What Adoption Stories Really Tell Us

The award winning television series, Long Lost Family, which seeks to reunite family members, has been riding high in the viewing figures and rightly so.

Presenters Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall are perfect presenters for a programme that is, at times, raw in emotion. Both presenters clearly identify with their subjects and display keen emotional authority and empathy. And it’s not hard to see why.

McCall was estranged from her late mother for many years, while Campbell, adopted as a baby wrote movingly in his book, Blue Eyed Son, about his journey, literally and metaphorically to track down his birth parents.

Many of the case histories in the series are of a time when illegitimacy was largely regarded as shameful and when there was little support in terms of a fully integrated welfare state.

The pain of the parting, for birth mothers especially, cannot be underestimated. The words of actor Linda Bellingham are painful, when, during an interview, she described how, as a baby she was handed over to her adopted parents – only for them then to see in the rear view mirror as their car pulled away, Linda’s birth mother, traumatised, arms stretched out, running after the departing car.

Our research for the latest Copper Tree Class book – a series of accessible stories with challenging issues at the heart, considers adoption. Help A Hamster, in which Alfie Tate tells his adoption story reveals that while circumstances may have changed in terms of attitudes and welfare, the human condition, in terms of challenges and empathy, remains the same.

During our research we were privileged to hear extraordinary stories of tenacity and integrity from both birth and adoptive parents and children. It was a privilege also to see personal Life Story Books of adopted children.

In a time that encourages transparency rather than secrecy Life Story Books are just one tool to enable children to understand and come to terms with their life experiences prior to adoption. The understanding being that the books will help children, separated from their birth family, will make better sense of their situation.

The books, prepared by their carers, prior to adoption, are remarkably frank. They explain that, on the whole the children were loved but that their parents were just not in a position to raise them within a supportive environment.

But our research also highlighted the tremendous integrity of parents who were prepared to open their homes to strangers’ children. One couple went from having no children to three – all from one family, while another adopted a child whose mother had addiction problems both before, during and after pregnancy.

The story behind Help A Hamster, in which the children of Copper Tree Class find new homes for a litter of baby hamsters enables Alfie, the hamster monitor, and his mother to explain how he came to live with his new family. Peppered with light hearted moments readers discover, as the story evolves and couched within an accessible story, key facts about adoption.

Above all Help A Hamster is a reminder and a celebration of the human condition – that while attitudes and circumstances may change, kindness and respect towards others always seems to remain a constant in an ever changing pressured world.

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