National Adoption Week England
Published: 15.10.15“It’s incredibly tough but you experience more intensity and joy than you can possibly imagine.”
This is one Adoption UK member’s response to the question ‘Too old at 4?’- posed by this year’s National Adoption Week (19-25 October).
When Alison Woodhead first submitted her application to adopt, she, like many prospective adopters, wanted to be matched with a baby. But the single parent from Oxford realised early on that in reality, this was unlikely.
Alison, a climate change campaigner for Oxfam, adopted her daughter when she was five. She said: “I knew that the older the child, the more trauma they may have suffered so I questioned whether I could cope with their emotional needs.” She concedes that the first year was “incredibly tough” but they got through it thanks to support from family and friends.
New statistics published by national adoption information service First4Adoption, to coincide with National Adoption Week, reveal that the average age of children waiting to be placed in adoptive families is four.
Older children waiting to be adopted are often likely to be in sibling groups or to have additional needs and there is currently a shortage of adoptive parents coming forward for these children.
Alison said: “I really would encourage people to consider adopting an older child, as long as they go into it with their eyes wide-open. These children are harder to place but you can help give them a new start in life, which can be massively rewarding. Parenting an adopted child of any age requires you to keep your heart open and gird your loins.
“Mary’s made extraordinary progress over the last four years. She still has a lot of challenges but she’s a very resilient, happy, optimistic and cheerful person. She wakes up most mornings with a big smile on her face. We’re such an extraordinary match as we’re just so very similar. We have the same sense of humour, we like the same things and we get on really well. It’s a wonderful relationship.”
Another adoptive parent keen to expel the myth that children aged four or above are ‘too old to adopt’ is Scott Casson-Rennie.
Scott and his partner Tristan had visions of a blonde-haired little girl, aged between three and six when they started out on their adoption journey. But they are now parents to three “fantastic” boys – who were all seven or older when they were placed for adoption.
Scott, who admits he was surprised by how much love the boys gave him and Tristan, almost instantly, said: “I never once thought that an older child would need or want that. It always surprises me how many people may not consider a child because of age, behaviours or even some disabilities. Every child deserves a secure future.
“We’ve had more good times than bad, and the bad has been bad, but we love those boys more now than ever, and I wouldn’t be the person I have become without them.”
Single adoptive parent Sarah had also always planned to adopt a girl aged four or under.
But the 46-year-old adopted her son Daniel, who was then aged six, after she was unable to get his image out of her head having seen his profile. Sarah, who lives on the South Coast, advises other prospective adopters not to be too selective in their search.
She said: “As soon as I saw a picture of Daniel I knew instantly he was my son. It was the strangest thing.”
Sarah says the advantages to Daniel being an older child included the fact he had already had contact with professionals who understood his attachment and his needs and that he had an established relationship with his social worker.
She said: “We have an amazing relationship. Daniel’s chatty, loving, funny, creative and great company.”
Daniel was classed as ‘harder to place’ so Sarah believes that had she not picked him his chances of being adopted were “next to nothing”.
She said: “All of his other siblings had been adopted so he would have been the only one who wasn’t adopted. There are children like Daniel all over the country where the eldest one is left on their own because of their age.”
Hugh Thornbery, Chief Executive of Adoption UK, said: “We believe all children can enjoy positive futures. Parenting adopted children can be both challenging and rewarding and assistance should be available to all adoptive families who need it to ensure that no adoption breaks down due to lack of support. We are here to provide help, information and support to adoptive families, those in the process of adopting and those who work with adopted children.”
Adoption UK provides a training course entitled `Parenting our children’ which helps to equip adopters with a range of techniques and skills to deal with whatever issues may arise when welcoming an adopted child into their family. The charity also provides a UK-wide helpline staffed by adopters who can provide a friendly and empathetic ear to callers at whatever stage of the adoption journey they are on.