AD/Paid collaboration with Adopting Together/ St David’s Children Society
“A lot of people think we must be mad to adopt two children who are so young but it feels like the most natural thing in the world to us. We always knew that we wanted to adopt siblings and it’s really important to us that no matter how unsettling the next few months will be for them, or what the future holds, they’ll always have each other now.
“We haven’t even met the children yet but we know so much about them and feel so prepared, it feels like they are ours already.
These are the words of Laura and Steve (names have been changed to protect identities; you can read their full story below) who are about to become first-time adoptive parents to two young children, a brother and sister. They first registered with Adopting Together – a service offering ongoing support to adopting families – last year, following multiple unsuccessful rounds of IVF, and their match with the siblings was approved this summer.
Laura explains, “We had already started discussing adoption before the end of the last round [of IVF] and neither of us had any doubts about it at all. I feel like we took a negative situation and were able to turn it into a positive. To be honest, we’ve never seen adoption as a second choice, we just see it as a different way of completing our family.”
First project of its kind in Wales
Adopting Together is the first project of its kind in Wales to offer a bespoke package of therapeutic support for both the children and the adopters.
Led by St David’s Children Society and supported by the National Adoption Service, the service brings together all the Voluntary Adoption Agencies in Wales to find families to adopt Welsh children who have been waiting the longest. Typically, these children are aged over four years old, siblings who need to stay together, have additional needs or uncertainty around their development or are from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background.
Since launching in 2018, Adopting Together has already found families for 19 children from across Wales who would otherwise have risked being separated from their siblings or remaining in long-term foster care. Enquiries from prospective adopters doubled during lockdown.
This week sees the launch of Adopting Together’s first ever national advertising campaign, including a television and online advert, showing how rewarding adoption can be, both for the children and the new parents.
Funded by the Welsh Government, it hopes to appeal to the wider public, including those who may not have considered becoming adoptive parents.
The new advert features a dad teaching his daughter, who is adopted, to ride a bike for the first time – a shared rite of passage familiar to many families. As she begins to ride independently, her imagination takes over, her bike turns into a rocket ship, she is suddenly surrounded by animated planets and stars, and the advert ends with the line “Imagine where you could take them”.
The campaign also emphasises that adoptive parents will be offered support tailored to both the child and the adopters’ needs through every stage of their childhood, until the child turns 18.
Laura and Steve are realistic about the challenges that lie ahead but say they feel even more prepared than if they’d been having a child naturally.
As Laura explains, “We haven’t come into this thinking that it’s going to be easy. We know that the children will be confused and upset and it will take time for them to get used to us and us to them, but we just have to make sure we are there for them and that they feel safe and loved.”
“We’ve already had so much practical, emotional and psychological support”
“Obviously, when you have a child naturally, you don’t know what issues and challenges you’ll have to deal with as they grow up, so it’s no different for us really. What’s incredible about Adopting Together, though, is the level of support and guidance you get at every stage. We’ve already had so much practical, emotional and psychological support to get us to this point, but it makes it so much easier to know that that won’t go away after the children have moved in.”
Wendy Keidan is chief executive of St David’s Children Society. She says she hopes the campaign would convince more people across Wales to consider adopting a child through Adopting Together.
“We’ve wanted to ensure we provide the facts about adoption from the beginning,” she says. “The reality is that most children who are adopted will have been through more than their fair share of traumatic experiences in their young lives, and will need additional support as they grow up.
“Through the preparation training, our adopters gain real insight into the needs of the children they will parent. The extra support that we’re able to give focuses on strengthening their relationship with their child as they become a family, providing ongoing advice on how to deal with potential issues and helps to set the foundation for positive lifelong relationships.
“We’ve had such great success already with finding families but there are still a lot of children who are waiting, even with the increased interest we’ve had over lockdown. So we are really hoping this will encourage more people to get in touch.”
“The first time as a foster carer I had ever been asked for my opinion on what would be best for the child”
Leann is an experienced foster carer who first came across Adopting Together when she was fostering a seven-year-old girl.
“When I heard that she’d been put on the list for adoption, I felt really anxious as I didn’t think she’d cope at all well with the transition. I was scared that she’d revert back to the quiet, terrified little girl who’d first come to us two years before,” she says.
“I’d been involved in four or five transitions to adoption before this but going through the process with Adopting Together was completely different. Believe it or not, it was the first time that I, as the foster carer, had ever been asked for my opinion on what would be best for the child, so straight away, I knew this was going to be a positive experience.
“I was really involved all the way through the transition, right through to the night after she left when her adoptive mum texted me for advice on how to get her to settle. I love that she felt comfortable enough to do that and know that wouldn’t have been the case had we not had so much chance to get to know and support each other through the Adopting Together model. Seeing how comfortable I was with the little girl’s new mummy and daddy made it much easier for her to then trust them and feel at ease.
