Letterbox Contact

Post-Box, Post, Mail, Box, Wall, Dry, Stone

Keeping birth family updated on the progress of your child is an important part any adoption journey. Something I totally agree with. So why do I often hear how hard people find it?

Agreeing letterbox contact is something all adoptive parents do. It will either be welcomed by birth families. Or not. It will either be requested and read by birth families. Or not.

I have to say, I still feel a little in the dark about this part of the process. Even seven years on. Very little guidance was initially given, even on the basics of what to include. Generally, we were told – keep it brief, simple, and unidentifiable. Reference where they are against milestones to cover development. Discuss likes and hobbies. Not a huge amount to go on.

I must point out that our contact letters are not read. Well not now anyway. We write once a year and they are put “on file”. We have never had a letter from our children’s birth parents or extended family, and we don’t anticipate this changing – but we can hope.

We always have in mind that one day birth mothers may feel the time is right to read them. But this actually makes it harder for me. If they’ve never had any updates, then one day they sit down and read years worth in one go – I question if they will give the truest reflection of the life we have. The life they helped create.

Do we downplay the indescribable happiness we have so as not to upset them? Or do we over do the good stuff to show them how much we love, cherish and care for the children they gave birth to?

I am not alone in my thoughts. Here is an honest account of how Instagram account @rosie_freckle_bird approaches letterbox contact and the challenges they face:

Letterbox is the hardest part of our lives as adoptive parents. Well, correction, I think it is the hardest part of my parenting life. I can’t do it, so my husband writes all the letters.

We are told by social workers it is imperative for children to have contact from their birth relatives and I think I agree. What I don’t think is expanded on enough though, is how facing up to writing the blooming things, can make you feel and what happens if the relationship with the Letterbox team, breaks down.

At the beginning, before bringing our children home, there were discussions around who in the birth family we would write to and how often. Even back then, I gulped. The pressure was huge.

It was proposed we would write twice a year to birth mum and a half sibling and his carer, and once a year to birth dad. Even then, it seemed we would just be getting over writing one letter, to very quickly be prepping for the next batch.  

Despite knowing it is the right thing to do – and I do believe it is right for our kids – the idea of it, never gets any easier. Four years on, knowing our kids as we now do, (they are nosy little things!), I’m sure they will be keen to read these letters when the time is right.

My husband keeps our letters simple. I think it helps him detach from who we are writing to and about whom. He has a template on our laptop. This is amended each time and saved. He sends pretty much the same letter to each family member and we have a file so the kids can see what we wrote, every year. They can see we tried.

At first, receiving a letter back from the family, was interesting. But I do feel we were falsely led into thinking this was going to be a regular occurrence. I think we’ve received four in total. The reality kicked in when we waited for a reply to a letter a few years ago which just didn’t arrive. We asked a medical question that only birth family would know. It’s hard not to become dispirited. Why should we write so often? Were they even collecting the letters from the Letterbox team? Didn’t they care?

Our children’s sibling’s parents’ have never replied to any of our correspondence. Sadly, we know nothing about the child we are writing to. We did meet our children’s birth mother, so in a way, that letter was a little simpler to write. With their birth dad, we know so few details so it’s hard to visualise him reading it.

We decided to take some action. After making some calls, our curiosity was satisfied. We discovered our letters were always collected by the family from the Local Authority – but still the replies stopped. I often felt they couldn’t be bothered to reply. I’m sure it isn’t like that. That it must be painful for them to pick them up, let alone reply. But I started to feel like it was pointless, and painful.

Around two years into our adoption, our lovely Local Authority (LA) merged with other agencies, but sadly this meant we lost a lot of their excellent customer care. We noticed mishaps starting to appear with Letterbox service. Initially we experienced administrative errors.

Then, we missed a series of letters to the birth family, which was a complete oversight on our part, but the LA didn’t alert us to this, until a whole five months after it was due. Apparently, it was the birth mother who had enquired as to where her letter was. So, of course we wrote.

Next, the one and only letter was received from the children’s birth father – it contained inappropriate content. It stated there were additional siblings (that had not been verified) and this resulted in me making various phone calls to complain. I felt the Letterbox staff were supporting the birth families in their reason for writing, and not always thinking of us. Not considering how some of the letters might make us feel. And ultimately our children.

Despite speaking very openly and honestly to the staff, I didn’t feel respected. Those were tough calls to make, yet I didn’t feel my worries were valued. I was simply told that these letters are ‘nicer than some I’ve seen’ and ‘at least you are getting some letters back for your kids’. I felt like the staff only saw the point of the letters from the birth family perspective, and not in any way ours. What the staff didn’t pick up on was how grieved some of the content made us feel. Especially me.

Letterbox contact has not always been a positive experience, and for now, we have drifted off our original agreement. We have only written once this year, but I guess we can blame Covid for that! But we will still persevere.  At the end of the day, the whole process is not for us, it is for the benefit of our children. And this is more important than anything.

To help, I’ve taken some positive action of my own. I’ve written letters I never grumble about writing. Letters to my children to explain how the Letterbox system hasn’t always worked. I’ve explained we have tried, very hard. I write honestly to my children.  I hope they will understand. These are important letters for me and ones that I think my children – as their mum – need to know.

As you can see from what @rosie_freckle_bird has shared, letterbox contact is not always easy. Not always a positive experience. Local authorities now have letterbox contact teams, but unfortunately, for some, it still doesn’t always go smoothly.

One of the things I hear a lot, is that birth families start sending letters – then stop. Why? Have they run out of enthusiasm? Do they find it incredibly hard? Upsetting. Have they moved on? Accepted. Or have they got a happy family of their own now? I hope it is the latter. Although this may provide little comfort for our children.

Either way, it is a hard situation to manage with our children. To explain why they had some form of contact and then it stopped. Luckily, there is now far more training and support available around this topic, mainly from the likes of @adoptionuk. Check out what they have available or contact your adoption agency.  Appreciate the importance and get help on the best way to approach it.

The key thing about letterbox contact, the thing that strikes me the most, is who we are really doing it for. Of course, it’s to update birth families. But most importantly, it’s for our children.

Despite the challenges, this guest blog is very clear about this. Letterbox contact means that one day we can say to our children we did what we could to keep connections alive. Memories. Their history. And this is a very good feeling.

Additional Needs Adoption

Toddler, Building Block, Pull, Pulling, Tatami Mats

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.

Supporting Adoption Journeys

Sometimes I feel adoption journeys focus just on the adoptive parents. But there’s a whole host of other people in support networks. Who need to learn. Adapt. Prepare.

As with the arrival of any baby, family will want to play their part. But things are different when the route is adoption. Some may even feel a little uncertain, but afraid to show their feelings. There is a lot to process. For everyone. So, how much information should we share with family about life stories? What exactly do they need to learn to help prepare? Where can information be found? Will they feel differently about the child? There’s clearly a lot to consider.

To help answer some of these questions, I’m delighted to have been contacted by a wonderful adoptive “auntie-to-be”. She has taken some remarkable steps to support her sister and brother-in-law on their adoption journey. I’m thrilled to share how she is approaching it. How she is preparing herself the best she can. Here is @joiningthejourney ‘s story:

When my sister and brother-in-law told me they were hoping to adopt, my first reaction was overwhelming excitement. I was elated at the prospect of becoming an auntie! Although I hadn’t been aware that adoption was something they had been exploring, I knew they were hoping to start a family soon. This news meant they were one step closer.

I realised I had very little knowledge about the adoption process so started to research the process in the UK. I had lots of questions about the whole thing – How long would it take? How would the process work? What age might their child be when they came home? As I started to think through the practicalities a bit more, worries began to creep in about some aspects of becoming an auntie through adoption.

