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