If you’re thinking about adoption, this article gives you an overview of the process and what’s involved. It’s written by an adopter of siblings, who takes you through all the stages her family went through to become a family.
I’m pretty sure that when most people think of starting a family with their partner, they don’t think about adoption first. We didn’t. I know there are a few very special people who do. But we didn’t.
I dreamed of falling pregnant. Finding out together and announcing to excited family and friends. Worrying about giving birth while feeling a bump and tiny human grow. But that wasn’t to be.
We knew early on that bringing children into our family may be a different path to most. But we hoped with the help of specialist fertility services, we would become parents in all the usual ways.
We got married, holidayed and enjoyed newly wed life and then we started talking to specialists. We underwent tests and prodding to find out where we were up to. Fast forward three years and we were tired of the appointments. Of the disappointments. And the lack of tiny people in our lives (I was also tired of pretending to be happy at baby showers and christenings of babies of friends and family members but all of that I could write a whole book on!).
We started thinking about our other options to start our family. Donors and surrogates were discussed but for many reasons weren’t right for us. That made us think if our children were only going to be biologically part of one of us, and we both felt so strongly about being able to love our children without a biological link, then do we need a biological link at all?
One thing I did know was that if a little person was coming into our lives, I needed it to be permanent. After the last few years of heartache we knew fostering wasn’t for us. Foster carers are another very special breed of wonderful humans!
This need for permanency also ruled out fostering to adopt and concurrent adoption. This is often best practice with younger babies to offer them the best possible start in their lives. Both of these options mean you foster the child until adoption is the next best option. Brilliant for the child but as a broken hearted want-to-so-badly-be-a parent, I needed more.
Next we spoke to adopters, read up on adoption and met with a charity who facilitates adoptions (we heard about a wonderful charity who we felt suited us better than a local authority).
After this we had a short break to enjoy being us again before embarking on our next big journey together. At this point we had spent the first five years of our married life trying to start our family. We are so glad we made time for just us without the next looming appointment (and often next disappointment!).
Starting the adoption assessment
Later that year we got back in touch with the charity and started the first stage of the process. And what a process it is!
Different areas and organisations have slightly different processes. But mark my words, adoption is not for the faint hearted. It’s gruelling mentally and emotionally. It’s intrusive. It calls for soul searching and soul bearing. It involves your nearest and dearest having their say and being part of the process too.
The process makes you sort yourself out. Your home, finances and plans for the future. Your expectations of being a parent, your past, childhood, relationship, hopes, fears and everything else in-between.
This shouldn’t put you off but it isn’t a piece of cake, that’s for sure. And nor should it be. Many of the children who are waiting to be adopted have extra needs. They’ve been through trauma and require the absolute best care a parent can muster. Many would-be parents coming to adoption haven’t had an easy ride to come to their decision either. So making sure everyone is ok and prepared and ready for the challenge ahead is quite a job.
We sailed through the process making all of the necessary adjustments to our lives along the way. We went to panel and were approved as adopters for two children under the age of five years. Discussions about matching started and we looked at profiles of children waiting to be adopted.
The adoption process: Matching
This is where it all gets very weirdly like buying a house or being on a dating site. There are so many children out there needing a loving family. Your social worker helps you to work out which of those children would be a good match for you as parents.
The children’s social workers also work out if you’re a good match as parents for those children. Different agencies and organisations have different ways of doing this but we were fully involved in the process.
When we read about our two, we didn’t stop thinking about them from that moment! After we’d expressed our interest we met with their social worker and later their foster carer too. We asked questions about them and they asked us more questions – this time much more specific to the children and how we thought we were the best match for them.
We learnt all about them and eventually got to meet them which was utterly magnificent for us. At this point, for them we were just two fun people who came to play for an hour. But we knew they were our children. The ones we had been looking for all this time.
We were hooked but we still had another hurdle. The final matching Panel. Due to system pressures, our Panel was delayed for an agonising couple of months. But it eventually happened and ended with a unanimous decision that the match was perfect.
Next we planned a schedule for introductions and them coming home. And the rest, as they say, is history. They came home, we settled in, we became a family. The family we always wanted and wished for all those years.
Adoption isn’t for everyone. But for us, it’s the start of a very beautiful family and the beginning of healing wounds for us all.
If you’re interested in finding out more about adoption, Adoption UK is a great place to start. If you’re on Instagram, the #ukadoptioncommunity is a hugely supportive community with a wealth of knowledge.
Head over to the adoption stories section to read more adoption experiences from adoptees, adopters and birth parents.