As someone who loves babies, I was (selfishly) a little concerned that my experience of becoming an auntie wouldn’t be the same as if my sister had had a birth child. Particularly if the child they adopted was older. I also feared I wouldn’t be able to be as hands on either. I read lots about the importance of the parents being the ones to meet as many of their child’s emotional and care needs as possible. Whilst this all made complete sense, from an attachment point of view, it did worry me a little. I’m the sort of person who loves to get involved and would probably struggle to step back.

I’m very close to my sister. She’s told me lots about each stage of the adoption process as and when it’s come up. She’s definitely been my biggest educator on adoption so far! I wanted to support them as best I could, so decided to find out more for myself. I read some articles online and some books recommended by my sister. I also watched some vlogs about UK adoption. All of these were really helpful, but I found there wasn’t a vast amount of information specifically aimed at friends and family of those adopting.

Whilst I appreciate this is quite a niche area, I do feel that equipping family and friends would have a directly positive impact on the support they can provide, therefore helping the adoptive family as a whole. 

Luckily, their agency offered a training session designed specifically for family and friends of those adopting. This was probably one of the most helpful ‘resources’ I accessed. The training covered a variety of topics surrounding adoption. All targeted at family and friends. It also provided an opportunity to ask direct questions to a social worker.

The training focused on the support adopters would need and how we could give it. Practically and emotionally. I found this really helpful. Even though there will be times to step back and give them some space as a family, the training helped me see I can still play an active role in supporting them by doing practical things to help. Delivering meal and listening when they need to talk are just some examples.

Recently, I’ve become increasingly aware of the adoption community on Instagram and the wealth of personal experience it shares. I began to follow a range of accounts, from those who are going through the adoption process now, to those who became a family through adoption many years ago.

I found these personal accounts so helpful. It’s helped me to gain a much richer picture of some of the joys and challenges of adoption. Obviously, everyone’s story is different. It’s important to remember that. But I’ve found insights into the family life of those who have adopted really informative.

I took this a step further and decided to set up an Instagram account, separate from my personal one. Somewhere I can focus on following adoption-specific accounts and share some of the resources I’ve found useful. I’m certainly not an expert in this field, but I hope that by collating helpful information in one place, it might be useful for family or friends of those starting their journey to adoption in the future.

My sister and brother-in-law are due to go to panel very soon – I’m currently learning all about the Prospective Adopter’s Report (PAR) and what happens during and after panel. They are being recommended for traditional adoption and Foster to Adopt. They both feel very passionately about the positive impact that early permanence placements can have. I’ve really enjoyed learning more about this with them.

There are some uncertainties with Foster to Adopt which can be quite a worry. I know I have considered how heart-breaking it would be, both for them as a couple, and for the wider family, if a child was to be returned to birth family after we’ve all bonded with them. However, my sister and brother-in-law have always approached this potential risk with a realistic mindset. Given much consideration to how significant such a loss would be. They have the very selfless attitude that ultimately what is best for the child is the most important thing. This has helped me to refocus on the main motivation of the process; the child. 

Throughout this process, as I’ve read more about specific family stories and accessed more support, my initial worries about adoption have been alleviated. I know I’ll play an active part in my future niece or nephew’s life. That I will be able to support my sister and brother-in-law, both practically and emotionally. There may be times when I need to step back, but ultimately it’s the child’s best interests that matter most. It’s a very small price to pay for ensuring my niece or nephew has the best possible start in becoming a secure and happy part of our family. I am so excited for the next stage in the process to begin. I already have so much love for my future niece or nephew and I am so excited to meet them. I can’t wait to welcome them into our family one day soon!

If you are in a similar position and would like to learn more about adoption, here’s a few ideas of things you can do to get you started:

  • Ask questions of the prospective adopters and show an interest in the process
  • Read about adoption (both factual and personal experiences). Some specific books I found helpful:
    • No Matter What – Sally Donovan
    • Related by Adoption – Heidi Argent
    • Home for Good – Krish Kandiah
  • Listen to podcasts/watch vlogs. Some specific ones I found helpful:
    • The Adoption – BBC Radio 4
    • Aimee Vlog on YouTube (Aimee provides videos explaining the process, documenting their experiences, and also a very useful grandparent interview)
  • Ask if there is any specific support available through the agency – this could be training or a webinar

Well I’m sure you’ll agree that a special little one will be very lucky to have such a kind, thoughtful and loving auntie one day! I love the honesty of how @joiningthejourney felt apprehensive at the beginning. A very natural feeling. I’m sure a poll around this amongst family or friends of prospective adopters, would show many feel exactly the same.

What strikes me, is there are fairly limited resources for wider family members of prospective adopters. Something as an author I’m already working on. This was certainly the case when we adopted. There was no opportunity for family to attend official training. I think this would have been invaluable.

We were fortunate to have experienced grandparents, aunties and uncles in our support circle, but adoption was something new to them. To us all. And it is different. Initially anyway. There would be no passing our child around a room full of “ohhhs and ahhhs”. It took them a while to understand that for a period of time they would need to take a back seat. This went against all their instincts and was a hard message to relay.

What I can whole heartedly say now, is our family and friends love our children unconditionally. I actually think sometimes they forget we adopted! It didn’t take them long to bond. To love them. What melts my heart more than anything, is just how much my children know – feel – how loved they are. By everybody.

You can find @joiningthejourney on Instagram. Please give her a follow and a share so that more family and friends of prospective adopters can find her lovely account. Thank you @joiningthejourney for all you are doing to support others. I cannot wait to hear the exciting news of the day you become an auntie…good luck to you all.

Don’t forget you can find all my social media links on my Homepage, as well as detail of my children’s adoption storybook – The Family Fairies.

The Road to Matching Panel

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The wait for a match can seem like an eternity. Especially after a roller-coaster of a journey. It feels like you literally can’t wait any longer.

We were exceptionally lucky with both our children. Links came our way very quickly. We were just on the right part of the curve at the right time.

Oddly, I dreaded this part. Of course, deep down I was excited. My chance to become a mum finally on the horizon. But I was really nervous. Nervous that I wouldn’t feel a connection to a profile. That we might have to say “no”. I couldn’t bear this thought. It was a choice about a child. A little human being. One that had probably been through the mill. But what if I couldn’t give them what they needed?

Thankfully, this part of our story played out perfectly. I feel fortunate our matches went smoothly. But sometimes this isn’t the case. @raising_roo_ is a single adopter and mum to a beautiful girl, she talks about their journey to form their family…

I attended an Information Evening in June 2017 then made my first phone call in July. My initial home visit took place later that month. I was given my outcome pretty quickly – I was actually invited to attend Stage 1 training the very next day! I hadn’t even completed my “Registration of Interest Form”. The Adoption Team were keen to avoid any delays as the next training after this was September.

My assessment process was pretty straightforward and followed the “expected” timescales. I completed Stage 1 and progressed to Stage 2. This was a series of meetings with my Assessing Social Worker “L”. L was an experienced social worker but new to the Adoption Team. I was actually her first potential adopter. For this reason, I had a “Second Opinion” visit in December 2017. L and her manager visited and went through my assessment to ensure all the questions panel might ask were covered. I experienced anxiety and depression throughout my teens and early 20s. We explored this together, ensuring my PAR was robust to minimise any further questions.

My approval panel was on 6th February 2018. It was a nerve-wracking experience! I’m a social worker myself and have presented many foster families to panel – but it’s a very different experience as the one being assessed.

There were seven people, plus two advisors, and two observers – a lot of people in one room. I was delighted to receive a unanimous yes! I was approved for one child age 0-5. Either gender but with a preference to adopt a girl. My referees all said they saw me as a mum to a little girl. As a solo adopter, who at the time lived in a flat, I didn’t feel able to adopt a child with significant physical or cognitive disabilities. I also didn’t feel I would be able to adopt siblings.

