Anna Sharkey on becoming an adopter.
People are motivated to adopt for many reasons such as infertility, wanting to grow their family by providing a home to a child in need, choosing to become a parent through adoption rather than through pregnancy, as a single person or as a couple in a same-sex relationship. The overarching motivation is wanting to parent.
Adoption is a placement choice for children who cannot live in their birth family. Adopters are parenting children who may have experienced pre-birth exposure to drugs and alcohol, witnessed domestic violence, and experienced physical harm and neglectful parenting. For some children, additional health, disability, and developmental needs are factors which will need to be considered by adopters.
Adopters need to keep the child in mind, and to consider the adult they will become and how their parenting will enable the child to feel loved, valued and secure. For some adopters, a family life which includes a child with disabilities is not a choice they feel able to make. For others, it is something they actively seek such as people like Jane and Hugh, who wanted to parent a child with Downs Syndrome were delighted to adopt Leo who had recently also had heart surgery and needed additional medical monitoring. Sam is a single male adopter, supported in his parenting by his family. He first met his son, Joe at an activity day. As an approved adopter, Sam could attend social events organised by family finding social workers, whose job is finding suitable adopters for children with a plan of adoption. The children attend with their foster carers and have a fun day out with lots of activities while the adopters can interact with and observe the children and chat to their foster carers.
For Joe, this was particularly important. When they met, Sam was drawn to Joe’s ‘cheeky personality’, and could see the child and not just the genetic disorder, learning difficulties and other health problems. Joe has an Education, Health and Care Plan and attends a specialist school. As an infant and young child, he experienced domestic violence and poor care when living with his birth parents, followed by excellent care from his foster carer. With no chance of safely returning to the care of his birth parents, social workers planned for his adoption.
Sam and Joe met when Joe was almost seven. From the time that his adoption plan was agreed aged two, over a hundred approved adopters had thought about parenting him but decided that his complex needs were more than they could manage.
Having met Joe and fully discussed his diagnosis, uncertain prognosis and continuing needs, Sam carefully considered his capacity to be Joe’s dad and what he and Joe would need to do to ensure that Joe thrives. Specialist education provision, play therapy, and opportunities to meet with other families were accessed and Sam had additional support and training to meet Joe’s needs. Sam is realistic but not overawed by Joe’s diagnosis and is focused on the positive bond he has formed with his son. He also has genuine empathy for his son’s birth mother which will help Joe as he grows. Sam is calm, playful and nurturing and Joe is part of a large extended, welcoming and loving family. Joe loves to go with his dad to his local café for a hot chocolate.
*All names have been changed to protect the identity of people mentioned.