Adopting siblings “how many?”!!
This week I am so very grateful to have a guest blog from a wonderful Father and family. I have known this family for a few years now and am in awe, I hope you love this blog as much as I do. Please leave a comment so I can pass on the love to the family x
I was asked to write a guest blog as an adoptive Dad and to talk about some of my experiences, thoughts, top tips and surprises. Before I start, it’s worth mentioning that my wife and I adopted four little ones a couple of years ago. Admittedly, four was never the plan … at least, not my plan, although we had been looking to adopt a sibling group initially of two and then, following raised eyebrows and wry smiles from my wife, possibly three.
We knew around half of all Looked After Children up for adoption are in a sibling group and, for obvious reasons, it’s usually the placing authority’s preference to keep them together. Sibling adopters aren’t uncommon but the majority of adoptive parents wish to or are only able to take on one child, although some will go on to adopt more children later on. With sibling adopters, most will adopt two children and, rarely, there will be parents in a position to adopt three. Very few people, we found out, are willing and able to adopt four children and so as soon as our names were ‘out there’ as approved adopters, we received a lot of interest from a range of authorities.
We often jokingly refer to that bizarre stage of considering children to adopt as akin to buying a house. You know your requirements and maximum budget but the estate agents still send you houses on the market which are that little bit above what you want or can afford. But look, it has an extra bedroom, driveway, helicopter pad or whatever it is they feel will tempt you to review your finances and squeeze that little bit more out of your already creaking bank account. In our case, we weren’t buying houses but we did have optimistic profiles of fours sent through when we’d been clear that we were interested in groups of two or, possibly, three at most. Four, I was adamant, was right out!
What we did realise very early on, however, was that it was less about ‘numbers’ and more about ‘needs’. We saw some sibling groups of two with very specific needs, way beyond our capacity or experience and we saw larger groups of siblings who were relatively ‘sorted’. By that, I don’t mean to demean or belittle the reasons why our children or any other larger sibling group were taken into care, but we were looking at children who social workers felt they could keep together and would benefit from staying as a family.
With our four, they had their issues and challenges as you’d expect children going through the care system to have, but they were closely knit as a family unit, loved each other desperately, and were full of hope, affection, cuddles and fun. The canny social workers had also taken emotive photos of doe-eyed and hopeful little angels, looking up and desperate for their forever family. It was heart-wrenching and heart-melting stuff. Naturally, we fell in love with our four immediately and I had to play catch up with my wife by discarding the ‘rational’ side of my brain (Four? What are you thinkingof?) and realising that families are about so much more than which car you’ll need or how many bedrooms you have.
Of course, every family is unique and ours is no different. We have good days, bad days, fun days and frustrating days. We’re woken up in the middle of the night because one of them has “run out of dreams” and we have to coax another one (and then all of them) into eating the soup that they claimed last week was their favourite but then declared today they don’t like! We have cuddles on sofas, games we play together in the garden and silly poems and rhymes we read to each other. And we don’t know any different!
And that’s the key point I try and make to the number of people who invariably say “Four? Crikey, that’s brave!” or, more commonly, “Wow! Are you mad?”. In truth, we don’t know any different – this is our ‘normal’. We didn’t build up gradually, have an unplanned pregnancy or two lots of twins, we simply went from nought to four pretty much overnight. And we don’t know any different. Equally, this is the only experience of childhood our kids have ever had: birth family to foster home to us … that’s their normal. And, do you know what? We’re doing ok, thanks. There are definitely things you need to make it work: enough room, a big enough car, supportive friends and family and, in my case, an amazingly organised wife who can juggle 37 dates in her head alongside the names of all the children in the kids’ classes, their parents' names and the teaching staff. She also incredibly manages a constantly running washing machine, online shopping, cooking for all of us and keeping the house together. If you’re not organised, you’ll struggle, for sure, and if you don’t have the support of other adoptive families to offload and share with, friends to babysit or bring you the occasional meal and family to love them and dote on them then you’ll probably struggle. But that said, that’s probably the same for most families, adoptive or birth, one or four or more.
What I would say is that it’s a pretty amazing journey and the end result is worth it. We have our fair share of issues to work through, don’t get me wrong, but, crucially, we have the cuddles, laughter, smiles and memories which make it all worthwhile. Adoption isn’t for everyone and sibling adoption isn’t for every adopter but if you are thinking of adopting and you are in a position to take on a sibling group, don’t rule it out. You may just surprise yourself with the family you end up with.
Next week I will share the families ‘Top Tips’ for adopting a sibling group. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our Guest Blogger so very much. I’d love to hear what you think. Zoe x