Adopting Siblings: Our New Family
My husband and I have been together for nearly 17 years and married 11 years ago. Since marrying we had tried for a family but when it became clear that we wouldn't be able to have biological children we both (separately) came to the conclusion that we would like to be considered as adoptive parents.
I read information on the adoptive process and we approached our local authority and Clifton Children's Society, an adoption service who specialise in adopting siblings, for further information. After attending information sessions by both organizations we asked CCS to consider assessing us as potential adopters.
From initial contact to this decision took four to five months and then we were assessed as potential adopters over a period of a year. We were approved at panel virtually a year to the day that we approached CCS to consider us. We both found the assessment process a very positive and informative experience albeit harrowing at times.
Once approved, we started looking for a potential match which was a strange time - excitement every time a group of children looked like a possible match, followed by disappointment that the match didn't seem appropriate and a growing concern that we were being unrealistic in our expectations when it came to adopting siblings. After seriously considering a sibling group of two sisters and finding the local authority approach to sharing accurate information was casual at best and misleading at worst, and deciding that the obvious (yet glossed over) special needs of the oldest sibling were more complex than we felt we could support, we really felt very downhearted that we were, actually, not going to become parents.
Seven months post panel approval, our social worker sent off our information to the local authority of three children who needed to be placed out of authority and whose details had been passed on to CCS from the adoption register. This was before we saw the details on the children but as soon as did, we just knew that there was something about them.
We were shortlisted, then we met with their social worker and family finder who were so professional and sensitive in their approach that it made a huge difference to our placement. We were then approved at a matching panel in March 2009, had introductions in April 2009 before the children came to live with us on 17th April 2009, almost a year to the day since we were approved as adoptive parents.
Two years from approaching CCS, we had become adoptive parents to three beautiful girls (all sisters). It's hard to believe that it is just over four years since the children came to live with us. So much has changed and, at times, so little! The bumps in the road tend to be less frequent but more dramatic with the influence of the children's complex early life becoming clearer to us all.
As the children mature emotionally we are able to give them further information about their family circumstances and in turn they have greater capacity for self-expression. This self-expression can, at times, still be physical as opposed to verbal but we are so much more aware of the triggers and the responses. It has been hugely helpful to have the CCS post adoption support meetings to attend – not just in terms of the expert guidance but, as ever, the highly useful contact with other adoptive parents.
Somehow, other parents never quite 'get it' in all its ramifications – and that feels very isolating at times. We have also been very lucky in being able to link up with a really excellent Clinical Psychologist through CAMHS who has given us a 'space' on a monthly basis to talk through any issues that are top of the agenda. It gives us a chance to reflect on what is working, what is not and what we need to do about it – without involving the children which at this point we don't feel would be helpful to us. Tom is still keeping a diary and that has proved a very valuable resource to go back over.
It's reassuring to see how the children have developed and how we have progressed as a family - what we can now do and enjoy with the children to their benefit would have been unthinkable a few years ago. When times are tough it's good to remind ourselves! As well as this, the diary is a really helpful reminder of how the children behave at different times and in different situations, how we've dealt with this previously and whether it's been successful. It's pretty hard to keep everything in your brain so having it written down is immensely helpful!
Yesterday, we got together with a good friend who we met on the CCS preparation course six years ago and it was so good to acknowledge and talk over how things are just different for adoptive families. So much of our children's behaviour has improved beyond belief – they make much better and more appropriate choices about what to do and say, are better able to keep themselves safe and we are much more able to trust them and to give them greater levels of choice and freedom which they appreciate and enjoy. But, the vigilance continues and we never stop questioning what might be behind their behaviour and how to handle it appropriately.
It's absolutely draining and I don't think most parents of children of a comparable age realise that is what we have to do - and continue doing. But what we do share with other parents is just how much we love our children and what joy they bring us, how proud we are of them and all their achievements big and small and how no other children are as beautiful, funny, talented as ours...
There are therapists on the Welldoing.org directory who work specifically with children and families