A published story of an adoption breakdown – analysis of readers’ comments. On 8th April 2014 an article was published in the Daily Mail (MailonLine) entitled:
“Is this the story that proves blood IS thicker than water?”
The title continued: “Her adoring adoptive parents gave her an idyllic childhood. Yet Kayleigh’s rejected them for the mother who’s found her on Facebook”.
The article outlined how Kayleigh (now aged 22) had been removed from the care of her natural mother at age 5 years, and after a period of time in children’s homes, had spent the rest of her childhood and early adult years living with adoptive parents (who had initially been her foster parents). It was reported that Kayleigh was removed form her natural mother “because of the violent, dysfunctional relationship of her birth parents”. At the time of her placement (aged 6), her adopters (who are named in the article) also had an 11 year old adopted son living with them.
Kayleigh reflects on the positive aspect of her adoption during her childhood: “They gave us everything and were great fun. As a little child I couldn’t have asked for more”. Also: “If you had asked me when I was 15 what life was like with my parents, I would have told you it was brilliant”.
When Kayleigh was aged 11, her adoptive brother suddenly left the home at the age of 17, and never returned. Kayleigh remembers her surprise at this whilst also recalling the arguments that had occurred with their adoptive parents: “controlling him all the time, telling him who he could be friends with and what he was allowed to do”…”To me at the time it was totally confusing. My parents were devastated and kept trying to call him, to get him back, but he didn’t want to know”.
By the age of 17, Kayleigh stated how she increasingly experienced her adoptive parents as being over-controlling, including confining her to the house, preventing her from having a boyfriend, and confiscating her phone: “It was so different to the way they treated me when I was younger, I didn’t know what to do. I felt like a prisoner in my own home”. Kayleigh said she began self-harming by cutting her wrists, and first tried to “run away” when she was aged 18: “I know my parents thought they were protecting me but actually it was killing me. I’m convinced they just didn’t want me to grow up. They had wanted children so badly and now they didn’t want to let their daughter go.”
Kayleigh stated that around this time she had begun to make an attempt to locate her natural mother by enquiring of the local authority. Coincidentally, her natural mother identified Kayleigh via Facebook, and made contact. Kayleigh abruptly left her adoptive home without any discussion, leaving her adoptive parents a note. She had obtained a flat, and having left her adoptive home met up with her natural mother for the first time for 17 years.
In the Daily Mail article, written 5 months after this reunion in November 2013, Kayleigh describes her natural mother in endearing terms.
The article in the MailOnLine attracted 993 comments (before the window for comments expired). A few respondents posted more than one comment. Most were from the UK, but with significant contributions from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Switzerland and elsewhere in the world. This blog will present an analysis of readers’ reactions to Kayleigh’s story. From a quantitative research perspective this sample is not representative of any interest group in the complex debates around adoption. From a qualitative research perspective, the material is very informative about the range and intensity of views possessed by those affected by or with a personal/professional interest in adoption.
Responses can be grouped into 4 main categories:
- Those that were critical of Kayleigh, and her natural mother’s actions and opinions.
- Those that were supportive of Kayleigh, and her natural mother’s actions and opinions.
- Those that expressed mixed feelings about Kayleigh, and her natural mother’s actions and opinions.
- Specific views of respondents who identified themselves as having been adopted.
Although not by any means a representative sample (far from it), the majority (estimate two-thirds) of respondents were critical of Kayleigh and her natural mother. Some of these responses were hostile, and no small number somewhat abusive:
“Ungrateful little witch”; “nasty little girl…”; “selfish, nasty and ungrateful…”; “cruel and immature…”; “what a cow…”; “traitor…”; “just plain thick…”; “selfish and manipulative”; “What a nasty vile human being!”; “Ungrateful little prat”.
The predominant criticism related to strongly expressed feelings about Kayleigh being ungrateful and showing a gross lack of respect towards her adoptive parents. The fact that the adoptive parents were named in the article, and their home location identified, infuriated many respondents. As did the published speculation by Kayleigh that they became adopters through their apparent inability to have their own children. Critics expressed strong feelings that for Kayleigh to make such comments – and for the Daily Mail to publish them – was quite appalling. Many respondents praised the dignity of adopters for refusing to become involved in any way with the Daily Mail article:
She has no gratitude…there are millions of children who wish and pray for such loving adopted parents like the ones she got, unlike her, they would be grateful and would smother their adoptive parents with love.
Ungrateful. If that is the stance she takes then she should be made to pay back every penny that family ever spent on her which by the looks of it was a lot.
What an ungrateful girl, the least she could have done is to respect them and not trashing them to the media, when their only fault is to love her and her brother too much.
Ungrateful silly girl. She can have the relationship she wants with her mother, but to do that to the people who raised you, spent their money, time and energy on you is disgusting.
Ungrateful little girl. There is nothing wrong with trying to build a new relationship with your birth mother…but show some respect for what your adoptive parents have given you.
