“We spent lockdown getting ready to welcome two adopted children to our home”
“It feels like all our Christmases have come at once! They feel like they’re ours already and we haven’t even met them yet.”
First-time parents Laura and Steve* have just had the news that they’ve been approved to adopt a little brother and sister. They’ll be moving in to the couple’s home sometime in October.
The couple met in 2012 and got married three years later. On one of their very first dates they talked about having children and both knew that they wanted a family.
“As we met later in life, we didn’t want to waste any time,” explains Laura, who’s worked with children for the last 18 years. “I was thrilled when Steve said he wanted children too but after several unsuccessful rounds of IVF, we realised that it just wasn’t meant to be for us.
“We had already started discussing adoption before the end of the last round and neither of us had any doubts about it at all. I feel like we took a negative situation and were able to turn it into a positive. To be honest, we’ve never seen adoption as a second choice, we just see it as a different way of completing our family.”
As Steve says, “What’s been great is that since deciding to adopt, we’ve been on the same journey together. When we were going through IVF, I was very aware that it was Laura who was having to take the medication, it was her body that was being affected and sometimes I felt pretty helpless. With adoption, we’re both in it together. We’re completely equal and just feel that this was meant to be.”
The couple first started doing some research a year ago, in August 2019, and came across the Adopting Together website.
Adopting Together is the first project of its kind in Wales to deliver a targeted approach to finding suitable adopters for specific children and offer a bespoke package of therapeutic support for both the children and the adopters through every stage of their childhood, until the child turns 18.
Led by St David’s Children Society, the service aims to find families to adopt children who have been waiting the longest for a family. Typically, these tend to be children who are over four years old, who are brothers and sisters who need to stay together, who have additional needs or uncertainty around their development or who are from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background.
Steve explains, “The lady we spoke to when we first called to enquire about adopting was so friendly and helpful. We were obviously both grieving for the fact that we couldn’t become parents biologically but she was so understanding of our situation that we felt at ease straight away and just knew we were doing the right thing.”
The couple had a home visit from their social worker soon after their initial call and then attended a series of training workshops, which they both found incredibly enlightening.
Steve says, “For me, the training was like a massive light bulb moment – everything that we had previously read about adoption suddenly made perfect sense as they gave us practical and real-life examples of the world that we were about to step into.
“They really encourage and guide you into this very different, therapeutic method of parenting, bringing the pages of the books to life. It was actually very emotional too as it made us both look back at how our own childhoods and understand our own parents shaped the way that we will now parent our children.
“When you’ve had a loving family around you all your life, you can take it for granted and just don’t realise what an impact that just being loved has on you – or what an impact not being loved, or experiencing neglect or a chaotic start to life can have on a child. I honestly believe that every parent should have training like this!”
More sure than ever that adoption was the right path for them, Laura and Steve then had to fill in a detailed application and undergo a rigorous series of checks but were approved to be adopters in August.
They first saw the photo and profile of the two children they’ll be adopting at a profiling event that had to be held over Skype during lockdown. They expressed interest in three different sibling groups and their social worker explored each one before coming back with advice on which would be the best match.
Steve says they had no fixed idea about the children they wanted to adopt before starting the process.
“I know that most people probably go into this with a rough idea of the type of child they are looking for but we honestly didn’t mind. From the very start we weren’t looking for ‘the perfect children for us’. We just wanted to find children who we would be the right parents for, if that makes sense?”
“We knew we would have been happy to adopt up to three children and both felt very strongly that we didn’t want any siblings to be split up. We’re both very close to our siblings and to us, it just didn’t seem right to take a child away from their brother or sister when they’ve already been through so much trauma in their little lives.
“Although we know that having two children join our family at once will probably be more challenging than just one child, having each other will hopefully help them adjust to their new lives with us.”
Laura adds, “As we’ll be older parents, I think people were probably expecting us to adopt older children but we both have so much energy that our social worker just kept saying that we would be perfect parents for this little boy and girl, and we trusted her completely.”
After agreeing that they wanted to continue with the match, the couple were then shown more recent photos of the children and much more detailed information from the foster carers’ report. One of the siblings has a medical issue, which is common among children who are waiting to be adopted, but as Steve explains, that doesn’t concern them.
“If we had been able to conceive naturally, we wouldn’t have known how our children would have turned out in terms of their health, development or ability, so we really are not worried about that at all.
