Adopting Together – Laura and Steve -

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“We spent lockdown getting ready to welcome two adopted children to our home”

“It feels like all our Christmases have come at once! They feel like they’re ours already and we haven’t even met them yet.”

 

First-time parents Laura and Steve* have just had the news that they’ve been approved to adopt a little brother and sister. They’ll be moving in to the couple’s home sometime in October.

 

The couple met in 2012 and got married three years later. On one of their very first dates they talked about having children and both knew that they wanted a family.

 

“As we met later in life, we didn’t want to waste any time,” explains Laura, who’s worked with children for the last 18 years. “I was thrilled when Steve said he wanted children too but after several unsuccessful rounds of IVF, we realised that it just wasn’t meant to be for us.

 

“We had already started discussing adoption before the end of the last round and neither of us had any doubts about it at all. I feel like we took a negative situation and were able to turn it into a positive. To be honest, we’ve never seen adoption as a second choice, we just see it as a different way of completing our family.”

 

As Steve says, “What’s been great is that since deciding to adopt, we’ve been on the same journey together. When we were going through IVF, I was very aware that it was Laura who was having to take the medication, it was her body that was being affected and sometimes I felt pretty helpless. With adoption, we’re both in it together. We’re completely equal and just feel that this was meant to be.”

 

The couple first started doing some research a year ago, in August 2019, and came across the Adopting Together website.

 

Adopting Together is the first project of its kind in Wales to deliver a targeted approach to finding suitable adopters for specific children and offer a bespoke package of therapeutic support for both the children and the adopters through every stage of their childhood, until the child turns 18.

 

Led by St David’s Children Society, the service aims to find families to adopt children who have been waiting the longest for a family. Typically, these tend to be children who are over four years old, who are brothers and sisters who need to stay together, who have additional needs or uncertainty around their development or who are from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background.

 

Steve explains, “The lady we spoke to when we first called to enquire about adopting was so friendly and helpful. We were obviously both grieving for the fact that we couldn’t become parents biologically but she was so understanding of our situation that we felt at ease straight away and just knew we were doing the right thing.”

 

The couple had a home visit from their social worker soon after their initial call and then attended a series of training workshops, which they both found incredibly enlightening.

 

Steve says, “For me, the training was like a massive light bulb moment – everything that we had previously read about adoption suddenly made perfect sense as they gave us practical and real-life examples of the world that we were about to step into.

“They really encourage and guide you into this very different, therapeutic method of parenting, bringing the pages of the books to life. It was actually very emotional too as it made us both look back at how our own childhoods and understand our own parents shaped the way that we will now parent our children.

“When you’ve had a loving family around you all your life, you can take it for granted and just don’t realise what an impact that just being loved has on you – or what an impact not being loved, or experiencing neglect or a chaotic start to life can have on a child. I honestly believe that every parent should have training like this!”

More sure than ever that adoption was the right path for them, Laura and Steve then had to fill in a detailed application and undergo a rigorous series of checks but were approved to be adopters in August.

 

They first saw the photo and profile of the two children they’ll be adopting at a profiling event that had to be held over Skype during lockdown. They expressed interest in three different sibling groups and their social worker explored each one before coming back with advice on which would be the best match.

 

Steve says they had no fixed idea about the children they wanted to adopt before starting the process.

 

“I know that most people probably go into this with a rough idea of the type of child they are looking for but we honestly didn’t mind. From the very start we weren’t looking for ‘the perfect children for us’. We just wanted to find children who we would be the right parents for, if that makes sense?”

 

“We knew we would have been happy to adopt up to three children and both felt very strongly that we didn’t want any siblings to be split up. We’re both very close to our siblings and to us, it just didn’t seem right to take a child away from their brother or sister when they’ve already been through so much trauma in their little lives.

 

“Although we know that having two children join our family at once will probably be more challenging than just one child, having each other will hopefully help them adjust to their new lives with us.”

 

Laura adds, “As we’ll be older parents, I think people were probably expecting us to adopt older children but we both have so much energy that our social worker just kept saying that we would be perfect parents for this little boy and girl, and we trusted her completely.”

 

After agreeing that they wanted to continue with the match, the couple were then shown more recent photos of the children and much more detailed information from the foster carers’ report. One of the siblings has a medical issue, which is common among children who are waiting to be adopted, but as Steve explains, that doesn’t concern them.

 

“If we had been able to conceive naturally, we wouldn’t have known how our children would have turned out in terms of their health, development or ability, so we really are not worried about that at all.

 

“Throughout our own childhoods and growing up, there’s never been any pressure on us and Laura and I feel the same way about our children. We’ll always encourage them to do whatever they want to do but just want them to be happy.”

