We’ve all met them…. You know…those people that make us feel a bit inadequate. Those people who seem to be able to cope with anything life throws at them and still be able to smile! Well sometimes it can seem like that when talking to our adopters. There are those that just manage to take on the most amazing but challenging children, and then, take on some more!
I worked with a single adoptive mum once who had a birth child with additional needs, and she went on to adopt 3 more children, one at a time, as a single parent. The children all had gradually more complex needs, all needing advocating for in one way or another, all needing professional input and specialist provision. But this carer was able to take it all in her stride, open her heart and her home to three children who may never have found a permanent family with anyone else because of their special needs – and together they created a warm, loving, secure and settled new family. I have no idea where she found her energy, or where her resilience and determination came from, but everyone who met her just KNEW she would be able to do it.
Then there was the other set of adopters I knew who adopted a sibling group of 4…each of whom, it was discovered later, had been significantly abused within their birth family, and needed a lot of therapeutic input for many years. Just as the youngest of the 4 reached the middle of the secondary schooling, the couple adopted another sibling group of 4. Yes that’s right EIGHT children all in all. Well that made us all feel a bit useless in comparison I can tell you!
Well these are extraordinary people, definitely – no question! These two examples are of people who can operate in a way that most of us mere mortals would not anticipate ever being able to do – but if you spoke to them, they would not consider themselves extraordinary – not by a long stroke. They would say that they did what they needed to do for the sake of the children – and something about their profiles when they saw them said to them “we can do this… we can offer these children a family” – and they became committed to doing just that.
At the end of the day, adoption is an extraordinary thing done by ordinary people. For whatever reason, adopters decide to take a step towards a child or children because something has resonated within them and connected and they find themselves dealing with all manner of unexpected situations and challenges, but also reaping rewards of unforeseen joys and triumphs too.
When as a social worker you are doing direct work with a child who has an Adoption Plan, and ask them to name some of the things they would like from their new family, you would be amazed (or maybe you wouldn’t) at the fact that material things very rarely come into it… occasionally there is the request for a trampoline in the garden, or even once a swimming pool – but it usually is “a dad to ride my bike with me”, or “ a mum who makes muffins” (funny how they go for gender stereotypes mind!) or “going for walks on the beach with a dog” or my personal favourite “a mum and dad who will help me clean out my guinea pigs….oh and some guinea pigs too!”
Ultimately, most children don’t need “extra ordinary” what they need is a combination of security, stability, consistency and acceptance. They need parents who can love them, stick with them, and have some fun. They want the ordinary, because, after all, they have already experience the “not” ordinary and it wasn’t great.
So don’t be put off by thinking that you need to be some super-parent to be able to adopt a child…. Yes there will be difficulties, and yes you will have challenges and no your life will never be the same – but if you can do the ordinary, we will support you with the extra ordinary – that’s what we are here for. And you know what…. You may surprise yourselves at how extra ordinary you actually can be!
Jakki Parsons, Practice Manager, FFC Adoption North Devon