How utterly ungrateful. She should be ashamed of herself. Good grief, she would have had a terrible life if she was left with her dysfunctional violent birth mother. What a horrible cow.
She sounds like one of the most selfish, cold-hearted people ever.
Many critics predicted that the reunion of Kayleigh with her natural mother will fail after the current “honeymoon” period:
Ungrateful little witch – guaranteed she goes running back to them at the first sign of poverty, or when she is tired of her ‘mother’ letting her down for the umpteenth time…
It won’t last. She’s in the euphoria phase of rediscovering her mother. Before long she’ll be running back to the adoptive mother with open arms.
I would imagine that finding a birth mother would be like a love affair, at the beginning the relationship would be very intense, but normality will start to take over.
She has a romantic idea that her birth mother will love her without imposing any parental authority…
Fast forward one year and by then there will be tears.
There will be massive repercussions for this young lady. The honeymoon period with her birth Mum will come to an end…
Yeah, lets see how long (this) lasts as soon as she wants something.
This relationship with her real? mother won’t last, will she then have the nerve to go running back to the parents who have looked after her all those years.
I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the novelty of drinking lager, smoking & going to bingo with her ‘mum’ wears off & she realises her adoptive parents only wanted the best for her.
Strongly linked with this belief that Kayleigh will ‘run back to the adopters when the reunion fails’ is the prediction expressed by many critics that her natural mother will “show her true colours in time” when the “reality” of her mother’s personality and lifestyle becomes apparent:
Her birth mother is still a stranger. She should tread carefully.
Daughter will be crawling back one day, once she’s realised how useless Mommy is.
Kayleigh would do well to find out the circumstances surrounding her adoption. Many adopted children think their birth parents are going to be wonderful, despite the fact that these were the people who rejected them at birth, or were such hopeless parents their children were removed from their care.
She is who she is due to the parents who brought her up, not her birth mother. I’m sure her birth mother can do no wrong right now, but it’s only a matter of time before she says something that will upset the precious selfish lass and she’ll be off again, blaming everyone else for her problems, except herself.
She wants to be like her mum, a beer swilling, cigarette puffing, benefit claiming slob! Obviously, no matter how hard her adoptive parents tried they couldn’t take the dysfunctional DNA out of her!
This issue of genetic influence is one we shall return to.
Critics had firm views as to how the adoptive parents should respond if Kayleigh ‘sees the error of her ways’ and in the future wishes to contact or reconcile with them. They felt that the adopters should have nothing more to do with her:
I hope her adoptive parents don’t take her back when everything goes wrong with her real mother. I feel so sorry for the adoptive parents, what a slap in the face!
Her adoptive parents must never never speak to her or her brother ever again.
Her REAL (adoptive) parents should bill the birth mother for the years spent raising this little ingrate.
If I were her adoptive parents, I’d cut ties as well. Kayleigh’s over 18 now and they don’t have any obligation to her either.
I hope they don’t carry on being soft hearted and ENSURE she is written out of their will, she can’t have it both ways.
These adoptive parents need to let her go and try to get on with their lives without her as it will only hurt them much more if they try to keep in touch.
The adoptive parents should sue this little madam for remuneration.
No worries, adoptive parents. She doesn’t need you anymore. So, change your wills and move on!
I hope your Adoptive Parents will not set themselves up for another disappointment by letting you back into their lives.
It is notable that many of the critics made an assumption that the natural mother (Sarah) had voluntarily ‘given up’ (relinquished) Kayleigh for adoption in the first place:
What a cow!! Remember she gave you up!
However, this is by no means clear from the detail provided in the Daily Mail article. It is equally conceivable that Kayleigh’s natural mother opposed her removal from her care and contested the adoption process. If so, this would make this a ‘forced adoption’. On the basis of assumed relinquishment however, critics expressed anger that the natural mother (Sarah) now wanted to enjoy a relationship with Kayleigh without having any responsibility:
It’s only been 5 months. Let’s see the situation in 5 years.
Children are adopted for a reason and when things go wrong their birth parents are suddenly put on a pedestal. Well Kayleigh, you appear very selfish and I hope when this “honeymoon period” with your birth mother comes to an end, you don’t run back to your adoptive parents.
She has not been any expense to the biological mother so that was a bonus for her, just have the daughter turn up fully grown and able to fund her own way. A really good mother!!!!!
And now the little cow feels that her nights are better off gambling, swilling beer and ruining her lungs.Yes Kayleigh, your birth mother is a prime example of what a good mother should be – NOT. This story will have a tragic ending.
Throughout the whole sample of responses, there was an important debate, and a wide range of views, as to why the adoptive placement broke down so suddenly (when Kayleigh was aged 22). Critics generally absolved the parenting style of the adoptive parents (nurture) from having any contributory role. It was noted by many that (unlike her brother) Kayleigh was not a teenager when she suddenly left the adoptive home. Also by the age of 22 years, this is by no means unusual or abnormal. Critical respondents also commented that the tension generated when parental ‘protection’ is experienced as ‘controlling’ is by no means specific to adoptive families:
Natural parents can also be very controlling, so this is not an issue related to the adoption. Sometimes a better relationship with parents can be established by living apart from them.
