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Age of removal from birth family and effects of trauma

Rainbow Time October 9, 2019 20:22

Just curious as to people’s opinions on the above? We have 3, removed at age 3, 14 months and birth. But with foster family for almost a year. Middle one currently seems to have some issues although nothing major as of yet and he is now a 3 year old boy so not sure what’s age related but he is probably my main concern for the future but only time will tell!

But wanted to ask the question as I work in a school. Some adopted children in school, those who were removed a little older seem to be having less issues than those removed earlier. In particular, removed at birth but with foster family for 18 months before adopted. Sibling also in school but was almost 3 when removed. Younger one really struggling though. Couple of other similar examples. I know a lot also depends on reasons for removal but just wondered if any opinions?

moo October 9, 2019 21:17

Personally I think it is impossible to predict... childs personality & natural resiliance huge levellers & massively imponderable factors...

Massive Xtra trauma for my 2 was poor care & time spent in fostercare... exacerbated issues & made them much worse...

Younger the child bigger the possible issues... longer until they become apparent... older child often issues more understood & assessed whilst a looked after child.... adopters better prepared for what taking on if l/a appropriately transparent!

Hth xx

Xx moo xx

Beebo October 9, 2019 22:23

Often birth family’s circumstances may worsen over the years. So they may be able to manage one child fairly well for her initial few years of life, but then BM’s issues with drugs/alcohol increase, she may drink during later pregnancies whilst hadn’t with elder child etc - so youngest may be removed at birth but have much greater in-utero issues than the eldest who lived with birth family for longest. Incredibly complicated factors at play.

BeckyAUK October 10, 2019 09:27

From my fostering experience, I would echo what both previous replies have said. I have often noted that younger children in sibling groups have more, or at least different struggles to their older siblings. The individual child's personality, strengths, etc. is definitely a factor, but, importantly, it can be the case that a struggling parent manages relatively well with one child, and that child might receive a few years of good enough parenting before subsequent children come along. By the time the third or fourth child comes along, the family situation can have deteriorated, the mother may experience considerably more stress while pregnant, resulting in increased foetal stress. Severe family challenges may mean that the younger children are born into chaos from day one. I think changes to the family set up can also be a factor. Perhaps the first child was born into a relatively stable situation, but then by the time the next child came along, domestic violence was a feature in the family, or a mental health crisis, or a financial crisis. So, even biological siblings can have very different experiences both in utero and during early life.

I also think that the impact of very early removal is not discussed enough, and not enough is known about it. I'm not saying it's worse than being removed later, but it's different and I don't think we know enough about the very primal instincts of very young infants and the effects on them when they are dislocated from the person whose voice, smell, heartbeat etc. they have become familiar with in the womb. I have fostered infants straight from the hospital a few days after birth and noted that they often pull away, don't respond well to comfort, cuddles etc. A psychologist friend of mine told me that newborns are primed to respond to their mother's smell. I wonder if they feel completely cast adrift when that smell disappears and is replaced by nothing familiar. There must be a very primal fear response. When I was fostering babies, I always noted how my friend's babies seemed to 'nestle' into their bodies, whereas all my foster babies seemed to hold themselves a little unnaturally when I carried them or rocked them - almost stiff and resistant to relaxing against me like other babies relax against their mums. I found it very sad.

Simon October 10, 2019 09:57

Some lovely responses to this topic, especially Becky's regarding early removal from birth mum. Yes, Becky, we need loads more research and understanding on this. Please can you sort this!!!

My thoughts would echo the above, except to say that as an adoptive parent of older children, I would politely caution against teachers, TAs, lunchtime supervisors, other parents etc thinking that "some adopted children in school, who were removed a little older seem to be having less issues than those removed earlier". Sadly, many older adopted children "present well" at school as this is part of their defence/coping mechanism e.g. "I want all the adults and children around me to like me, think I'm okay and not think I'm different to other pupils in the school" etc. Some adoptive parents would say (including myself), that it's when their child gets home it all comes out i.e. "explodes like a can of pop."

All our children are individuals, no one answer fits all. At least we are all trying to understand what it must feel like for an adopted child - something to be celebrated. :-)

Lilythepink October 10, 2019 09:58

Just to add, yes it is very difficult to unpick. Some children are more resilient than others.

There are also lots of background factors in the "fewer issues" you mention.

A child removed later from birth family may have had good pre-natal care, good early attachments and then something gone catastrophically wrong later on. So they potentially have firmer developmental foundations. Another child may have been neglected for a long time in that setting but been under social services' radar.

A child who was in Foster Care from birth may have had in utero developmental trauma, learning difficulties, alcohol and drug exposure etc. and so not be entirely "protected" by a good, nurturing FC. Another child (like my eldest) moved from FC to adoption toddlerhood, might experience significant trauma at the loss of that attachment figure, the only one they have known since birth.

Safia October 10, 2019 10:44

Also another child like mine removed at birth, having all the in utero stuff (domestic violence, stress, poor nutrition) and the genetic stuff, also had two foster carers including multiple carers in the second placement - so removal isn’t the end of the story by any means. My eldest although taken into care at two months had huge trauma as she had a head injury from which she nearly died - then a change of foster carer at 8 months which is a particularly vulnerable time as that’s when babies become stranger aware - although both sets of foster carers were excellent - plus of course all the genetics and in utero stuff too

It is very complex. Of course neither of them would be considered older children although both were toddlers by the time they were placed

Rainbow Time October 10, 2019 12:31

Thank you for your views. Lots of factors to take into consideration and as an adoptive mum of 3 who were removed at different stages it’s interesting to read. The children I have spoken about in school have behaviours at home similar to school, so those who were older when placed seem more settled both at home and in school. (This could again change I know as they get older!) I think I just wanted to see if others had similar views as I do which is pre birth and very early removal has just as much, if not more impact as those removed later. Something which I don’t think is recognised offer enough!

Bluemetro October 10, 2019 18:31

Interesting topic, especially relating to smells as we are told to keep smells that they recognise when they are moved from foster carers but not thought about the first change in smell when removed at birth. My DS was probably affected in-utero, but also has other diagnoses which affect him. From experience of other families with children adopted at different ages I agree that it is complicated, because it can also depend on other conditions as well as early experiences. Then there is also the factor that some children are very good at masking in school a lot of the time and when things do go wrong there can be less understanding.

BeckyAUK October 11, 2019 10:08

When I first saw the trouble that adopters are encouraged to go to in order to ensure as smooth a transition as possible, even down to using the same laundry detergent for smells etc., I was really struck that when a child comes into foster care, they are likely to get none of that. It really can't be overstated how traumatic first arrival in foster care is for a child at any age. I took emergency and short-term placements, and the children would often arrive, late in the day with just a few hour's notice, with only the clothes they were wearing and nothing else - no blankies or soft toys or anything familiar. Even when I fed them it might not be the same formula or bottle type. Everything unfamiliar. This would often happen directly after a traumatic event, a severe domestic violence incident, police involvement, a hospital stay etc. For pre-verbal children there is no way to explain what is happening, or verbally reassure them, or let them know they will see their parents again in a few days (probably). This is another reason, I think, why children who are removed very young may have deep trauma reactions which are different to those removed as slightly older children.


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