To support me through the panel process, my mum, sister, and 4 month old nephew, came to stay (although I went into the actual panel meeting alone). After panel, we went for lunch to celebrate. I was exhausted when we got back and needed a nap. My mum and sister went to Mothercare and celebrated by looking at clothes, prams, and other baby things. It was great having them there to support me. I’d recommend any solo adopter takes a friend or family with them to panel.

My matching journey was far from straightforward. Limited profiles came my way. My first potential link was a 2 year old girl. Her social worker and family finder, and my social worker L, came for a meeting at my house. This sadly did not go well. I felt I was a good match. Her social worker thought otherwise. She was hung up on me being single and maybe meeting someone one day. She couldn’t be persuaded that I would put the little girl first, so didn’t progress with the match. L actually put in a complaint about the way she managed the potential link. It was so hard getting my hopes up only for her to have a specific opinion about solo adopters.

After this experience, I had a holiday which was a good chance to take a mental break from thinking about profiles and matches. When I got home, I met with someone from my LA family finding team. They told me they had a number of little boys who needed families, but very few girls. Any girls had very high-level needs, which I felt I couldn’t meet. I decided to join Link Maker and consider profiles from other Local Authorities.

I’d recommend adopters use Link Maker. Although there are often long delays to enquiries, and it can be disheartening to never hear back. But I found it helpful to have a sense of control in the situation. If I was interested in finding out more about a child, I could ask my questions directly. Didn’t have to wait for L to do this for me. I also found the forum on Link Maker very helpful.

Through Link Maker, in June 2018 I found N’s profile. N was a nearly 4 year old girl who’d had a lot of disruption in her little life, with many foster placement moves. I felt an immediate connection and talked to my social worker. I registered my interest and a discussion quickly started with N’s social worker. We had a meeting in July, and I found out the next day they wanted to progress with a match! I was delighted, but also overwhelmed.

Having waited for what felt like forever, I felt a massive wave of emotion. I finally had a tentative “yes”. Over the following weeks information was shared back and forth. Matching panel was planned for 18th September. I met with N’s foster parent, her nursery, and even did a “look and see” at a garden centre. Seeing a beautiful little girl skipping round and thinking “that is my daughter” was a very special feeling.

I’d shared all this excitement with my family, and some close friends. Prepared work for my adoption leave. Started getting N’s bedroom ready. I bought a lovely bed, and some new toys. I really started to believe this could be real.

Sadly, ten days before matching panel, I got the devastating call that N’s birth mother had made an application to the court to discharge N’s placement and care orders. She wanted N to return to live with her. The Judge had granted N’s application and a new set of care proceedings was to take place. As a result of this, N’s Local Authority could not go ahead with the matching panel or adoption placement. Everything was on hold.

I was distraught. In disbelief. I already thought of N as my daughter and now she wasn’t going to be? N’s situation was a very unusual one. I must stress that most birth parents wouldn’t be granted a new set of care proceedings. However, N’s birth mother had had a new baby and her parenting assessment was given a positive outcome. Her new baby daughter was living with her in the community. This demonstrated a “significant change in circumstances” which is the threshold for a birth parent to make this type of application.

After a lot of crying and soul searching, I made the sad and difficult decision to withdraw from the match. I knew the care proceedings would take at least six months to complete. There was no certainty of the outcome. I didn’t feel I could wait. The Judge could well decide that N should return to live with her birth mother. I just couldn’t face this prospect.

I’m glad to say I felt really supported by my social worker during this time. Her manager also reached out to share her sadness at what had happened. I know this was an incredibly unusual situation. Nobody could have predicted it. I don’t know what happened for N. I can only hope the outcome was positive for her – whether this was returning to her birth mother or being adopted.

It took some time to heal from this. About six weeks later, I felt able to look at profiles on Link Maker again. I found Roo’s profile in early November. Immediately there was something about her happy smile that caught my eye. I felt drawn to her in a way I can’t really explain. It definitely wasn’t a “you are the one” moment that some people have. Perhaps my experience with N made me protect myself emotionally. But I didn’t want to pursue any other discussions about other children until I had an answer about Roo.

Roo was 11 months old and had been fostered since she was born. Her older half-brothers had been placed in foster care while their birth mother was pregnant. The hope was they would all be adopted together. Sadly, her brothers had significant additional needs resulting from their trauma in the birth family home. A decision was made that Roo should be adopted separately, with a plan for ongoing sibling contact. After a few weeks of discussions, we had a meeting in December 2018. The next day I heard the amazing news the social worker and family finder felt I was the right mummy for Roo. They had 15 potential families who’d registered an interest in her profile in just one day…but I was the only adopter they visited.

I didn’t tell my family anything about Roo until Christmas Day. I surprised them with a letter board saying her name and “Coming Home Spring 2019”. There were a lot of happy tears over our Turkey dinner!

I met Roo’s foster parent in January 2019 to find out more about her. Matching panel was booked for 6th February. The ADM came back on 14th February, but because of half term for Roo’s brothers, our introduction period didn’t start until 25th February 2019. I count that as the day I became Roo’s mum.

We had nine days of introductions. I think this was too long when it came to it – but it made sense at the time. Roo visited my house for the first time on Day 6 and moved in on 6th March 2019. We recently celebrated our one year “Coming Home” anniversary.  Roo was 15 months old when we she moved in. I’m looking forward to celebrating the day when she has been living with me for longer than she was in care. That feels like a significant milestone for me.

Being a mum is incredibly challenging. In some ways maybe harder because I’m a solo parent – but then, I know it’s hard for couples too. To navigate their own relationship while beginning a new one with their child. So, let’s just say, adoption is really hard! But it is also wonderful. For every sleepless night, there is a beautiful smile. For every meltdown – a moment of pure joy. When your child initiates a cuddle or holdings hands. These moments are priceless.

If I could give advice for during matching, it would be to take care of yourself. Sleep, eat good food, see your friends, have very real and honest discussions. It’s incredibly hard to be patient throughout the process, but this is good practice for parenting. Your patience will be constantly tested but it is so worth it. 

I’m in awe of what Roo has achieved and of who she is as a person. I take pride in helping her to become an amazing little girl. We have a beautiful, adventurous life ahead of us!

What a detailed and honest account of @raising_roo_’s experience of the matching process. It’s hard to hear when things don’t go smoothly. When upsetting situations arise. But I believe it’s important to share. To show all sides. Even of rare occasions. I know a lot of adopters and rest assured; many matches get approved without problems.

But @raising_roo_ went through a lot. A lot of heartache. She needed to keep her faith. Follow her instincts. Wait for the stars to align. Thankfully, she did just that and now has the most beautiful little girl. It’s a delight to see the bond they have.

Matching is the most significant part of the whole process. Everything rides on it. The most pressure I felt was on the day the social workers visited to see if they wanted to go forward with us as the adoptive parents of our children.

I didn’t know how to react. I certainly waffled. Nervously giggled. Probably tried too hard. Luckily, my husband is the cool, calm and collected one. They probably thought these qualities made us a well-balanced couple…and they are absolutely right.

You can follow @raising_roo_ on Instagram to see this beautiful family as it continues on it’s special adoption journey. Remember you can also follow me there too – you can find all the links to me social medias on my Homepage.

If anyone is looking for some support in helping to explain key stages of the adoption process to their little ones, including matching, you can Purchase a Copy Here of my children’s adoption storybook – The Family Fairies.

“Then with a bish and a bosh

It all became clear.

The most perfect match,

Hooray time to cheer!”

Double Love – adopting siblings

We always thought we would adopt siblings. Together, from the beginning. After a lengthy and turbulent journey, I thought I wouldn’t be able to face doing it again. That I wouldn’t be able to find the strength. Again.

In essence, I guess I thought it would be better to get it “over and done with” in one go. We were also acutely aware of the shortage of prospective adopters prepared to take siblings. Of the importance of keeping siblings together. It’s odd how things never quite go to plan. How the universe moves in mysterious ways.

