Why we adopted older siblings

It’s National Adoption Week, the theme this year is ‘Too old at four?’.

As an adopter of older sibling group, I want to share our experience, and reassure any prospective adopters out there – it ‘aint so bad!

We wanted to adopt because we couldn’t have a family. We’d tried the natural way, the not so natural way, and when we’d exhausted ourselves through IVF we decided to stop and take stock of our lives.

We knew we wanted to have a family, but the children didn’t have to be ours.

I had started fertility treatment when I was in my mid thirties, and by thirty-seven we decided to call time. An unsuccessful IVF treatment was followed a few months later by the unbelievable joy of a natural pregnancy, then a few weeks later, the shattering heartbreak of a miscarriage. That was it, time to step off the fertility conveyer belt.

Let’s skip forward a couple years. When we’d finally decided we wanted to adopt I was 41. I’d found an adoption agency that would take us forward as potential parents. As potential BME adopters I thought agencies and Local Authorities would be hammering our door down. I was wrong (but that’s another blog for another day).

During the adoption home study, there is a session during which you and your social worker will discuss what sort of family you might want – baby, toddler, 2-6 year olds, over six, girl, boy, both, single, siblings. This is just some of the criteria used to match you with prospective child(ren).

Our decision to adopt older siblings was pragmatic. We needed to be honest with ourselves as to what we could cope with.

Firstly I was over 40, done the IVF thing, I was so over wanting a baby. The more we thought and talked about it, adopting an older child or siblings started to make a lot of sense. The positives began to far outweigh the negatives.

  1. We’d both had experience of older children having volunteered with an inner city cubs’ and scouts’ troop.
  2. Our friends’ and families’ kids were aged between 2 – 10; our kids fitted right in.
  3. By adopting siblings we only had to go through the adoption process once – given our experience once was enough!
  4. With older children the developmental issues are better understood, and we could equip ourselves with the necessary help and support for our children.
  5. As siblings, our children have a lifelong companion – ours are best buddies when they’re not bugging the hell out of each other. They’re only just realising that brothers and sisters annoy each other – welcome to real life kids!
  6. From the start they were able to tell us, very vocally, how they felt, what they wanted and needed.  They share their worries, hopes, fears and dreams – that’s so fantastic.
  7. What I feel is so important is that they’ll always have someone to share their heritage, unique life experiences and out look on life. As a parent this is so comforting and reassuring.
  8. Oh, and no sleepless nights – from the start our kids slept 12 hours straight.

Older kids bring their own issues. Our kids remember their former lives, this can stir up all sorts of emotions and memories and we’ve had to work through some of these residual issues.

The attachment process probably took longer, especially forming an attachment with me. I had to face the fact that I was their third mum, and had to work really hard to earn their trust and love.

Our children have needed a lot of support from outside agencies, and this hasn’t always been easy to secure. We’ve been lucky we have benefited from CAMHS, Place2Be, Occupational Therapy and Theraplay provided by our adoption agency TACT.

Another critical factor was the school. Wonder Boy pretty much had to start school straight away. I needed a school that could get adoption and how this impacts a child in the school setting.

From day one this little boy had to learn to love a new mummy and daddy, try and make new friends whilst getting used to a new school and new teachers. At the same time he had to get used to living in a new house, in a new town in another part of the country. School was never going to be easy. If he lashed out – the school had to understand why and learn how to deal with it. Through mutual understanding we made a lot of progress.

Do you think you could adopt an older child? Don’t rule it out, it could be the best thing you ever do.

(First published 20/10/15)

Tooting Mama

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