A couple of months ago I left my husband fighting for his life in hospital after a stroke and headed home for some sleep.
As I went in my front door the phone was ringing and I grabbed it, fearing the worst. And it was the worst, only of a different kind.
A voice on the other end told me that our daughter, our youngest child, had jumped from a high-rise building and killed herself. And the truth is that I had been dreading the phone call for a long time.
Marion was incredibly self-centred and demanded more of everything than anyone else
Marion was 18 months old when we brought her and her sister, Louise, a year older, home from a Children’s Home where they had lived for a year.
They were taken into care when their 16-year-old brother murdered their three year old sister, and no foster or adoptive parents would take them because of the publicity and the notoriety of their family.
My husband and I decided that the two little girls had done nothing to anyone and didn’t deserve to grow up in care or, worse still, be returned to the family they had come from. We already had a nearly four year old son and with the arrival of the girls his world was turned upside down, a fact that haunts me to this day.
Louise seemed to be the main problem, aged two and half her behaviour was very disturbed. There was no peace and little sleep but as we began to cope with her we found the real problem: Marion.
She was incredibly self-centred and demanded more of everything than anyone else. Didn’t matter what it was or even if she wanted it, if it was there she had to have it, and if it wasn’t given to her she stole it – money, toys, sweets, anything.
It was impossible to instil some kind of morality into her, some sense of fairness or justice, and that pattern would continue throughout her life.
We discovered that she was musically gifted when she was eight years old and, hoping it would give her confidence, we provided whatever she needed.
She went to a specialist music school, but when she was home at weekends I found myself hiding anything I valued because I knew she would take what she wanted.
Nothing we did for her was ever enough or good enough, in her eyes she was due everything she saw or imagined and it made complete sense to her that everyone else should do without.
Going out I took with me money, bank cards and jewellery, but she still managed to steal from everyone, inside and outside the family.
Several times in her early teens she was picked up by the police and gave the names of friends’ or relatives’ children instead of her own. When faced with it Marion simply shrugged it off.
People, including our family, were there to be used or to amuse, they had no other value.
There were so many crises.
At fourteen she had an affair with a drug dealer in his late twenties who had been jailed for assault and was awaiting sentencing for more. Luckily one girl had enough of being used as a cover and told us what was going on.
Given the choice between him or the middle class lifestyle and expensive education she chose the latter, then went back to her upper crust school without the slightest concern, leaving us to deal with a violent thug who literally knew where we lived.
Marion was 18 months old when we brought her and her sister, Louise, a year older, home from a Children’s Home where they had lived for a year
After being grounded for six months she was back to ‘normal’; she never learned any lesson, another a feature of her behaviour throughout her life.
In her late teens she forged her Dad’s signature on a cheque for £3500. She denied it, as she did everything, even if caught red handed she never, ever admitted it, it was always a misunderstanding or someone else’s fault.
Our function in her life became paying her out of trouble, but still we hoped, lurching from one crisis to another with her, as she walked into more trouble, cursing us as she went.
There she was, so gifted, mixing with top classical musicians, with a glittering career ahead of her. Yehudi Menuhin was ‘A nice old guy, and pretty good,’ and Itzhak Perlman was technically superb but lacked the emotion, the heart of the less technically exact Menuhin.
Meg Henderson (pictured) said: ‘Like our daughters, many of the children being offered for adoption today were not doomed from birth; they were doomed from conception’
After one Perlman concert she told him his performance had been below par, and he agreed; she was all of ten years old at the time.
When Louise was sixteen she was diagnosed as Psychotic and, we discovered, was brain damaged and had been moderately to severely autistic all through her childhood.
I then did some digging and discovered that she had been beaten numerous times as a baby and toddler, once with a hammer and another time, when she was ten months old, beaten over three days by one of her mother’s boyfriends because ‘She wouldn’t call him Daddy.’
It ended any hope of an independent life for her and we were heartbroken for her.
The family they came from, we then learned, was riddled with mental illness, and both girls were the results of incest between the mother and one or two of her sons, information that had been deliberately kept from us by Social Services.
The thinking, then as now, was that by the time we ever found out – and the odds were that we wouldn’t – we would be so attached to the girls that we wouldn’t want to give them up.
Louise (pictured left), aged three, with Euan, aged five, and Marion, aged two (right)
Louise was ‘lucky’ in that she was too damaged to have any understanding of her situation and now lives in a village for disabled adults, where she is as happy as she is capable of being.
