Rosie and her husband have four beautiful children; three boys and a girl. They adopted each child individually with the help of Adopt South West.
Rosie is one of five siblings and while growing up she had always wanted a large family of her own. When she met her husband, the couple already both knew they had fertility issues but they weren’t going to let that get in the way of their plans! They discussed adoption and opted to go straight down that route rather than IVF.
Rosie shares their adoption story and explains how adoption has made them one big family…
We started our adoption journey in 2011. We went along to a couple of information events with different local authorities but we got a good feel from Devon Adoption, now a regional adoption agency – Adopt South West – and got the ball rolling with them.
The thought of the process was terrifying, so many unknowns and having to discuss our lives with a stranger, but at the end of the day it was a process we knew we just had to go through!
We had our initial training course which was a lot of fun, we were met with friendly social workers and several couples and single prospective adopters all in the same boat as us. And still now, nine years on, I remain good friends with some of them. I’ve found them a valuable support through the process and beyond; other adopters that really could understand what we were going through. We also heard from a couple of adopters who shared their experience of adoption including some of the challenges we may face; all really helpful.
We were allocated a social worker and started home visits, I remember that first day so well! I was so worried but I needn’t have been as Anne, who we had been allocated, was just lovely. She had a way of making you talk, which of course was part of her job and she was a very experienced social worker.
We were completely open and honest the whole way through the process. We quickly realised that they were not looking for the ‘perfect’ upbringing or life experiences; it was how we had dealt with them and reflected on them.
We didn’t need to be rich (thankfully!), or in the very best of health, but showing we had put thought into these things and made changes where necessary were more important. After many visits, lots of cleaning the house, a mountain of paperwork and homework we made it to approval panel!
Your social worker will only put you forward to panel if they are confident they have all the information they need and that they fully support you going forward to adopt which was reassuring! It’s very daunting sat in that room with all the panel members all from different backgrounds – a medical advisor, social worker, an adopter, someone who’s been adopted themselves and several others, but all with a lot of experience and of course your own social worker is there supporting you.
We have done it eight times now!
Four approvals and four matching panels and every time they have made us feel at ease, and they have been full of positive feedback. If we can do it eight times, then it really can’t be that bad!
Once approved we were ecstatic and eager to start family finding! This can be a frustrating process as there is no set time limit on this and of course you want your little one home with you ASAP! Normally you are approved for a set age range, for our first we said we’d consider ages 0-5. So, preparing your home fully or purchasing bits can be tricky until you are matched.
At the time it can feel like it’s never going to happen and then suddenly everything falls into place!
We actually only waited six weeks after approval before being shown details for a 12-month-old boy.
You do normally get comprehensive information on these little people, they have regular medicals as well so all that information is included. This can be different with fostering for adoption, especially if adopting a young baby.
I actually didn’t feel instantly drawn to this little one but everything about him was a perfect fit so we felt we had no real reason to not move forward.
Our social worker knew us well by this time and we’d built a good relationship with her and so trusted her judgement as well. Meetings took place, we met his medical advisor and foster carer and before we knew it we were back at panel for matching.
About two weeks after this we started our introductions; a two week period where we went into the foster carer’s home and started to get to know our new son and gradually over time transfer all the caring of him from the foster carer to us. We had a lovely foster carer who made us very welcome and made the transition much easier for us all.
It’s an exhausting process with a real mix of emotions.
Straight away I was ready to nurture this little boy who was by now 15 months old. I felt fiercely protective and was keen to get him home. Introductions went well and after a very emotional goodbye with his foster carer, he was home with us, our new son!
Home with us
Even though he had really started to thrive in foster care, there was a lot of regression once home with us. This was to be expected and his behaviours were tricky, but we followed the principles of PACE – playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy. It took time for him to settle, not days, weeks or even months but over those months we saw change all the time and after a year we really had all bonded and started to build a good attachment.
