There are 35 children currently waiting to be adopted, in the care of Hampshire County Council. To help explain what’s involved in adopting a child, and how rewarding it can be, three Hampshire families in very different situations have shared with us the stories of their journey to becoming adoptive parents.
Anna’s story: Adopting as a single parent
Anna was aged 37 and a single parent with a four year old son when she decided she wanted to adopt.
“After my son was born, I knew I would like more children and my son constantly asked for a sibling. As a very happy single person, I was in no hurry to find a relationship and, owing to a health condition, I did not want to risk another pregnancy.
“When my son was four, he saw a programme on adoption and asked why we couldn’t adopt. After much deliberation, adoption felt like the right way to go. I was confident in myself to do it on my own, and I knew it was the right time for my son.”
Anna contacted the County Council to find out more about adoption, and soon began the assessment process.
“The assessment (by Hampshire’s social workers) was educational and intense. I learnt a lot about myself and how capable I am. Some of the training was really helpful in supporting both my children.
“When I was approved by the Adoption Panel, I was over the moon… it was a bit like finding out I was pregnant, minus the sickness! Being matched to my new daughter was a bit of a surprise as it happened very quickly. But I felt emotionally connected straightaway. It just felt right. She had been in care for some time and was coming up to her second birthday when she moved in with us.
“Lots of support was on offer through the Adoption service, as well as from friends and family. However, we were very fortunate to have a smooth settling in, so I did not need to call on it.
“My advice to potential adopters would be to stay positive throughout the process, knowing that everyone is aiming for the same outcome - placing a child with their forever family. The social workers are there to help and support you, so lean on them when you need it.”
Alan’s story: Adopting after fertility treatment
Alan and his wife, Susan, had both been involved in the upbringing of Alan’s birth children from a previous relationship, who are now grown-up and independent.
The couple wanted their own children together, and underwent several rounds of fertility treatment. Sadly this was unsuccessful, and they began to consider adoption.
Having just emerged from the emotional rollercoaster of undergoing fertility treatment, Alan and Susan waited a year before beginning the adoption assessment process. Many people take time to adjust to difficulties having children, and would-be adopters who have recently undergone fertility treatment are encouraged to discuss this with the Fostering and Adoption team, to ensure they start the adoption process at the time that’s right for them.
For Alan and Susan, the assessment process proved both fascinating and challenging:
“I always looked forward to our sessions with the social worker and learned a huge amount about myself from the assessment process. My wife is much more of a private person, and did find some parts of the process hard, but overall managed it with very little difficulty.”
Alan and Susan were approved as adopters and were matched with a young boy who was approaching his third birthday. Alan describes his feelings:
“Our son was the first child we were approached about, and for me it was a feeling of huge responsibility. We were starting to talk about a real human being, and a particularly vulnerable one. It was a time of serious thought and concentration.”
Parenting was not new to the couple, but adopted children often have additional emotional, behavioural and educational needs, owing to experiences in their early lives that may have impacted on their development.
Alan says “Our son needs and deserves extra thought and consideration. He has always suffered from considerable confidence issues, particularly when doing things for the first time. With careful encouragement and positive reinforcement from not just us, but in particular from his school (he is now seven), his confidence has begun to soar.”
Alan and Susan have appreciated the support they have received from the County Council’s Adoption and Fostering Team. He said:
“We have always had complete support from all at Hampshire County Council. For example our son has some quite complex contact arrangements with his birth family. Meetings are arranged, supported and attended by members of the adoption support team and they do everything possible to make sure that the meetings are safe and secure and that times are met by everyone.
“Our special little boy has changed our lives and the lives of our close friends and family, forever. We are now enjoying every moment with a son who is settled, happy and contented.”
Liz’s story: Adding to the family
Liz and her husband, Steve, have two birth sons aged 14 and 12.
The couple had always liked the idea of adopting to give a child a home, and knew others who had positive experiences of adoption. Liz describes their experience:
“We adopted our daughter when she was 21 months old and our sons were nine and eleven. This seemed the right time, as our sons were settled at school, I had some time and energy, and they were old enough to understand that we would need to share our time and energy with the new child. The age gap also meant that we could have time with the boys while the little one was asleep.”
It is necessary to have some experience of childcare before you adopt. For some adopters this might mean having brought up their own children, while for others it might be voluntary work, or working with children in a professional capacity. Adopters are also encouraged to seek more opportunities for childcare experience while waiting, to help them build confidence.
As well as raising their own children, Liz and Steve had done some voluntary work with young people, but wanted to get more experience with toddlers. “During our assessment process we tried to gain more experience with younger ones again, by looking after friends’ children,” says Liz.
Liz and Steve also learned extra therapeutic parenting skills during the adoption process, which helped their daughter to settle in well.
“As we were already parents, we had some experience of what to do, but it was different to therapeutically parent our daughter to help her attach and feel secure. We took a workshop on attachment through play before she came which proved invaluable. It is so rewarding when a child gains trust and starts to really flourish.
“We felt supported by social workers who visited, and were offered lots of extra help. We still regularly receive emails from the adoption team, offering support, and letting us know about groups and courses. As our daughter is doing so well we haven’t needed to access any of the extra support, but it does help you feel confident, just knowing you have that back-up behind you.”
Adopters must be at least 21 years old, have a spare room and some child care experience. Hampshire County Council is looking for adopters who can care for all ages of children, but especially for sibling groups and children with disabilities.
Most children who are waiting to be adopted will have been removed from their birth family due to concerns about their well-being and safety. Problems at home are often associated with drugs, alcohol and domestic violence. For some children, living at home can be difficult due to their parents suffering with mental health problems or having a learning disability which affects their ability to parent the child.
Many of these experiences will have impacted on the children’s development and they may have additional emotional, behavioural and educational needs. Some may also have specific health needs or diagnosed disabilities. Adoptive parents are given opportunities to learn therapeutic parenting techniques, and have access to a wide range of support and guidance throughout the process.
To find out more about adoption call: 01489 587052.
Note: All names in this feature have been changed. Photograph posed by models.