So this week in the UK it is National Adoption Week. I always take the time to feature it on my Facebook and this is the first year that I also have a blog, so I will feature it here. Adoption is such a personal journey for many people but it is more than possible that one of your single friends or a couple that you know could be considering it right now, and they haven’t yet mentioned it to those closest to them. For many, they go quite a way in to the process before they even mention it to anyone.
I personally do not buy in to the myth that adoption is only for those people who have suffered with fertility issues so they can achieve their dream of a family. While this may be true for some people who walk the road of adoption, I have had the amazing privilege to meet people who have pursued adoption as their first choice for their family. I have met people who met their partner later in life and did not want to risk the possibility of the additional health risks of a later life pregnancy. I have met people who have not yet met a partner or are complete in their singleness but still desire to be parents. I have met those who already have birth children but for medical reasons are unable to consider expanding their family through another pregnancy. I have met same sex couples who for different reasons have ruled out insemination or surrogacy. Can I just say that they have all been amazing at being prepared to share some of their personal journeys and I still feel so honoured that they do this when I have met them. Many of those people have also now gone on to already have children placed with them.
Adoption as a choice can take quite a while for someone to muster up the courage to pursue. The questions in your mind at the start, before you’ve even made an initial phone call to your local authority or adoption agency can feel endless. Am I going to be suitable? Am I too old? Are they going to be concerned about my finances? Will my home be ok? Can I afford to take the time off work or leave my job? What kind of background might the children have? If I’m single, can I adopt? And probably many more as well.
I’m not going to paint adoption as being a beautiful art masterpiece. It’s more like a wild, free flowing, messy, colourful, abstract piece of art which nonetheless looks beautiful on it’s completion. Adoption is not an easy road and you cannot ignore the fact that the children who require families have had tough starts in life. This is going to be a long and winding road as you take all the steps necessary to be considered suitable. There will be training to attend, there will be home visits with a Social Worker who will talk about many of your experiences including some of the personal and hard bits of your life, there will be panels to approve your suitability, there will be profiles of children that you want to parent but realise you might not have the right skills for, you have to consider the continuing contact with birth family members and there may even be some disappointments along the way or moments where you wonder whether adoption is still right for you.
Can I now tell you that NONE of those things are ever as bad as your imagination might be telling you, and if you are prepared to fully engage with the process, the journey can be a voyage of self discovery about your strengths, recognising how even your weaknesses can demonstrate empathy and understanding to a hurting child and just how rewarding it can be to see your child make small steps of progress that you can allow yourself to take at least some of the credit for!
The focus of this years National Adoption Week is to try to attract more black, Asian or minority ethnic people to consider adoption. Children of BAME communities often are amongst the children who wait the longest to find their family. However, whether you are straight, LGBTQ+, single, a couple, disabled or an older person, you are still likely to be eligible so can I encourage you to pick up the phone or click the link on that website you are looking at and start the process.
There will also be a focus this year on the types of children who tend to wait longer for their adoptive family. At present they are children from BAME communities, sibling groups, children with disabilities or older children.
These kind of descriptions can leave people feeling really worried about the kind of child they may be approached about, so I just want to challenge a couple of things that I know people may be thinking. Disability does not ONLY mean life limiting or incapable of independent living. It also includes lots of children who with the right support or specialist equipment would be capable of living very fruitful, productive and independent lives. A Social Worker will always explore what backgrounds you feel able to parent and support so don’t let something like this stop you from ever enquiring.
Did you also know that children in adoption terms are considered to be on the threshold of adoption not being their viable plan after the age of 4? How tragic is that? As a parent who took on a sibling group when our eldest was only a couple of months away from being 4 at the time of placement, this particular area is a real heartbreaker for me. When we first met the Sproglet the one outstanding memory I have of him was how little he still really was. Sure, he already had teeth, was out of nappies during the day time and had long since spoken his first words but do we really consider those firsts so non-negotiable that we wouldn’t think about adopting a child of that age of even older? We still got to take him to school, increase his vocabulary, do bedtime stories, have bucketloads of kisses and cuddles as well as get to enjoy the rest of our lives with him and all the future dreams and plans he has. Oh and we’ve lost count of how many memories we have made as a family even though he was almost 4. I can honestly say that I only very rarely even think about those years when he was not ours, and I certainly don’t feel like I was robbed of those early years and the perceived all important firsts.
I finish with this amazing quote from Adoption UK on the children who wait the longest.
“But they are still just children. Children who need love and acceptance. Children who have wounds to heal. Children who need to feel safety and trust, and learn that they are lovable. Just like all children.”
So before you close this post and move on to the next thing in your day, please ask yourself. Have I considered adoption? Could I adopt?
If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then what are you waiting for? Start on the most amazing and rewarding opportunity of your life. #youcanadopt