“Throughout our own childhoods and growing up, there’s never been any pressure on us and Laura and I feel the same way about our children. We’ll always encourage them to do whatever they want to do but just want them to be happy.”
The next step in the Adopting Together process was a ‘Team for the Child’ meeting, where the couple met with the social workers, foster carer, psychologist and health professionals to find out as much as possible about the children they were hoping to adopt and explore different parenting styles.
“Before that meeting, we thought we already knew a lot about the children but the level of detail they went into that day was incredible. They gave us a huge amount of information about them both, as a pair and individually, which really helped us to feel like we know them already. It was also a really good way of identifying any possible issues that might come up in future and get us thinking about how we can adapt our parenting techniques.”
The couple have since been through lots more training, have been buddied up with other adoptive parents who’ve already been through the programme and have been able to give them advice and support, have seen videos of the brother and sister playing together and have seen them over a Skype call with their foster carer, but they still haven’t actually met them yet.
Laura says, “When we saw them in the background over Skype, we just couldn’t take our eyes off them. They just immediately felt like they were ours. They even look a bit like us, and have got the same colour hair and eyes as Steve.”
As well as preparing themselves to be parents over the last few months and creating introduction books and videos for the children, to help them get to know their new family, the couple have also been busy getting their house ready for the two little ones to arrive.
“We had a huge clear-out over lockdown and although we were probably jumping the gun a bit as we hadn’t been approved at that stage, we’ve had two of the bedrooms decorated and ready for the children to arrive since July!
“We’ve kept them pretty neutral and really similar so that they can make them feel like their own rooms as they grow but for now, they’re full of cuddly toys and things that we think they’ll like. They’ve each got a teepee in their rooms too, which we hope will be their safe place, when they’re feeling sad or unsettled,” says Laura, who knows that there will be plenty of challenges ahead.
“Everyone keeps telling us that this is the perfect end to our story but we know it’s really just the beginning. We do think that it will be tough as well as amazing but we’re prepared for that. In fact, I think we’re much more prepared now than we would be if we’d been able to conceive naturally because of all the help and support we’ve had, the therapeutic play sessions and the training workshops.”
Steve admits he’s had limited experience with children until their niece was born two years ago, but that’s made him want to be a dad even more than ever. After working with babies and toddlers for her whole career, Laura says her experience at work has definitely helped her to feel more prepared.
“I adore children and have always been surrounded by them so it just wouldn’t feel right for me to not to be a mum. I’ve always dreamt about having twins so when people ask how we’ll cope with two at similar ages, I’m not scared by that. It feels like the most natural thing in the world to me.”
The couple will finally get to meet their two children over the next few weeks but the transition from their foster carers’ home will be gradual, giving the children time to adjust and feel comfortable with their new parents, new home and new lives.
As the day draws closer, they can’t help feeling apprehensive about how the children will feel.
“We are both really excited about meeting them and welcoming them into our home but I have to admit, I am nervous too. Luckily, children have always really taken to me but my biggest fear is ‘what if they don’t like us?’ I’m sure that’s natural but I just want it all to work out well, for us and for them.
“When I think about what’s ahead of them over the next few months, I just have such a mixture of emotions. In one way, my heart sings at the thought of having them both here with us but at the same time, it’s breaking at the thought of putting them through all this upset and upheaval.
“We just have to keep reminding ourselves that it’s the right thing for them in the long run and although they are both really happy at the moment with their foster carer, we will be their forever family. We’ll give them the stability and security they need and will love them so, so much.”
As Steve says, even though they haven’t met the children yet, the whole experience so far has been life-changing.
“We haven’t had a single regret since starting this process. We’ve just felt so supported throughout and have really enjoyed the journey we’ve been on already.
“We are realistic about what’s ahead but we’re going into this with our eyes wide open. What’s absolutely brilliant about Adopting Together is the level of support we’ll get, not just in the early days when the children first move in, but we’ll have access to therapeutic parenting advice, clinical psychological support and just someone to talk to about any issues that may crop up throughout the children’s childhood, if we need it.
“We just feel ready now and are looking forward to all four of us helping each other as we grow together as a family.”
If you are interested in adopting a child through Adopting Together, visit www.adoptionwales/adoptingtogether for more information or call 029 2066 7007.
* Names have been changed for confidentiality reasons