National Adoption Week Wales
Published: 21.10.15“We certainly don’t regret adopting older children.” 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 John and his wife Ann, who live in Wales, started the adoption process, they were looking to adopt a very young child. But the couple found themselves drawn to two sisters aged four and five.
John said: “There was a moment when we both realised we had a gut feeling. It meant we’d picked a group with older children without that very young child we imagined we’d like to have.”
New figures released on Monday by the National Adoption Service for Wales reveal it takes more than double the amount of time to place children aged four and above than those aged under 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.
Today the National Adoption Service is announcing plans to offer all newly approved adopters in Wales free membership of Adoption UK for their first year so they have access to peer support, advice and information in the important early stages of becoming a parent.
John and Ann had specifically asked to be approved to adopt a sibling group.
John said: “We were aware that sibling groups were increasingly being offered and there was an issue with finding people who were prepared to take more than one child at a time. We said we would take up to three children.
“We were looking to have one very young child – one to two years of age – and we thought that with a sibling group we might end up with one young child and one or two older children. As it turned out we did not opt to have a very young child which surprised us.
“We kept our options quite broad and although we talked about it quite a lot my wife and I got to a stage where we just had to say to each other ‘I’ve got a feeling about one of these groups’.
“Our daughters’ social worker talked to us about their characters, their family history and the fact that they had very stable foster caring arrangements. We felt comfortable that we understood what we were looking at by taking them on. The social worker painted a very encouraging and interesting picture of them and this vivid and positive picture stood out for us.”
The couple deliberately didn’t look at photographs of the children until later on.
John said: “We listened to their life stories and listened to the social worker and reflected on whether the girls were people whose life stories we wanted to go forward with.
“I thought ‘I’ll always wonder how these girls got on’. They were getting to the stage where they were starting to be considered harder to adopt. With other groups we kind of knew they were likely to be adoptable and had a reasonable prospect of a successful adoption so we started to feel a bit for our girls and that was on our minds. It was nice to be able to complete that thought by adopting them. Now we know how they’re getting on. You see these two girls growing and developing, girls who were facing a very uncertain future.”
John believes that older children are in many ways more of a “known quantity”. He said: “Their challenges and issues are sometimes more expressed, explored and addressed than in younger children. You can often go into parenting them a little more in the know of what you’re taking on than with younger children who may also have had very negative experiences but there’s very little indication of how that’s going to play out as they grow up.
“The girls fitted into our wider family quite nicely because we had some slightly older nieces and nephews and children of our cousins and that’s helped them to hit the ground running in terms of feeling that there’s a wider family and children they can relate to there already.
“They were in school and nursery and doing well and were used to spending time in that environment away from their principal carers.
“They were old enough to really talk about what was happening to them. Their foster carers could psychologically prepare them for what was coming. They were able to talk about problems or anxieties they had. There was a level of understanding and preparedness for them.
“The move in to an adoptive family is never easy but it can be processed and understood a bit better by an older child and you do have the chance to discuss their concerns and reassure them.
“In general we feel that they are doing pretty well. We’ve certainly enjoyed having them, the family life that’s flowed from it and everything that comes with parenthood. We feel pretty positive about their future. We’ve got the family that our adoption process led us to and it’s the right one for us.”
John said his advice to prospective adopters would be “keep your options open.”
He said: “Just because you show an interest in older children it doesn’t mean you’re committed to being matched with one but if at an early stage in the process you do not keep that option open you might well miss out on a child that is right for you. Keep an open mind. If you make choices too early you might shut doors.
“Our experience of adoption both in terms of our children and the professionals we’ve dealt with has been very positive. I know that’s not true for everyone but I think there’s a lot more quietly positive stories out there that you don’t necessarily hear about.
“Adoption is part of our life but most of our day to day life is just that – it’s just family life. Most of the time we’re no longer an adoptive family, we’re just a family.”
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.”
The National Adoption Service is working with adoption agencies to make the Adoption UK membership offer available in the near future. Click here to find out more about the offer or email firstname.lastname@example.org.