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ADOPTER Q&A: Elaine’s story

October 19, 2016

Adoptive family running on a beach

Elaine* has adopted three siblings with the help of St. Francis’ Children’s Society. We’re delighted that she has agreed to take part in this honest and revealing Adopter Q&A.

*All names have been changed for reasons of confidentiality


How did you arrive at the decision to adopt?

I had numerous unsuccessful relationships and decide to ‘go alone’ with having children. I had a couple of attempts at IVF as a single person but that was unsuccessful so I decided to adopt. I have an adopted cousin so always felt interested and thought that one day I might like to adopt – even if I had had my own birth children – so it was a natural progression.


How many children have you adopted, and how old were they when you adopted them?

I have adopted 3 children in total.  I first adopted two siblings and then, 18 months later, I was asked if I would consider another baby that their birth mum had had. Ages when I adopted them were 8 months, 3 years and 7 years.


Describe the adoption process from your point of view – what did you find difficult, which parts were particularly useful etc?

I found the continuity of the same social worker doing my assessment very reassuring and we built a good working relationship, which made it much more comfortable for me when she had to ask about the more personal aspects of my life! Having time to discuss with her whether to adopt one or two children really helped my choice.

I found it very positive being a single adopter going through SFCS, as they were very supportive and I never felt ‘out of place’. The training was brilliant and really made you reflect on your thoughts, expectations and hopes and definitely challenged your commitment.

The worst part for me (on both occasions) was meeting with the local authority responsible for the children at the matching panel.  There were also difficulties both times with regards to paperwork delays, which was stressful.

Overall it was a really positive and fairly quick process, and being approved for the first children I looked at was a huge relief, especially as I was chosen when 4 other couples had also expressed an interest. I felt the girls’ social worker really understood the needs of the children well.


What was the matching process like? Did you find it positive or challenging?

Luckily, I found it very positive – I was fortunate enough to be matched with the first children I was interested in. The social workers I dealt with were great and I felt they were very honest with me with information they shared. The matching panel was stressful, but that was more about the ‘legal side’ which nearly delayed it, not so much the experience itself. The panel were friendly and asked well thought out questions.

The day spent with the foster carers and individuals involved in the care of the girls (Life appreciation day) was quite overwhelming, especially when one of the social workers became upset when he was telling us about his involvement. The foster carers were great, but it was a tense meeting; I’m sure they wanted to ‘like’ whoever was going to adopt the children who had been in their care for so long.

Adopted children lying in the grass with feet facing the camera

Describe the first time you met your adopted child / children.

My heart felt like it had stopped!!! The girls were smaller than I expected. I walked in and bent down to talk to them and one said “hello mummy”… I nearly cried! I couldn’t believe how well prepared they were and how warm they were towards me. We just didn’t stop talking and looking at each other. I wanted to fast forward and just take them home straight away!

When I met my third child she was a baby and I just fell in love straight away.  She made my heart melt and it was really hard to leave her! Things were difficult to begin with, as every time I picked her up, she cried – she was just so used to her foster carer.  So, a different experience to the first two, but that soon changed!


Were there any misconceptions that you had regarding the adoption system?

No. Thanks to my own research and thorough preparation from SFCS, I really felt like I knew exactly what I was getting myself into! I can understand why so many people step out of the process as they go through it – there is a lot of uncertainty to deal with and you really need to be committed.


Was there anything that surprised you throughout your adoption journey?

I have been surprised about how little they talk about their birth family.  When my eldest two came to live with me, they talked about their foster carers all the time and really missed them, but that has faded as time has gone on. We have always kept a good connection with the foster carers, as I feel they are such an important part of my children’s lives.

The only thing that has ‘knocked me off my feet’ is having to deal with a string of allegations from my eldest. I didn’t feel prepared in the training for that and it wasn’t really discussed on the journey.  It’s been extremely stressful to be put in a position of feeling vulnerable myself, when I was expecting to be looking after the ones who felt vulnerable! That has been very difficult, with little training available for adopters out there.


Have you had the need to access Adoption Support services at SFCS?

Oh yes – I’ve accessed the lot!

Family events have been brilliant and I’ve made some good friends through attending those, which helps with ongoing social support. It’s great taking the children to these social events as if you have any meltdowns from the children you feel that everyone else ‘gets it’ rather than judging you.

Consultation appointments have been really supportive, informative and offered at short notice when you really need to ‘offload’! Follow up from these has been great and it makes you feel really heard.

Workshops I have attended include the parenting workshop, which I didn’t feel I needed for the first couple of years of adoption.  However, when you are well into it, that’s a great time to attend so you can reflect on how your children are behaving and how you can manage that and change your own parenting styles.

Coffee mornings are brilliant to informally chat to other parents who ‘get it’ and discuss current issues in a confidential arena. Sharing ideas has been really useful, and making friends with people in similar situations has been great!

Sibling assessment – after I raised concerns around two of my children, SFCS arranged for a sibling assessment.  This was carried out promptly and feedback was given.

Support at ‘Children in Need’ meetings – having someone from SFCS support us at CIN meetings this past 10 months has been great.  It feels like you always have someone ‘on your side’ who hears your concerns and can stand up for you and with you whilst looking for the correct support.

Young persons’ group – my teenager has only attended a few events, but really enjoyed them and spending time with other adopted children.  Even if they haven’t openly discussed adoption, I think it helps them just ‘knowing’.

Holding hands for adoption support

Which services have been most valuable to your children and your family, and why?

I would say the parenting workshops have been great, more so after a few years of living with my children, to fully understand the nature of their behaviour and what I find most challenging.

Then it would be the ongoing support in attending meetings and consultations. You don’t know when you might need this help, but it’s one source of help that you can access immediately and you are always given time and active support.

Finally, the family events have been brilliant as they involve the children. I always tell them about the other children and I think it’s great for them to feel ‘normal’ amongst other children with similar backgrounds. They always have great fun.


How has your life changed as a result of adopting?

Gosh! So much busier. So much more fulfilled. It is often stressful, but that is balanced with the satisfaction of bringing up children in a much better world than they were in. We are very open about adoption in the family and talk about it with all the children, so to me it is ‘our normal world’… which you grow to understand is different from other parents’ ‘normal world’!

Sadly, I recently got close to thinking that my adoption with one child may be close to breaking down, but thank goodness for the support which has come from all angles.  Thankfully, I think we have saved it and I’m so grateful to have a stronger relationship with her now. It really shows that you can get through most things that are thrown your way, but you have to be open-minded, strong, able to ask for help and willing to fight for what you believe is right for your family.


Do you have any advice regarding adoption, or the importance of accessing Adoption Support?

I would say when things are tough, never try and deal with them alone, there is help out there. Contact your adoption agency, speak to lots of services and professionals, and trust your own feelings and thoughts about which help your family needs. It can be confusing when you are being pulled in different directions of help, but go with what feels right.

Equally in the absence of being offered the support you feel you need, you need to be strong and fight your corner – you as the ‘grown up’ here are the advocate for your child and family.

I feel like this year I’ve really had to fight to keep my family together after a terrible 10 months but I’ve had some great support from SFCS and other services and we are now coming through the other end a very happy family unit!

Finally, when things are going well, pat yourself on the back and enjoy it for the moment and don’t worry about what’s round the corner – there will always be something!



If you are considering adoption, you can find out more about our adoption service here.  If you’d like to find out about adopting siblings, you can read more on our Adopt Siblings with SFCS page. You can also check out our adoption resources, read more real adoption stories and find out about our next information events. And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us – we’d love to hear from you.



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