 

The next step in the Adopting Together process was a ‘Team for the Child’ meeting, where the couple met with the social workers, foster carer, psychologist and health professionals to find out as much as possible about the children they were hoping to adopt and explore different parenting styles.

 

“Before that meeting, we thought we already knew a lot about the children but the level of detail they went into that day was incredible. They gave us a huge amount of information about them both, as a pair and individually, which really helped us to feel like we know them already. It was also a really good way of identifying any possible issues that might come up in future and get us thinking about how we can adapt our parenting techniques.”

 

The couple have since been through lots more training, have been buddied up with other adoptive parents who’ve already been through the programme and have been able to give them advice and support, have seen videos of the brother and sister playing together and have seen them over a Skype call with their foster carer, but they still haven’t actually met them yet.

 

Laura says, “When we saw them in the background over Skype, we just couldn’t take our eyes off them. They just immediately felt like they were ours. They even look a bit like us, and have got the same colour hair and eyes as Steve.”

 

As well as preparing themselves to be parents over the last few months and creating introduction books and videos for the children, to help them get to know their new family, the couple have also been busy getting their house ready for the two little ones to arrive.

 

“We had a huge clear-out over lockdown and although we were probably jumping the gun a bit as we hadn’t been approved at that stage, we’ve had two of the bedrooms decorated and ready for the children to arrive since July!

 

“We’ve kept them pretty neutral and really similar so that they can make them feel like their own rooms as they grow but for now, they’re full of cuddly toys and things that we think they’ll like. They’ve each got a teepee in their rooms too, which we hope will be their safe place, when they’re feeling sad or unsettled,” says Laura, who knows that there will be plenty of challenges ahead.

 

“Everyone keeps telling us that this is the perfect end to our story but we know it’s really just the beginning. We do think that it will be tough as well as amazing but we’re prepared for that. In fact, I think we’re much more prepared now than we would be if we’d been able to conceive naturally because of all the help and support we’ve had, the therapeutic play sessions and the training workshops.”

 

Steve admits he’s had limited experience with children until their niece was born two years ago, but that’s made him want to be a dad even more than ever. After working with babies and toddlers for her whole career, Laura says her experience at work has definitely helped her to feel more prepared.

 

“I adore children and have always been surrounded by them so it just wouldn’t feel right for me to not to be a mum. I’ve always dreamt about having twins so when people ask how we’ll cope with two at similar ages, I’m not scared by that. It feels like the most natural thing in the world to me.”

 

The couple will finally get to meet their two children over the next few weeks but the transition from their foster carers’ home will be gradual, giving the children time to adjust and feel comfortable with their new parents, new home and new lives.

 

As the day draws closer, they can’t help feeling apprehensive about how the children will feel.

 

“We are both really excited about meeting them and welcoming them into our home but I have to admit, I am nervous too. Luckily, children have always really taken to me but my biggest fear is ‘what if they don’t like us?’ I’m sure that’s natural but I just want it all to work out well, for us and for them.

 

“When I think about what’s ahead of them over the next few months, I just have such a mixture of emotions. In one way, my heart sings at the thought of having them both here with us but at the same time, it’s breaking at the thought of putting them through all this upset and upheaval.

 

“We just have to keep reminding ourselves that it’s the right thing for them in the long run and although they are both really happy at the moment with their foster carer, we will be their forever family. We’ll give them the stability and security they need and will love them so, so much.”

 

As Steve says, even though they haven’t met the children yet, the whole experience so far has been life-changing.

 

“We haven’t had a single regret since starting this process. We’ve just felt so supported throughout and have really enjoyed the journey we’ve been on already.

 

“We are realistic about what’s ahead but we’re going into this with our eyes wide open. What’s absolutely brilliant about Adopting Together is the level of support we’ll get, not just in the early days when the children first move in, but we’ll have access to therapeutic parenting advice, clinical psychological support and just someone to talk to about any issues that may crop up throughout the children’s childhood, if we need it.

 

“We just feel ready now and are looking forward to all four of us helping each other as we grow together as a family.”

 

If you are interested in adopting a child through Adopting Together, visit www.adoptionwales/adoptingtogether for more information or call 029 2066 7007.

 

 

* Names have been changed for confidentiality reasons

“Lockdown has been tough but the support we’ve had has got us through.”

 

Mike and Tony were one of the first families to experience the Adopting Together model, having adopted a little boy just after the service first launched in 2018.

 

“We both always knew we wanted children, ever since we got together 18 years ago, but we needed to make some lifestyle adjustments to make sure we were completely ready,” says Tony.

 

“Mike had been working late shifts in his job in retail so he moved into recruitment to allow him to work during office hours – we just wanted to feel completely prepared to welcome a little person into our lives.