“The whole service just brings everybody together and we were all on the same page throughout the process. The person who benefits the most from this approach is the child who’s being adopted, which is absolutely the way it should be.”
Laura and Steve are busy getting their home ready to welcome their new son and daughter next month. Laura added, “I’d really urge people to consider adopting. The support we’ve had is incredible and the training and induction period is one of the best experiences we’ve ever had. We’ve learned so much about ourselves as a couple, as well as our children, and have explored all sorts of parenting techniques to help us navigate our way through as we build our little family.
“For us, we’ve never seen adoption as a second choice. We feel totally prepared for all the ups and downs that are ahead of us and just can’t wait to get started.”
Supported by the National Adoption Service and Welsh Government, the Adopting Together Service is led by St David’s Children Society working closely with Barnardo’s Cymru and Cardiff University, The Family Place and AUK.
Adopting Together’s national, bilingual ‘Imagine Where You Could Take Them’ campaign has been funded by Welsh Government and will run from 21 September through to the end of National Adoption Week on 20 October.
If you are interested in finding out more about adopting a child through Adopting Together, please visit www.adoptionwales.org/adoptingtogether or call 029 2066 7007.
“We absolutely love our son to bits and can’t imagine life without him”
Mike and Tony were one of the first families to experience the Adopting Together model, having adopted a little boy just after the service first launched in 2018.
“We both always knew we wanted children, ever since we got together 18 years ago, but we needed to make some lifestyle adjustments to make sure we were completely ready,” says Tony.
“Mike had been working late shifts in his job in retail so he moved into recruitment to allow him to work during office hours – we just wanted to feel completely prepared to welcome a little person into our lives.
“I’m definitely the researcher in our relationship so I was the one who first started trawling the internet for information. I saw that St David’s Children Society had had fantastic reviews and that it had just launched a new child-focussed adoption service that offered additional support to the adopters and to the children, so I gave them a call.
“From the very start, our expectations have been blown out of the water. We’ve been really impressed by the initial training, the social workers, the flexibility and the ongoing support we’ve received from Adopting Together.
“At the initial training, they really do prepare you for what’s to come and don’t sugar coat it in any way, which was great for us as we wanted to go into this with our eyes wide open. They take you through the worst possible scenarios for what could happen when the children move in, how they could react to different circumstances and teach you ways to deal with every eventuality.
“When it came to the stage of finding the right child for us, both of us were excited but anxious too. We just didn’t know what to expect. We’d been told about the family-finding and profiling events that Adopting Together organises where the prospective adopters go along to meet foster carers and social workers and see profiles and videos of children, and it was great.
“We’d had a very fixed idea beforehand of the type of child we wanted to adopt but that all went out of the window during the process and we found ourselves drawn to a few children in particular who were nothing like what we’d originally had in mind.
“We first saw a video of our little boy at a profiling event and immediately fell in love with his little smile. We got all of his background information, quickly decided that we wanted to go ahead and very soon afterwards, we were told we could progress with the match. We were thrilled! You then have to go through a series of checks and approvals, where you find out loads of information about the child, meet their social worker, foster carer and get a really detailed psychological report, but you’re supported every step of the way and encouraged to talk about any concerns or doubts you may have.
“We were so excited to welcome him to our home but knew it would be very emotional and unsettling for him so the guys at Adopting Together made sure that the transition was taken at his pace and completely led by him.
“When he first came to us, our son was extremely quiet and shy. He started at nursery and would just sit in the corner and play by himself, not wanting to interact with any of the other children but you should see him now! He loves to be the centre of attention, he has loads of friends, buckets of confidence and we can’t stop him talking.
“That’s not to say it’s all been plain sailing. About a year ago, he was waking regularly with night terrors, which was incredibly upsetting. We wanted to make sure there was nothing more we could be doing to help him and were able to just arrange a session with the psychologist who was a huge help.
“Lockdown has been tough for him, as you’d imagine. He just couldn’t understand why he couldn’t see his friends, or go to the park, or see his grandparents, and started to revert back to how he’d been when he first came to us. We both found the whole experience so stressful as we just weren’t sure what to tell him or how to make him feel better when everything around us seemed so bleak.
“The guys at Adopting Together were brilliant though. We were able to have a Zoom call with the clinical psychologist to discuss how we were dealing with the situation. They reassured us that some of the techniques we were using were great but also suggested some alternative solutions.
“We talked to him very honestly about what was going on in the world and made sure he knew that we were feeling upset by it all too, so he didn’t feel isolated in the way he was feeling. We even bought him a punch bag and named it Coronavirus so that he could take out all his anger and frustration on that.
“It’s just so helpful to have access to this ongoing support as issues like this do crop up, as you’d expect, so to be able to speak to a professional who’ll give us a new, expert viewpoint, when we’re feeling unsure about what to do is an absolute godsend.”
Asked to reflect on the last two years, Mike said the reality of adopting a child had more than lived up to his hopes and expectations.
“When we look back on the last two years and how far we’ve all come, we feel so proud. When we entered into this, we wanted to bring up our son in the way that we’d both been brought up. I grew up in a small town in Yorkshire and spent all my school holidays with my grandparents so I think I’ve got quite old school beliefs when it comes to parenting. We both think it’s really important not to let him rule the roost, to teach mutual respect and reward him when he’s good but also establish really clear boundaries so that he knows what’s acceptable and what’s not. We’ve stuck to our guns on that and it’s really helped to have picked up loads of great parenting tips from Adopting Together that we wouldn’t have thought of before.
“We absolutely love our son to bits and can’t imagine life without him. Yes, we’ve had the sleepless nights, the tantrums, and a good few challenges to deal with so far, but because we were so prepared and have had such great support, we’ve been able to deal with all of that. The training and support is unique to Adopting Together and the after-care couldn’t be better. We are really grateful to them for helping us to get the family we always wanted.”
“We spent lockdown getting ready to welcome two adopted children to our home”
“It feels like all our Christmases have come at once! They feel like they’re ours already and we haven’t even met them yet.”
First-time parents Laura and Steve* have just had the news that they’ve been approved to adopt a little brother and sister. They’ll be moving in to the couple’s home sometime in October.
The couple met in 2012 and got married three years later. On one of their very first dates they talked about having children and both knew that they wanted a family.
“As we met later in life, we didn’t want to waste any time,” explains Laura, who’s worked with children for the last 18 years. “I was thrilled when Steve said he wanted children too but after several unsuccessful rounds of IVF, we realised that it just wasn’t meant to be for us.
“We had already started discussing adoption before the end of the last round and neither of us had any doubts about it at all. I feel like we took a negative situation and were able to turn it into a positive. To be honest, we’ve never seen adoption as a second choice, we just see it as a different way of completing our family.”
As Steve says, “What’s been great is that since deciding to adopt, we’ve been on the same journey together. When we were going through IVF, I was very aware that it was Laura who was having to take the medication, it was her body that was being affected and sometimes I felt pretty helpless. With adoption, we’re both in it together. We’re completely equal and just feel that this was meant to be.”
The couple first started doing some research a year ago, in August 2019, and came across the Adopting Together website.
Steve explains, “The lady we spoke to when we first called to enquire about adopting was so friendly and helpful. We were obviously both grieving for the fact that we couldn’t become parents biologically but she was so understanding of our situation that we felt at ease straight away and just knew we were doing the right thing.”
The couple had a home visit from their social worker soon after their initial call and then attended a series of training workshops, which they both found incredibly enlightening.
Steve says, “For me, the training was like a massive light bulb moment – everything that we had previously read about adoption suddenly made perfect sense as they gave us practical and real-life examples of the world that we were about to step into.
“They really encourage and guide you into this very different, therapeutic method of parenting, bringing the pages of the books to life. It was actually very emotional too as it made us both look back at how our own childhoods and understand our own parents shaped the way that we will now parent our children.
“When you’ve had a loving family around you all your life, you can take it for granted and just don’t realise what an impact that just being loved has on you – or what an impact not being loved, or experiencing neglect or a chaotic start to life can have on a child. I honestly believe that every parent should have training like this!”
More sure than ever that adoption was the right path for them, Laura and Steve then had to fill in a detailed application and undergo a rigorous series of checks but were approved to be adopters in August.
They first saw the photo and profile of the two children they’ll be adopting at a profiling event that had to be held over Skype during lockdown. They expressed interest in three different sibling groups and their social worker explored each one before coming back with advice on which would be the best match.
Steve says they had no fixed idea about the children they wanted to adopt before starting the process.
“I know that most people probably go into this with a rough idea of the type of child they are looking for but we honestly didn’t mind. From the very start we weren’t looking for ‘the perfect children for us’. We just wanted to find children who we would be the right parents for, if that makes sense?”
“We knew we would have been happy to adopt up to three children and both felt very strongly that we didn’t want any siblings to be split up. We’re both very close to our siblings and to us, it just didn’t seem right to take a child away from their brother or sister when they’ve already been through so much trauma in their little lives.
“Although we know that having two children join our family at once will probably be more challenging than just one child, having each other will hopefully help them adjust to their new lives with us.”
Laura adds, “As we’ll be older parents, I think people were probably expecting us to adopt older children but we both have so much energy that our social worker just kept saying that we would be perfect parents for this little boy and girl, and we trusted her completely.”
After agreeing that they wanted to continue with the match, the couple were then shown more recent photos of the children and much more detailed information from the foster carers’ report. One of the siblings has a medical issue, which is common among children who are waiting to be adopted, but as Steve explains, that doesn’t concern them.
“If we had been able to conceive naturally, we wouldn’t have known how our children would have turned out in terms of their health, development or ability, so we really are not worried about that at all.
“Throughout our own childhoods and growing up, there’s never been any pressure on us and Laura and I feel the same way about our children. We’ll always encourage them to do whatever they want to do but just want them to be happy.”
The next step in the Adopting Together process was a ‘Team for the Child’ meeting, where the couple met with the social workers, foster carer, psychologist and health professionals to find out as much as possible about the children they were hoping to adopt and explore different parenting styles.
“Before that meeting, we thought we already knew a lot about the children but the level of detail they went into that day was incredible. They gave us a huge amount of information about them both, as a pair and individually, which really helped us to feel like we know them already. It was also a really good way of identifying any possible issues that might come up in future and get us thinking about how we can adapt our parenting techniques.”
The couple have since been through lots more training, have been buddied up with other adoptive parents who’ve already been through the programme and have been able to give them advice and support, have seen videos of the brother and sister playing together and have seen them over a Skype call with their foster carer, but they still haven’t actually met them yet.
Laura says, “When we saw them in the background over Skype, we just couldn’t take our eyes off them. They just immediately felt like they were ours. They even look a bit like us, and have got the same colour hair and eyes as Steve.”
As well as preparing themselves to be parents over the last few months and creating introduction books and videos for the children, to help them get to know their new family, the couple have also been busy getting their house ready for the two little ones to arrive.
“We had a huge clear-out over lockdown and although we were probably jumping the gun a bit as we hadn’t been approved at that stage, we’ve had two of the bedrooms decorated and ready for the children to arrive since July!
“We’ve kept them pretty neutral and really similar so that they can make them feel like their own rooms as they grow but for now, they’re full of cuddly toys and things that we think they’ll like. They’ve each got a teepee in their rooms too, which we hope will be their safe place, when they’re feeling sad or unsettled,” says Laura, who knows that there will be plenty of challenges ahead.
“Everyone keeps telling us that this is the perfect end to our story but we know it’s really just the beginning. We do think that it will be tough as well as amazing but we’re prepared for that. In fact, I think we’re much more prepared now than we would be if we’d been able to conceive naturally because of all the help and support we’ve had, the therapeutic play sessions and the training workshops.”
Steve admits he’s had limited experience with children until their niece was born two years ago, but that’s made him want to be a dad even more than ever. After working with babies and toddlers for her whole career, Laura says her experience at work has definitely helped her to feel more prepared.
“I adore children and have always been surrounded by them so it just wouldn’t feel right for me to not to be a mum. I’ve always dreamt about having twins so when people ask how we’ll cope with two at similar ages, I’m not scared by that. It feels like the most natural thing in the world to me.”
The couple will finally get to meet their two children over the next few weeks but the transition from their foster carers’ home will be gradual, giving the children time to adjust and feel comfortable with their new parents, new home and new lives.
As the day draws closer, they can’t help feeling apprehensive about how the children will feel.
“We are both really excited about meeting them and welcoming them into our home but I have to admit, I am nervous too. Luckily, children have always really taken to me but my biggest fear is ‘what if they don’t like us?’ I’m sure that’s natural but I just want it all to work out well, for us and for them.
“When I think about what’s ahead of them over the next few months, I just have such a mixture of emotions. In one way, my heart sings at the thought of having them both here with us but at the same time, it’s breaking at the thought of putting them through all this upset and upheaval.
“We just have to keep reminding ourselves that it’s the right thing for them in the long run and although they are both really happy at the moment with their foster carer, we will be their forever family. We’ll give them the stability and security they need and will love them so, so much.”
As Steve says, even though they haven’t met the children yet, the whole experience so far has been life-changing.
“We haven’t had a single regret since starting this process. We’ve just felt so supported throughout and have really enjoyed the journey we’ve been on already.
“We are realistic about what’s ahead but we’re going into this with our eyes wide open. What’s absolutely brilliant about Adopting Together is the level of support we’ll get, not just in the early days when the children first move in, but we’ll have access to therapeutic parenting advice, clinical psychological support and just someone to talk to about any issues that may crop up throughout the children’s childhood, if we need it.
“We just feel ready now and are looking forward to all four of us helping each other as we grow together as a family.”
If you are interested in adopting a child through Adopting Together, visit www.adoptionwales/adoptingtogether for more information or call 029 2066 7007.