This week’s interview is with Christina sharing her journey to meeting her utterly amazing daughter.
Introduce yourself and your family
I’m Christina. I’ve just turned the big 30 the other day. I was the CQC registered branch manager of a domiciliary care company. Since adopting I have been a stay at home mum. My partner is Eddie, 34. He is an HGV mechanic. We met about eight years ago when he was a care worker working for me and we hit it off ever since. We’ve been engaged for three years and we are due to get married in July 2020.
We adopted our daughter J two years ago this July. J has complex disabilities all as a result of the neglect she received in her birth parents home.
What area of the UK do you live in?
We live in Nottinghamshire, but we lived in Luton when we adopted.
Was your agency a local authority or voluntary agency?
We adopted through a neighbouring local authority.
Did you read any adoption stories before you started? If so where? (eg blog, Instagram, books)
I think I read more blogs, books and stories in the adoption process then I have done my entire life. I also heavily relied on a prospective adopters Facebook page for support during the process.
What was your biggest worry before you started?
My biggest concern throughout the process was probably very similar to everyone else’s. That was a fear of not being good enough. A fear that we wouldn’t get approved. I had a massive fear that I had my heart set on adopting and it would all fall through.
I was also quite nervous of telling my friends I was adopting. Every professional we met said that we were young adopters and I was worried that my friends wouldn’t understand. I had nothing to worry about as they were and still are amazing!
How long did the process take from the point of deciding you wanted to adopt to your child(ren) coming home?
We attended our first open evening in late November 2017. Our daughter’s first official day home with us was 6th July 2018. So a little over seven months.
What age and number of children were you approved for? Were you matched to a different age or number of children from this?
I believe our process seemed to go a little differently to most peoples. We had made it clear that we only wanted one child. Eddie was too anxious as a first-time parent coping with two children at once so we had our heart set on one child. We said we didn’t want a baby but were extremely open to a child with additional needs. Ideally we really wanted a girl, but we hadn’t expressed this as we wanted to see where life took us.
We were matched with a girl of four years, with complex disabilities.
How did the matching process work? Did you look at lots of profiles?
We didn’t view any profiles, in fact not even our daughters. She didn’t even have a profile made to look at.
We went on to stage two of the process on the 26th February 2018. This stage started the main bulk of home visits. We were told a little bit of information about a young girl who was believed by our social worker to be three years old.
We were unable to contain our excitement and we counted down to each social worker visit. Our social worker had made it clear that she was a beautiful little girl and they were unwilling to share her picture with us at first as they didn’t want her looks to overlook the fact that her disabilities were quite profound.
Each visit we learnt more and more and eventually we found out her name ‘J’ (shortened). We were told that she was in fact four and a bit years old not three. We found out that she was tube fed, unable to walk or talk. She had global development delay and was said to be mentally and physically around 12 months old.
We found out that she had behavioural problems, tendencies to self-harm and was described as a ‘diva’. She was also described as the most beautiful, endearing, loving child we would meet. They weren’t wrong!
We were completely smitten, and after some time of living on cloud nine, we went to approval panel to get approved and began very regular chemistry visits. We got to know J so that we were confident we could manage her complex needs. As we started to get to know her, we were informed that she was not born with any of these disabilities. They were all as a result of neglect.
The bomb shell dropped and we realised the level of not just physical, but mental and emotional support this young lady would need for life. We fell in love even more.
What has been the most difficult part about the process?
I found the most difficult part of the process the approval and matching panel. Although our social worker had told us so many times it was a sure thing, I still had massive nerves and doubts. It wasn’t just adopting a child and the decision laying with 12 strangers. It was OUR child. We had already met and fallen in love with her.
We felt like we had a hard time at approval panel. Much harder than all of the people we have met. We felt that some of the questions were a bit unfair e.g. how would we manage the social, emotional, mental, medical and education needs of a child with disabilities? Well where do you start on that? I didn’t have a week to chat about it!
However, I completely understood that as a panel, they had to ensure that we were not a naive 28 and 32-year-old sitting in front of them claiming they could manage the needs of a disabled child. Our matching panel was booked for 2 weeks afterwards. We were aware that they had received and read our matching paperwork already, so I think this helped them with their complex questioning. We were given amazing praise afterwards and matching panel was a breeze. I was so emotional as it was so important to us but there were not many dry eyes in the room.
Have you needed to access additional help and support from your agency since your child came home? If so, what and did it meet your needs?
Yes! Lots. We have had to go back to the local authority on many occasions. We have had to question where diagnoses have come from, questioned her paper work and the lack of information.
A serious case review happened that we were not aware of until afterwards. A serious case review happens when a child dies or is near death. Our local authority had to work with us to make us aware of how to deal with the fact that her case could make the newspapers. Fortunately, this did not happen.
The serious case review opened up a lot of doors and the LA worked with us to support us to get the answers we needed. The LA supported us to do Subject Assess Requests to health visitors, social services, the police, doctors and hospitals to try and piece together her life. Sadly, J was failed not only by her parents neglect, but by all of the professionals named above who were meant to be seeing her on a regular basis.
Our LA also accessed the Adoption support fund (ASF) for us to attend sensory integration therapy and then put a case together to get funding for the therapy.
Our LA paid for a years subscription to Adoption Plus for us.
Last summer we called the LA adoption support team as J was unable to cope. She could barely leave the house. She had absolutely no control over her emotions and seriously needed support. We had tried everything possible. They were very quick in arranging a Trauma and Developmental Assessment and ongoing therapy.
What has been your best memory since your child(ren) came home?
Absolutely every single memory was amazing. Some of the best are;
Watching her learn to walk
Teaching her to talk
Hearing “I love you” for the first time
Overcoming her fear of her new forever Daddy and men in general.
Fighting for her diagnosis, her school place, her EHCP
Watching her make friends.
Watching her grow and becoming a strong and fiercely independent young lady.
If you could go back and have a conversation with yourself about the process before you started, what would you tell yourself?
If I could go back in time to before I started I would tell myself not to be naïve. I am the first person to encourage adoption and shout from the rooftops how amazing my daughter is. But I also needed to expect that life with a child with such challenging needs was never going to be a walk in the park. It is okay to fail some days, its okay to shed a tear.
The other thing I would tell myself would be to never stop asking questions. Never be afraid. If you don’t get the answer you need about your child, keep pushing it. Don’t settle for what information you’ve been given about your child.
I wouldn’t change J for the world. She is amazing, and everyone meets her says so. She is extremely underdeveloped physically, she is tube fed, she has sensory processing difficulties, uses a walker and wheelchair, wears a foot splint, she has foetal alcohol syndrome, challenging behaviour, complete oral aversion, global development delay and failure to thrive and she is the MOST amazing little girl I have ever met. I could not be prouder and I will do everything in my power to encourage adopters not to overlook to children with additional needs.