Do you have what it takes to adopt a sibling group? Almost half the children currently waiting to be placed for adoption are siblings. Today’s article is written by Sarah @2starfishsolo who shares her experience of adopting siblings on her own. Thank you Sarah for sharing your journey.
Firstly, let me introduce myself, I’m Sarah. I’m a solo adopter of two little girls known online as Loo and Linc, who were four and six when placed with me. We have now been a family for just over two years.
It was always going to be siblings. Not to everyone’s knowledge when I started out. But deep down in my heart it was always going to be two. I knew when I announced my intentions to adopt to those around me, that would seem bold and significant enough. So I let that settle in first before breaking the news that it wouldn’t be just one child to love.
Siblings was always part of my purpose. For me, adoption was deeper than my need to be a mother. But was far closer to my desire to make a difference, and provide safety and love for children who needed it. I wanted to adopt older children (three plus, and to adopt siblings) as these were a group of more difficult to place. I felt I had the skills and heart to manage.
The assessment process was fairly straight forward. I had zero opposition to adopting siblings which I was pleasantly surprised by as I thought there would be. Given my professional experience and the support network of adopters around me, I had nothing but full support for my decision by my social worker and approval panel.
There are a variety of ways for you to get involved in the matching process (depending on location and agency). However, after attending two profiling events, and after much soul searching, they were not for me.
I had an excellent relationship with my assessing social worker who I trusted really ‘got’ me. So I took the decision to allow her to do the matching as I believed this would avoid me the heartache and self-sabotaging. That is not at all to say I have anything against other methods of matching. Just that this is what was right for me at that time.
When I knew about the girls I had a good feeling. Did I instantly jump up and down and say those are my children? Nope! I felt great about the girls, they seemed like a good match. But the biggest words on my lips were HOW DO YOU KNOW??!!
A fellow adopter gave me great advice and said simply ‘you don’t’. From that moment on I trusted the process and my gut instinct. I made the agreement with myself that if I felt peace and was comfortable, I would move forward. I would trust myself if something didn’t feel right to pull away.
That gut instinct took me all the way to where we are today. That was a great decision as I am now the proud mother to two beautiful girls who honestly couldn’t suit me better if we were genetically related.
Introductions and beyond
Introductions were a simple eight day process. The first four days at the foster carers for longer and longer each day. The last four days were at my home, again for a little longer each day. Don’t get me wrong, at the time it was the most overwhelming and exhausting experience. But one I would do 100 times over to be where we are at now.
I’ll always remember the day I brought them home. I’d built it up and had huge expectations of this beautiful and magical day. The reality of it couldn’t have been further from the truth. I felt sick to my stomach the minute I arrived at the foster carers. I got more overwhelmed by the second watching the girls being agitated and clingy to foster carers for the first time since we’d met.
I packed them in the car and stood sobbing on the drive. The foster carers kept assuring me it would all be ok. I remember pulling myself together and getting in the car. Both girls hiding behind umbrellas crying as we pulled away from the house. We travelled the first 30 minutes of that journey in silence. They continued hiding and crying while I did the same at the front of the car.
However, when we arrived home, we embraced the range of emotions everyone was feeling, and just spent time being in the present. After what was a nightmare bedtime, we woke up the next day into what would be our forever.
Getting to know each other
The first few months were tough. The girls regressed, and I saw challenges in behaviour that had never been displayed with foster carers. Furthermore, I struggled with the reality that I found the connection with one child simple and easy, and with the other as much as I would die for her, parenting her was so much more difficult.
Understanding that the children would forever need to be parented differently to meet their individual needs and attachment styles, threw everything I believed about treating children equally out the window.
My children are opposite in every possible way. When one is quiet, the other is bouncing off the wall. One responds to humour when the other gets violent. One initially was very tactile where for the other it was all on her terms. One connected instantly, one rejected me with every fibre of her being. One wears her heart on her sleeve, yet the other hides behind a mask of happy go lucky entertainment.
This has been interesting to say the least. It took time for me to accept that I would forever connect with my children in different ways, and I would need to treat them differently in order to parent according to their needs. I needed to learn that treating them differently was not loving them differently. But in fact it’s loving them equally; loving them enough to understand them and to adjust my approach to help manage a situation best, and to grow security and confidence.
If I could go back to the me of two years ago and give myself advice, there would be two major things I would highlight. The first would be to accept the need to parent my children differently, sooner. And to have the confidence to challenge those around me that didn’t understand that at first. Stand firm in your deep all protecting love of each child, knowing you’re doing everything you can to meet their needs and support them.
The second would be GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK! Being a parent, especially doing it solo, is hard work! It’s challenging, exhausting and everything in between. The pressure I put myself under in those early days to be the perfect therapeutic parent was unbelievable.
I believed in therapeutic parenting, and I wanted to be consistent, so I fooled myself into the expectations of being a 100% therapeutic parent! This is not realistic. Sometimes you’re tired, sometimes you’re hormonal, and sometimes their certain behaviours will trigger you like you never knew possible. This is OK!
I would remind myself that I can be human. And the guilt of not hitting the mark is not the purpose of therapeutic parenting. This is one that I will always carry with me. As time goes on, I’m getting better and better at accepting my imperfections, and dusting myself off with the ‘we will try again tomorrow’ attitude.
Adoption isn’t plain sailing, and I have of course discussed some of the challenges it could bring. However, in all sincerity, I would not change my perfectly imperfect family for anything. The girls are my world. They have brought me a happiness I have never known. And together, we’re a team who will take on anything that life brings us.
We’re on a journey of discovery and development. And even though the journey has been tough, now that I’m able to sit back and reflect on two years as a family, I can see just how far we’ve come. The girls make me proud everyday. Their tenacity and resilience mixed with their excitement for life inspires me, and they’re worth every ounce of my strength.
It is my honour to be their mother. I look forward to every bump in the road along the way, as with every struggle I watch them grow in themselves, and in their trust in my love for them. Though we may struggle, I have faith in the life we will have in the future.
This of course has been nothing short of a whistle stop tour of our journey, and multiple sections here could have had a blog of their own. I write regularly about my experiences as a solo adopter so feel free to find me over at @2starfishsolo on Instagram.