National Adoption Week in England 2017 – Siblings
Published: 16.10.17Olympic gold medallist Tessa Sanderson CBE, is championing the need to find adopters for sibling groups, which is the theme of this year’s National Adoption Week (NAW).
The need to find families for some of the most vulnerable children in society remains at the heart of this year’s event, which runs from 16-22 October. The latest official figures from the Adoption Register for England show 61 percent of children waiting to be adopted are part of a sibling group.
Tessa became an ambassador for Adoption UK after she and her husband Densign White adopted twins. The Olympian explained that her decision to adopt a sibling group was inspired by working with young people from different backgrounds at the sports foundation she set up in East London.
“This made me realise how important it is for children to have a place to call home, with people who care,” Tessa said. “Both Densign and I were keen to provide a better life and future for a sibling group in care as we knew these children are deemed ‘harder to place’.
“As soon as we saw the twins we fell in love with them instantly and couldn’t bear the thought of them being separated or waiting any longer for a forever home. The twins are growing into loving and confident children, with two different characters. They show signs of caring for one another which is lovely.”
Tessa added: “Adopting siblings can be a challenge and a steep learning curve but you may be pleasantly surprised by what you can learn to do with confidence. Once you’ve got started it becomes a routine.”
Adoption UK members also told the charity about why they decided to adopt a sibling group and whether they would recommend it to other prospective adopters.
Adoptive parent Sophie* and her husband could have had birth children had they wished to, but instead took the decision to adopt. The couple adopted two brothers, aged six and seven at the time, despite being aware of the challenges often associated with adopting sibling groups.
Sophie said: “I constantly encourage others to consider adopting sibling groups as it keeps children together and helps to find a forever home for those who have been in the system for far too long.”
Sophie understands that, because of her boys’ harder-to-place status and experience of adoption disruption, she and her husband are their “last hope for a stable family life”.
Sophie added: “It’s not easy, but I wouldn’t change a thing about our adoption.”
Emma and her husband Andy adopted birth siblings, Bubbles* and her younger brother Nibbles*, four years ago, when they were aged two and one. While acknowledging some of the challenges associated with adopting sibling groups, Emma said: “We love the fact we adopted siblings . . . they’re best friends.”
Emma believes Bubbles and Nibbles have become more independent of her and her husband than a single child may have done because they have one another to play with. This also provides the couple with the space they need from time-to-time. Emma also feels that having each other has helped the children to develop their social skills and has taught them to share.
She said: “Their love for each other has helped us through some of the more difficult times. When Nibbles was at a low-ebb, sometimes the best thing we could say was ‘Bubbles, can you give your brother a hug?’”
Adoption UK’s chief executive Dr Sue Armstrong Brown said: “To have two or more traumatised siblings suddenly parachuted into your life can be hugely challenging for adoptive parents. This is why these parents needs more support to successfully parent these vulnerable children.”
This autumn the number of children needing an adoptive home may outnumber those coming forward to provide that home.
Dr Armstrong Brown, who is on this year’s NAW awards judging panel, added: “Much more still needs to be done to recruit adoptive parents who are willing and able to provide a forever home for children, especially those with complex health needs or disabilities, as well as those from BME backgrounds and sibling groups.”
Adoption UK’s family-finding service, Children Who Wait magazine, is a key resource for agencies and social workers looking to find parents for harder to place children, and frequently features sibling groups. Aimed at prospective adopters, many sibling groups have found a forever home as a result of being featured in the magazine.
Adoption UK will mark this year’s NAW with an updated online guide to the Adoption Support Fund and a schools guide for adoptive parents, both of which will then go live on the charity’s website. In addition to these guides, the charity will be launching a new parliamentary newsletter.
*Names have beeen changed.