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The A Family's Adoption Story - Sibling Adoption

Sibling Adoption - Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Adoption

We met as teenagers and had some brilliant life experiences before we decided to have a family but unfortunately, we struggled to conceive. Having a family was more important to us than having a birth child so we started to consider adoption. Rb took a little longer to come round to the idea, but we did lots of research and read lots of profiles and then went to an information session.

At first, we never thought we would go through the early permanence scheme as it raised a lot of issues and concerns for us. We had an early permanence Social Worker come in to talk to us during our Stage 1 training and something just made sense about it, so we signed up for the early permanence training. There was still a lot to consider, and we used to go for long walks in the countryside, during which time we shared our thoughts about it and decided for us it was the path we wanted to follow.

We really enjoyed our training as part of the assessment, and we did lots of workshops. These were invaluable and we made lots of friends. This was really important to us. It has been important that we’ve had that support from other people who have been through the process. We felt prepared by the end of our assessment process.

We waited six months after we were approved before we were approached with a little boy of 21 months. He was older than we were expecting so it was a bit of a surprise. We were excited and scared but unfortunately it became apparent that the match wasn’t going to progress which was hard for us. We had to change our mindset quickly. You learn to adapt quickly throughout the adoption process as you get used to changes to plans at short notice. The thing with early permanence is that the children come to you rather than you choosing them and shortly after this, we learned of a little girl who was going to be born the next day. The baby was placed in mainstream foster care for four weeks, which seemed like a really long time, but we met with the Foster Carer and planned the introductions. What was really nice is that the Foster Carer was so warm towards us and invited us to stay for dinner after we’d met. It really helped us at the time. We had three days of introductions and then the little girl came to live with us. We were really nervous to give ourselves emotionally through those early days. However, we couldn’t help but fall in love with her.

Before we had learned about contact in our training, we were worried about it, but the training changed our mindset and now, as experienced adopters, we understand the importance of that relationship.

We had contact twice per week with our little girl’s birth parents, they were no longer a couple by the time she was born so she saw them separately. This was important for us and useful to help us fully understand our little girl’s life story so that we can talk to her about this as she grows. It was traumatic for us to see the pain that the birth parents felt as we took over the care of their child. It must have been such a loss for them when the placement order was made. We actually had a card from the birth mother before contact ended saying that she supported the decision for E to stay with us, which we can share with her when she is older so she knows that her birth parents did love her, they just couldn’t look after her.

When you adopt a child, they come with their birth family as well. They are part of them, so it is important to learn as much as possible about them.

There is a lot of uncertainty with early permanence and it’s important to realise that no child will be untouched by what they have been through, even if they are placed straight from birth. When things affect our little girl, we are always curious to whether this is just who she is, is it because she is adopted or because of her genetics.

When the adoption was new and we talked with our adoption friends at the start, all of the conversation were about adoption but now we hardly talk about it at all. We just talk about having children in general now…and sometimes we meet up without the children!

When I first took E to baby groups, I didn’t want to talk about the situation with strangers. My advice is it’s better to go to activity groups rather than the coffee and chat groups, so the focus is not just on chatting about birthing experiences and things like that, if like us you don’t want to be put on the spot.

The assessment process took around 18 months and then we had six months of contact with the birth family, followed by another five months until we got the adoption order at court. We had a little blip in the fostering stage that someone from E’s birth family was nominated by her birth mother to look after her so there were a couple of days living with that which made us feel unsettled. But our Social Worker re-assured us as best she could and in the end there weren’t any changes to the plan for her to remain living with us.

We learned that the first time you go through the process, you worry about everything.

We have actually become friends with the people who have adopted E’s half sibling, and we have been able to maintain contact between the siblings which is just amazing for them and will enable them to have a safe link to their birth family.

Two years after E had been placed with us, we decided that we really wanted her to have a sibling that she could grow up with and so that she wouldn’t ever be alone even if something happened to us. We were advised to wait until E was three and a half years old, which gave us more time to consider how we should match a child who was right for E, over everything else. We wanted to prepare E properly, we opted for early permanence again and spent a lot of time talking to E.

