Have you ever sat on the hard shoulder or filter lane of a busy motorway with your car in gear, ready to go but not sure when you will be able to find an entry into the traffic? Then when you get there you feel swept away, maybe you’ve moved into the fast lane and cannot find a way to get into the flow of the traffic at a comfortable pace again!

Starting life as an adoptive parent can feel like that! You have completed the training and home study, been approved by the adoption panel and are waiting patiently (or not!) for the phone call or email from your SW to say you are being considered for a child or children. It is difficult to prepare yourself for that wait, for the first bit of information and all that follows! You might have been waiting weeks, months or even years, attempting to get on with life at home and in work not knowing when the change would come about.

Much of the preparation in the home study and courses focuses on the child and how you might feel or be as a parent. Of course, the child is paramount BUT so are you – as an individual and as a couple. There are a multitude of questions you might want to ask about the child but have you thought about how you might feel hearing about the child, meeting the foster carers, meeting the child and during introductions. What will it feel like on the first night when you are at home as a ‘new family?’ Will you feel like a parent? Will you be allowed to or allow yourself to?

Psychological preparation for parenting is sometimes a very small part of the course or home study and yet is so important. It is necessary to explore how you might cope with the emotions post placement and then post adoption. What are your expectations of yourself, your partner, your family and friends? Will the supports be there for you when you need them? What role will the birth parents or social workers play?

Most partners find that they are not at the same place emotionally by the time the introductions are completed. One usually feels a stronger attachment than the other, one might be finding it hard to really like the child or be afraid of calling themselves a parent. In the early days in your home the child may be missing his foster carers and asking to go back or want to see them. He may tell you that your juice is not as nice as hers, or that he doesn’t like your beans! When you are tired, even exhausted, and trying your best to help the child settle in, this is not something you want to hear.

This was not how you dreamed parenthood would start, you may feel tired and down, maybe even that you cannot do this. You might not be able to communicate with your partner or afraid to tell family or your social worker. A feeling of failure starts to overtake and together with the tiredness and unreality of the situation you might not know where to turn.

If you feel like this, please be assured you are not alone! You are not the only person to feel unable to cope in the first few days of bringing a child home and you certainly won’t be the last! As a society we widely accept that Post Natal Depression exists so why not Post Adoption Depression? Most adoptive parenting starts with a readymade little personality, one who is walking, talking and has a memory of their previous home or homes. It is important to be able to explore how you feel and to talk to your Social Worker. Taking that first step will probably be the most difficult but when you do then help can be put in place. Hopefully you will be offered counselling and a space to work out what is going on for you. Counselling may be useful in the early days of placement, when the child has been there a short time or maybe even months or years later. Counselling should not be frowned upon but seen as a positive step, a way of finding a way forward, an important part of the process. Please don’t feel you are alone – ask for help!


Lynda Graham is a Counsellor specialising in Post Adoption support and training. She has over 20 years experience in adoption work, initially as a Social Worker and latterly working privately as a counsellor. Lynda has widely researched the issue of Post Adoption Depression/Blues and is passionate about psychological preparation for placement for new parents and works with local authorities providing training for prospective parents, social workers and other professionals. Counselling is available to parents at all stages of their family journey either together or individually.  Lynda also has personal experience of adoption in her family.