 

“I’m definitely the researcher in our relationship so I was the one who first started trawling the internet for information. I saw that St David’s Children Society had had fantastic reviews and that it had just launched a new child-focussed adoption service that offered additional support to the adopters and to the children, so I gave them a call.

 

“From the very start, our expectations have been blown out of the water. We’ve been really impressed by the initial training, the social workers, the flexibility and the ongoing support we’ve received from Adopting Together.

 

“At the initial training, they really do prepare you for what’s to come and don’t sugar coat it in any way, which was great for us as we wanted to go into this with our eyes wide open. They take you through the worst possible scenarios for what could happen when the children move in, how they could react to different circumstances and teach you ways to deal with every eventuality.”

 

Adopting Together is the first project of its kind in Wales to deliver a targeted approach to finding suitable adopters for specific children and offer a bespoke package of therapeutic support for both the children and the adopters through every stage of their childhood, until the child turns 18.

 

Led by St David’s Children Society, the service aims to find families to adopt children who have been waiting the longest for a family. Typically, these tend to be children who are over four years old, brothers and sisters who need to stay together, have additional needs or uncertainty around their development or – due to concerns over inter-racial adoption – from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background.

 

Tony adds: “When it came to the stage of finding the right child for us, both of us were excited but anxious too. We just didn’t know what to expect. We’d been told about the family-finding and profiling events that Adopting Together organises where the prospective adopters go along to either meet foster carers and social workers and see profiles and videos of children, and it was great.

 

“We’d had a very fixed idea beforehand of the type of child we wanted to adopt but that all went out of the window during the process and we found ourselves drawn to a few children in particular who were nothing like what we’d originally had in mind.

 

“We first saw a video of our little boy at a profiling event and immediately feel in love with his little smile.

 

“We got all of his background information, quickly decided that we wanted to go ahead and very soon afterwards, we were told we could progress with the match.  We were thrilled! You then have to go through a series of checks and approvals, where you find out loads of information about the child, meet their social worker, foster carer and get a really detailed psychological report,  but you’re supported every step of the way and encouraged to talk about any concerns or doubts you may have.

 

“We were so excited to welcome him to our home but knew it would be very emotional and unsettling for him so the guys at Adopting Together made sure that the transition was taken at his pace and completely led by him.

 

“When he first came to us, our son was extremely quiet and shy. He started at nursery and would just sit in the corner and play by himself, not wanting to interact with any of the other children but you should see him now! He loves to be the centre of attention, he has loads of friends, buckets of confidence and we can’t stop him talking!

 

“That’s not to say it’s all been plain sailing. About a year ago, he was waking regularly with night terrors, which was incredibly upsetting. We wanted to make sure there was nothing more we could be doing to help him and were able to just arrange a session with the psychologist who was a huge help.

 

“Lockdown has been tough for him, as you’d imagine. He just couldn’t understand why he couldn’t see his friends, or go to the park, or see his grandparents, and started to revert back to how he’d been when he first came to us. We both found the whole experience so stressful as we just weren’t sure what to tell him or how to make him feel better when everything around us seemed so bleak.

 

“The guys at Adopting Together were brilliant though. We were able to have a Zoom call with the clinical psychologist to discuss how we were dealing with the situation. They reassured us that some of the techniques we were using were great but also suggested some alternative solutions.

 

“We talked to him very honestly about what was going on in the world and made sure he knew that we were feeling upset by it all too, so he didn’t feel isolated in the way he was feeling. We even bought him a punchbag and named it coronavirus so that he could take out all his anger and frustration on that.

 

“It’s just so helpful to have access to this ongoing support as issues like this do crop up, as you’d expect, so to be able to speak to a professional who’ll give us a new, expert viewpoint, when we’re feeling unsure about what to do is an absolute godsend.”

 

Asked to reflect on the last two years, Mike said the reality of adopting a child had more than lived up to his hopes and expectations.

 

“When we look back on the last two years and how far we’ve all come, we feel so proud. When we entered into this, we wanted to bring up our son in the way that we’d both been brought up. I grew up in a small town in Yorkshire and spent all my school holidays with my grandparents so I think I’ve got quite old school beliefs when it comes to parenting.

 

“We both think it’s really important not to let him rule the roost, to teach mutual respect and reward him when he’s good, but also establish really clear boundaries so that he knows what’s acceptable and what’s not. We’ve stuck to our guns on that and it’s really helped to have picked up loads of great parenting tips from Adopting Together that we wouldn’t have thought of before.