E has always seemed to understand the process of adopting our second child. We were careful not to use the word brother or sister but we told her that we were going to try to look after a baby but also that the judge had to decide where the best place was for the baby to live. Once we knew that the baby was going to be staying with us we changed the dialogue to he is going to stay and become her brother, which she was delighted about.

It was a quicker process for us the second time round. We didn’t go through Stage 1 again but went straight on to Stage 2 and did some extra training called Preparing Existing Children.

We were in lockdown when R was born so everything was online, which made it all a bit different. Before we were offered R, we were offered another child, but we felt that they were too close in age to E and there were a few other little reasons why we had to say no.

We got the call about R when he had been in foster care for four months whilst some research was carried out about the effects that some drugs had had on him.

E was super excited about having R come to live with us and we were more confident the second time we went through the process. We felt that we already had a family so there almost wasn’t so much at stake. All doubts about R’s health were ruled out and we started introductions which went on over the period of a week; two days at the Foster Carers’ house and two days at our house. R had reflux which was a bit of a challenge and Rb had to walk about the garden a lot with him after he’d fed.

We were a bit isolated because of Covid but actually it meant that we ‘bubbled’ together, and it helped us form a bond as a family. This time we had no contact with the birth family apart from one final meeting before the adoption order was made but we never met R’s birth parents, which was a shame.

R had had a good bond with his Foster Carers. He had been their first foster baby, so we had to take the process of R coming to live with us very slowly and carefully and make sure it was well managed. Gradually the contact with them lessened but we are still in touch with them now. We feel that R’s foster family are an important part of his history, and it is important that we can fill in the gaps for R by learning as much as possible about his early days from them.

We had a call about R’s sibling quite late into the birth mother’s pregnancy. We had lots of conversations about it but once she was born, we decided it was an amazing opportunity for R to grow up with a full sibling. We picked her up at just four weeks old.

We sometimes thought we might be spreading ourselves too thinly, looking after three children but we felt like we had an immediate bond with the new baby, perhaps because we already had R.

This time there was contact, but the baby was collected and taken to the birth family for protection reasons.

We felt really relaxed with the process the third time. By then we had learned to trust the process and also, because it was so close to the second time, nothing much had changed about it. It was much less scary, and we didn’t do any more training. We just went straight to Panel.

So now, to the outside world, we’re a normal family! When we were going through the process for the first time, Rb worked with a company where everyone knew we were going through adoption but since he’s moved to a different company, he hasn’t really told anyone how we created our family. However, he did feel a little caught out once when there was a conversation between him and his colleagues about which hospitals their children were born in. My advice would be to think about the sorts of questions you might be asked and how you will answer them. We are quite guarded about our children’s backgrounds but at the same time we will always encourage them to be proud that they are adopted. It is up to our children to tell their stories to whomever they choose. However, we sometimes bump into other people who’ve adopted, and we often feel we immediately have something in common.

You are completely absorbed in the process when you are in it but then, one day, you will just become a normal family. Of course, the way you created it will always be there but day to day, you’re not thinking about it and are operating in the way any family would.

Our children have been fully accepted and a real joy to our whole family, including the grandparents who adore them.

E has some learning struggles, but she is happy, has good friends and gets lots of support at school.

R is at pre-school. He is full of enthusiasm and energy. You always know how he feels, and he is really confident.

G is a really happy and easy baby. We were advised to change her name because it was quite unusual, which made the practicalities a little difficult, but it was too important to ignore. (In fact, R called her Baby for six months!)

Our advice would be to have faith in the system and your Social Worker, they are there for you and we were very lucky in having really supportive Social Workers through all three of our adoptions. Sometimes it feels like things are moving slowly but it’s all going on in the background. You shouldn’t over-think things in the gaps. You should also make those connections with other adopters during the process through training etc. You will find this to be really important as you move through early life as an adoptive family.

Adoption isn’t an easy option, it is hard work at times, and it brings with it its own set of challenges, but when it comes down to it, as much as the process absorbs your life while you’re going through it, you quickly become a ‘normal’ family, worrying about the same, normal things everyone else worries about.