There is of course, another possible explanation for Kayleigh’s clashes with her adopted parents: straightforward youthful rebellion. Most teenagers don’t like following their parents’ rules, but then most don’t have another mother to run to when things at home are tough.
The daughter is 22? This is the phase when everyone dislikes and tries to avoid their own blood parents.
I suspect the ‘cut all ties’ attitude has more to do with not being able to face up to a guilty conscience than it has to do with the parenting abilities of the abandoned parents. Teenagers are good at fabricating excuses for their behaviour and shifting blame to anywhere but themselves: it’s the nature of the beast.
All she has said is that her parents were ‘controlling’ in her teenage years, like pretty much every teenager before her at some point.
Responses also highlighted a debate (which can be contentious) regarding the relative influence of nature versus nurture on personality development and relationship patterns. Critics highlighted two explanatory factors (and the interplay between them): a)the impact of genes/DNA (nature); and b) the continuing adverse effects of trauma in Kayleigh’s early life with her natural mother. The discussion of genes/DNA was particularly extensive:
She is not the first and will not be the last to do this. Unfortunately or fortunately whichever way you look at it they have the same genes. Often going back to their roots suits them and they adapt to this ‘new’ life…
…the birth mother and daughter deserve one another…it’s all about themselves. Just goes to show how there is a selfish gene…
Just goes to show the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree after all…
Some people are born ‘bad eggs’.
This just proves the mother and daughter have the same selfish genes and the ungrateful daughter is as self absorbed as the dysfunctional mother.
To me it proves you can’t fundamentally change a person. You can adopt someone and bring them up well and give them all the love and attention but if they are from a cigarette smoking lager drinking family who had children taken off them in the first place then they are all the same. You can’t change someone’s DNA.
Well there you have it, you don’t breed lambs from lions! She wants to be like her mum, a beer swilling cigarette puffing, benefit claiming slob! Obviously no matter how hard her adoptive parents tried they couldn’t take the dysfunctional DNA out of her!
You can take the girl out of the projects, but you can’t take the projects out of the girl. (USA)
What’s bred in the bone will come out in the flesh…
Many critics stressed the role of genetic factors contributing to behaviour problems and adoption breakdowns. A similar point was made (although not to the same extent) about limitations in adoptive environments to provide sufficient restitution for the traumatic psychological and emotional harm caused to the child prior to removal into care:
Early life trauma has lasting impacts. A few good dinners, a clean bed and loving arms don’t wipe out past bad experiences…
As will already be apparent, critics expressed strong feeling of sympathy and sadness for the adoptive parents for their loss, and lack of appreciation. Also with regard to exposure in the international press:
I feel sad only for the adoptive parents – having worked in the adoption and fostering area of social services I have seen what struggles adoptive parents have faced prior to adopting, the infertility and feelings of failure and now she behaves like that towards them!!!!!
How did this story get in the press? This is a private matter and should remain so. It is not fair to name adoptive parents, who cared for you for so long, in this way and be so negative about them. My sympathies have to be with them – how very sad for them.
I feel so sad for the adoptive parents. I bet they wish they’d taken home a rescue dog instead – it would at least have been capable of showing loyalty and faithfulness.
I feel really sorry for the adoptive parents – the total lack of gratitude shown for their years of devotion (even if it was too much) does not deserve this sort of public humiliation.
I feel so sorry for adoptive parents, they took her in, they weren’t perfect but tell me which parent is? She is very ungrateful. But this is the challenge faced by parents adopting after you’ve done the hard work there is the possibility they will seek out their birth mother and forget about you.
This point leads into a very strong message from the critical respondents that the publication of stories such as Kayleigh’s will deter people from considering becoming adoptive parents in the future:
She is an ungrateful adolescent, which will only make people ask themselves why give a home to a child in care when they can turn around and slap you in your face.
What a fantastic advert for adoption.
This will put people off adopting.
This must be every adoptive parents’ worst nightmare.
Why would you adopt?
That is why I would never adopt.
This is why I would never adopt a child who has biological parents out there, but only a genuine orphan.
I hope this ungrateful cow hasn’t made any prospective adopters change their minds.
Well done for putting people off adopting the multitude of kids out there that need a loving family.
The nature of adoption, and the role of social media, and Facebook in particular, was the focus of critical comments:
The birth mother should have accepted that adoption means forever, and she lost her rights to be that parent when she was far too selfish, and found UNFIT to be that mother.
Another relationship destroyed by Facebook.
Some critics blamed Kayleigh’s mother for using Facebook to undermine the ‘nature’ of adoption and tracing her adoptive daughter:
The fact that her birth Mother thought it was acceptable to ignore the adoption rules and contact her daughter on Facebook – says a lot.
