A Home For Maisie: Why we adopted our ninth child

Monday 11 April 2011, 12:30

Sue Clifford Sue Clifford

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My husband Jim and I have always enjoyed a challenge.

Having adopted eight children over 18 years, all placed with us as older children and each with differing needs, we were already reasonably challenged.

But then we saw Maisie's profile in Children Who Wait magazine published by Adoption UK and couldn't resist putting ourselves forward just one more time.

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As a seven-year-old who had already had two failed adoptive placements, we felt she deserved a chance at having a family who might just be able to make it work.

All of our eight children understood that Maisie would struggle to trust and become part of our family, but they all wanted to help her make the journey which they had, each in their own way, made.

By filming part of her journey, with her and all the children's agreement, of course, for BBC Two's A Home For Maisie, we hope that Maisie will have something to look back on, which will remind her that she is special and that we all believe in her.

We hope that the film will also encourage others on their journey of adoption.

For Maisie, her early life of abuse and neglect, together with the various moves she had experienced, had left her with an inability to trust and engage in relationships with anyone.

She had put up a protective wall around herself and would hit out at anyone who tried to break through.

It has been very painful for all of us to see just how much early rejections have affected Maisie.

However, with persistence, we have gradually helped Maisie to remove that protective wall and enjoy the pleasures of being a little girl.

Maisie, held by her adoptive father Jim, and her adoptive mother Sue

We have been supported in helping Maisie with therapy provided by the adoption support agency Family Futures and funded by social services.

To help us record Maisie's journey on film, Family Futures have, for the first time, allowed cameras inside the therapy sessions.

One of the things we recognised immediately was that Maisie, like all of our other children, had missed the early childhood experiences of nurture - being made to feel special, safe exploration of her environment and other play experiences that children get from growing up in a caring, loving and safe family.

So although she was seven when she joined our family, she was still a baby in terms of her life experiences.

As a family we have helped Maisie not only to trust, but also to experience feeling cared for, nurtured and we have given her the play experiences that as a baby and toddler she should have had.

You'll see in the programme that she really enjoyed us spoon feeding her at the table and being bounced on the trampette to create the same fun and developmental effects as a baby being bounced on a parent's knee.

As a result she is now beginning to allow herself to be part of our family and enjoy having parents who love her, and brothers and sisters to play with.

It has been a hard road over the last two and a half years and there will be more rocky patches to come but for now we can all enjoy the funny, cheeky, loving and caring child that Maisie is becoming.

Sue Clifford is Maisie's adoptive mother and features in A Home For Maisie.

A Home For Maisie is on BBC Two at 9pm on Monday, 11 April.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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    Comment number 1.

    Just watched the programme and I just wanted to say that you and your family are truly inspirational. Gorgeous, gorgeous family. Good luck!

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    Comment number 2.

    Dear Sue,
    I just watched the documentary on the BBC and I just wanted you and Jim to know that I was deeply moved by what you are doing for all your children and I could feel the love you have for them through the televisionscreen. Thank God for people like you and Jim, who are making the diffrence. All the best, you will be in my prayers.
    Greetings from Holland, from Hettie
    p.s sorry if my English isn't that good, hope you'll understand what I am trying to say.

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    Comment number 3.

    You are an amazing couple with a wonderful, inspiring dedication to those who need a chance in life - it's people like you that make differences in this world.

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    Comment number 4.

    just watched the programme.found it really interesting as we have adopted a boy who has similar problems to maisie.it would seem that as usual it all boils down to money.when are local authorities/government going to wake up and smell the coffee and make finance available to help these children.would have liked a bit more on the background of sue and jim.
    thought you were both great by the way and good luck to maisie

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    Comment number 5.

    Hi Sue,
    You are truely an inspirational family. I have been totally moved to tears by Maisie's story. I am so glad that you were able to give Maisie a hope for a happy future. I wish you all every happiness and success in your future lives together.
    Very Best wishes
    x

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    Comment number 6.

    An ispirational story of family & relilience & dedication, which brought back many happy memories with not a dry eye in the house, thank you.

    H&Sx

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    Comment number 7.

    I was amazed that for the cost of 1 secure residential placement at the very least 6 children in need of help could be supported in foster care or an adoptive placement. Talk about doing more with less, here's a government initiative waiting to happen, which could help 6 times more children for the same cost, I'm on board..........

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    Comment number 8.

    So inspired by you both we have five adopted children and could not begin to take on more. The programme left me remembering why we adopted which sometimes gets lost in the struggles of daily life. We wish you Gods blessing on your valiant endeavours with all your precious children.

