Thursday, August 13, 2015

And why is this about adoption?

It’s cold in Ararat today but I’ve had help to stay warm.

On Monday I received a beautifully wrapped, large parcel via Express Post. Inside the textured purple and white box and wrapped in purple, mauve and white tissue paper was the most beautiful handmade wrap – in shades of purple, mauve and black, complete with my initials on one edge. I put it on straight away, slipping my hands through the sleeve bands, luxurious with black fringe, and the warmth of the wrap and the gesture that brought it blocked out the chill of the day. Then I opened the accompanying card and letter to read words of love and gratitude that humbled me. The present was from –I’ll call her Maria – who had been in my care as a young girl in the 1970s and 80s and now grown into a wonderful and caring woman. We have had spasmodic contact over the intervening years. She has got older and I have aged, but the bond between us, born of shared experiences and mutual respect, remains strong. Maria has qualities many aspire to, but few achieve, like perseverance and loyalty and the ability to love unconditionally. Life has taught her that. Yet it could have all turned out so differently had the currently touted reforms have been in place.

I won’t tell Maria’s full story here as it’s not my story to tell, but I’ll give a brief background. When I met Maria she was a state ward, unable to live at home and deemed by the Department of Community Welfare Services to be in need of long term permanent care with the recommendations she have minimal contact with her mother due to their perception of the relationship as destructively volatile. This effectively left Maria cut off from not only her mother, but also her two sisters who resided with their mother and whom she loved dearly. Fortunately for Maria, common sense action from workers at the coal face ensured ongoing mediation aimed at reconciliation was implemented through meetings and contact visits, including periods spent at home, so Maria never lost touch with her family as so many in care did. Throughout this process Maria maintained her own name and identity, her community contacts and the culture of her nationality. She remained a part of her family, even though separated by residence, and eventually took her place within the family fold. The love between Maria and her mother grew stronger with the years until her mother’s death in 2012 and she and her sisters have a close bond that sustains and supports them through their loss. With children now of their own, they are a family.

And why is this about adoption?

If current suggested reforms had been in place when Maria was young she could quite easily have been placed for adoption or, at the very least, placed in permanent long term care with minimal and unsatisfactory family contact. In her case, a twelve month time limit on family reunification would certainly have impacted on her life in a way that would have made any future reunification almost impossible, as supporting and strengthening families can be a lengthy process over a number of years before results may be seen. 

Maria would, in so many ways, be a different person than she is today had she been adopted. Her experience of ‘family’ would have been quite different and her values tweaked to suit her new environment, rather than learning and growing and finding her place within the dynamics of her biological family.  Most likely she would, like so many adoptees, suffer from rejection, abandonment and separation issues and spend her life struggling to understand the decisions made by strangers and why these were deemed to be in her best interests.

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For some reason I'm yet to fathom I'm unable to reply to comments left by others so thank you for dropping by and taking the time to read and comment. Merlene