What was Sarah doing contacting her through Facebook?
Totally irresponsible woman to contact her birth child on Facebook.
Another powerfully expressed theme of the critics related to terminology: who should be considered to be, and called, ‘Mum and Dad?”. Critics were in no doubt that this should be the adoptive parents:
This woman she calls her mom has never been her mom and it’s a little late to start now.
A parent is is the person who raises you, not conceives you.
The people who adopted her ARE her real parents. It takes more than giving birth to be a parent.
…blood is not the deciding factor in parents, it’s the love and heartache that a person puts into raising a child, that defines a true parent.
You were adopted for a reason and your mum and dad (don’t call them adoptive parents) have been there for you through thick and thin.
She is their child, they adopted her, they brought her up, loved her and supported her – to reject them now is disgusting.
Sarah is not her mum she is her mother. Monica is her mum.
Just because that woman gave birth to you does not make her a mother.
Her REAL (adoptive) parents should bill the birth mother for the years spent raising this little ingrate.
This may be her Birth mother but she is not her real mother. The people who brought her up with love are her real parents.
Going public with a story like this is a very nasty ting to do to her REAL parents (i.e. the ones who nurtured and raised her).
SPERM AND EGGS DO NOT A PARENT MAKE!!!
Being able to conceive & give birth does NOT automatically make you a mother, the hard work is in raising them, nurturing, and protecting them.
Horrible story, feel so sorry for the adoptive parents, they are her REAL parents as they were there for her as she grew up.
Your real family is the one that selflessly loves and gives to you – and that can include friends. Blood relatives and sperm/egg donors have no right to claim to be family unless they fulfil this criteria.
At a rough estimate approximately one-third of this non-representative sample were broadly supportive of Kayleigh’s actions. What follows are examples of the key themes expressed within this supportive stance.
Respondents expressed pleasure that such reunifications can occur:
I feel happy reading that the girl will be with the one person she has always craved. I do not think people should be allowed to adopt kids who have family’s who love and want them.
This will be giving hope to the natural parents who so dearly want their children back…It’s lovely her blood Mother can hold her in her arms again – good luck!
It’s great she found her biological mom, they were both looking for each other.
Overwhelmingly, the strongest feelings expressed by supporters were associated with the question; “Why should an adopted person be expected to feel grateful?”
Absolutely disgusted by the number of comments and upvotes for people blathering about how she isn’t grateful. Adoptees no more owe anyone gratitude than any other child owes their parents gratitude. Adoptees don’t ask to be ripped apart from their families and given to strangers.
This belief adoptees should be grateful needs to die. It is vile.
It is incredible that in 2014 people are playing the ‘you have to be grateful to be adopted’ card.
She OWES them nothing!! They paid good money to steal a baby from the Natural Mom. They wanted ANY baby. It just so happened it was her…She owes them nothing!!! They owe her because they bought her!! (USA)
Those who are criticising the adoptee’s attitude to her adopters have no idea of adoptions. Many adopters will (unintentionally in many cases) treat the children in their care as if they should be grateful to have a home as if they have been rescued – that is a terrible burden to put on any child.
The old Guilt Trip eh? She did not ask to be adopted. She was powerless in that relationship. She has a right to know her parents, her mother and father.
Good grief – she is not GRATEFUL to have been kidnapped and given to old people to do with as they wished.
How is it that adoptee’s are expected to live their lives making up for the gratitude to the adoptive parents, to me this is is almost a legal form of slavery….
Supporters expressed concern about the motives of adoptive parents, and existence of psychological problems and dysfunction within adoptive families:
As for her adoptive parents they were brilliant as parents to children, they just couldn’t let their children grow up.
I’m an adoptee and my adoptive mom was very much like the parents in this article. It’s hard to describe a narcissist to someone who has never experienced one. From an outsider’s point of view it looks like you had everything. Of course, being adopted, gratitude is expected at all times…a narcissistic parent emotionally abuses her children and is VERY good at hiding the abuse/skewing her stories to others to make it all look reasonable.
It is clear that these parents never dealt with their infertility. In turn, the children were regarded as possessions that were supposed to fulfil them emotionally.
If her account is to believed then I would say she was abused. She suffered emotional abuse which resulted in self abuse which is the pattern.
TWO children have left as soon as they could. Most of us have trouble getting the kids to move out! To lose one child is unfortunate but when they both leave home as soon as they can I think your parenting is a problem.
Some adoptive parents are desperate and have issues of their own, and some actually cause harm to the kids in their care.
People think because couples adopt they are amazing and can do no wrong…There are some adoptive parents out there who do stifle and smother kids to a point they will look to rebel elsewhere.
People obsess over adopting a baby or young child and then don’t realise that child eventually grows up and sometimes has different beliefs and values to them. The bigger parent accepts this. But the controlling one’s don’t.
