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May 15, 2017
*All names have been changed for reasons of confidentiality.
Jenny was placed with us in October 2014 at the age of 7½. Because of her age, she was considered ‘hard to adopt’.
We met her at an Exchange Day. That’s an event where local authorities from all over the country display (on posters and videos), the children in their care to approved adopters. It was a very emotional experience and we left there with 24 profiles of children who matched our criteria. Trying to get that number down to something more manageable was incredibly hard.
I remember asking one social worker there why one 4-year-old girl who seemed to be a perfect match hadn’t been adopted yet. It was a stark reminder of the plight of older children in care through no fault of their own, when she replied “because of her age”.
Fortunately, Jenny had a very proactive ‘family finder’ who felt that, in us, she had found Jenny’s parents. A few days later, we received her reports. Her core assessment was a 4-page summary of how she came to end up in care. It was horrible to read what she’d been through and I had to stop reading part way through it for a break. I later found out that the full report was 100 pages long.
I think this was the moment when my thoughts of what our family would look like took shape; suddenly our daughter now had a name and a face.
A few months later, we attended the matching panel in her home authority. That was probably the most nervous I had been throughout the whole process. There had been an awful lot of ups and downs, but we had now invested an awful lot in Jenny. The panel said ‘yes’, and then the hard work really began.
In October 2014, we were walking up to the foster carer’s door. I had imagined this first meeting for ages. What would her reaction be? What if she doesn’t like us? I needn’t have worried; when the door opened, she simply said, “Hello daddy”, and came and gave me a big hug.
Our lives have changed immeasurably since then. There was a life before adoption and a life after. We used to get lay-ins, have lazy days, and generally do whatever we wanted. Now our focus is her. We see the world through her eyes, and delight in her successes. She frustrates us with her stubborn streak one minute, then makes us laugh the next. She loves going swimming or out on bike rides, and we love taking her.
She seldom talks about her life before she went into care. She certainly remembers it, but doesn’t yet want or feel the need to talk about it. The few times the subject has come up have occasionally resulted in tears, but we feel equipped to support her.
We thought that adopting an older child would mean we had missed out on a lot. However, we’ve still had a lot of ‘firsts’, including some we didn’t expect. We were the first ones to take her to the zoo, the cinema, hold a birthday party. Even going to a toy shop was a new experience for her.
She has made outstanding progress since she started living with us. Her teachers are as delighted as we are and she has managed to make good inroads into catching up with her peers. Challenges lie ahead, but what parent could say otherwise?
If you are considering adoption, you can find out more about our Adoption Connections service here. 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.