We didn’t know then that Marion had been hallucinating and hearing voices since the age of ten. Looking back, all the signs of mental illness were there, but I think we didn’t recognise them because we didn’t want to.
Having lost one child to it, the thought of losing another was beyond thinking about, so we didn’t.
She had gone to the RCMD in London and stayed there, so we only heard from her was when she wanted or needed money, always in the thousands. I always took the abusive and threatening phone calls as indications of how much trouble she was in and sent her money. One regular threat was that she would go to the authorities and tell them that as Foster/Special Foster/ Adoptive Parents we had physically and sexually abused her and every child we ever had care of.
Meg Henderson said: ‘Louise seemed to be the main problem, aged two and half her behaviour was very disturbed. There was no peace and little sleep but as we began to cope with her we found the real problem: Marion’
Her Dad doted on her, made every excuse for her and always supported her and she knew he would be deeply hurt and upset at the allegation, she had no boundaries, using any means to get what she wanted.
Eventually, in her early twenties, I refused to send her more money and we heard nothing from her again.
However, we were concerned for her, she was our child, and we twice paid private detectives to try to find her. Both failed because, once again, she was using a different name. She was in her late twenties when we found her again and discovered that she too had been mentally ill for years.
Between the illness and the medication she couldn’t use her talents, so she had no life and no future. She refused to accept it though, and regularly went off her medication, convinced that it had all been a mistake, that this time she would OK. Only she wasn’t, and would wander the streets hallucinating, until she was picked up by the police and sectioned again.
‘My husband and I decided that the two little girls had done nothing to anyone and didn’t deserve to grow up in care or, worse still, be returned to the family they had come from’
Once, she went back to the Social Services area her family came from and was allowed to read their extensive case notes.
She had known the gist of her background, as much as we knew, but seeing so much in black and white horrified her. Having been raised in a family with a very different outlook and morality – even though she didn’t share either – she was devastated by who and what she came from.
So she came up with a delusion to cope with it. She decided I had given birth to her as a result of an extra-marital affair and, as a cover, we had first put her into a Children’s Home, then gone back and adopted her out of it.
It was fiction, but to Marion preferable to her reality, though it made us the worst human beings alive and her abusive, threatening phone calls would go on day after day. Reasoning with someone in the grip of a delusion is impossible, so we became used to changing our phone numbers, only re-establishing contact when she was lucid again.
Off her medication again she decided to kill me especially, and expose our treachery to the world, once being intercepted and a knife taken from her before she got to our door.
And so, at the age of 36, she killed herself, as I always thought she would but hoped she wouldn’t. When he heard, our son, who had always helped and protected her as much as he could, usually from herself, said sadly ‘Well, it’s over now,’ an understandable mixture of grief and relief that I share.
We decided against telling my husband, he is so ill that he now needs 24 hour care – which is me.
He’s not able to provide any support anyway, so telling him would be cruel. When he had his stroke he didn’t want her told in case it caused her to relapse and I agreed, though I knew by then she was already dead. This means I can’t work through my daughter’s death in the normal way in case he notices, so it remains painfully raw and illogically guilty.
Guilty because there must have been something more or better I could have done for her, illogical because I know there was nothing I could have done, for Marion or Louise.
And this isn’t an example of adoption in the bad old days, it still goes on, sanctioned indeed by the Law.
In 2004 the Court of Appeal found against adoptive parents who had not been told about their son’s damaging background. Deciding that Social Services had a duty only to the child being placed, the Judge said ‘We would not hold that it is fair, just or reasonable to impose on professionals a duty of care towards prospective adopters.’ Withholding information to get a child adopted is therefore entirely legal.
This should be a warning to anyone seduced by pictures of lovely children needing new families, and to those who believe that their adoptions are solid after a few years.
Problems, breakdowns, happen even decades later. Feeling sorry for these blameless children is not enough, and TLC is a myth, a lie to snare well-meaning people. Like our daughters, many of the children being offered for adoption today were not doomed from birth; they were doomed from conception.
The harm done to them in their first families does not simply disappear when they are transferred to another family, but what is in their backgrounds is equally important.
Baby adoption is a thing of the past, it is now about damaged children removed from their birth families because of abuse, neglect, drug and alcohol addiction, usually after years.
Many who have taken these children into their homes and families are suffering in silence because speaking out invites being trolled by the ignorant – rosy happy-ever-after is demanded from the public whether it is possible or not.
The emphasis remains on getting more children adopted faster, because it’s cheaper than keeping them in Care. The collateral damage to families like mine matters not a jot.