This was the case with my adoptive parents… I’m sure it appeared that they showered me with love. In fact my very move was monitored and I won’t get started on the list of things I wasn’t allowed to do….believe me that loving adoption is not always what it seems.
I think in some cases the bond between adopted children and parents just doesn’t develop and in adulthood the children feel no attachment.
Adopted children learn to be compliant since they’ve already suffered the worst thing, abandonment. You learn that you must be compliant and suppress your own wants, thoughts, and feelings to ensure that your Adoptive Parents are satisfied.
There is the resentment of the children later on when they are older, that they have been taken from their birth parents – and some adoptive parents are desperate and have issues of their own, and some actually cause harm to the kids in their care.
Adoption is like an arranged marriage, it doesn’t always work out.
I’m sure the conversation went along the lines of “whilst you’re under my roof”. Her adoptive dad is 70, that’s how they behave.At 22 she will want to make her own way in life, that’s what happens.
Wow, all adoptive parents have just been raised to saint levels! If they adopted it was to fill a need in them!
This linked with the issue already referred to by the critics’ responses about who is really ‘Mum and Dad?’:
Kayleigh is not her adoptive parents’ child; she is Sarah’s daughter.
I’m sorry, but Sarah is Kayleigh’s real mother. Adoptive parents can never be true parents.
Her MOTHER gave birth to her dear. The woman who brought her up is a good woman but she can never have the biological connection the MOTHER has with the DAUGHTER.
Tough isn’t it? She is the child’s mother. She has a biological bond you can never break. She is not your child. She is her own person.
Her Birth Mother is someone she remembers, having left her when she was five, doesn’t matter if Mum is a train wreck in our eyes, she is her Mother.
Adoptive parents cannot replace REAL parents. Fact.
The nature versus nurture debate and the significance of the biological/genetic bond was also raised by many supporters with an emphasis on the negative impact of the adoptive environment:
Perhaps (the adoptive mother) wasn’t concerned with her child’s feelings, just with trying to keep her all to herself. Maybe that’s where the girl learned this behaviour.
Why do good results always get attributed to the adoptive parents, but bad are blamed on faulty genetics?
The treatment by her adoptive parents amounted to emotional abuse. Don’t judge unless you have walked in their shoes first.
This goes to show being wealthy and living in an idyllic cottage with ponies, doesn’t make you good parents any more than other parents.
Having children is not about control and trying to mould little versions of yourself.
Perhaps (the adoptive mother) wasn’t concerned with her child’s feelings, just with trying to keep her all to herself. Maybe that’s where the girl learned this behaviour.
I was adopted. Stop calling her spoilt. Her brother left and she was self harming. There were obvious serious issues.
Supporters understood and agreed with the need to know, and to have involvement with natural parents and family of origin:
There is an inevitability that children will want to seek out their biological family…it is part of life, and this is never factored in when adoption or fostering takes place, and it needs to be!
It is purely a natural instinct to want to be with a biological mother.
Only people who are adopted can know the pain of not knowing your real parents. My wife was adopted, she had good adoptive parents yet at 66 she is still in pain from not knowing her real parents.
Have you ever looked in the mirror and wondered who you were, because nobody in the family shared the same DNA as you, and you couldn’t say you had your mother’s laugh or your father’s eyes or anything like that?
Humans have an innate tendency to care for their own biological family above all – an adaptive trait – so is it any wonder that when they are separated they might search each other out?
At the end of the day all adopted children have a right to know where they have come from and a right to meet their birth parents if they want.
I think nearly all adoptive children seek out their biological family – it’s just a hole they need to fill, though some do wait till after their adoptive parents have died.
The adoptive parents did their best, but I guess that yearning to know about your origins is a strong urge most of us can’t understand.
Supporters expressed the view that genuinely loving and altruistic adoptive parents would support the adopted child in ‘searching for their roots’:
Every child is also entitled to understand their birth heritage and by denying their children this information the adoptive parents almost drove her into the arms of her birth mother.
If your adoptive parents are that loving, I am sure they would support you in tracing your roots. Every human being is entitled to know where they come from.
Supporters objected strongly to the nature of forced adoptions, and the absence of direct post-adoption contact, knowledge and relationship with members of the natural family:
The adoptive family also did nothing wrong, except adopt a child they were told was not wanted, when that was untrue. The child had no say in the matter. Probably the parents had no say and the social workers made the decision. Adoption is a legal lie.
Blood is thicker than water. People should not adopt children who have a family who love and want them. It is the adoptive parents’ fault they get hurt because most children only want to be with their real family.
It’s not worth adopting a child that HAS a mother who loves her!!! To all adoptive parents do your research before adopting children whose parents are fighting tooth and nail to get back!!
How do you know she was given up and not stolen? If you don’t know nothing about SS you will soon know when they get you.
This young woman was in care, implying the state ‘took’ her. That is a very different story than just being given up. Even with moms who do give up their children, they usually feel forced into it by circumstances, if not outright bullied by the adoption agency. (USA)
Her parents did not give her up she was TAKEN by the state…don’t forget the Bounty social workers get for what only can be called stealing people’s children.