 

“We absolutely love our son to bits and can’t imagine life without him. Yes, we’ve had the sleepless nights, the tantrums, and a good few challenges to deal with so far, but because we were so prepared and have had such great support, we’ve been able to deal with all of that. The training and support is unique to Adopting Together and the after-care couldn’t be better.

 

“We are really grateful to them for helping us to get the family we always wanted.”

 

If you are interested in adopting a child through Adopting Together, visit www.adoptionwales/adoptingtogether for more information or call 029 2066 7007.

There is no denying it – it is hard!

I would love to be able to say that 13 weeks in, we have established a new routine, a new normal, and every day is full of new opportunity and delight, but this is no fairytale. The reality is we take each day as it comes: some are truly inspiring and give you a glimmer of hope, that maybe you do actually have your sh*t together, while others we plough through with our heads down.

Routine was once a formidable safety blanket, but introducing and more importantly maintaining a new structure in a two up, two down terrace house, which is no longer just their home, but now an office, a gym, a playground, a school and canteen, is just damn-near impossible. Their emotions are shot, my children have already grieved heavily in the past. The loss of their birth family, their foster family, and now this.

I understand to many, they may feel I am over exaggerating, but the truth is our five year olds have experienced more trauma than many of us will face in a lifetime, and to have their routine, family and friends suddenly stripped from them alongside the emotional anguish attached is an experience they only know too well.

After the honeymoon period of being at home with Dad and Dadi ended, about two weeks in, the realisation that this wasn’t going away hit. Their behaviours started to regress, and past feelings, along with their dragon-like tantrums, started to raise their ugly head again. Chaos well and truly descended!

So, we took each day as it came, reverting back to old tactics which we were first introduced to from their foster family. Their days became structured around their meal times, breakfast, lunch and dinner, because as long as they knew they wouldn’t go hungry, which they once did, they felt secure. We then dotted in some home-schooling, garden play, PE with Joe Wicks (who I hope to never have in my living room again) around this, keeping it very much lead by them.

We vastly reduced the number of video calls. We discovered as time went on that they could unsettle the boys. The presence of a family or friend, on a screen, in our house, with only verbal interaction combined with their already mixed feelings of uncertainty, and lack of understanding only enticed their already hyper vigilant and sometimes manic behaviour. Instead, we hold off video calls until they ask, which is usually when they are excited to tell them something or want to show something off.

I myself have also struggled. Just before lockdown I was made redundant from a job I loved. Not to be too disheartened, I had a number of very positive interviews under my belt and opportunities started to dot across the horizon, yet this all came to a halt with the uncertainty brought on by lockdown. I love the boys but, personally, being a stay at home dad was never something I desired. My career is part of my identity, something I could succeed in that was my own, but now in lockdown, and with the light at the end of the tunnel constantly on dim, it is difficult to motivate yourself when you don’t actually feel you are working towards anything.

That said, it hasn’t all been doom and gloom and now as we enter our 14th week, those dragon-like tantrums are securely reigned, they are returning to school in some shape-or-form in a couple of weeks and we can meet other families in the park.

The chorus of ‘Dadi, he hit me!’ or ‘DADIIIII, he took my toy’ will resound in my ears long after lockdown but if you had the choice, being locked down with your brother who also happens to be your best friend doesn’t seem like a bad option. The pair of them are completely different, yin & yang, but lockdown has meant that they have not only found comfort in each other, but learned to appreciate each other’s differences and enjoys each other’s company through the sharing of the others interests.

I no longer feel guilty about their screen-time and the worry that they may not develop at the same rate as their peers has well and truly been erased. Comparison is the devil and as long as they feel happy, safe and content and sleep well at night we are happy.

So, for now, whether it is a long walk or simply vegging out in front of the TV, we’ll take it, and when routine finally presents itself again, we’ll relish it but more importantly be ready!!

