our family lives. I am so happy to have found your blog, and thank you for making contact via mine! Mx

  4. I think everything said, it is a difficult one to know the answer to and that is because there is no single answer. As you say, and others, each case should be considered unique and different to the next. I suppose the sadness for CHT is that the records show no real reason, that you can see, which may leave her and you with that constant thought of, what if? As always I love the way your writing has beautifully captured the heart of the matter, as it is for you and your CHT. x

    Thanks for sharing on #WASO

    • Sarah – you are such a solid rock of sense: ‘What If’ has to be the resonant phrase of everything in our adoptive worlds.

      Thank you for the lovely compliments *blushes* – we LOVE #WASO Mxx

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