We had our challenges and sometimes he would really regress but it was amazing watching the progress he was making and the strong maternal feelings I had developed over time.
We were a family, a normal family in many ways, doing the everyday things that parents do while remaining mindful of his past and the trauma he had experienced.
Adopting again after two years was quicker
After two years we decided to adopt again, we chose to go down the route of fostering for adoption in the hope of adopting a young baby, so there was a good age gap between our eldest and baby.
Second time round the approval process was quicker, it was a case of updating the information they already had and then assessing how things were already going as parents now.
Things all moved quite quickly and little one was just three and a half months old when he moved in with us, just a week prior to Christmas. They always say that great things come in small packages and he was just that, an amazing Christmas miracle for us!
Fostering for adoption was a positive experience for us but there is lots to consider.
We went on to adopt a third and fourth child, both of which are siblings. Growing up myself I had half-siblings but they were never referred to as half-siblings, we were just all brother and sisters and I hoped this would be the case for our four, whether biological or not.
Our eldest is nearly nine, then we have a five-year-old, a three-year-old and our youngest is two. They all get on so well, it’s so special watching them together and the bond they have. Of course they have their fall outs, like siblings do!
Both my husband and I were able to attend a therapeutic parenting course which was a real help in further understanding our children and helped us to both get on the same page with parenting them. We attend events organised by adopters and a toddler group for just adopters has been fantastic. Adopt South West run courses, workshops and get-togethers which are also invaluable. There is support out there and talking to other adopters who ‘get it’ is a real help.
I feel so blessed to be a mum and to have these four amazing children in my life.
I couldn’t love them any more than I do and I know that they have birth family that love them to.
We are open about their adoption and talk about birth family and go through their special life story books. They have siblings that don’t live with us but in other adoptive families and they get to see them still and have a relationship which we were really keen to help with. We keep in touch with all their foster carers who were a big part of their lives, keeping that contact was definitely a big help with the children’s transition.
How adoption has affected us
We are real advocates for adoption now! Yes the approval process is hard at times, a real emotional roller coaster but we also learnt a lot about ourselves and our childhood. We became closer and stronger as a couple.
Our children have had a traumatic start in life and need a different type of parenting and support in school but we are just a ‘normal’ family. We are mum and dad and we get to share all these experiences with the children and watch them grow. We are so proud of them and even more so when they reach a milestone or achieve something that was particularly hard for them.
We know we are making a difference to their lives and they have really enriched ours. They are really enjoying this time at home through ‘lockdown’ without the stresses of school and it’s definitely an experience we will remember!
Rosie’s advice if you are considering adoption
My advice to prospective adopters is to treasure all these moments because they really do grow up too fast! Be open to learning therapeutic parenting as it really is a game changer. There is lots of information online and several good books so use this opportunity to read and learn as much as you can.
Extended family have all embraced our children and been understanding which has been so important when we have needed their support.
Rosie has allowed us to share the perspectives from her extended family:
‘When my daughter first mentioned adopting a child I was really pleased for her and her husband but I felt slightly panicked for myself…these children, my grandchildren, will not be my blood…no genetic link…will I love them? I can honestly say – hand on my heart – I could not love those children anymore than I do. They are an absolute pleasure and a real asset to our family.’
’I saw how the process was hard for my sister but the overwhelming joy each child has brought to their lives I know makes up for it and you forget the process it took to get there! The love may not have been instant for them all and the wider family but then it makes it more worth it and a stronger bond when that love does form and it’s natural. Like any family it’s hard and has its ups and downs but that’s just it; it’s family and it makes you stronger, closer and a unit ready to tackle anything.’
‘The journey my son and his wife have been on is humbling, They have always been open and discussed the process with us and they have had our support right from the start. Because they included us from the start the children became our grandchildren as naturally as if you had given birth to them. Understanding their backgrounds and journey has also helped us support them all. By talking to us and keeping us updated we shared their highs and lows and ensured we loved each child unreservedly on sight.’