Additional Needs Adoption

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The matching process for adoption is exciting. It makes everything real. But there is a lot to consider. One of the biggest decisions is if you can open your heart and home to a little one with additional needs. Whether this is medical, emotional or behavioral.

For some this is a straight yes or no. For others – a maybe. I will never forget filling out the “Pro-forma for Matching”. Time to really visualise the child we would call our son or daughter. The situations to consider became more severe as we moved down the list. It felt like a tick box exercise. This part did not sit easy with me.

We did not enter adoption with rose tinted glasses. Generally, children do not join the adoption system unless they have experienced trauma of some kind. Or have medical conditions that need additional support. Little ones need a safe and secure home. A place to thrive. Develop. Grow.

But at this stage we – well, mainly me really – were warn out. Physically and emotionally. We had to be honest with each other and the social workers. After a turbulent 10 years, we didn’t know if we had the strength to offer a child with a serious medical condition or severe trauma experience, what they needed. The inevitable additional care. It feels selfish writing this. Especially knowing that children deemed “harder to place” need safe, secure, and happy homes more than anyone. I felt like I was letting them down. But we had to be honest.

So, what is it like to welcome a child that has got additional medical needs? Here, Jessica from Instagram account @thelewisfamilyuk, shares their story:

We knew when we received A’s profile that she had Global Development Delay. She is now 2 but still doesn’t walk or talk. Her hands are always folded in, although since being home with us she has started to open them more and more which is a really positive sign. When we first met her, she couldn’t sit on her own and she didn’t have great head control.

We were never told she was born with disabilities. She had a genetic test done and that ruled out down syndrome. So, at the time the only explanation was sadly to think that her condition was due to neglect. But we knew we needed to find out more.

There is a lot to factor into our day to day lives.  She goes to physio every week and has various other medical appointments. We saw a paediatrician within a month of her coming to us and she put A developmentally at just 4 months old. She has recently seen the paediatrician again who has now put her at 6-7 month. We are having further investigations including being referred to neurology.

We did have the opportunity to meet birth dad and grandma a month after seeing the pediatrician. They asked if we had received any diagnosis. Surprisingly, they said they always knew she had a disability. So, it turned out her medical condition wasn’t just due down to neglect.

This made us realise we needed to question professionals more on what her condition could be. The physio has always said she has the tone of someone with cerebral palsy. Although no official diagnosis has been given. More investigations will take place to hopefully find out more.

A has AFOs (splints) that help flatten her feet as she stands on the points of her toes. She also has gators that help straighten and strengthen her legs. She has a stand frame which she stands in for periods of time – this has really helped her. She also has a specialist highchair that helps with making sure she is sitting properly. We’ve started using it, so she has a seat outside as well and to play in.

A also has a seating system that helps with her sitting and with that she is able to sit on her own. She is currently waiting for a walker that she’ll be able to use outside and can get to and from places more easily. We are looking forward to this as it will really help her be more independent. She also has a bath aid as she can’t sit on her own in the bath. It is safe to say our home is full of equipment!

Since being us, we have noticed HUGE improvements. A now walks when we hold her. She has a walker from the foster carer which is the one you get for babies. This was great and she got incredibly strong in it, but she has now outgrown it.

A has recently started picking things up with her full hand with encouragement. She sits for small periods of time on her own, and for the first time the other day, she sat for a whole half an hour (although since then has gone back to sitting for minutes but we now know the strength is there). She now rolls over and has great head control.

One thing we haven’t seen such good progress with is her speech. We have to say it hasn’t really moved on. She still only really makes the same noises – although these are very cute! As A is getting older, we’re noticing more things that might need to be assessed. As she’s got stronger there seems to be a turn in her left leg that comes from the hip. Something additional that the relevant professionals know about and will continue to monitor.

We have recently received her EHCP (Education Health and Care Plan). It confirms she will need 1:1 support in nursery and be provided with all the things to help her with day to day life. We are so pleased to say that she has just also been accepted into a special school for next year. This was yet another process to go through which involved her case going to a special panel and they presented her EHCP and all her professional letters.

When deciding between a mainstream or special school, we had to decide where we feel she would thrive. We feel we have made the right choice and that she will do just this at a special school! It is so hard deciding your child’s future and knowing if you have made the right decision for them, but we are really happy with it.

We have a long way to go but watching her get stronger and seeing the determination in her is amazing. She is a smart cookie and knows exactly what she wants and will let you know when you are doing something wrong! I cannot wait to watch her become more and more of the amazing girl she is!

I absolutely love following this beautiful family on social media. Honestly, there is nothing more beautiful than A’s smile. What a delight to brighten up anybody’s day!

What strikes me most about how Jessica writes, is that not once does she say that her daughter’s needs are hard to deal with. Difficult to manage. There is no reference to bad days. Frustrations. I’m sure there are many times when things feel tough, but these pale into insignificance when you see the joy A brings. This family is such a strong unit.

They seem to move through each day and just facing whatever it brings. This is a true tale of the wonder of adoption. Giving A the love, care and support she needs is proving invaluable in her development.

So, maybe when you are thinking of your forever family, think wider. Take more time. Do some research. Speak to medical professionals. Really consider what you can offer. What the future might hold with a little one just like A. How amazing it would be to see them develop.

Think about families like this. Families where the thing that stands out above anything else – is love. I feel honored to have not only shared her story, but to be able to watch her grow into the gorgeous girl she has become. You can follow them on Instagram @thelewisfamilyuk.

You can find me there too, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Follow me through the links on my Home page.

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