Today marks the beginning of National Adoption Week - seven days of media coverage aimed at gently nudging prospective adopters to make that all important first phone call to their local authority or adoption agency. With increasing numbers of children in our care system waiting to be adopted, there is no doubt that the recruitment of adopters needs to remain a focus.
Adoption had lurked in the back of my mind for a long time and so when Rob and I struggled to start a family and then decided that IVF was not the path we wanted to take, it stepped out from behind the furniture, waved at me and looked familiar.
The training courses were well run and informative and I couldn’t fault our social worker, she was all we could have hoped for. We were approved as adopters within nine months and were matched with two children within the year. Bar a minor hiccup with the matching process it went as easily as it could have done. Our local Social Services were efficient and professional.
Our two children, Jamie and Rose, were three and one when they moved in with us and changed our lives forever. They quickly became the parts of us we knew had been missing. We fell truly in love with them.
But the birth of the adoptive family is just the very start of the story, made all the more difficult by a society which prefers to think of this as the end, when the file is closed and sent to the archives.
We have brilliant times, the four of us, unexpected joys and successes, raucous fun and bellyaching laughs. But if adoption is to really work, there must be, as part of the recruitment of adopters, a good dollop of healthy honesty.
So here is my offering. Parenting children who have suffered neglect and abuse as most children in the care system have to some degree, is hard, relentlessly hard and there is no point beating about the bush over it. It is joyful and it is exhausting. It is fun and it is damaging. It is rewarding and it is isolating. It has given me the best times of my life and the worst. I have both treasured my family and wanted to put oceans between us. There have been some really dark times when I have stood at the front door, car keys shaking in one hand, credit card in the other.
Now I know where to get help and support and have found schools which understand the difficulties which children with early trauma experience, life has got mostly easier. But as the years of swings and picture books and jelly babies gives way to computer games and the push for independence, the challenges change. The small frightened child is becomes the big frightened child, hormones turbo-charge the anger and the power of words is well-understood and well-exercised.
I often tell our children that I love them, very much, no matter what. They squirm and put their fingers in their ears. They feel unworthy of a good life, think that everything will eventually return to shit and they go to great pains to prove they are right. But at least once a day I will hear how much I am loved; I will drink the tea made for me, I will eat the chocolate cookie bought for me from the school canteen, I will cherish the drawing with ‘For Mum’ written across the top. Despite everything, adopting our children has been the best thing we have ever done and I’m glad we went into it with our eyes open.
For more information about National Adoption Week follow the BAAF link on this website.