I think adoption is most often a temporary loan…more should be done to keep families together, the child never recovers from the feeling of abandonment.
Adopters have no right to seek to permanently sever the link of the adoptive child to their biological family.
Forced adoption is a form of legalised trafficking…
What is happening with forced adoptions in this country would not be allowed anywhere else in Europe…What will the children think and feel when they finally find out the truth in their forced adoptions?
Supporters commented on the lack of services to enable natural families to stay together in the first place:
Just because you’re from a dysfunctional family it doesn’t mean parents don’t love you. SS (social services) (are) too quick to take you away rather than offer support to families.
If social services had supported the birth mother at the outset none of this would have happened!
RESPONDENTS WITH MIXED FEELINGS
A third category of respondents was identified who had expressed mixed feelings about Kayleigh’s story (as published). The main characteristic of this group was that they expressed understanding and sympathy towards ‘both sides’: Kayleigh, her mother – and the adoptive parents. Other respondents in this category were critical of all of the parties.
A common response (predominant but not unique to this group) was that ‘only one side of the story has been heard’. It was felt that Kayleigh’s published account was both partial and partisan, and that the views of the adopters should also be heard. At the same time, understanding and respect was expressed toward the adopters for not getting involved in this public fray.
Several respondents noted that Kayleigh’s action (leaving her home at the age of 22 following a dispute) was not necessarily related to adoption. Sardonically, and succinctly, one respondent from the USA simply commented: “Breaking News: 22 year old leaves home!”
Respondents discussed that the family dynamic of ‘protective’ parental behaviour being experienced by teenagers as ‘controlling’ is a dynamic so common as to be considered normal in all families. However, what is different in adoptive families is that the young person has the opportunity of finding ‘another mother’ to run away to:
The difference between most young people and this little madam is that they have no-one else to run to, to complain to. Kayleigh has her biological mother who, no doubt, gives her no rules, asks for nothing, gives nothing (except beer and ciggies), and, no doubt, agrees with all her “complaints” about her adoptive parents with glee.
Respondents noted that this reunification outcome of adoption is not unusual. What is different about Kayleigh’s case is the (one-sided) publicity that she has generated. Whilst some respondents felt that this was a good thing in terms of public awareness, others were critical of Kayleigh (and the Daily Mail) for the perceived demeaning and humiliation of the identified adoptive parents:
Sad story and I’d like to think that they can all be reconciled happily some time in the future. Banging on about it in a national paper isn’t really helpful on that front though.
How did this story get in the press? This is a private matter and should remain so.
Talking to the press about your business and exposing those that didn’t choose to air their dirty linen in public is pretty unforgivable.
Going public with a story like this is a very nasty thing to do to her REAL parents (i.e. the ones who nurtured and raised her)…This must be every adoptive parent’s worst nightmare.
How much was she and her new found mother PAID for this interview?
Perhaps the strongest view expressed by respondents with mixed views was of the need and opportunity for Kayleigh – and many other adopted young people – to develop and sustain positive relationships with both sets of parents. Many advised Kayleigh to take action to reconcile with her adoptive parents, and not to burn the bridges:
She needs to grow up and go back to her adoptive parents to apologise for just dumping them. She could easily enjoy having two loving families, no need to burn bridges completely.
What a terribly sad story. It’s a shame she couldn’t manage to have a relationship with her birth mother and still maintain a relationship with her adoptive parents.
Perhaps someday soon they they will be wise enough to sit around a table in private and discuss their differences and where things went wrong without animosity.
Both your birth parents and adoptive parents made you the person you are today. Get help to realise it is okay to love both sets of parents, and it is okay to have two Mum’s and two Dad’s, have them all in your life, don’t hurt your adopted parents, the way your birth mother hurt you.
As for the young lady in question here, I am pleased that she found her birth mother, but would advise her not to burn bridges.
I have put so much time, effort and care into negotiating a relationship with both my protective and loving adoptive parents and my birth parents. It has been so difficult to do it without hurting either set of parents, and indeed without upsetting myself, and inevitably people have been hurt. But I stuck with it because I love both my sets of parents and I feel so lucky to have four people who love me so much that they would fight to have me in their lives.
If the birth mother REALLY has her daughter’s best interests at heart, she will encourage her to keep in contact with her adoptive parents, rather than turning it into a competition.
They are all adults now, both sides could make an effort to see the other’s point of view.
I hope the birth mother will do the decent thing and encourage Kayleigh to reconcile with the parents who raised her.
A little understanding on both sides and some counselling for Kayleigh and her adoptive parents would not go amiss. Kayleigh should realise how much fear her adoptive parents must have felt and they should realise that parenthood has to change as kids get older. Its not all dollies and prams. By doing things that they hoped would prevent losing her they lost her – but it’s not beyond hope for reconciliation.
