National Adoption Week (NAW) 2013 starts tomorrow, and so my week of NAW related posts begins. I am fired up! – I have this post to write to kick it off, and I also have a passionate and slightly angry speech to make which relates to ‘barriers’ – next weeks ‘Weekly Adoption Shout Out’ theme, so I’ll post that when next weeks WASO starts – if you’ve not heard of WASO (a weekly event where adoption bloggers can gather their posts in one place), or you’re new to adoption, head over to The Adoption Social and find a fantastic community of people :) – http://theadoptionsocial.com/category/weekly-adoption-shout-out/
I want this post to reach people who are not adoptive parents, but might be thinking about adoption
Even might not have considered it yet
What are your initial thoughts about adoption?
Maybe that it’s definitely not for you, and you want biological children/to be child free – that’s fine! Would you like to be involved or donate to any charities and/or projects which support children in care? There’s a big need for support. Also, I will be doing ‘adoption myth busting’ posts this week, please look out for those! Adoption myths can be accidently perpetuated by anyone, and if you have the knowledge to avoid perpetuating myths, then you are supporting adoption and adoptive families :) That’s something anyone can do, whether or not adoption is for them. It’s not the right thing for everyone, and that’s fine
But maybe you HAVE considered it/might consider it?
Well then, firstly, I want to let you know (let the world know actually!) that the children in care are a very diverse group, who all need different parents- different family set ups – people with different experiences
What does that mean?
It means that there is a big need for ALL kinds of families to step up and adopt
Some of the children in care who are waiting for adoption NEED (not want, not ‘ideal’, NEED)
- Two parent families
- Single mothers
- Single fathers
- Gay parents
- To be the only child
- A stay at home parent
- To be raised in a certain religion
Some children in care would really benefit, and it would be ideal, for them to have
- Older brothers, or sisters, or either
- A rural home
- An urban home
- Older parents
- Younger parents
Some of the waiting children would be fine in any family set up – it wouldn’t matter whether both parents would eventually return to work, or whether they had one or two parents etc
There is no ‘ideal’ adoptive parent in terms of family make up, location, and circumstances, because waiting children are NOT all the same, with the same needs. They have been through very different experiences, and consequently they need different things going forwards
For instance – many children in care have been (one or more of the following) – neglected, physically abused, emotionally abused, sexually abused, witnessed domestic violence, left with strangers/relatives/birth parents’ friends for long periods
This leaves some of the children with quite a deep distrust of either males or females in particular, so they may NEED to have two parents who are both the same gender (not the one they particularly distrust)
Some children are fine with either gender, BUT may NEED two parents because of their needs. Or conversely, may feel uncomfortable living with two parents and function better when just one primary carer is giving them all the attention and meeting their needs
Older siblings can be role models to younger children, and help them. Conversely, some kids function badly with other children, and need their new parents to themselves
Just a few examples
So DON’T think that just because you are single/gay/poor/middle class/work/are over 40 that you either can’t adopt, or aren’t needed
Time for some myth busting
The British Association for Adoption and Fosstering (BAAF) commissioned a survey this year (according to Sky News) which showed that
- 1 in 4 adults think that being over the age of 40 is a barrier to adoption
MYTH! Many adoptive parents are over the age of 42. I, for example, was over 40 when my son came home. I know lots of adoptive couples who were both over 40 when they adopted, including a lovely (straight, married, middle class as it happens) couple who were aged late 40’s and early 50’s when they brought home their 1 year old baby last year :)
- 31% thought tnat being low income is a barrier to adoption
MYTH! Living in poverty is a barrier, but I know adoptive parents who have low incomes, I am low income, it’s fine to be in receipt of some benefits, it’s fine to live in council housing. Basically, you need to have enough incoming to provide for a childs needs – their food, clothes, furniture etc. In my experience, having large debts is a barrier, for the bovious reason, but rest assured you do not need to be rich to adopt. To be honest, my daughter Rhea, who was 10 when she came home, would not have done well with very wealthy parents. After her whole life with low income families, suddenly living in a massive house, with all the trappings of wealth, would in my humble opinion, knowing how my daughter ticks, have been a problem. She wouldn’t have adjusted to that massive shift. I, as a low income mum, provided a more familiar environment which she was more responsive too. Less change.
