“Not long after meeting each other, we realised, as a couple that we shared all the same hopes and dreams. The main one - to have a family of our own. However, we soon had to face the fact that this wasn’t going to happen naturally and like many couples in our situation, we embarked on a long and emotional journey of fertility tests and treatments; generally with heartbreak at every turn. There came a point when we knew that enough was enough, and reminded ourselves that is was a family we wanted, not a pregnancy.
Adoption was something we had always discussed over the years, but felt we needed to fully explore other avenues first. Exploring these options allowed us to put closure on that part of our lives and move on with no regrets, safe in the knowledge we were fully committed to giving a child a home through adoption.
I (Rosemary*) felt so nervous picking up the phone to make our first contact with Vale, Valleys and Cardiff – but I needn’t have worried. At that time there was a shortage of adopters and lots of children waiting for forever homes. Hearing this after having been through so much was the best feeling. We know this situation isn’t always the case and that the ratio of available adopters to adoptees varies, but until you pick up the phone as I did, you will never know!
Soon after the call we attended an information evening, had an initial visit and went on adoption training. Although some things were hard to hear, it did secure in our minds that this was the right way forward. We were then allocated a social worker to take our adoption journey to the next stage. The next 6-8 months of the assessments actually went by very quickly and although we’d heard this stage can be quite intrusive, we genuinely didn’t feel this. In fact, we found the discussions and homework parts very therapeutic. It allowed us to reflect on the past and appreciate how strong we’d become as a couple. Researching local amenities, thinking about our support networks and getting the confirmation we were ready to become parents in every way, was a really positive experience.
We were lucky that things generally went very smoothly for us during the assessment process. The biggest challenge we had was a change of social worker to take us forward after assessments. We weren’t sure how this would work having spent months going through very intimate details of our lives with someone else. However, we were allocated with a very special social worker who quickly got up to speed and with whom we connected with straight away.
We moved on to be unanimously approved as potential adopters and it was only a matter of weeks before we had a phone call to say there was a possible match. For some, this can take longer, but it is so important to get the right match for everyone, even if it takes time. This stage did raise some anxieties and our heads were full of questions: Will all the social workers involved like us? What if the medical advisor tells us something that we are not prepared for? What if we feel no connection when we see a photo? In hindsight, these were all healthy and normal feelings.
From here on in our story is a very happy one. We did feel ‘that connection’ the first time we saw our daughters photo, we did get unanimously approved at matching panel and we did love all the preparation and shopping!
When reflecting on the process as a whole, we’d say that introductions were the most intense part and even though they were very well planned, we encountered a full range of emotions. The anticipation and process itself was pretty exhausting. We needed to be at the foster carer’s home very early and very late and it was a lot to take on board. Despite this, nothing will ever beat the feeling of holding our daughter for the first time – we didn’t want to put her down! Saying goodbye and leaving at the end of each day got harder and harder as the week went by. It showed the special bond that was quickly forming.
After she came home, time passed by and we fell in to a blissful bubble of happiness. We got totally wrapped up in just being parents and dealing with all it brings. By the time the Adoption Order was granted and the Celebration Hearing took place, we had been such a strong family unit for a long time.
Three years later, we knew it was the right time to grow our family so we set the wheels in motion to apply to adopt for a second time.
We had a similar application process in terms of assessment requirements and timeframes. Of course, this time it involved the three of us and this did mean we approached considerations in relation to things like life stories, letterbox arrangements and medical histories from a different perspective. It was really important that we also balanced the needs of our daughter in the decisions we made.
With the support of the same social worker, we were matched with our delightful little boy and we went from three to four. Again, the introductions needed some careful considerations, this time around things like the logistics of nursery runs and our existing bedtime routines. It was actually really beneficial having our daughter so involved throughout and it opened up conversations with her about her own adoption journey and life story.
The bond between our little ones as new siblings, grew far quicker than we had imagined. Our daughter was bursting with excitement the first time she met him. The preparation and build up to this moment was vital and she was fully involved in it all. She particularly loved recording a message to him on his transition book and was in charge of selecting the photos she’d like to include. Every time we went to a shop, she chose something for him too and we made sure there was a special present for her from him waiting at the foster carer’s home. We talked a lot about the wonderful relationships we had with our siblings and showed her photos of happy childhood memories. We also emphasised how special it was that her friends had so much fun with their siblings.
It was challenging to try and maintain some quality time with her and this was really hard on us all. We tried as much as possible to do things together, but needing to stick to his routines in the early months to avoid unsettling him, often meant we had to leave places when she was having fun. This was really tough on her but we are lucky that she has a particularly kind nature and is very patient with him. That’s not to say that she doesn’t have her moments, especially when he pulls her hair or throws her toys, but generally she just thinks he is really cute!
As our children are not birth siblings, this comes with a different set of life stories and letterbox arrangements, which will take some careful thinking about as the years go by. This was a key consideration for us at matching stage. We took the view that we would be honest about their differing circumstances and we always use the phrase “families come together in different ways” so this is already a great platform for us to build on. The truth is there will inevitably be some confused questions around why one is getting something the other isn’t, why we know more about ones birth families than the other etc. We are hopeful that the love they have for each other and the support we will offer, will allow us to acknowledge this and work through it together.
We have always been keen to support our little ones in any way we can. We wanted to be open about how we became a family. To help support our own children, as well as other adoptive families, I am proud to have published a children’s storybook to help explain the adoption process and to acknowledge the wonderful role social workers and foster carers play in bringing families together through adoption. We’re so thankful for the support we received from Vale, Valleys and Cardiff that the book is dedicated to our social worker – she is our real “Family Fairy” and to whom we owe everything.
You can find details about “The Family Fairies” in the ‘Read, Watch and Listen’ section of the Vale, Valleys and Cardiff website under ‘Books for Children’ or on social media: