National Adoption Week runs from 16-22 October and HELLO! is saddened to hear that there has been a 23% decrease in the number of children being adopted over the last five years.
To mark the week and raise awareness, You Can Adopt has launched a new campaign to show how adoption has evolved over the years. The campaign features a powerful new film and portrait series - captured by royal photographer Philip Sinden, who was adopted himself in the 1970s - to highlight stories of different generations of adopted people from between the 1960s to 2010s.
Each individual portrait features a backdrop of emotive words that show how adoption has shaped their lives. One of these stories is Samantha’s, who shares her adoption journey with HELLO! below.
Samantha’s family have three generations of adopted people: her adoptive mother is also adopted and Samantha has a son whom she adopted in her forties when he was under age one.
Samantha began her own search for her birth mother 25 years ago, which was difficult because of the previously closed adoption system. Sadly, she discovered that her mother had passed away three years previously. She did, however, meet her birth aunt and they have been close ever since. She has also discovered extended family in America.
Here, Samantha tells her story in her own words…
Adoption has been and still plays a huge part of my life. My younger sister and I were adopted in the 60s and our adoptive mother was herself adopted in 1939. Then, to complete the adoption story, I became an adoptive mother in my 40s to a beautiful baby boy.
Being a three generational adopted family is very rare and I am, at this time, only aware of one other.
I have seen first-hand how adoption has changed through the generations. I have also been witness to the impact of adoption both through my own family and through the children I work with at a primary school.
In 1939, as in the 60s, we had the closed adoption system, which meant that a child had no access to information about their birth family or their early beginnings.
In my adoptive mother’s case, she was told that her mother had died in childbirth and her father was unable to look after her. She was fearful of searching for details about her birth family in case she found something bad.
Many years later whilst in an attic looking through some old boxes, I discovered my mother’s original birth certificate. The only name on the certificate was her birth mother’s with no mention of her father.
The societal shame of being the child of a single mother had meant that my grandparents had created a story that was more ‘acceptable’. My mother was devastated that she had been lied to.
Samantha and her sister's adoption journeys
When my sister and I were adopted in the 1960s, attitudes had not improved much.
Again, we were part of the closed adoption system with little or no information about our origins and where we came from. The adoption system was so different from the one we have now.
My adoptive parents were visited by a social worker just once. My mother’s main memory was my father feeling insulted that he was asked about his income!
There was little information about the children offered for adoption apart from the fact they came from ‘good homes’ and certainly no training on adoption trauma or indeed any preparation for adoption at all.
My mother came to pick me up from my foster carer in Hove and was literally handed a six-week-old baby accompanied by a few spare nappies, some spare clothes and a tin of condensed milk. She remembers it all feeling a little overwhelming.
My understanding is that I may have spent a week with my mother after she gave birth before being taken to my foster carer.
Years later when researching my background, I received a file from the Catholic Children’s Society containing letters between my birth mother and her social workers at the time. One very poignant letter spoke about her distress at giving me up. Again, she felt she had no option as, in her mind, she wanted to give me a proper home, and being a single mother at that time was not in any way socially accepted.
My sister’s story was somewhat different.
She was not fostered but left in a hospital environment for three months. When my parents went to pick her up, she was like a little string bean, covered in spots and obviously distressed. She hadn’t received constant care from one caregiver and was traumatised.
I, however, was determined she would be my ‘baby sister’. My mother found it really hard to know why she was so clingy, would chew her cot and needed constant reassurance and attention. So little in those days was understood about adoption trauma or the importance of early bonding.
My mother, my sister and I were all brought up in safe, comfortable and stable homes, but undoubtedly adoption has affected us all in different ways.
It would be unfair of me to speak on my mother or sister's behalf but only on the very personal effect it has had on me. Who was I really, where did I belong, who were my people?
I spent many years travelling. I changed jobs, careers and relationships, always searching for that sense of the ‘right’ fit. I knew I needed to find my early beginnings, discover who my birth mother and father were.
I went on a journey of discovery which was a huge emotional rollercoaster and not with the perfect ending I had dreamed of.
However, it has opened up whole new worlds. I have some very special, interesting new people in my now extended family, many of whom live beyond these shores. I am learning to integrate the two parts of myself and beginning to feel rooted in the world.
Samantha's decision to adopt her son
When I met my partner in my 40s, the chance of conceiving naturally had sadly passed. However, my urge to be a mother had always been so strong and adoption felt of course completely natural. In some respects, it was far more the norm in our family. My partner, after some space to consider, agreed. We were both fully committed.
The adoption process today is a world away from when I was adopted.
Many of the children will come from homes that have broken down or where they have been exposed to neglect or other childhood traumas. The process can be long, and you need to be prepared to be open, resilient and very patient.
Great care will be taken to ensure you are suitable and that the child will be carefully matched to you, your home and your circumstances.
We learnt about the impact of trauma, the importance of attachment and early bonding. Once the child is home post adoption, support can be available when needed and we found it excellent. The children are supported by life story books and different forms of birth family contact. This can be by letter or occasionally with other adopted siblings.
Our child is the very best thing that has happened to us, and he has changed our lives in so many beautiful ways. Knowing that we can make a positive impact on his outcomes in life and that he will always know love, nurturing and safety means the world.
Many people say that he is lucky to have us but it’s we who are lucky to have this funny, bright, wonderful little boy in our lives.
Be prepared, adoption will not be without its challenges before - during and post adoption - but would I encourage people to open their hearts and homes and make all the difference in the world to a child…..100%.
Adoption is not a line in the sand between one life and another. Historically, adoption was often seen as secretive and hidden, with little information and support provided to help adopted people understand their history and maintain connections with their birth family. However, it is now considered vital that adopted people have a good understanding of their history and reason why they were adopted to help form a positive sense of identity. For more information, visit youcanadopt.co.uk.