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    Comment number 9.

    Reaching out from the island of Malta to one great family! Just watched the programme on BBC2 and wished to say good luck to you all, adults and kids, in your special family as well as the therapists at Family Futures. So many children need the same kind of love, good sense and a hand in life. You have my support and prayers. Keep it up all of you!

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    Comment number 10.

    What a brilliant programme. As a fellow adopter, although I have only managed one, I'm always really disappointed about the way adoption is portrayed on tv. Thank you to all for opening up your family to encourage others. Maybe I should do it again!

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    Comment number 11.

    Dear Sue,
    This is the first time I've actually watched a programme and felt I had to comment. I've just watched the documentary and was moved to tears. What a fantastic family! You and Jim are truly amazing parents providing such a loving and caring home, you have obviously enriched the lives of all your children and given them the start in life all children deserve. Wishing you all the very best for the future.

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    Comment number 12.

    God bless people like you Sue and Jim, you give these poor chidren something to hope for. Ever since the death of baby peter, i have held a heavy heart for all the children that suffer at the hands of their parents ..lets hope more children can be saved like massie. I hope you all live happily forever.

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    Comment number 13.

    Hi Sue,
    Thank you for the courage and selflessness you guys show opening yours hearts and home. I am inspired and my husband and I are now starting to discuss whether we might one day do the same for an older child. Thank you! Other parents:the Tavistock and Portman Clinic has excellent services to support looked after children.

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    Comment number 14.

    I have never commented before but signed up tonight because I was so moved by the documentary. I came across it by accident and was gripped by the courage of Sue and Jim and Maisie herself. Like one of the other blog posts suggested, the joy created by being part of a family really gives me hope in a world which often seems to present lost childhoods through a media panic.

    Good luck with getting future therapeutic support for Maisie and thank you for such a memorable programme. I will always look at adopted children quite differently now.

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    Comment number 15.

    I feel it is important to point out that the practice shown in the documentary seems to be a version of a a controversial practice known as Holding Therapy or Attachment Therapy. A first-hand account of this can be seen at http://anyachaika.wordpress.com/2011/04/05/a-first-hand-account-of-holding-therapy-in-the-uk/
    The blog also contains discussions and a history of HT in the UK

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    Comment number 16.

    I have the greatest respect for you both. It is amazing to see that the world has been given 2 angels. You should both be very proud of what you do and the lives you have improved. I am honestly so heart warmed to see such 2 beautiful souls! Im sure I speak on behalf of everyone when I say Well done!

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    Comment number 17.

    I'm a 64 year old guy with a troubled past living alone with no family and I guess reasonably happy but watching your program last night brought back a lot of painful memories coupled with the pure joy of knowing that people like you two are out there. It's only people like you that bring children out of the cold strange and ugly place they live in, wish the hell you two had been around when I needed you. I didn't think I believed in a God yet found myself saying, "thank God for Sue and Jim"............thank you for the ray of sunshine you bought me, I needed it.

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    Comment number 18.

    Sue and Jim,
    I have nothing but admiration for you both. Your dedication and perseverence to all of your children is an inspiration to us all, regardless of whether we are natural or adoptive parents. I was moved to tears with the fact that all of these children have now got such a loving and stable family. My husband and I have always talked about fostering and we will still be looking into this when our youngest daughter is a bit more independent, but from this programme I am wondering whether this is the answer for us, or whether adoption is the better route. Thank you for sharing your wonderful family with us!
    Theresa x

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    Comment number 19.

    I watched the programme last night and felt I just had to comment on it. You and your husband are amazing and so inspirational and have changed so many lives. It was such a moving and heart warming programme, there were definitely a few tears here! Good luck with all that the future holds, and thank you for sharing your wonderful story.

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    Comment number 20.

    Hi,
    As an adoptive parent of a daughter very similar in nature to Maisie I can confirm the benefit that our whole family gained from 5 years of Family Futures - the initial damage can never be fully undone, but we can learn to cope and accomodate. The whole experience of trying to coordinate input from social services, education and children's mental health services over the 10 years that she has been with us (she is now 16) has been a 'strain' - particularly in terms of the need to educate the 'educators' in how best to meet her needs. 18 months ago we finally got her into a school which is able to understand and meet her needs - the first time that she feels safe and secure since she left primary school (though this was not for want of trying by her secondary school who went well beyond the call of duty for her). The sooner that children like our daughter and Maisie can be removed from such traumatic and damagingly inadequate parenting the better chance they have in life. Sue and Jim - hang on in there.

 

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