As plans to shake up the adoption system are unveiled, Fiona, an adoption expert and a mother of three adopted kids, reveals the ups and downs of the experience
Adoption was something we’d always thought about, after realising that having a family was not going to be as easy as we’d hoped.
After making a few inquiries with Edinburgh’s adoption agencies, we started the adoption process with St Andrew’s Children’s society. Going through the preparation groups and home study, it seemed like everything was taking a long time. However, looking back on it, we really didn’t have to wait too long.
Once we had been approved for adoption, we worked with our social worker to find a “match”. During the preparation stage, you talk about the age of child you’d like to adopt and other things like the child’s early experiences and any health issues they might have. Matching is all about finding the right parents for the children who need to be adopted.
When we were at the matching panel for the first time we sat outside while they discussed the match and were called back in and told we were matched – so it was emotional in a good way.
We’ve been through the process twice now. We adopted siblings around ten years ago and adopted again about five years ago – only one this time! It’s been an amazing experience and I’d definitely recommend finding out more about adoption if it’s something you think you’d like to do.
That said, it’s not always been easy and some of the early experiences of children who are adopted can affect how they grow and develop.
Once a match is made, the introductions of the family to the child are planned. In both cases, our introduction stage took about 10-14 days. So ten days after meeting our children, they’d moved in. The second time it wasn’t such a big jump because we were already living a family life.
The first time, however, saw us transformed from a childless couple working full time, to suddenly being parents to two toddlers in less than a fortnight. Quite a shock to the system.
We were worried at the outset if we’d be good enough parents and also had concerns about the impact of the children’s experiences on them. And would they like us?
On our first visit we were really nervous and excited. We’d seen photos and a video of the children and spoken to foster carers but it was amazing to meet them. The first visit was very short – just two hours – and it was hard to leave and go home.
After years of longing to become parents, it all happened so quickly – not quite overnight but almost.
To the outside world, I was a mum of two preschool children and should have had some idea how to parent. But, of course, I was actually a brand new parent learning on the job.
We had support from our social worker to get through the early stages and our health visitor was brilliant. I also made a few emergency calls to the children’s foster carers just to find out if what I was seeing was “normal”.
We also got support from Adoption UK, through local groups and their magazine articles, which helped us realise that some of what was going on was related to adoption and the impact of the children’s early experiences – not our novice parenting.
It was around this time I began to realise how important support and understanding was for adoptive parents – just to know that some of the issues you are experiencing are common and can be addressed.
Two years ago, I set up my website, www.adoptresources.co.uk, to offer practical tips and information. I wanted to translate some of the theory of adoption into day-to-day parenting.
National Adoption Week, combined with the government’s announcements of plans to “shake up” the system, have generated a lot of press interest. This has led to a lot of negative and not necessarily representative coverage.
Yes, there are problems with delays in getting approved and in making permanent plans for children and these need to be looked at. But the whole system needs to be looked at, not just local authorities.
I would be very concerned if fast-tracking the process was being used as a cost-cutting exercise, as it is crucial that vulnerable children are placed with suitable families.
It’s also important to look at post placement support. The developmental impact of a child’s early experiences and helping your child make sense of their adoption means that sometimes some extra support is needed.
Adoption itself isn’t the happy ending, it is just the beginning. Adoption is a different kind of parenting, and the right support can make all the difference for a happy family life.
If anyone is interested in adoption or fostering, I would encourage them to contact their local authority or adoption agency or go along to an information session. Also have a look on www.adoptresources.co.uk for some more information.