- 1/5 thought that being single was a barrier to adoption
MYTH! I’m a single adopter :) There are lots of us! Did you know that the UK has among the most inclusive adoption laws in the world? Our laws allow single parents, married couples, unmarried straight couples, unmarried gay couples and married/civil partner gay couples to all adopt – couples adopt jointly in the same way, regardless of their marital status
What are some other adoption laws?
- You have to be over 21
- You cannot have ever been convicted of certain criminal offences (sexual offences against adults, and all offences committed against children are a legal barrier)
- Private adoption is illegal, as is advertising as a prospective parent etc
I have frequently heard comments along the lines of ‘UK adoption laws are stupid/crazy’. They aren’t. We don’t have many laws, but the ones we do are fair and inclusive
If a local authority or agency turns down someone for adoption, that isn’t the law, it’s local policy/opinion
Okay, so moving on, other first thoughts about adoption many people have are
- It’s very long and hard
- Everyone gets turned down
Well, here I am to inject some reality and optimism :) The current process is supposed to take about 5 months to approval, but it may take longer. After approval, you wait to be matched wit the right child for you, and there is no time frame on that because it’s individual and depends on what kind of child you are searching for and which children are currently waiting for adoption and where. It is not however, a process which should take years. Some people are matched within a couple of months of approval, for others it may take longer, but I have never needed any more than 2 years from start to bringing my child home with me, which is not horrific, and that was under the old system when approval took longer. You could be done and child home in 12 months under the new system.
It’s hard? Well, I can’t lie. Emotionally, it’s a tough process. It involves a lot of introspection and honest truths and not lying to yourself. When you learn about the effects of physical and sexual abuse (and every other concievable bad situation) on a child – it hurts. When you see the children’s real faces and read their profiles – it hurts. When you have to turn down a particular child – it really hurts.
You have to go into a lot of detail about your lives with your social worker, and bare yourself to the childs social worker
Pretty much all adoptive parents have fear, worry, bad days, tough days. It’s normal. You’re becoming a parent, it’s the most massive thing in your life. It would be very odd (IMHO) to be totally happy, confident and not questioning yourself at any point!
Is it worth it?
Oh yes :)
My kids are my life
They light my days
I couldn’t love them more, I wouldn’t love them more if they were my birth children
They make me ‘mum’
And it’s priceless
Adoption means family
Adoption is different to having a birth child – it IS different. It’s a different process, and parenting a child who has been traumatised is not the same as parenting a secure birth child
Is it worth it? Yes
I hope something people can take from my blog is that I have no regrets over adoption, and am positive and a success story, with children who all have additional needs. One of my children currently has significant special needs. It’s very hard, but it’s worth it. Adoption means family. This is the best chance my beautiful children have ever had. I’m no superwoman. I’m no perfect parent. But family is the best chance for my kids, and for the other waiting children of the UK
Can you be their chance? Their family?
So, are you interested in learning more about adoption?
Ask me any questions you have! Comment below this post, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give me a private message on Mumsnet (my username is Lilka)
- First4Adoption, the government site which is a starter point for prospective parents
- This years National Adoption Week campaign
- Find a group of amazing parents at The Adoption Social
- Visit a forum and sign up – how about AdoptionUK, Mumsnet Adoption, or Fertility Friends Adoption? Those are the 3 most active UK based adoption boards/sub boards I think, and you may find one or more of them helpful to you.
- Read other adoption blogs – most of the blogs on my blogroll, but not all, are adoptive parents, but there are other fantastic bloggers out there who I can’t add on for some reason. Life with Katie, Sally Donovan, TheOneHandMan are 3 great blogs I recommend, but there are many others. The Adoption Social (Weekly Adoption Shout Out) has a lot more bloggers to find :)
If you want some advice, I have one major nugget for those starting out:
There is an amazing community of adoptive parents, adoptees and other adoption supporters out there. We want to support, help, inform, and celebrate successful adoptions. Reach out!
And from me – Welcome :) I’m even going to be so bold as to wecome you on behalf of all the adoption community on the internet. We want to hear from you. We’re all glad to answer your questions and point you in the right direction.
Bye folks, and don’t be shy – ask me your questions!