There’s nothing better than hearing first hand from people who have been through the adoption experience. We asked Helen the top ten questions that are asked of adopters at our Information Events.
What top tips you would offer to potential adopters?
Speak to people who have already adopted. If you don’t know anyone who has adopted, ask your social worker if there is any one they can put you in touch with. I knew people who had adopted but no one who had adopted a child on their own as I was going to. I was put in touch with a woman who had adopted a little girl and was able to ask lots of questions and get a real insight of what it would be like to be a single mum to an adopted child.
What is the best thing about adoption?
Knowing that you have given your child a stable loving home and to know you are going to give them all that you can to have the best start in life. To fulfil my dream of becoming a mother and being able to give all the love I have to my child and to feel that my family is now complete.
Why did you decide to adopt?
I have always wanted children, and when I hit 40 I decided if the right partner hadn’t come along I was going to go ahead with fertility treatment and have a private donor. I also decided if fertility treatment didn’t work out for me, I would look into adopting. After multiple miscarriages I decided to have a short break then go on to adopt.
How did you find the process?
I found the process straight forward and relatively quick. I had waited a lifetime to have a child so 15 months from attending my first adoption evening to having my child seemed very quick indeed. I am aware it can take longer for some people and I was very lucky to get a match so soon.
I had a great social worker who explained things to me very clearly so I knew what was happening, every step of the way.
There was quite a bit of homework involved, lots of questions to be answered and discussed which at first can seem a little intrusive but quite quickly I built a good relationship with my social worker which is very important.
Looking back, would you do anything differently?
Accept help. In the first year or so, there were times when being a single parent to an adopted child was very overwhelming and stressful, particularly if I hadn’t slept well. I didn’t always accept help because I wanted to prove to everyone that I could do this all on my own.
My advice is to accept help or ask for help if you need to. I wish I had at times because it would have made things a little easier. My family and friends are a good support network and now I do accept help and I do ask for help if I need to.
What support did you receive?
During the adoption process I had a lot of support from my social worker, the adoption team and also from other people who were going through this process at the same time which made me feel I wasn’t alone. After the adoption took place there is also support from the post adoption service should you need it.
My friends and family have all supported me every step of the way, they were always right behind me and there to offer any help or support should I need it.
How are you finding being an adoptive parent?
An absolute joy, it is an amazing experience and so rewarding. To be honest I don’t think about him as an adoptive child all that often. He has blended and bonded with our family so well that it feels as though he is biologically mine. Even my family and friends have said the same thing. No-one would be able to guess he is adopted.
How did you feel adopting as a single person?
It can be difficult and stressful at times as all the responsibility is on me but the happiness and joy it brings certainly make up for it. There are advantages to being a single parent by choice and that is I am able to make my own decisions and I don’t have to negotiate things with anyone else.
Being a single mum to an adopted child makes me want to tell others that, single parents can do it! I’m surprised at the amount of people who do not know, that being single does not stop you from adopting. It makes me want to spread the word!
What are the best bits of being a parent?
Hearing him call me ‘Mummy’ and giving me lots of love and kisses. He reminds me every day what’s really important in life. Watching him grow from a toddler to a confident and happy little boy and knowing I’ve been part of that.
What are the challenges of being an adoptive parent?
I guess one of the biggest challenges I have had to face so far is telling your child about their life story. I began talking about adoption to my son at the age of 2. I realise he wouldn’t understand but he would become familiar with words. As he got older, I would tell him a little more each time we spoke about the adoption. He is still very young but he understands where he came from and what adoption means. I will continue to talk to him about his adoption as he gets older, in an age appropriate way. There is no telling how he will feel about being adopted as he grows up but being open and honest with him now and giving him lots of love and support will help any negative feelings or insecurities he may have.
Do you still have contact with the birth family?
I send a letter to my son’s birth parents once a year to reassure them that he is doing well. This is done via the letterbox service, and they also send a letter back to us in return.
How did you find the adoption preparation training?
I found these really informative and I learnt so much from them. They took you through the benefits and challenges of adopting and we also had the opportunity to speak to experienced adopters. We were given information packs to keep which are ideal to refer back to. The training was also an opportunity to meet other people who were also going through the process. Some of which I have still remained friends with today and we do meet up with the children for days out.
Did you take adoption leave? How did this help?
I took adoption leave from my job and I also took a career break so in total I had 18 months at home with my son. It was stressed by my social worker and on the training workshops, the importance of taking as much time off as possible and now I have been through the adoption process I can see why. This is so the bond between you and your child can be as strong and healthy as possible, which is very important for adopted children. I can honestly say that my son and I have an extremely strong bond, which was helped by the fact I was able to spend so much time with him before I went back to work.
How did you find bonding with your child?
I found bonding with my child a wonderful experience. I was very lucky that we didn’t really come across any issues and he settled in relatively quickly. I enjoyed all the time we had together that made our bond strong. As he was a toddler when he came to live with me, we spent this time playing, reading, following a good routine during the day, being responsive to his needs and of course lots of love and cuddles. We continued with this every day and over time our bond continued to grow.
How did you come to be matched with your child?
When I first started the adoption process, I was asked what sort of child I would be interested in adopting. I preferred a child that was 5 or under but it didn’t matter to me if it was a girl or a boy. This was a discussion I had with the social worker on numerous occasions as there were also other things to consider such as extra needs the child may have.
When I had been officially approved to adopt, I didn’t hear anything for a few weeks then one day my social worker called me to say they had found a match.
My criteria that had been agreed with the social worker had been matched with a child and their needs. After getting more details on this child, I agreed that I wanted to adopt him. I instantly felt he was the right child for me.
How did you find the introductions?
Scary and exciting all at the same time! Even though I had seen photos of my son before I met him, the introduction week was the first time I was actually going to meet my son! I had all these thoughts in my head, what is he going to be like? Will he like me? Will we get on? I was so nervous.
When I first saw him, he smiled at me and I instantly fell in love. Any insecurities I had lifted immediately.
On the first day of introduction week I observed the foster carer and on the second day it was me that would be feeding him and changing his nappy. As the week went on, I spent more time with him and eventually I could take him out on my own to the park. It was a very surreal feeling. I was extremely happy and excited but also anxious and a little scared that I would be taking him home in a few days and I would be responsible for this child and become his Mummy. It was very overwhelming but also the most amazing feeling!
Working and adoption – how did you find this?
I did work for a short time before I was made redundant. Unfortunately, with Covid it meant I was working from home and the nursery was closed so it wasn’t a ‘normal’ situation. I found it extremely hard. I felt like I couldn’t give my son or work 100% which meant I would work until late at night to compensate once my son was in bed! It was a very exhausting time.
I needed to ensure I had enough funds to support myself whilst I was taking my adoption leave and having my career break. I also needed to make sure that I was able to financially support us both once I got back to work.