Adopters Story

Our journey like many others, started with a very painful event; Infertility, IVF and a period of mourning.
From the moment we both met, we both knew we wanted children together. So, to be told that we now had very little hope of that happening was a tremendous blow.
We had talked about adopting during the IVF process, and so, when we had given ourselves enough time to mourn the loss of our chances of conceiving a birth child, we did some research on adoption and who to go to for help.
St. David’s stood out from the very outset. From the very first phone call which Claire made in August; she was put through to Joy. We were Instantly put at ease, and given all the right information, not so much that you felt swamped, but enough to want to find out more.
We arranged our first social worker visit within a few weeks, which was one of the most nerve-wracking things I have ever done. But within two minutes of Joy sitting down, we were chatting like old friends and any nerves had disappeared. She guided us through the whole process from training to meeting our forever family. She made us feel so excited for the future.
We started reading some of the books which are recommended, this really helped us to understand how the children have been affected by their early experiences.
We joined Mary’s training course in November, (we should have attended in September, but we had booked our first holiday for a few years for the same dates. Typical). You will hear a lot about Mary, and all for the best of reasons. Her training is AMAZING. For me it was like a massive lightbulb moment; she made sense of what we had previously read, giving practical and real-world examples and she really encourages and guides you into this very different method of parenting; she effectively brought the pages of the books to life. We honestly believe that Every parent should attend training like this, as it is so invaluable.
We filled out the required pre assessment forms shortly afterwards. The main application form was then sent to us, which was a bit more detailed and took a bit of thinking through.
In January we were assigned our social worker, Jodi. Now Jodi is one of the nicest, and easiest people to talk to, you could ever wish to meet! If like me you tend to be a little on the shy or quiet side, this is an absolute godsend. We were given our Homework (yes you get homework lol), and then talked about it during our meetings, not in an interview-y way, but an informal way, which forms part of your assessment. However, don’t worry, even though obviously it is your social workers job to asses you and find out if you are suitable to adopt, it certainly doesn’t feel like you are being tested all the time!
Now I must stress at this point, if you Embrace everything that is given to you, and are open minded and open hearted, the whole journey is a very enlightening and rewarding experience. Some of the homework you are given, will ask you about Your past, and how you have felt in different situations; which may feel uncomfortable or be upsetting at times. But, and it’s a big BUT, it is all designed to get you thinking about your identity and how you have become the person you are through experiences and nurturing. This is another lightbulb moment, because we take for granted so much when you’ve had a loving family around you, that you don’t realise what impact being loved has had on you. Conversely, you then imagine how that now affects a child who is not loved or has a chaotic start to life. Don’t worry though, about being able to write or articulate these feelings, your social worker is there to help you every step of the way.
As I write this at the end of May, we are looking to go to Panel for approval by the end of June, having had our midpoint review in March. We are one of the class of 2020, and so we have had lockdown to deal with for part of the process. But Jodi and St. David’s have been amazing, and we have completed some of our meetings Via Skype and Zoom. Different times eh…?
We are only waiting for medicals now, hopefully in the next week or so!! Covid19 and its awful effects both health wise and lockdown wise, has thankfully not affected us too badly with our adoption journey, as it has given us the time to read more, learn more, get the house child ready and ultimately talk more about it. We are right on schedule, and are as excited as ever!
For us because St. David’s offer so much, from support groups, coffee mornings (Virtual now), seminars, and blogs; we have felt totally involved and never left waiting or wanting for anything, so the last few months have flown by. We have honestly felt a part of the Society that is St. David’s.
We can’t wait for the next steps of matching and meeting our children, we don’t know who they are yet, but we love them already!
We look forward to updating our journey soon…

When our daughter’s social worker visited our home to see that we could accommodate the little person about to enter into our lives, she mentioned the “honeymoon period” that adopters often have. We said we hope that our “honeymoon period” would be as short as possible, because it’s a honeymoon for adopters but a nightmare for the adoptee.

Well, how about no honeymoon period at all?

The day we brought our daughter home wasn’t anything like we imagined it would be. We knew it was going to be a bit sad for her, but we thought there would also be happiness, excitement. Instead, it was one of the toughest days in the lives of all three of us.

The first few weeks were incredibly challenging and lonely. We had moments of happiness that felt like they were surrounded by grief and sadness. We remembered that we were told this might happen in our training, and our social worker Jane was always just a phone call away – day or night, 24/7/365.

That made it easier, and the tools that St David’s provided us with were producing results, which gave us a great sense of empowerment. We felt like “we got this”- and that whatever would be thrown at us, we can handle it.

Adopting an older child has its difficulties. It sometimes feels like we’re “sharing” her with her birth family and foster carer. She’s also burdened with so much guilt, that often if we have happy moments she’ll feel like she has to compensate by expressing her loyalty and love to the people she’s no longer with.

On the other hand, in many ways it makes things easier. She can talk and has the self awareness to help us understand what’s bothering her. She also has clear memories of her family and a connection to her past. That, we feel, takes a huge burden off her in terms of her identity and also off of us as we don’t need to “carry” her past for her – she knows what she’s been through.

There are amazing highs and devastating lows in this journey. Two weeks after our daughter moved in with us, one of our two cats of 9 years died unexpectedly. It was crushing, but we had to deal with it while we had a child who was herself grieving and finally letting out the pain that she had kept inside for a long time.

For a long time it didn’t really feel like parenting. It felt like supporting a child who was going through stuff that adults would struggle with, a child who feels like at any moment her whole world can turn on its head and once again she’ll have to start over.

