This new ‘web chat’ facility, available at www.hants.gov.uk/adoptionandfostering will allow prospective adopters or foster carers to talk directly to specialists in the County Council’s Adoption and Fostering Team, and receive immediate answers to their questions and queries.
Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services, Councillor Keith Mans, said: “We’re always looking for more people who feel they could provide a loving, stable home for a child, or even for a group of brothers and sisters, who are unable to be cared for by their birth parents.
“Deciding to apply to adopt or foster a child is a big step, and it’s important that all the information and advice people might need to make a decision is easy to access. This web chat service will make it easier to get in touch with a specialist quickly for information, or arrange a call back. This kind of service is an increasingly popular option for people with busy lives.”
Visitors to the ‘Finding Homes for Hampshire Children’ website during office hours, can now opt to begin a live, online ‘chat’ with an adviser if they would like to ask questions about adoption, including their potential eligibility to adopt.
There are more than 40 children in the care of Hampshire County Council who are waiting to be adopted. There is a particular need for adopters who feel they could give a home to sibling groups, or a child with disabilities.
Hampshire County Council provides good support for adopters and the new additions to their families. The County Council’s Adoption Support Team of social worker specialists is on hand for as long as needed.
Lucy and Mark from North Hampshire adopted a young brother and sister, who are just eleven months apart in age.
“We wanted our own children, but when it didn’t happen for us, we looked into adoption as our next plan. We didn’t want to go through fertility treatment, and with so many children needing families, it just felt like the best thing to do.”
The process of being approved to adopt, and being matched to the children, was relatively straightforward for Lucy and Mark. “Having talked to other adopters, I think the process was unusually quick for us,” says Lucy. “It was great that things moved on so fast once we’d decided to do it. However, it did make it an intense experience, especially at the point of meeting the children. You need to be open to anything and ready to just go with it.”
The children have settled in well, and Lucy and Mark felt well prepared by their training. Even so, the transition to a new life has been overwhelming at times.
“You need to be ready for the moments when you need to explain that your children are adopted, or decide how much you want to tell people. When a doctor asks you if they have ever had an asthma attack or an allergic reaction, you have to be open and explain that some of their history is unknown to you. When you’re with other mums, and they’re chatting about childbirth, you need to be prepared and have decided what you will say.”
Lucy’s biggest piece of advice for would-be adopters is to set up a good support network, so that you are never isolated. “Our network of friends and family is something that our social worker asked about a lot,” she says, “and it’s easy to see why. It has been so important to have people around to help, and to talk to about family life.
“We’ve been lucky that we already knew other adopters, before we even decided to adopt, and have developed a good network of friends that are also adopters. Having people around who have faced the same challenges, who you know will understand what you’re feeling, is so valuable. Children’s Services help with this. They can put you in touch with a network of other adopters.”
But Lucy is clear that adoption is a great experience. “It’s amazing,” she says, “we have learned so much about ourselves, our children, and about living as a family.”
Anyone over 18 who has a spare room and some personal or professional child care experience can apply to adopt a child, whether an individual or a couple. To find out more, please visit www.hants.gov.uk/adoption or call 0300 555 1384.
Please note that names in this article have been changed, and the pictures shown do not depict the families described.