No matter if you already have a family or want to start one: adoption is a way to let your family grow. As National Adoption Week begins, we speak to two parents about their unique experiences of adoption.
Each family has a unique journey to adoption. After Steven and his wife, Aileen had several years being unsuccessful in having a birth family – they made the decision to adopt.
They explored adoption in depth, linking with adopters they knew and contacting several agencies. With their hearts set on adopting they met with St Andrew’s Children’s Society to start the adoption process.
“Choosing the adoption agency that feels right is so important – as you open up your life to them,” emphasises Steven.
National Adoption Week 2019 takes place from 14 – 20 October
After a series of initial interviews, Steven and Aileen started adoption preparation classes. These classes were the first step to the couple becoming adoptive parents. The length of the adoption process is unique to everyone, but Steven and Aileen always believed that the long time scale was a positive.
“I think building that time into the process is really good,” suggests Steven. “You have plenty of time to talk about it with each other.”
From the day they contacted St Andrew’s Children’s Society, Steven and Aileen received information, reassurance and endless support.
As the couple completed extensive background checks there was always someone on hand to listen to their questions. One particular form took nearly a year to complete, working alongside their social worker to detail their family history.
“Get as much information as possible and go into it as informed as you can,” recommends Steven.
After they were approved by an adoption panel, Steven and Aileen started to reconsider the age of the child they would like to adopt. “We were coming up to 40 at that point and actually adopting a 10-year-old child realigned you with your peers almost,” explains Steven.
While they received potential matches from their social worker, the couple also subscribed to Adoption UK’s Children Who Wait magazine. The title includes details of children who may face barriers to adoption, like their age.
After eight months of reading the magazine, it was on these pages 13 years ago that they first saw their daughter, Bethany, who is now 23.
With their hearts set on welcoming Bethany into their family, Steven and Aileen put the wheels in motion to adopt her. After they were approved to adopt Bethany, the couple spent a week away from their home in Edinburgh visiting Bethany in Newcastle.
“We met Bethany for the first time on the Monday and then each day they took her out of school for longer [periods],” remembers Steven.
“We didn’t know how we were going to react and, more importantly, didn’t know how she was going to react, but it was perfect.”
As Steven and Aileen brought Bethany home the following week they started their new life as a family of three. Bethany instantly clicked with her new extended family and peers at school, even making a new best friend on her first day of school.
“We still talk about meeting her at the foster carers that first day, it was just magical,” reminisces Steven. “It must be funny being a wee girl aged 10 thinking I’m just going into foster care now, then someone comes along and chooses you. It’s fate without a doubt, we definitely believe that everything happens for a reason.”
The idea of fate isn’t new to Karen, who’s own adoption journey took a different path to Steven’s. Adoption was on the cards for Karen and her husband, Jeremy, even before they had Marcus, their birth child.
With the knowledge that they wanted to grow their family, Karen and Jeremy reached out to Barnardo’s and started the adoption process.
“We did our training with Barnardo’s and they were, and continue to be, amazing,” emphasises Karen.
When the couple initially started the adoption process, Marcus was turning six. Karen and Jeremy were in full agreement that he would be an integral part of the journey.
“It takes quite a bit of preparation to bring a six-year-old on a long and relatively complicated journey with you,” explains Karen. “He came to the adoption panel and sat at the table with the panel members, he was the only child in the meeting which was quite quirky and stimulating all round.”
The inclusion in the panel was a valuable experience for Marcus, who participated actively by answering questions and putting his thoughts and ideas to them. The family were delighted to be approved to adopt and after viewing multiple children’s profiles they learnt about Nina – a two-year-old girl who they felt would complete their family.
“We were fortunate to meet Nina when she didn’t know that we were her prospective mummy and daddy,” recalls Karen. “For us that was really helpful because we knew at that point we would love this little girl.”
For a fortnight they stayed close to Nina’s foster family, building up their contact time. Marcus was almost eight and made sure Nina would feel welcome. He made a collage and talking book of what the family liked to do, passing this on to the social worker for his sister-to-be.
Like Steven and Aileen, Karen and Jeremy still talk to Nina and her big brother about the adoption process, Karen says:
“She was two and a quarter when she came to us and is about to have her sixth birthday, we feel that it is important to keep talking to her about her heritage, but she’s firmly one of us and we’re firmly part of her.”
No matter your relationship status, gender, sexual orientation or race, you can adopt. Will you grow your family?