When we had the call a few weeks after approval, it was not what we were expecting. We’d been assessed for siblings. Been approved for siblings. Were practically and emotionally preparing for siblings. The call was a possible match – but for one. That moment is all a bit of a blur. I was so taken aback. Knocked off my perch.

A few days later we realised this was in fact the most unbelievably life changing call. The circumstances around the link were so positive. It would have been foolish of us not to find out more. Of course, as soon as we saw the profile – the picture – that was it. Love at first sight.

The rest is history as people would say. Four years later we did apply again. We do have the siblings we always wanted. They may not be connected through birth, but they are brother and sister in every way possible. We made the right decision. Followed our instincts. Listened to our heads and hearts. Took guidance from the professionals. The mere thought that we might have passed our daughter by as it wasn’t our original plan, well, that’s not actually worth thinking about.

So, what is it really like to adopt siblings? – at the same time. I’m delighted to introduce one of the first adoption Instagram accounts I followed – @andso_theadventurebegins. With her husband, they adopted twins and here she shares with us her story.

“I always knew I would be a mum and adoption was always a route I was open to taking. Thankfully, my husband was on board too.

The journey wasn’t straightforward. During the process there are many hoops to jump through and lots of questions to answer. One question was easy though – “would you consider adopting siblings?”.  This was a no brainer for us. If the opportunity arose then yes, we would love to adopt siblings.

We both have siblings ourselves and knew we wanted more than one child. So, it made sense to be assessed and approved for siblings. Importantly for us, it also made sense that our children would have a shared history. We were aware that not all children are able to be adopted together. We felt that if this was the right thing for the children, we could meet that need of keeping them together.

We were approved to adopt at panel in February 2017. We waited two weeks for confirmation from the agency decision maker (ADM). Our social worker called to tell us we had ADM approval and then added “would you consider adopting twins? I think they would be a good match for you.” I thought she was joking at first. She wasn’t.

I was at the social workers office within the hour to collect the twins profiles. The photos were useless. Their descriptions were just an A4 page each, but that was enough for us to want to know more. Three months later the match was approved at panel and they came home with us for good in July 2018.

Then came the learning curve and it was a steep one! It was no surprise to us that the children had challenging and complex needs.  But we were not prepared for the different parenting styles each of them required.  Our boy, Bambam, liked to shout, demanded constant attention and generally liked to be in charge. Our girl, Bean, hated any loud or sudden noises, was incredibly insular and needed encouragement to engage with simple tasks. At times, especially when there was only one of us at home, this felt impossible. I have to be honest to say we found it difficult to meet both of their needs consistently.

Bambam and Bean have what I believe to be a trauma bond. For some children, a trauma bond with a sibling can lead to difficulties in developing an attachment with a caregiver because the children are over reliant on each other. Bambam and Bean didn’t necessarily have that to begin with, but I believe it developed over time. Initially, they didn’t play together. They didn’t even really care what the other did or said. However, with their shared history came a shared trauma. They had experienced this together – albeit in completely different ways.

Although they both suffered neglect, one was favoured and the other was scapegoated. When they first came home, they would fight for resources and really hurt one another. We’re not talking usual sibling rivalry. It was survival of the fittest type behaviour. They couldn’t be left alone together. Ever. This makes sense when their experience had been there wasn’t enough love, attention, food or toys to go around. On top of that, they would desperately attempt to stop the other being upset. Seemingly in fear of repercussions for themselves.

It was hard and I am sad to say I sometimes wondered if they should have been placed together. We threw ourselves into therapeutic parenting. We tried to meet their individual needs; one went to nursery a month before the other for example because they needed different things. Gradually the fog cleared.

They started asking about each other. They stopped hurting each other as much. Bean found her voice and Bambam began to let her. They would spontaneously hug and kiss each other. Then, one day they asked to share a bedroom and still do.  Now I have no doubt that keeping them together was the right thing to do.

I have shared all of this not to scare you, but to provide some insight into the reality, or at least our reality, of adopting siblings. It was hard and, on some days, it still is. They still have hugely differing needs. It’s impossible to do it all, all the time. But would we do it all again? Yes. In a heartbeat. They are the very best decision we have ever made.”

This is such an open and honest account of a real challenge adoption can bring. Thank you @andso_theadventurebegins for sharing the reality of how early life trauma can impact on the behaviours of little ones. A situation that prospective adopters may be faced with. Not all. But some.

My intention with these blogs is to show the good, and the challenges. This guest blog does just that. As mentioned, this is not to scare you. After all, it’s a story with a happy ending. It may not be this way for you. But, I think it’s important to know the possibilities. To hear first hand. Remember there is a lot of support out there for adopters experiencing challenges. Through your adoption agency or the likes of leading adoption charity Adoption UK.

Despite these difficulties. Without question they made the right decision. For them. For their children. It’s an absolute joy to see how they are progressing. To see the love, commitment and dedication these precious children now receive. It’s so heart-warming to see the bond the children now have with each other. With their mummy and daddy.

Adoption isn’t always straight forward. The early days are tough. As you wade through the unknown. Scared to say or do the wrong thing. I tried to remind myself that becoming parents is difficult. For everyone. In whatever way you happen to have your children. Stories I’d hear from friends with birth children showed this was of course difficult too. Challenges are real for us all. Whatever form they take…“we are not all in the same boat, but we are all in the same storm”.

As adoptive parents, we are not responsible for what our children may have been through. Often, I think we carry the burden as if we had. We give them the love, safety and security they deserve. And with time, we help them heal. Show how life should be. As a forever family. And it’s without question the best feeling in the world.

If you want to see this beautiful adoption story as it continues to unfold, you can follow @andso_theadventurebegins on Instagram – don’t forget you can find me there too @rosemarylucasadoptiontales and can also Purchase a copy here of my children’s adoption storybook – The Family Fairies.

Adopting Birth Siblings

Adoption is complex. Situations rarely straightforward. One thing that struck me throughout our adoption journey was just how much was outside of our control.

Often our future lay firmly in the hands of people we’d never met. Decisions made from words in lengthy reports. Strangers at panel who could make or break our dreams.

Another factor out of our hands was the future path birth parents would take. Birth mothers could completely turn their lives around. Begin to offer the safety and security their children need. Or, they could repeatably find themselves in similar situations.

Multiple pregnancies are not uncommon. This statement is not judgemental. I’m certainly not stereotyping. But the chances are often high. Social workers raise this with prospective adopters from the outset.

I still find this concept difficult to comprehend. That my children might have birth siblings they may never meet or, that one day we may be asked to consider welcoming into our family too. 

@wemadeawishadoptionmagazine was faced with this very situation. This is how Suzy and her husband approached it…

Is there a right time for a sibling?

“I always thought I’d be a mum of two. I’ve got an older sister and I can’t imagine my life without her. I’ve learned so much from her and she’s shaped my life in so many ways.

When we started our adoption journey, we knew we weren’t cut out to parent a sibling group straight away. I take my hat off to anyone who does. I couldn’t get my head round how we’d meet each child’s individual needs as well as developing a bond and getting to know them.

We were approved for a single child, but thought we’d adopt again when the time was right. In my head the best scenario would be if a full sibling came along. It’s funny how reality turns out to be very different from how you imagine.

The week after I’d returned to work from adoption leave, I got an email from our social worker. Birth mum had turned up at hospital 35 weeks pregnant. The plan was for adoption. Her circumstances hadn’t changed. Our social worker wanted to know if we’d like to be considered. I’d often played over in my mind how I’d feel if a sibling came along. Eldest is birth mother’s sixth child so we knew it was always possible.

Eldest had started nursery about a month before I went back to work. She was really struggling to adjust to being there. Drop offs were very stressful. She was fine once we left, but leaving her in tears was just awful.

I was also finding being back at work very hard. Not only was I having to try and remember how to do my job, but the upset of nursery drop offs meant I often ended up in tears as I drove to work.

My gut reaction was that the timing was completely wrong. I was struggling massively. Eldest was struggling too. It felt too much to put a new-born baby into the mix (at that stage, the plan was fostering to adopt).

But my heart wanted to say yes. I wanted eldest to grow up with a sibling. They’d be able to support each other in a way I couldn’t because of their birth connection. Saying “no” was making a conscious decision that eldest wouldn’t grow up with a birth sibling. That felt wrong.

I was also worried what our social worker would say if we said no. What our friends and family would think. On paper it was the perfect way to complete our family. A young baby who was our daughter’s full sibling.

But that’s the thing. Just because something is right on paper, doesn’t mean it will be in real life. The most important thing was eldest’s welfare. She was our priority especially as she was struggling. Bringing a sibling into the mix felt like it would make those struggles worse. Our bond with her was still developing and it was just the wrong time.

My biggest concern about saying no was whether eldest would agree (when she was older) that we’d made the right decision. It was a huge responsibility. It’s one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made.  My husband tends to be black and white about things. He knew it was the wrong time and said so from the start. I spent a long time trying to convince myself we could make it work, even though I knew deep down it just wasn’t right for us as a family.

I actually made myself ill agonising over it. This made me realise I needed to follow my first instinct. It just wasn’t right for our daughter. For us all. Once I’d let myself accept that, it felt like a weight had been lifted.

I was so nervous telling our social worker. I was worried she’d try and convince us to change our minds. She’d always had faith in us. In our parenting abilities. It felt like we were letting her down too.

As usual though, she was brilliant. So reassuring. She accepted our decision without question. That made me feel a lot better. I knew we’d made the right decision for us as a family. I needed her to see that too.

It took me a long time to come to terms with what had happened. I felt guilty and, to a certain extent, I think I always will. Not because we made the wrong decision. We didn’t. Seeing how much our daughter thrived the second year she was home showed us she needed that time with us on her own. But I will always feel guilty that the decision meant she wouldn’t grow up with that sibling.

We spent the next few years enjoying being a family of three. A lot of people said to me that saying no then didn’t mean we couldn’t adopt in the future. For a long time, I didn’t believe that. The more time we spent as a three, the more it felt that was how things were meant to be. I couldn’t imagine having another child and being able to love them as much as I loved eldest.

Then, at the start of 2018 I got an email from our social worker completely out of the blue. It was just over three years after eldest came home. I had a feeling before I opened it – birth mum was pregnant again.

We’d asked our social worker to let us know if there was another pregnancy. At that stage, it wasn’t necessarily because we wanted to be considered if adoption was the plan. We just wanted to know so that we could feed it into eldest’s life story work.

As soon as I read the email, everything felt right. Previously, birth mum had disclosed her pregnancies late. This time there was a few months until she was due, so we’d have some time. Eldest was very happy and settled and although she was starting school later in the year, the timing felt right.

My husband was less sure – we had a lot to talk about. The biggest positive was eldest would be able to grow up with a sibling. That would be a massive thing for her. She has two big cousins who she adores, we knew she’d be in her element being an older sister.

Our biggest concerns were money and our ages. We hadn’t planned on adding to our family, so had spent a lot of money on our house and garden. That meant we had no savings and some manageable debt. My husband was 54, I was 45. He was worried he was too old for such a young baby.

In the end, the concerns weren’t enough to say no. We were both in relatively good health and not having much money didn’t mean we wouldn’t be able to give a sibling a loving and stable home.

Once the decision was made, we both knew it was the right one. I couldn’t believe that after thinking for so long we’d always be a three, we were going to have a young baby.

We said from the start that we wouldn’t do fostering to adopt. Birth mum’s circumstances hadn’t changed, but there was always the chance she would turn things around during the assessment and court proceedings. We felt it wouldn’t be fair on eldest if there was a chance baby wouldn’t stay with us long term. However small the possibility was.

Youngest has been with us for about eighteen months now. Seeing her and eldest together has shown that both decisions we made about siblings were the right ones. They are so happy together (most of the time!). The love they have for one another melts my heart. If we’d said yes to the other sibling, youngest would never have come into our lives. That’s an anxious thought. This is how we were destined to become a family of four. This is how it was meant to be.”

This is such an honest account of a difficult circumstance. It can feel like an impossible situation – how will you ever know what to do? Suzy takes a sensible approach. Shows caution. Assesses pros and cons. Follows her instinct.

Adoption needs you to keep an open mind. There will be twists and turns. Just when you think you are happy and complete; the phone could ring with news a sibling is on its way.

Of course, wherever possible birth siblings should be together. We all understand why. Every step should be taken to investigate if it’s feasible. But I use the word “be” not “stay” very purposefully for this situation.

For me, you are not breaking up a family if it’s never actually been together. A very important point I want to make. It’s not the same as splitting up siblings that have shared part of their lives, but are then adopted separately. This is different. A topic for another blog perhaps.

Adopting future siblings will be discussed during assessments and panel, but you are not expected to commit to doing this. You might express good intentions, but you won’t know if it’s right until you are faced with the reality. Suzy’s guest blog shows just this.

The change in dynamic could be detrimental for everyone. If it’s not right – at that time, or any other – that’s ok. Work through it step by step. If your hearts and heads draw to this conclusion, that’s your answer. It’s a difficult decision – but it’s not a guilt to carry.

What I do know, what I believe to be important, is that birth siblings should always be part of life stories. Should always be remembered. If they can’t be together, then they can safely nestle in hearts and minds. Forever.

You can follow “We Made a Wish” on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. You’ll also find an array of wonderful adoption gifts on their online shop wemadeawish.co.uk, as well as a wealth of fantastic resource material to support adopters…go check it out!

Remember I am also available on all social media platforms, follow the links on my Homepage. If you’d like to find out more about my adoption children’s storybook The Family Fairies, you can Purchase a Copy Here.

Sharing Adoption News

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One of the big questions you face when adopting is when to tell people. It’s really hard. You may have waited years for this moment. Been on a rocky road to becoming parents. So want to shout from the roof tops that it’s finally going to happen. But there are many hoops to go through. A lengthy process to follow.

I wanted to protect people. The people close to us. They had been through the years of infertility and losses with us. I didn’t want to let them down. Again. Get their hopes up in case it all went wrong. Again.

I was also keen to avoid a barrage of questions. Constant messages for updates. News. Progress. I knew it would have been out of excitement. Maybe concern. Certainly hope. But I wanted to take things slowly. Try and get on with our lives in the meantime. Well, as best we could.

I’m delighted to share a first-hand account from a fellow adoptive mum about how she approached this subject with her husband. Here, Jade from Instagram account @xj.a.d.e_l.e.i.g.hx tells us what they decided to do.

In January 2018 we made the biggest decision of our lives and embarked on the journey of adoption. My husband and I decided to keep our new adventure a secret and only told immediate family. I had mixed emotions about it. Deep down I knew they would be supportive and over the moon that we were starting our family. I just couldn’t help but feel anxious as well as excited.

As there are young children in our family, I was also worried about how people would react or treat our child. I was concerned they might view them differently. Looking back now I see how silly that seemed, but at the time I was overwhelmed with my own feelings.

We thought for a while about how we would tell our parents about our adoption. We wanted to make it memorable. We had cards made that said, “you’re going to be grandparents, we’re adopting”. We gave them to our parents at the same time, so they were able to celebrate together. Emotions were high and everyone was tearful. They were so happy about what we were about to do.

Everyone had so many questions. Mainly around how they could help us. They also wanted to know all about the process. What part they would play. How long the process would take. We tried to answer the questions as best we could at that time. Our parents were great and did a lot of research and reading themselves in order to try and understand the process. This helped us a lot.

During the assessment our parents helped us piece together our family tree, eco map and also with our personal statements. We wanted to choose one of our parents to be a referee but didn’t want to choose between our family. As trivial as it sounds, we literally pulled names from a hat. It was my mother that was chosen. She was so pleased and honoured to be a big part of our assessment process.

