Friday 26 January 2024

Childhood: How fostering or adoption shaped us

Children assuaging parenting yearning

It is the dichotomy of perception between privilege and deprivation that at this end of viewing things almost allows for the manifest evil of the past to be excused as a function of those times.

What is rarely considered is how singularly or even more certain experiences have shaped character, shifted identity, and quite possibly left one fortunate, there are positives and negatives, both of which need to be explored.

At the onset, after reading about adoptions instigated from the Netherlands for presumed orphans from Bangladesh against whom paperwork suggested tragedy or adversity, the apparently falsified documentation has been exposed as such.

The adoptees are now finding out they have or had parents, siblings, and relationships from which they were extricated for the market satisfaction (it had to have money involved, a kind of transaction that everyone deigns to forget) of the craving for parenting in the West. [The Guardian: The stranger across from me was my sister: how one adoptee uncovered a tragic past]

Every kind of living away from kin

It is in a spectrum, some situations not as bad as others in adoptions, fostering with the extreme case of farming, childminding, care homes, or orphanages, if I were to limit the scope of the options available for caring for children over a generation ago. [The Guardian: ‘Farmed’: why were so many Black children fostered by white families in the UK?]

The enthusiasm with which I started to write soon was overwhelmed by the gravity of the matter, it cannot be captured in a single story, rather, it is the bringing together of many experiences that can begin to create a picture of what really went on. I decided to press on if only to start a conversation.

The privilege over deprivation construct

I remember a friend on a walk around the shores of the lagoon bordering the University of Lagos saying to me that those of us born abroad just seem to have a daring and boldness that others do not naturally exhibit.

In myself, when I was in Nigeria, I suppose there were exhibitions of precociousness, questioning, challenge, and fearlessness that might have set me apart, at times advantageous, especially in expressing oneself but could be disadvantageous in not understanding norms, values, traditions, or the culture.

As an adoptee you often hear, ‘You’re lucky, now you have a good life.’ But you cannot really compare the two,” says Kana. “In one sense I feel lucky that I have the best of both worlds. But nothing makes up for the loss you had to endure. Because I lost my family and my real identity.” Kana Verheul in the article.

My father would say, “You have always thought like a westerner.”, my brother did say in passing, “You are not one of us.” The fact is I belonged without actually belonging. The sanguineous ties are pulled asunder by other influences that in the experience of life can make us such radically different people.

The boy was starved

My parents as students in England had me quite early in many ways, I arrived 10 weeks prematurely, which meant for survival I was in incubation in another city for over 2 months.

Then primarily, my father was here for his accountancy qualifications and my mother had to work and, in the process, get an education too, not necessarily encouraged by him, at least, that is the story I am told.

My mother travelled around England into Wales seeking the appropriate kind of family to care for me whilst they were busy trying to better themselves. I cannot remember any of the people I supposedly stayed with, we called them nannies, but all the times I had with my parents in that childhood along with their friends and the siblings of their friends who were babysitters, I seem to recall.

One narrative I heard from my mum was on a visit back home from my foster parents, I was sneaking out to the refrigerator to steal food. She caught me a few times and could not understand why I would be stealing food until she found out that my wonderful foster parents were starving me. And these were people paid for the service, it was not a charity mission.

Radical consequences of childhood experiences

The consequences of the fear of hunger registered and were impactful long after we returned to Nigeria, and I was living with my parents along with having house helps to manage things when they were away. I do remember snatching food out of lunch boxes of fellow students, in fact, there were a few of us that did that.

Indeed, on balance, my whole life has been a wonderful experience marked by interesting events and circumstances. There are very many character traits and inflexions I could almost definitely trace to something that happened in my childhood, some of which I have written about in my blogs. I do need to get a move on with my story.

However, what is evident from many of the stories people are sharing is the illegality and criminality that thrived in the trading of children for different levels of convenience in the view that the children were being given a better life to the exclusion of an environment that would give them an identity or present them with a serious identity crisis.

Finding our way regardless

We almost always faced some sort of discrimination because of differences, however, minute and I recall the time a slow development of my motor skills left me not as agile as one would expect someone of my age it annoyed my dad and he coined a phrase for it that suggested a kind of impairment, someone at school somewhat deduced I was prematurely born and decided to make fun of me, he never did again, after I was finished.

Concerning the topic in discussion, it was my accent that set me apart as probably those of a mixed-race provenance would have been, then talk of brown babies or children in largely white neighbourhoods and schools. At home or abroad and there was no clear definition of either, you tried to fit in, you could not account for the cards you were dealt, you played the game you were in.

Closure for many would simply be coming to terms with who they are, and possibly finding out about relationships they never knew they had. It is unlikely that any of the people who were involved in the abuse of the children would ever see justice, even if they are still alive.


British Council: Farming (film)

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