There are no bad people in this scenario, and I can see the situation righting itself, given time. All it requires is a gulp of pride and a phone call.
Respondents noted the implications of this story for future reunifications:
This is the thing that all adoptive parents’ dread, the time the birth parents come back into a person’s life…
Expect many adoption parents to be abandoned and possibly court cases against social work departments where the adoptions have been based on falsehoods.
This is not an unusual case, it happens all the time. Many children that did not know biological parents for whatever reason go and find them.
COMMENTS BY ADOPTEES
Comments made by respondents who specifically identified themselves as having been adopted were analysed as a discrete group. Themes were similar to those already reported from the critics, supporters, and mixed feelings groups; and the adoptees reflected all three of these stances. However the perspective and emphasis that adoptees gave to certain issues (already discussed) was illuminating.
Positive experience of adoption:
I was given up as a child and thank every day that I was given loving adoptive parents!!
I was adopted and couldn’t be more thankful to the wonderful people I am so proud to call mum and dad that brought me up with respect and love!!
Coming from a similar background, I do all I can for my adoptive parents now they’re older because they’ve always done the same for me growing up…
I was adopted, and glad of it. I knew my birth Mother, and can only say ‘Thank God she didn’t bring me up’!!!!
Negative experience of adoption:
My birth mother put me up for adoption when I was 4 because she was single and I was autistic. Now, I am 31 and she just found me again. In this case, blood is thicker than water. I never identified as part of my adoptive family (I was adopted when I was 8) and they were as different as possible from me. But in talking to my birth mother, I see where I get various traits. She GETS me. I was afraid that this day would come and it would be a total disaster. It wasn’t.
I was adopted. Stop calling her spoilt. her brother left and she was self harming. There were obvious serious issues. I had a controlling adoption and it damaged me. Material things aren’t the be all and end all.
Searching for and contacting biological parents/family:
I was adopted and found my natural family. I can’t describe the guilt I have felt for doing this. My adoptive parents are great people but there was always the thought I might fit in better with my biological family. In the end my natural mother decided against contact, so I’ve had to get on with life.
I first met my real father when I was 45. I needed to meet him, and also to understand why he let me go.
I had wonderful parents. They have gone to heaven now. When I did trace my birth mother after my parents had died, I decided not to go down that route. My birth mother was dead anyway but what I found out was too disturbing. Some things are better left alone!
I found my birth mother and as fantastic as it was it actually made me appreciate my adoptive mother even more.
Wish for contact with biological parents/family:
Unless you are adopted I don’t think you will ever understand what it is like to have a piece of your life’s jigsaw missing. I am adopted and my adoptive parents have raised me well but there was always something missing. I have a wonderful husband and son but needed to know about my past. I am not ungrateful for the upbringing I had just simply wanted to find out where I came from. I was adopted at birth and at the age of 30 made contact with my birth mum. I totally understand where this woman is coming from.
I am myself adopted, my parents are the ones who raised me from 3 months old…both parents have (now) passed away from cancer…so for the purpose of wishing to know what possible illnesses etc run through my genes I have traced the woman who gave birth to me. This woman may have given birth to me, but she isn’t and never will be my Mum….I have now found out my gene history in terms of illnesses so have no further desire to met any of the people I may share blood with. The family I have shared all my life with are my family. In my eyes, to build a relationship with the Lady who gave birth to me would be disrespectful to the memory of my Parents.
No wish for contact with biological parents/family:
I, for one, have never had anything to do with my birth father, and don’t have any need or inclination to. A parent is the person who raises you, not conceives you.
As an adoptee myself, I find it repulsive and ungrateful the way she has turned her back on the people who loved and raised her. I never understood this need to trace your biological family. My family is my family. I have no interest in getting in contact with my birth family.
I am adopted (adopted at 3 days old) and couldn’t imagine treating my parents so disrespectfully. In fact, my Birth mother has recently got in touch with me and my main priority is ensuring my (adoptive) parents are ‘ok’.
I was in your situation. I rebelled as I felt smothered but I learned very quickly what a real mother was, when I only dipped my toe into finding my family. My biological side can rot, which is no more than they deserve…
What an ungrateful wretch. I don’t understand this mania for finding one’s ‘birth parents’ to discover ‘who I really am’…
Utter disgrace. I was adopted at 6 weeks old. I would have never once dreamed of getting in touch with my birth mother, utter betrayal of the love her adoptive parents have shown in raising her.
Being adopted myself I feel this woman is nothing more than a traitor. My biological mother used adoption as a form of contraception…
Disgusting ungrateful little madam. I was adopted at birth and have no interest whatsoever in meeting my birth parents. My REAL parents are the ones that loved me and raised me to be who I am today.
Ambivalent re contact with biological parents/family:
As an adopted child I can see the situation from the adopted child’s perspective. Having met my biological mother and having not had the experience I thought I would have I feel there needs to be more openness when it comes to children wanting to meet their birth parents.
