Thursday, 16 September 2010

Nature or Nurture?

Tell people that you plan to adopt, and you'll get a huge variety of opinion, whether you want it or not. Some really helpful pieces of advice from people who actually know, and some slightly less welcome information about how adopted children will ruin your life and turn out just like their "real" parents and never be grateful (I'm not asking for their gratitude). And some well-meaning but whittery praisey phrases about how all they need is love and aren't you wonderful for doing it.*

It's the old nature/nurture debate. Either these hypothetical adopted children will take after their birth parents (who must, in the eyes of many people who have never met them, be strangely evil monsters if they aren't parenting all the children born to them), or else they'll instantly manage to switch off their past and become the child you the parent shape.

And there's just enough truth in each cliche to keep them both alive. And of course adopted children and adoptive parents will grow to resemble each other, taking on family expressions and habits and of course all children will bring their own personal quirks into the family, some shaped from early experiences and some from genetics and some from just being individuals.

But, today, I discovered that the Nature side of things has had far more effect in Little Fish than I had ever previously realised. I know quite a bit about her life before she came to me; it's fairly intimately chronicled, and not my story to tell on here. But she's been surrounded by loving arms from very early on, and although we keep in contact with her foster carers, she does not appear to remember living with them at all.

Tonight though, something happened which brought it home to me that she is not and never will be my genetic offspring. Tonight, I gave her her tea. And she ate nearly everything on her plate. And then she handed me the pieces of Toblerone I'd put on the side, and politely asked me if she could have an orange instead.

I'm not sure I'll ever recover.

*Question, if the only thing any adopted child needs in order to turn out to be a well-rounded human being is love, why don't more people - who have infinite capacity for love - adopt?


Christine said...

I love this post Tia! Made me smile and think about a few of my own kids who prefer fruit over candy.

Swift said...

Not even in brownie form? ;)

Doorless said...

Toberone! How could she!
How funny! I love it! I do think nurture can make up for a lot and certainly a child who has has love all his/her life has an easier time.
As for the question I really have no answer and I really get tired of that "Aren't you wonderful doing this for these children" " They are really lucky" " You must be a saint"
There are so many children out there needing families that I think if one in 500 would adopt at least one there would be no orphans. Wouldn't that be wonderful!

Alesha said...

love this, Tia!

Tia said...

Not even baked into a brownie, not even white as someone else suggested. Strange child!

MOM2_4 said...

Tia Dear, I think you might have a serious illness on your hands ;-P

Too, FUNNY!!

kitchu said...

did i read that she ASKED for an orange over sweets??

oh i would be damaged as well and would need time to process this!

Elinor said...

Ha ha! Orange over Toblerone - well, it's no contest is it?

On the subject of nature v nurture, if children don't stay wuth their parents or be adopted, what is the viable long-term alternative? I mean, I'm interested to know as someone who doesn't know much about it. Long term foster care?

Tia said...

Interesting question. And there's a variety of different answers.

Iddeally, if a birth parent cannot care for their birth child, then the first place the Local Authority will look to place the child on a permanent basis is within the extended birth family - grandparents, aunts and uncles, older siblings. That can be through Kinship Fostercare, or it could involve a Residency Order, which would give the adults with whom the child lives equal parental responsibility with the birth parents, and so the ability to make decisions on behalf of the child.

IF that's not possible or appropriate, then usuall, the Local Authority will look for adoptive parents, especially for younger children.

That isn't always possible, and it isn't always appropriate. Mog is not adopted; I have a Special Guardianship Order which means that whilst she is legally mine, her brith parents retain the right to be involved in serious decisions about her. That's good for all of us, including Mog.

Some children, like my Goldie, are long term fostered. Others may go into residential units or boarding school.

In theory, decisions are made according to the child's best interests. In practice, what's available may dictate what's offered - and of course finances play a part too.

For some children fostering will be a better option than adoption - there is more support available to foster carers than to adopters, and the Local Authority have a legal obligation to meet the full costs ofthe fostered child. Once adopted, local authorities merely have an obligation to assess those costs.

Our LA is fantastic and wonderful and I have never had any less than full support from them. I would not have considered adopting if that had not been the case. But sadly it's not always the case.


Elinor said...

Thanks for that Tia. Most enlightening.

WildKat said...

LOL, I wouldn't mind having an orange... as long as it was dipped in chocolate!

You pose an interesting question. I've always wanted to have a child myself because I think the whole experience is something very special and something that just can't be put into words. Ever since I was very young and learned about adoption, I also wanted to adopt a child.

I'm 28 years old now, and my feelings are still the same. My boyfriend had a conversation with me a couple of weeks ago that started along the lines of "I really hope you don't get mad but..." I took a deep breath and clenched my teeth waiting for what he was about to say...

Tears started streaming down my face when he said that if we can't have children (although he really hopes we can, and he would still like for this to happen, even either way) that he would really like for us to adopt a child who is disabled.

I've been blind and had CP and some other issues since birth, and have had a spinal cord injury since 2004. I've always wanted to adopt a child who is disabled because I think too many people overlook them, and I think we would have a special connection and understand each other because of similar experiences etc.

You have no idea what a huge relief it was to hear him when he said this! Of course, like a lot of other things there is the fact that we will have to deal with other people's attitudes etc. when trying to adopt, but once I get something in my mind I don't stop until I make it happen! And I'm not about to let anyone say I can't do something when I know I can!


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