parent opinion

'I wrote about adopting my nephew. Here's why I don't agree with the backlash.'

Earlier this week I wrote an article about a heartbreaking situation. I didn’t bond with my then one-year-old son Stanley, the way I had expected to, in the time I had expected to, after his adoption.  

I hid my feelings for almost two years, because I felt a huge sense of embarrassment and shame, and I wondered if people would judge me as a mother because I sometimes wished for the life I had before. 

Eventually I sought professional help because I knew that my dark thoughts were getting worse and that my family, including Stanley, deserved more.

Watch: Daughter asks her father to adopt him. Post continues after video.

My therapist is a leader in her field. She is experienced in 'adoption break down'. Kinship care and post adoption depression. It’s much more common than you would expect.

In fact, there are Facebook groups filled with hundreds of people around the world who are supporting each other through the process of returning their children to authorities. 

This is what prompted me to share my experience — the hope that I might be able to help others who may be feeling this way or at least educate those around them.

Personally I received hundreds of support messages from foster parents, adoptive mums, kinship carers and social workers, who all said they could identify with my experience. Some said my article made them feel less alone and their own difficult thoughts were validated in some ways. 


But the comments underneath my story were not as supportive. Now, don’t get me wrong. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but some of them were ill-informed, ignorant and downright rude.

And so I’m going to tell you why I shared my story — complete with our names and faces. And why, despite the backlash, I have no regrets.

To the person who said, “Why tell the media?”

I’m a journalist and TV producer. My husband is a cameraman. We pay our mortgage and feed our four kids, Caja, Jonty, Hendry and Stanley and our sheepadoodle Tiggy as a direct result from other people sharing their stories. I truly believe in the power of media for good. I have shared many stories about my beautiful family over the past six years. Long before Stanley. I use the media to raise awareness for difficult topics. Just like this one.


To the person who said, “She is doing this for clout.”

Adoption is hard. Even with the happiest of situations there is still trauma. The fact is, children belong with their birth parents and it's devastating for everyone when this can’t happen for whatever reason. Foster care and kinship care is not something I write in my bio to gain followers. No one is out there going through years of red tape, court cases, huge expenses and opening their hearts and homes for a child, to become an influencer. These kids often come with not only trauma, separation anxiety, attachment disorder, night terrors and PTSD there is a high chance there will be medical conditions like FASD. Autism and ADHD is also common for kids in care. Pretty sure signing up for the latest reality TV show would be a better road to take for the fame hungry than a lifetime of hardships.

To the person who said, “I feel uncomfortable reading this,” and the other who added, “This story is sick.”

You are right. It’s very uncomfortable to feel the way I do. No part of a vulnerable mum opening up her feelings for her child is going to be pleasant. That’s not what you meant though, is it? You felt sorry for my son having me as a mum. Because he has already been through so much you are shocked that I dare feel anything other than joy. But would you read an article from a new mum about how she is drowning in her post natal fog and write those hurtful words? I doubt it. Would you see a story about parents struggling to cope with their autistic children and think them monsters for showing family photos publicly?  


To those who questioned, “What if he reads this one day?”

I have no problem with him reading this because he will already know. We are an open book in our family. No part of his story is off limits in our house. But plenty is off limits in the media out of respect to the birth family and the situation that led him here. While I don’t talk about it, know that kids are not in care for minor reasons and even at just three-years-old he knows all the details in an age appropriate way. This article won’t be the first time he finds out about my feelings.


To those who said, “This will bring him shame.” 

Firstly, let's clarify, this is hypothetical because none of us have a crystal ball and know how he may feel one day. I truly believe hushing up his story or mine only perpetuates the notion that adoption or foster care brings shame. Historically, that’s what society had us believe. Unmarried mothers were shameful. Teenage pregnancies too. There was also a time when adoptees were not even told they were adopted. That’s been proven to be extremely harmful to people who should never remember the day they found out. We have moved on from that guys. There is no shame in adoption for an adoptee. Please don’t try to continue that narrative with your outdated views.     

To those who said, “Maybe he won’t want people to know he is adopted, and you have told everyone.”  

It’s not my first rodeo, guys. Six years ago we adopted Hendry. It was one of the reasons I couldn’t understand my feelings for Stanny, because I have been there before and knew I needed help. Hendry is from Vanuatu. We have an open adoption with his entire birth family. Something I share a lot about because research shows this is the healthiest form of adoption when there are no safety issues. I have educated myself for six years on adoption and what’s best for the children. 

And Hendry is black. Blind Freddy can see he is not our biological child. Adoption is part of his identity, it has to be, and we call ourselves an “adoptive family,” to be inclusive for all of our children. I can’t switch that up because Stanny is white like us. His past is his identity too. He is a survivor not a victim and I will guide him to be proud of himself. Always. 


To those who said, “There are laws stopping you from showing kids identity in foster care.”

This is correct. But Stanley is my son. He is not in foster care. He is legally mine. And while I agree with part of those privacy laws, I also know how harmful they have been. Those laws are in place to protect the safety of a child by not revealing their location and identity, but those laws are also in place to protect government agencies for being held accountable for many mistakes with kids in care past and present. Birth parents, adoptees and foster parents have been mistreated many times by the agencies set up to protect them and outdated privacy laws can cause just as much harm as good when trying to fight for justice.


Listen: When Your Kids Are Being Naughty: A Pep Talk. Post continues after podcast.

To those who said, “He will never feel a part of your family now you have shared this.”

Again, with the crystal ball guys. Let’s say I never shared his story and one day teenage Stanny was on the internet searching our names. He finds a story about his sister Caja around the time she questioned her sexuality and educated my outdated views along the way. Then there is Jonty and the article I wrote about having a favourite child, something we all laugh about on a regular basis at the dinner table. Or Hendry, the time we publicly tackled racism in primary schools. “Hey Mum,” how come you never wrote about me?” he may ask. While maybe in your family it’s unusual to share your story, in my family it's unusual not to. I could argue that it could make him feel less included if I didn’t do the same for him.      

And finally, to those who said, “He may want to pretend to be your real son one day and now he can’t.”

Let me make this very clear. Stanley is my real son. He is a real brother to Caja who reads him stories at bedtime. He is the real brother of Jonty and Hendry who he annoys by knocking down their cubby houses. He is the real son of Clint who gets up early with him and makes pancakes. He is the real grandson of my mum who takes him for ice cream and feeds him way too much chocolate. Please know that words like “real” surrounding adoption are harmful. The whole adoption community is trying really hard to change the way it’s perceived. For example — No one “gives up” their child — instead a child is placed with a family. It may not seem like much to you but to those who matter, like Stanley — it does. 

You can follow Jonica and her family.

Feature Image: Instagram.