Today, the Woodyatts are the very picture of a loving and united family. But Victoria admits she did have a strange feeling shortly after the adoption. Just four years previously, she had given birth to Daniel and she knew how her hormonal changes had increased her maternal feelings. This was something she did not experience with Jessica and she could not help feeling strangely detached from the child at first.
“I didn’t have that strong instant attachment feeling when I had my daughter where there was no birth, no hormones,” she adds, “but after two years it felt the same, it takes time.”
Woodyatt has told Jessica the truth about her adoption, and she began to ask more about her story when she reached the age of seven. The Woodyatts answered all her questions honestly. The only things they are keeping from her are a necklace and a letter from her birth mother that were received from the Social Welfare Department.
Woodyatt explains that because Jessica is being brought up under her values, it would be more confusing and challenging for the child to have another mother and another set of values in her early years.
“I have no doubt that Jessica will meet her birth mother one day, but I want her to have grown up and have the maturity to handle it,” she says.
Whether the adopted child faces a lot of difficulties in their teens seems to differ from case to case. But groups working with adoptive families say the government does not provide nearly enough resources to help cope with any problems. According to a support group, the Adoptive Families of Hong Kong (AFHK), there is a serious lack of social workers specialising in adoption.
The AFHK is currently doing supportive follow-up work for adoptive families in Hong Kong. Most of its members are families who have adopted interracially with Caucasian parents and Hong Kong Chinese children but there are are also local adoptive family members.
The group organises regular gatherings for the families and holds support group meetings for them to share their experiences and difficulties. Through the meetings, the families get support from other parents who are psychologists or who have encountered the same issues. Mina Weight, the AFHK chairperson, says the next event will be the annual Christmas party, where the families can come together to share again.
“The government should provide more training to existing social workers and do more follow-up work with adoptive families.” says Weight.
She points out that although adopted children often receive good care from their adoptive parents, they still have to face many difficult times at school. She says the government should appoint more counsellors at schools to support adopted children through their teens.
More importantly, Weight says the government should educate the public about what adoption is and make people realise that adoption can be a good way to form a family and that adoptive families are no different from families that are biologically related.
As an adoptive mother herself, Weight says people always think the adoptive parents are great and that they are doing a favour to the adopted children. She sees it differently – that they are rewarded by the adopted children and should always feel lucky to be given a chance to become parents.
“Adoption is a thing to be proud of. It is a wonderful way to build a family,” she says. “It’s not something to be ashamed of.”