I am adopted and traced my birth parents who had gone on to marry each other. Perfectly pleasant people who I have kept contact with, but my parents are the people who raised me and loved me and who I think of as my wonderful Mum and Dad.
Adoption has a controversial international history. Although officially presented idealistically (and even romantically), adoption has a dark side (Riben 1988). Throughout the world there is a strong historical association with coercive government social engineering policies involving large populations of children being removed from their natural families/communities and migrated into alien environments – all “in their best interests” (Joyce 2013). (I shall elaborate on this history in a forthcoming blog.)
Adoption is known to have mixed outcomes. A significant proportion of responses to the Kayleigh story highlight that many adoptees are indeed very appreciative of the adoption process and their adoptive parents. Nothing in this Blog should be taken to undermine the reality that there are many very successful adoptions (at least from the adoptees point of view).
However, the story of Kayleigh and the online responses to it add emphasis to strong arguments that the current practice of forced closed adoption in the UK is not only conceptually flawed, but in the age of social media, doomed to fail. Unknown, but significant proportions of separated natural families and children will experience the drive to search, make contact, and often reconcile. This leaves adoptive parents highly susceptible to rejection and abandonment by their adopted children. Social media means that reunification with natural families following closed adoption is increasingly inevitable. Adoptive, and prospective adoptive parents need to fully understand this.
Recent research by Selwyn et al. (2014) (see my previous blog) reveals the extent and grave nature of problems experienced in many adoptive families; together with the almost total national absence of appropriate supportive and therapeutic services. In this context, the practice of forced closed adoptions results in many adoptive children being subject to significant psychological and emotional harm through adoptive family dysfunction; as well as by unnecessary loss of, and deprivation of relationship with their natural families.
A very small number of children in the UK do require forced closed adoption. These are children of parents who may have caused serious abuse to a child in the past, and/or have combinations of severe intractable problems. These may include being psychopathic, sadistic, seriously addicted, unpredictable and criminally antisocial. Such parents can be totally unable to cooperate with any form of substitute care arrangements for their children. In some such circumstances, indeed: “nothing else will do” (Re B, Supreme Court 2013) apart from forced closed adoption.
However, these cases are very rare. Instead, increasingly, over recent years, in response to UK government policy, forced closed adoption has been imposed by the courts on families who present nothing like this degree of risk. Even for infants who have never suffered any form of neglect or ill treatment – but where the court considers they would be at risk from “future emotional harm”. (For a prime example of this see the 2013 Supreme Court judgment: Re B (a Child) (FC)  UKSC 33.)
Defining and predicting “future emotional harm” is a truly Orwellian concept. Subjecting such children and their natural families to forced adoption on this basis owes far more to Kafka than to Solomon (or indeed Bowlby). It is both tragic and deeply ironic that babies, infants and young children are being subject to forced closed adoptions on such grounds when the recent research of Selwyn et al (2014) demonstrates vividly the gravity of the actual emotional harm that currently arises for so many children in adoptive placements.
Taking into account the major identified problems with forced closed adoption in the UK – in the context of the general international rejection and revulsion about this practice – it is time for adoption practice in the UK to cease routinely promoting no-contact closed adoptions. Adoption agencies need to grasp the international evidence about the lifelong benefits of ‘open adoptions’ and to prepare prospective adoptive parents accordingly. In all cases, the presumption should be in favour of open adoption (adoptions with some negotiated degree of on-going direct contact with natural family members) – unless there are demonstrably grave reasons why this would create significant risks to the child and/or the adoptive family (which would indeed be so in some rare cases).
This will require a change of philosophy in adoption practice in the UK. Prospective adopters need to be informed about the benefits of open adoption. Social workers and adoption agencies need to develop skills to work constructively with all three sides of the adoption triangle. As many respondents to the Kayleigh story noted: there is a need for adoptees to have appropriate relationships with both sets of parents. Duxbury (2007) has outlined an effective model in the USA for such inter-family collaborative practice.
Selwyn and colleagues (2014) graphically outlined the nature and gravity of the current crisis affecting so many adoptive families, particular as the children reach puberty and beyond. It is striking that there are virtually no appropriate services to help such families in the UK. Specialist family therapy oriented services are urgently required to support all three parties in the ‘adoption triangle’. Without a dramatic reduction in the practice of forced closed adoption, and the development of such family therapy services, thousands more cases like Kayleigh’s will arise. This will result in many more adoptive parents being left feeling rejected, betrayed and abandoned. It does not need to be like this.
Duxbury, M. (2007) Making Room in Our Hearts: Keeping Family Ties Through Open Adoption. New York: Routledge
Joyce, C. (2013) The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption. USA: Perseus Books.
Riben. M. 1988 Shedding Light on the Dark Side of Adoption. USA Harlo Press
Selwyn, J., Wijedasa, D. & Meakings, S. (2014) Beyond the Adoption Order: challenges, interventions and adoption disruption. University of Bristol/UK Government Department for Education.
Link to the Daily Mail story: