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.