Of course, when that period finally started to end after the first couple of months, other challenges came up. There’s always something, and every day has its trials and tests. But it’s different now: it feels more like parenting, she feels more and more like a child who’s confident in her place in the world. A child with a feeling of self-worth and who isn’t afraid of new experiences.

Seeing that difference in her, and hearing her social worker and other professionals say what a different girl she is to the one who moved in with us, that makes it all worth it. With St David’s amazing support, we’re doing OK.

 

I remember planning my outfit. It sounds ridiculous but I remember the conversation with my partner, Andrew, the night before we visited St David’s. I wanted something that said I was responsible but fun, light-hearted but protective, and fun but stern too. Upon realising that I didn’t own anything that could present all of that, I decided on my usual clobber – but with a smart shoe.

To be honest, Andrew and I did little to no research. We didn’t want our experience to be hindered by other people’s perspectives, or to be disillusioned by the whole process due to one person’s difficult experience. We treated it as if we were to read reviews: you always focus on the negative responses on TripAdvisor, as opposed to the positive. So we decided not to consume any of it. That didn’t stop me making up scenarios in my head, but it did stop them from being backed up with real stories, which wasn’t what I needed right then.

The next day we called into St David’s during one of their Drop-In Sessions and we couldn’t have felt more welcome. I have completely invented this trepidation, this idea that I would have to present myself as someone different. This very quickly subsided once we sat down with the social workers. Here, we were asked some questions to assess our readiness for adoption, but we never felt like we were being judged.  The discussion was informative but not overloading. It gave us the information required for us to be able to make an informed decision as to whether we wished to fill out the initial paperwork, progressing us to the next stage. This is literally: name, address, D.O.B, family pets and any other information we would like to disclose. We found ourselves filling out the initial paperwork there and then, although we weren’t pressured to and could just as easily have taken it away with us to discuss further.

Having come away from the Drop-In Session, we were glad we decided to limit our research. From St David’s information pack and the initial conversation with the social workers, we felt they would tell us what we needed to know to put us in good stead for the assessment process and the start of this journey.

You will always ask yourself: Am I ready? Am I good enough?

I felt I didn’t just have to learn how to become a Dadi, I also had to earn the right to be one.

We were asked by others and, more often, by ourselves: Is now the right time?

Were we 100% ready? Probably not – renovating your garden during introductions is not advised. But we did it, and we embraced the entire process from the start. And did we take ownership of it? Yes. Did we work through it with our social worker at a pace that was comfortable for us? Yes. Did we ask 101 and then some questions throughout, regardless of how stupid they sounded? Yes. Did it completely engulf our lives for 9 months? Yes!!

I can’t stress this enough: embrace it! The assessment process covered a wide array of topics around adoption – it succeeded in balancing the intensity of raising an adopted child, with the absolute “worth it” moments of forming a family. It is a positive, thought-provoking and informative experience, answering all the questions we had and many that we hadn’t even thought of. You may feel talking about your experiences as intrusive and daunting, but in fact it was highly therapeutic.

You are cautioned to expect problems and mentally you prepare for the worst, but to date, all has been well! We have the normal age-related behaviours and other aspects that perhaps need some fine tuning; however, all in all, it feels like they have always been here with us.  Together we have formed a strong attachment and we’re confident that we will manage any problems that occur in the future – as a family.

We have St David’s to thank for that!

In the end, it is completely worth it! We have beautiful, funny, energetic children and a very different feel to our home. Toys have taken over our house, nothing we own is clean anymore, fish fingers have become a delicacy, and we frequently hear:

“Dad, Dadi… look!”

“Good morning, Dad! Good morning Dadi!”

“I need a poo!”

“No, I don’t want to go to bed!”

And: “I love you Dad and Dadi.”

These are the sounds of our family setting. This is our story. It may not appear ‘perfect’, but that’s the best bit: it’s those bits in between, those imperfect bits, where you learn the most about each other, where you develop that trust that begins to connect you as a family.

A forever family.

 

St David’s Children Society has Drop-In hours every Tuesday and Thursday from 12pm – 2pm. Why not stop by and start your journey like Andrew and Damian?

“Don’t write off a child because of their age, it’s not their fault they’re growing older in the system” – future adopters from Llanelli support campaign to reduce numbers of children in care

A Llanelli couple in the process of adopting siblings is getting behind a new campaign to reduce the number of Welsh children in foster care who wait 12 months or more to find a permanent home.

Ben and husband Chris aged 35 and 37, are supporting Adopting Together, a new project supported by the National Adoption Service and led by St David’s Children’s Society aimed at placing children who have waited over 12 months for an adoptive family.

These children can be aged four and over, are part of sibling groups, have uncertain or additional needs, or are from a BME background

Bringing together best practice components under one, distinct model, it’s the first project of its kind to involve a specific collaboration between local authority regional adoption agencies, voluntary adoption agencies, Cardiff University, therapeutic partners and other key professionals such as medical advisors and schools.

The approach centres on an innovative model of psychological and therapeutic support for adoptive parents, both pre and post-placement*. This specific model is in addition to the established and ongoing programme of support offered to anyone who adopts through St David’s, which has been successfully placing children since 1942.

The project is also aiming to normalise access to post-adoption support, and break down barriers which might prevent people from adopting children who continue to wait for a family.

Ben and Chris, who live in Llanelli, are two of the first prospective adopters to benefit from the Adopting Together project. They are currently going through the adoption process and hope to welcome a brother and sister sibling group in the coming months.

The couple decided to explore adoption as a route to starting a family, initially thinking they would be best suited to having one or two boys, aged around two-years-old. However, a training course offered by St David’s opened their eyes to the benefits of adopting older children, so the couple widened the search to a mixed, older sibling group.

Ben explained: “The course enabled us to have more of an open mind with what we thought we were looking for, and we quickly realised there was no point overlooking children just because they didn’t fit our initial perceptions of the ‘ideal’ age. With older children, you have a much clearer picture of how they are developing than you might have with a baby.

“Our social worker from St David’s got to work straight away to find us an appropriate match, and we completely trusted them to find us children with similar interests and hobbies to us.

“The actual process itself hasn’t taken long at all – around one year by the time we’ve actually adopted if everything goes to plan.”

Ben added that the most beneficial part of the Adopting Together project so far has been the Team for the Child meeting, an intrinsic part of the new model, which brings together everyone involved in the child’s care, including psychologists, existing foster cares and social workers, to provide first-hand, real-time insights into the child/children.

He explained: “The meeting was an absolute eye-opener. Having that many people in one room together, each of whom knows the children in a different capacity, discussing their needs, was a unique opportunity.

“The meeting gave us first-hand insights into the children, using relevant and up-to-date information. We were able to question information on the children that was written in earlier reports – for example past behaviours or tendencies – and ask whether this information still stands, or whether changes have taken place since those comments were written.

“Having a foster carer in the room who currently lives with the children is a huge benefit, as they can corroborate or update information that’s no longer relevant, and offer day-to-day insights on the child’s behaviours, likes and dislikes. Similarly, having a psychologist there to offer professional insights is hugely important.

“Everyone in the room has the best interest of the child in mind, and each person can offer a different slant. Rather than just reading a bland written report, you have a clear and evidenced understanding of what to expect, and what parenting strategies you might need to consider. This means you enter the process with open eyes, based on accurate and wide-ranging information.”

Following the Team for the Child meeting, Ben and Chris now have to be approved at a matching panel, after which introductions and transition work with the children will take place.

Ben added: “We just can’t wait now. We feel so ready for the next stage, we’re excited about everything from teatimes, to family activities, trips to the beach, and introducing the children to our wider family. Everyone’s looking forward to meeting them.

“If I had one message for a prospective adopter, it would be to cast aside any preconceptions about age; instead focus on finding the right match. You shouldn’t write off any child because of their age, it’s not their fault they’re growing older in the system. We have been fantastically supported through this project and are delighted it’s being rolled out as a new initiative.”

Adopting Together will offer other families like Ben and Chris a structured, comprehensive suite of support at every stage of the adoption journey, including:

-Child-centred recruitment strategies
-Collaborative ‘Team for the Child’ meetings at the outset bringing together involved in the child’s care, including psychologists, existing foster cares and social workers, to provide first-hand insights
-A trained buddy who is also an adoptive parent and understands the joys and challenges of parenting children with specific needs
-Specifically designed transition sessions, including Theraplay, to ensure smooth transitions and introductions to an adoptive family
-Structured pre and post-placement consultation support, where issues and therapeutic interventions can be discussed

We follow three families who have adopted through St. David’s Children Society as they tell their stories from the time they first considered adoption to the ongoing support they receive from our agency.

The videos are available on our website under the ‘Adoption Family Sories’ section, or available on our Facebook, Vimeo and YouTube pages.

 

https://www.facebook.com/StDavidsChildrenSociety

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmz437De98tWZJzdUwjwwPg

https://vimeo.com/adoptionwales

When you make the initial call to enquire about adoption you have no idea of what awaits you. From our initial phone call, to our son being placed with us took over three years. People come to adoption for many reasons and you expect many things along the way to be difficult, but for us the hardest part was the waiting.

At the time of enquiry our birth daughter had just turned four years old and she was a part of our journey from the beginning. She met with Jodi our social worker and we had many discussions on what adoption meant and how it might affect her in an age appropriate way. It was difficult to explain the wait to her at that young age, when to her she wanted a brother tomorrow!

It is easy to become a little bit obsessed with ringing and emailing your social worker to ask for news, checking Linkmaker and the Children Who Wait newspaper and letting it crowd into everyday life. We had to find a balance between getting on with life with our daughter as well as making sure we kept up our reading and training so that when a match did come along we felt ready. In the meantime our daughter was getting older and our discussions became a lot deeper, so in some sense it was beneficial for her that she was actually 7 years old when our son came home as she had a much fuller understanding of the situation.

We did have a couple of matches in that time, but they fell through because it was felt that our family wasn’t right for that particular child. It’s immensely difficult to go through that at the time as you invest a lot of emotions in imagining that child with you, this part was also hard for our daughter as the child’s social worker wants to make sure you have prepared your birth child and so they are also involved in these linking meetings. Though your instinct is to shield your birth child from disappointment, it is just not possible as they need to go through this journey with you too. I believe as a family unit we are all a lot closer and stronger together as a result.

I remember a time when we were all in tears when a match fell through, as for a while it had seemed it was all going to work out; once we were approved our social worker felt almost like a friend to us as they were so supportive to us throughout.  We are glad that we trusted in the process and in the experience of our social worker to know what was right for us as when our son was linked to us, it was most definitely the perfect match.

Our son has been with us now for 9 months and it has been the best and worst of times adjusting to life as a family of four. Our daughter has been incredible and although it has been a difficult adjustment for her, the preparation and talking we did with her has paid off. They now have a pretty normal love/hate sibling relationship!

There are times in the adoption process where it feels like it has taken over your life as you are advised to not book any long holidays whilst waiting for a match and things like moving house, job or family bereavements (all of which happened to us) can also place delays on things. My advice to anyone waiting for a match would be to first and foremost, look after yourself. Concentrate your mind on your health and also on preparation. Read as much as you can, join social media support groups and if you can, book last minute weekend breaks away.

It is a very hard journey but it is worth every step. Our son has completed our family in the most beautiful way imaginable.

Yesterday, our family waved goodbye to our children’s social worker, Claire, for the last time. She had been with them since the beginning of their adoption journey. The term ‘journey’ is so very X-factor, but for once, it really does seem appropriate. Our children have been on a journey of epic proportions in their short lives and Claire has been with them for most of it. She was there when they were taken from their birth family and during their time with a foster family; when they first met us – their two Dads – a year later, and during our first year as a family together.

Two weeks ago the Adoption Orders were granted. Our children are now legally ours. No turning back.

As our children waved goodbye before running off to play, largely unaware of the significance of what was happening, my body was overwhelmed by racking sobs. Moments before, I’d watched as Claire quietly looked at them, taking them in for one last time. They were sitting next to each other on the floor laughing as they played together. It was, on the surface, entirely unremarkable; and yet, the fact that they were sitting together at all – concentrating, laughing happily – was remarkable. Through love, boundaries, playfulness and empathy, they have come such a long way within the space of two years.

It was Claire’s cue to leave. Her job was done. We now continue the journey together as a family, for the rest of our lives.

Adopting isn’t always easy. On the morning we went to pick the children up from their foster carers, I thought we’d made “the worst mistake of our lives”, “the ‘match’ was all wrong”, “we really couldn’t do this” – or words to that effect, peppered with others that are unprintable. I wanted to turn back. The first three months after they moved in were the most challenging of our lives. Everybody said that adopting siblings would be really tough, and we nodded and smiled and said, yes, yes, we understand; and then they arrived and we nodded and cried and said, no, no, WE REALLY DIDN’T UNDERSTAND. Another father told me during that time that though he always loves his children, there are times when he doesn’t like them, and that’s OK. I quietly thought, “oh dear, I don’t like them but I really don’t love them either. What do I do with that?”

But the love grew.

I still have those days when I swear. A lot (in private). When you adopt, there will be days when your child will push you to your limit and you feel like the worst parent on planet earth. There will be days when you want to scream, and days when your children scream whilst wondering why you’re standing in the corner doing deep-breathing exercises in order not to scream back. As I said, it isn’t always easy; but parenting itself isn’t easy, and now we’ve made it through the first year we are encouraged that we must be doing something right because they are thriving. And the love? The love grows and grows….

Which is why there are those other moments, like the one I had yesterday when I sobbed, not because of the terror or the exasperation of it all, but simply because of the overwhelming love and pride I felt about how far our children had come, how we are part of that, and how we will continue to be part of that for the rest of our lives together.

No turning back; nor do I want to.

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