A We Are Family member offers an affecting and engaging window into their experience of adopting three siblings five years ago.
A tiny little hand with bony fingers pushes its way into mine and a pixie-faced elephant looks up at me with the bluest eyes I have ever seen. ‘Hello’, we say.
To my left, a handsome lion performs a trick with a wand and a coin, and just to our right is a camel, giving us a very hard stare.
This is not a dream. We are at a jungle themed “adoption activity day” for prospective adopters and “harder to place” children. And unknown to us we have just met our future children.
I could say this was all part of a plan, but it wouldn’t be the whole truth. During our adoption training we learnt about the potential benefits for children and for families, of adopting siblings simultaneously – and having established that this was emotionally, and practically manageable – we were approved for two children aged three years and under.
We were approached a few times about children soon after, who – on paper at least – we seemed a good match with, but each time something held us back. Confused, we wondered whether we would ever recognise who the children for us would be.
Then one day on Link Maker, we saw a picture of children who seemed to be looking right at us, as no others had. Our social worker was not a little surprised when we called her and asked her to help us to explore being matched with three children aged four, five and six.
She sent us off to do some research on larger and older sibling groups and quickly found out that the children were attending an over-subscribed ‘adoption activity event’ taking place two days later. There was no chance of getting in. The event had a waiting list and was already packed with prospective adopters who had shown interest in ‘our’ three children.
But somehow with hours to go, she got us through the door and there we suddenly were – a group of 5 heading together to the party food tables.
That day we also met the foster carers, family finder and social worker and discovered that we had already been shortlisted as potential adopters. We walked out mesmerised, but we knew we had to shrug off this sense of destiny and get serious.
We scrutinised reports and met doctors and teachers, until we were as confident as we could be that we could meet each child’s needs, and that the bond between them was positive. And then when we were at our most vulnerable, our social worker once again stepped in and negotiated a supportive adoption plan to help us through the first six months.
The mental and physical effort of becoming instant parents to three is indescribable. I can still conjure up the terror of the first time I took them to the park on my own.
Today, five years on, it is still a very tall order; one parent never has enough hands, laps, time, or attention. Two parents never have enough ears, voices, patience, or energy. We know we must constantly consider the needs of each child, and we regularly fail.
But alongside this an unexpected and sustaining sense of purpose has developed; we are giving our children the essential, deep roots of continuity.
Their living, shared history helps them to make sense of who they are and gives them confidence. Their interdependency is integral – they supported and defended each other in their birth family, and it matters deeply to them that no-one gets left behind.
Conversations about their past weave naturally into everyday life and when the world has made them feel lonely, they come home, and are reassured to find each other there.
Did we plan this? No, was this rationally thought through? Yes – but if we are truthful, they had us at “Hello”.
Author: We Are Family member