I’ll never forget though how nervous she was when she was interviewed by our social worker. She was so nervous about saying the right things. By saying the wrong things. After it, she was so worried. She couldn’t remember what she had been asked or what she had said. Of course, it had gone amazingly though!

Throughout the adoption process our parents helped us prepare for our new arrival. Helping us to get the bedroom ready and all the equipment and accessories that we needed for the baby. My mother and I spent many weekends on girls shopping trips. We are so close, and this was to be her first grandchild. We had the best times. I had never seen her so happy.

Towards the end of the adoption process our families were invited to an information evening providing them with some of the details that we had received through our training days. They were offered advice and ways to help them understand and support us going forward. For our parents to attend the open evening meant so much to us. It showed how supportive they were and how they wanted to continue to support us as well as our child. Their grandchild.

We felt that the information evening was a great tool. We tried to relay the information the best we could about what we had learned. But it’s better coming from the adoption agency. Our parents found it very beneficial and highly recommended it.

In November 2019 we were officially matched. We’d decided not to share this with anyone. We kept our baby a secret just between my husband and me. It was hard though as we were so excited and wanted to celebrate with everyone. Wanted them to share our happiness. So, we eventually decided the time was right to tell our wider family.

We arranged a little gathering (which ended up being 60 people!) at our local restaurant. We decorated it in pink and blue, with cakes, balloons, banners and signs. At the entrance we had a sign announcing that we were adopting. I had butterflies and was so nervous about what everyone’s reaction would be.

It felt so surreal, it had been something I had dreamt of for so many years. I never thought it would happen. Our family were ecstatic and instantly I knew that our baby would be so loved by everyone. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

So, at this point all our family were on the same page and oblivious that we had been matched. Then came our next surprise! We handed out envelopes to every family member and asked them not to open it. We’d arranged for a really big balloon filled with the clue of whether our child would be a boy or a girl. It wasn’t long until people worked out that this was going to be a big reveal.

We counted down 1..2..3 and popped the balloon. We were having a girl! A daughter. We then asked everyone to open their envelopes. Inside was a photograph along with a message and her name attached. It was such an emotional night. I finally started to feel that it was really happening. We were ecstatic and our family were just as excited as we were to meet her. She was going to be a very lucky little girl to have such loving family. And we felt very lucky too.”

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I love this post! I love how engaged Jade’s family were with their adoption journey. They sound very special to me and I’m sure you’ll agree.

It is hard to keep things from the people you love. To keep what is possibly the biggest secret of your life. But I think it’s right. Until the time is right. I think it’s important for partners to have some special time to themselves to take it all in. Adjust to what’s ahead.

I can’t pretend that I didn’t wonder if our families would love our child in the same way as if I’d given birth. If they’d have the same connection with them. Feel attached. I thought all these things. It might sound unfair on them, but I think it’s only natural. What I do know now is that I did them an injustice. I can say with all my being, that they love my children exactly the same. My sister gave birth to my niece not long before my daughter came home. This was a really big deal. Especially for my parents as first-time grandparents. But honestly, their feelings for our children are just as strong. Their love is without question equal.

Jade’s story is so lovely to share. I hope that if you are on your own adoption journeys it’s given you some good guidance. There are some really useful tips in here, especially around parents attending adoption information evenings. We never thought of this when we adopted. And it was never suggested.

Finally, the thought and detail that went in to the “big reveal” brings a tear to my eye. I can just feel the anticipation. The excitement. Oozing from the room. Hearts bursting. Skipping a beat. I wish we had thought of something so creative. If you are heading towards this point in the process, I hope this has given you some food for thought.

This blog is just another poignant reminder of the wonder of adoption. Of the powerful emotions it creates. For everyone. It shows that families are made from love not DNA. That you don’t have to grow a baby to be a mum.  They grow in your heart. Adoption doesn’t just make parents. It makes grandparents, aunties, cousins and more. It brings families together. It brings joy. Love. Unconditional love. And it truly is the best feeling.

You can follow Jade on her Instagram account @xj.a.d.e_l.e.i.g.hx as she continues her journey of motherhood with her very special little girl.

Fostering – more than just a job

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It’s tricky for me to find the right words when talking about our foster carers. To express my gratitude. Someone once said to me “without them there’s no us” – I guess this pretty much sums it up.

They looked after and loved our children until we were able to take over. Until the stars aligned and we could bring them home. We are forever grateful for the significant part they played in bringing our family together.

Never underestimate how crucial a foster carers role is in the adoption process. Supporting troubled or traumatised children. I can’t image how it must feel to get the phone call that there’s a child in need. Hear the back story. See the fear in their eyes. Sense the vulnerability in their actions. But slowly and steadily, foster carers give them comfort. Form healthy attachments. Show them life can be better. Should be better.

I’m truly delighted to share with you the thoughts of @fosteringiscaring who I connected with on Instagram. It’s a privilege to hear first-hand how she approaches her “job”. As adoptive parents, I think you’ll agree it’s so much more than this.

I asked her the following questions, here are her responses…

What are the main challenges you face when children are first placed with you?     

The challenges are immense. Our most challenging placement was when we had 3, all 2.5 years and under. All non-verbal, not potty trained, and displaying self-injury behaviour. When I say we were like cats on hot bricks I mean it. Constantly waiting for one of them to have a trigger which we would need to therapeutically help them through. This was a very difficult placement. Our lives completely revolved around their needs. 10pm bowls of cornflakes were very often our tea during this time. Whilst trying to settle into life as a new “family” (we’re aware this is temporary), we’d often have 3 or more contacts a week – meetings, appointments, etc. This made settling in difficult as everything just seemed so rushed.  In the first month of their placement we probably had 20 appointments/meetings. They were pretty much daily and were a lot to factor in amongst their needs.

How does it feel when you know a child has been matched?

It’s always a strange feeling. Most of the time we’ve worked with the birth families for 6 + months. Grown a relationship with them. So, when you know it’s coming to an end, it can be bittersweet. We’ve always been really lucky and had good relationships with birth families. Once a child has been matched, goodbye contact is arranged soon after. That’s a really tough day.  My heart breaks for the birth parents as this really is the final goodbye. However, these little people deserve love, nourishing, and stability. Adoption gives that to them. It’s the start of something really great for them. My husband and I are always keen to meet their adoptive parents. To start growing a relationship with them too.

How do you prepare the children for adoption?

Generally, the little ones we’ve moved on to adoption are around 2.5 years old, or younger. They have very little understanding of what’s ahead and what adoption is. However, we try our very best to ensure they know that as much as we love them (and we really do), that we’re just a steppingstone. We start talking about what toys they’ll take when they go to their Dad and Daddy, Mum and Mummy or Mum and Dad. Usually when we start preparing them, we know about their forever family and the dynamics.  We try and make sure their memory boxes are completed a few weeks prior to introductions. This allows them a chance to see all the memories they’ll take with them. Two of our little ones who were recently moved on took 500+ photos from the last 15 months!

I think if we have an older child in the future, preparation will be talking about what adoption is and why it will be good for them. They’ll have much more understanding. We’ll talk through what this will give them and how important it is for them to have the stability of a forever family. 

How do you integrate transition books/toys?

We get the transition books and stuffed toys around 2-3 weeks prior to introductions starting. This allows us to introduce them gradually. Our last two who moved on to adoption were 18 months, and 2.5 years old. We read their introduction book with them every night. Used it as their bedtime story. We found it worked really well. Their stuffed animals were left on their beds to play with when they were ready. We let them know they could do this anytime.  Our 2.5-year-old requested to sleep with “Daddy” every night, which was the introduction book – really cute! 

