I always thought I would adopt, ever since I was a teenager. I remember having a conversation with one of my brothers when I was about 16, where we decided it was the “socially responsible thing to do”. I never forgot that sentiment, although I always assumed, I would have birth children as well. I suppose you never really know what life will hold.
As I approached 40, making the decision to adopt was therefore relatively easy.
My journey to adoption was fairly straightforward. I had been warned that the assessment process might feel intrusive but my Social Worker was a lovely guy, and took a friendly, low key approach, so much so that I recall asking him when he was actually going to start assessing me! I had been worried about a couple of experiences in my past, and whether they would count against me, but he found the positive in everything and provided a huge amount of reassurance.
I knew I wanted to consider siblings right from the start. I have three brothers and, during tough times, we have always pulled together. I cannot imagine life without them and being separated from them would have been highly destructive for us all. I knew I wanted to try to give an adopted child the opportunity to retain that important connection and support. I knew that taking on more than one child, as a single adopter, would be a challenge but, the more I learned, the more it felt like the right thing to do. I spoke extensively with my Social Worker about my options and discussed the various realities of adopting siblings.
The adoption training was fascinating, informative, and could be very emotional. The trainers were adopters of siblings themselves, and hearing their stories made me feel more convinced that I could handle it.
The assessment panel was nerve-racking. Although I knew that the report was positive, it was very weird to sit in front of a panel of strangers and know that they knew everything about my life. The questions asked were constructive and sensible. They clearly wanted to encourage and ensure that any holes they had spotted in the report were answered to their satisfaction. I had the feedback before I left and it was a relief to hear that it was overwhelmingly positive.
I had been to a Family Finding Activity Day just before I was approved, where I had been introduced to two siblings, a boy and a girl, aged five and six. They played so easily and we got along well, however, I assumed that they were just lovely, friendly kids who enjoyed playing with adults. I met their social worker, who was lovely, and their foster carers who also seemed very nice.
Once approved, I learned that their Social Worker had earmarked me for these kids. I learned that the little boy rarely took to anyone other than his female foster carer, and his reaction to me had been a surprise for them all. The process then moved so fast that I was quite taken aback and had to put the brakes on at one point to give myself time to decorate and buy additional furniture!
Matching panel was also nerve-wracking. The professionals had completed their reports and had told me they thought it was a good match. I had meetings with everyone, read every shred of information I could find, and was happy that the decision was the right one for me. It was terrifying to think that a panel of strangers could possibly take a different view, so it was probably more difficult than the assessment panel. I tried hard not to get my hopes up but, in my heart, I felt they were already mine. Fortunately, it also went swimmingly.
The introduction process was more stressful. The foster carers were amazing, but it was a very strange, artificial situation. Their younger siblings were also being adopted so I met their adoptive parents at this time, and fortunately really liked them. We all agreed that it would be very important to keep them in touch with each other as much as we reasonably could, and we have stuck to it. The first night they were at home with me felt strange but also oddly natural. My son describes that first meeting at the Activity Day as being “like magic” and I think he is right. It felt as though we belonged together very quickly. They had been prepared really well by the foster carers and the transition was carefully managed, so they were comfortable with the arrangements.
I think the training, preparation, and support, both for myself and for the kids, was fundamental in ensuring a smooth transition. They are now nine and almost eight, and they amaze me every day. They are smart, kind, funny, considerate, loving little people. They adore each other and each of them is the other one’s biggest cheerleader. They bicker sometimes, but they are the first to rush over if the other is hurt or upset. They challenge each other, encourage each other, and share the good times and the bad. They tell me about their memories, taking turns to fill in the gaps, so we can share their history together. They ask me all about my life and love hearing stories about “when you were young, mummy”. They bounce off each other, make each other laugh, and share almost everything. They drive me potty when they’re brushing their teeth and won’t stop dancing about. They love snuggling up all together for bedtime stories, and they’re lovely with our mad elderly dog.
We keep in regular contact with their other siblings. This means the world to them, to see that their siblings are safe and loved in their new families.
I’d sincerely recommend considering sibling adoption to any prospective adopters. Seeing my children continue to support and love one another has been incredibly rewarding. One day, when they need someone, they’ll be there, as my brothers and I have been there for each other. They have experienced so much heartache and loss at such a young age, so I am so proud that I’ve been able to help them avoid losing each other too. The decision to adopt siblings was the best decision I could ever have made, and my life is immeasurably better for having them in it.
I suspect that I’ve been lucky so far and that many other challenges lie ahead, but I look at other families and realise that none are perfect. We are all doing our best and that’s as much as anyone can do.
Our thanks to the wonderful adopter, and her children, for allowing us to share their story, some details have been changed to maintain confidentiality.