In their bedroom they had photos of their birth family. We slowly started to replace these (they go in a memory box), with photos of their new family so they can always see them. The way we introduce these items has worked really well for us. When they meet their adoptive families, they’ve always called them “Dad, Mum, etc” from the get-go. This is absolutely lovely to hear!

How do you deal with “goodbyes”?

Goodbyes are extremely difficult. I will never sugar coat this. I try to hold back my tears until we’ve shut the door. But it doesn’t always happen. These little people always have a massive impact on our lives. They’re part of our family, and always will be. To say goodbye is the end of our part in their life. We send them to their new families with all their memories, so when they’re older, they can see exactly how much we cared for them. Also, in their memory boxes is a letter from us. We write about how much we love them, enjoyed caring for them, and wish them nothing but the best. We are usually the first people they’ve ever had a healthy attachment with. We can only hope that they’ll get this with their forever family. There’s no denying it though – the goodbye is awful.  

We always hope that we get to stay in-touch, but if not, we know we’ve done our very best. We know they’re getting exactly what they deserve, which is stability, love, and a family of their own. We tell each child the same, whether they’re 20 weeks old or 20 years old – the door is always open if they need a home.

How does on-going contact work?

When children move on to adoption, our Local Authority tries to arrange a contact visit within around 6 weeks. Depending on circumstances this can happen sooner. This helps the children to see that we’ve not just disappeared. That we still love them greatly. But they need to start to understand we’re no longer their main caregivers. This can take some time depending on their age or how long they’ve been part of our family. It’s always so lovely to see them. To see how they’re doing. How they’ve bonded with their parents.  Adoption really is so beautiful!

We say to every adoptive family; the phone is always on, and the door is always open. We want them to know we are here for them if they ever need a chat, advice, or if we can answer any questions. Unfortunately, it’s up to adopters whether to keep in-touch or not. We hope they do but understand if they need a while to bond as a new family. It is a challenge and they will have their own difficulties to adjust to I’m sure.

Throughout all our time fostering, we feel exceptionally privileged to have been a part of so many wonderful children’s lives. We feel grateful we were able to be their safe place, if only for a little while.”

I don’t mind admitting I shed a tear when I read this. A genuine insight into what it’s really like to foster. It’s so heart-warming. I get such an overwhelming sense of the love felt for the children in her care. Thank you @fosteringiscaring for entrusting me with your story.

Foster carers open their hearts to vulnerable children. Hold a nervous hand. Hug away a fear. They love. They care. They share. Their role is to give a safe, secure and stable place to call home. Something these youngsters may never have experienced. Protection shouldn’t be a privilege. Love shouldn’t be limited. Children deserve to feel, well – like children. Foster carers make this happen.

And when the time is right and the rewards of their dedication and commitment have paid off, they open their homes to adoptive parents. They gently and steadily pave the way for us to become a mum or a dad. They help and guide us. Teach us what we need to know about our son or daughter.

We have always talked to our children about the wonderful kindness their foster carers gave them. Stressed how important they are in our lives. If you are familiar with my children’s adoption storybook – The Family Fairies – you may know that I dedicated it to foster carers and social workers. To give them some much deserved recognition. They are the true “family fairies”…they really do make dreams come true.

You can follow @fosteringiscaring on Instagram as she continues her remarkable journey of changing little ones lives. You’ll also find me there too with my account @rosemarylucasstorytime .

To read some of the great feedback the The Family Fairies has received, you can check find out more in Book Reviews . I’m delighted it’s helped to support so many little ones in understanding their adoption journeys, including their transition from foster home to forever home. You can Purchase a copy here. Thank you!

Time To Meet At Last

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The moment has finally arrived. The moment you feel you’ve waited your whole life for. Despite all the training and support, you somehow feel totally unprepared. It’s time to meet your child. Perhaps more than one. Your son. Your daughter. It’s time for introductions to start.

This stage is planned with precision. The child’s welfare at the forefront. A great deal of groundwork is laid by foster carers. Sharing transition toys and books. Showing videos of adoptive parents and their homes for familiarisation.

I had a whirl of mixed emotions. Imagined the worst. Convinced myself that my child would turn away as I reached out to them. That they’d cry when I tried to interact. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was the most incredible moment. A moment where in a split second, I knew I would love this child in a way I loved no other. Endless, unwavering, unconditional love. The kind of love that’s only shared between a parent and their child.

I’m so pleased to share Jessica’s story (Instagram account @jessicalaurenlewis). She talks of her experience of introductions. The reality of what’s involved. How it felt. She has given an insight into the practicalities and her emotions. This is her story…

“We first set eyes on our daughter in a slightly different way. Chemistry visits were to take place before matching panel. Not all local authorities do them. Even the next one to us doesn’t. But I think they are a good idea. The purpose is to see if there’s chemistry with the child. Between them and us as their prospective parents.

We’d known from the beginning, from “A”s profile, that she had some medical conditions that we needed to be comfortable with. That we would need to learn more about. These would also need to be factored into introductions if all went to plan at panel.

At our first chemistry visit, while “A” slept, we spoke to the foster carer and asked questions about routine, what food she liked, how she slept, what physio she had, what medical appointments she was going to. Then we heard her cry a little and the foster carer brought her down. She had the biggest smile on her face when she saw us. I remember clearly that she had the messiest hair!  All I wanted to do was run over and cuddle her. But I couldn’t. I knew I needed to hold back until the time was right.

After she had lunch, we were able to have our first precious cuddles. My heart burst for her. It was honestly the best feeling. We’d known about her for a couple of months but due to various meetings and her foster carer being on holiday, it was delayed. It was so worth the wait in every way though.

We saw her once more for a chemistry visit before panel. This time it was a bit more hands on which was lovely. She had lunch, we helped bath her and got her dressed. Then we played with her for a while. The social worker took some pictures and it was just amazing. We just wanted to take her home with us, but of course there were more steps to take until we could.  

We thought we’d see her again before matching panel, but they moved us forward. Luckily a space came up a week earlier. It was great they could fit us in, but it fell on the same day we were due to see her. We didn’t mind and we were happy panel was early. It was a step closer to her coming home.

We had matching panel on 11th September and were delighted to get a unanimous “yes”! Then only a week later, we had the planning meeting for introductions. This involved all the important people responsible for our little ones care. The adoption social worker manager, our social worker, “A”s social worker, the family finder, the foster carer and the foster carers social worker. The plan for introductions had already been drafted and we’d had the opportunity to see it between panel and the planning meeting.

The manager really helped in supporting us with “A”s additional needs and gave us a pack with theraplay ideas, some body maps and a sheet to note times we had to give “A” her medication. After that we went through the draft and made sure it worked for us all. We had to change a few times due to the foster carers commitment with her other foster children. But not a lot changed other than this and we were really pleased with it. 

Our introductions started a week later. We got there around 9.30. Of course, we had met “A” a couple of times at the chemistry visits so had already had that first special cuddle. “A” was sitting eating breakfast and gave us the biggest smile when she saw us – it was the best feeling. The first day we spent a lot of time playing in the playroom. I remember feeling really awkward about being in someone else’s house, but the foster carer made us feel very welcome. The second day involved more time at the house, and we got to do the morning routine. We even got to take “A” to the park.

On the third day we knew we were progressing to do bedtime routine so got there later in the afternoon. We took “A” to soft play and then took her back. We did dinner time with her, gave her a bath and then gave her a bottle ready for bed. This was a special moment.

We then had a day off, so we put garden storage up and got the final bits ready for her to come to us for a visit the next day. The foster carer bought a lot of her stuff with her. She has a lot of equipment to support her medical needs. It was nice for the foster carer and the other children to look at “A”s bedroom. We chatted for a bit and then they left.

It was weird but wonderful finally seeing our little girl in our house. We spent the day indoors playing and getting her used to the house. We took her back at bedtime, gave her a bottle and put her to bed. This happened pretty much every day until Thursday. Thursday was scheduled as “coming home” day.

Throughout introductions our social worker rang us every day to see how we were doing. Offering support, but also keeping in touch to see if they needed to extend the length of introductions. As everything was going so well for us, this didn’t need to happen. So, it was agreed we could bring her home.

I felt so emotional that day. I felt sad for the foster carer and I felt sad for “A”. When we arrived “A”s social worker was already there. We all had a cup of tea. We all had cuddles. And then there was the goodbye. There were lots of tears – although “A” was laughing away! We went to the car and signed a few things the social worker gave us, and then that was it. We could take her home forever. It was the weirdest day with such emotions. Happy, sad, overwhelmed. Every emotion you can feel. But above anything else, we felt full of love.”

This is a lovely account of that special first meet. The mixed emotions you feel. I have yet to find anyone who didn’t find introductions exhausting. They are. But they are the start of your road to being a forever family. The tiredness is worth every second.

Sometimes, things do need to be re-evaluated. Sometimes things aren’t as smooth as Jessica’s story. Foster homes may have given the only sense of safety and security little ones have ever experienced. Having people coming into their safe environment, can be unsettling. It can be traumatic leaving. Leaving behind the comfort blanket that is their foster carer. On rare occasions, placements break down. Introductions have to stop. Not often, but it does happen. It would be unfair of me not to acknowledge this.

Luckily though for Jessica, and most others, this wasn’t the case. Their experience was a positive one. It’s lovely to be able to report that “A” has settled in really well. Their lives are full of love. Full of priceless moments that will last a lifetime. Full of memories to capture and share. As a family. Together. Forever.

Follow Jessica on her Instagram account @jessicalaurenlewis to keep up to date with her ongoing adoption journey.

Lastly, don’t forget my children’s adoption storybook  – The Family Fairies – can really help to support your little ones in understanding key stages of the adoption process. Here is an exert of how I explain introductions and coming home.

“Time to meet at last, the big day was here. Happy tears and tight hugs to hold oh so dear. Learning together day by day. More Family Fairies guiding the way. Then their treasure came home, what a beautiful grin. Settle in, snuggle down. Let the fun begin!”

Face to Face Contact with Birth Mother

When we applied to adopt, it never occurred to me we might have a face to face relationship with our children’s birth mothers. During assessments, only limited discussions around this took place. We were always open to letterbox contact. Welcomed this. But when it came to direct contact, this wasn’t something that sat comfortably with us. It feels terrible writing this now. But it was the truth at the time.

We were asked if we’d consider a preplacement meeting. The importance of this for the future just didn’t resonate with us. Not as it should have. The idea actually made us feel a bit uneasy. What were we scared of – confusion, rejection? Looking back, we were probably thinking more about us than our future child. So, we said no. And it was never mentioned again.

As it happens, when we were matched with both of our children, the circumstances around the adoptions meant that a meeting was never going to be possible. So that was that. No face to face meetings were to take place.

I am delighted to share a poignant and powerful account of someone that took a different view to us. Kerry (you can follow her on Instagram – @kezzabods) has had the privilege of meeting the women that made her a mum. She has taken the remarkable tentative steps in starting a face to face relationship with her adopted sons birth mother. Here she tells us why she feels it’s the best option for him.

The first time I laid eyes on my son, it wasn’t in the delivery suite of a midwife led unit during a miraculous water birth as I had originally anticipated. Instead, it was a grainy photo on a Child Permanence Report that made him look a bit like the baby in the sun at the start of the Tellytubbies. Slightly less romanticised. But every bit ‘love at first sight’. 

Baby J, was a baby we had been fighting for. For months. Social workers had repeatedly told us he was matched with another couple. They were not pursuing any further links. Of course – I knew better. Of course, Baby J was meant to be our baby.

It boggled me that the social workers couldn’t see this. It was blindingly obvious to me, but they were thinking logically. They found perfectly suitable parents to love and look after him. He was going to get his happy ending. I couldn’t help myself though, and continued to check in with the social workers. They assured me if anything went “wrong” they would be in touch. And it did.

A month after we were approved as adopters, we got a phone call from our social worker. “Remember Baby J? It’s fallen through”. And so, it began. More meetings with more social workers. More chocolate digestives put on fancy plates that nobody touched. An introduction with Baby J’s foster carer was scheduled. And the following month – we were approved to adopt our baby. The baby I always knew was meant to be.

J’s history was neatly compiled into his report. His time in foster care, some information on his birth mum and her pregnancy. She was just like him – a name on a piece of paper. A grainy photograph. Not really real. We empathised with her story. Understood she wasn’t a bad person, but our focus was entirely on our baby.

Meeting up with birth parents had been discussed with us during the adoption process. Something more commonplace amongst adopters and birth parents in the UK than you might imagine. Clearly as long as it is safe to do so. Six weeks after he moved in – I met her. We had expected this all along and so a meeting didn’t come as a surprise to us.

What happened over the next ninety minutes changed me forever. This young woman was real now. Our son was her double. She thanked us for being his parents. Referred to him as “our son”. Told us everything he would need to know. Shared intimate moments of her time with him. Showed photographs she hadn’t shared with anyone else. She even gave us a family tree she’d sketched for him. We hugged, we cried, and most importantly – we connected. This young woman was now a part of my life. My son’s mother. She had given me everything I had ever wanted.

Our annual letterbox contact started shortly after. I sent photographs of him, and a month-by-month diary of things we did and what he’d learnt. I struggled to filter photos so ended up sending about fifty! These were moments she wasn’t able to be part of and I wanted her to be. I wanted her to see the life he was having – not to make it harder for her, but because I knew he was having the life she wanted him to have.

I worried I was overdoing it, and ensured she knew she could say if it was too much to cope with. But she didn’t. She loved it. She sent me more precious photographs from her contact time with him when he was in care. Some of her and what she was doing more recently. She mentioned a book she was reading, which I had read the previous year. I made some recommendations – and so our ‘letterbox book club’ started.

I met her again recently. Almost two years to the day since that first meeting. Seeing her brought back all the emotions and love I had felt the first time around. I know it was the same for her too. We caught up. I showed her videos of our son, including one I had filmed the night before of him saying hello to her and telling her he loved her. We talked about some new projects we were each working on. We even discussed potentially collaborating on a book together in the future – something that I’m very keen to do.

We are cautiously taking steps forward in our relationship with her. In her relationship with him. This is new territory for all of us, but I truly believe that the best thing for our son is to know the woman who gave him life. It won’t be easy, but it is fuelled by a mutual love and respect for each other – as parents. We understand he is the most important person in all of our lives. And if I get to have this wonderful friendship with her, it only seems fair that he does too.

(photographs provided by Kerry and permission to post)

I’m so glad Kerry has shared her story. A refreshing perspective. All adoptions are of course different. Countries like America are well known for having successful open adoptions. But it’s fair to say, face to face contact with birth families needs a great deal of consideration. The long-term positive outcomes for adopted children are believed to be very strong. For their identity. For the answers to their questions. But it can also be troubling and confusing if not handled in the right way.

Birth parents are sometimes vulnerable themselves. The reasons children were placed in to care must be factored in. It can of course be very emotional for everyone. Not always a positive experience. Ultimately, the safety and impact on the child is paramount. They must be the top priority. But clearly it can work. Kerry is proof of that.

Her story has really made me think. I wish we’d read it when we started the process. Maybe my initial views might have been different. My fears allayed. My worries softened. If I’d had the chance to meet our children’s birth mothers, I’d have told them how incredibly brave their decisions were. I’d thank them from the bottom of my heart. Show them the incredible impact they’ve had on our lives. Without them there’d be no us. Above anything else, they gave me the most precious gift of all. A gift I never thought I’d ever have…the gift of motherhood.

Thank you so much Kerry, I’m sure many readers will connect to your story. Don’t forget you can follow her and her ongoing adoption journey on Instagram @kezzabods.