Adopting a child with disabilities is a big commitment for anyone, but for Cornish couple Joy and Nic Constable the decision to take on three children with additional needs was a simple one. The couple already had a biological son called Samuel, but started thinking about adding to their family. However, instead of adding to their biological family, they made the brave decision to adopt. They felt that they wanted to help a child who didn’t have a home and was in danger of being stuck in the social care system.
With the help of Families for Children, who have a speciality in the adoption of additional needs children, 14 years later, they have now added Rachel, 13, Sarah, 7, and Noah, 5, to their family and are keen to tell other couples about their positive experiences.
“We just wanted to increase our family and I suppose you read things about children in care and we thought we would have a go. I don’t think either of us thought we would have been successful. We weren’t particularly well off, we were just ordinary.”
After being accepted by Families for Children the couple went through several months of interviews and paperwork before they went to panel and were approved to become adoptive parents.
Joy says: “The process is a long one – although it has got a lot quicker now – and a lot of it is about them [the charity] getting to know you, you getting to know them and actually there is a vast amount of getting to know yourself and a vast amount of dragging things up from your childhood or your past which you might have thought you had put away. And once you are approved you start the process of looking for a child, which again is interesting.”
Nic, who is a 57 year-old acupuncturist, adds: “It is really hard, and they have a magazine called Be My Parent which is like an Argos catalogue. It’s just full of children and you sit there and think ‘I’ll have that one, that one, that one and that one.. And then you get a bit more discerning and realistic and think ‘well, what kind of children can’t we have? In our house for instance we can have children who are visually impaired, but not blind children and you slowly start to tick off your list the disabilities you can’t deal with.”
Joy says: “Our social worker came over one day with around half a dozen flyers, and it sounds awful, but it is almost like buying a lawn mower. She handed us three bits of paper each and said ‘have a look at these and then swap over’. I started looking at mine and Nic just said ‘you can put those down we are going to have this one’, and that was Rachel.” Rachel was borm with a life threatening condition, but this did not phase Nic and Joy. Shortly after making their decisive decision, Nic and Joy travelled to meet Rachel at a control centre and after several discussions, they were given confirmation that they could take her home.
Despite the lack of biological ties, the couple say there was no difference in the development of maternal and paternal feeling between Rachel and Samuel. Joy adds: “I think it is actually the vulnerability and the need to protect that creates that bond. I am not convinced that it is instant love, but there is an innate need to protect and then that develops in to a deep love.”
Inspired by the reciprocal love they had for Rachel, Nic and Joy went back to Families for Children adoption agency two more times, adopting both Sarah and Noah, who were also born with disabilities. As with raising any child, the couple have candidly said that bringing up children with additional needs can be incredibly difficult. Nic says: “There are times when it is hard, if for instance one is in hospital or if one is going through a particular phase. But in Cornwall in particular, the children’s services are excellent. Whenever we have needed equipment or education they have been there. We have had so much help from them. I honestly think they are fantastic.” Joy continues: “I think the other thing you really need is an amazing support network. From talking to other adopters, I think one thing which is important when adopting any child is to discuss it with your family and friends because you do need help and you can’t do this alone. “We have got an amazing network of friends. There isn’t one I couldn’t ring at 2 o’clock in the morning and I would do the same for them.”
Both Nic and Joy are convinced that if they can do it, that there must be many other ordinary couples like them, who would make excellent parents to disabled children. Nic says: “People sit there and say we must be very special to have adopted three children with disabilities, but the reality is we are just normal people and actually we are the fortunate ones to have them. I think people get caught up in the concept of disability. But they are children first and what they want is to be happy and to be loved. They want you to cuddle them and for you to give them some time and some boundaries. What they also want is for someone to be an advocate for them because they can’t do that for themselves. Ultimately you need to be realistic and appreciate them for the wonderful people which they are. None of our children are going to be brain surgeons, but it is not that we won’t push them to achieve their very best.” Joy adds: “I just want people to give these children a chance. Just don’t leave them on the shelf. Our children are just lovely and I am very proud of them and I will work my socks off for them. The hard thing is no one showed any interest in them before us and that is just heart-breaking. They had all been up for adoption for a little while but people must have read the first bit and seen disabled or additional needs and moved on. There are so many hard to place children who will spend their lives in foster care, and while foster care is brilliant, it is not a family, not their own family. When they were little tiny balls of cells they didn’t make the decision to be disabled, it just happened. It’s not their fault. Don’t condemn them for what is not their fault, embrace them.”
It’s difficult to not be inspired by Nic and Joy’s story. If you feel that you could make the ideal adoptive parent or parents to a child with additional needs, then why not get in touch with Families for Children or Family for Me adoption agencies, Devon.
If you feel that you would like to share your experience with other adopters and prospective adopters and have your article published on the Every Step Adoption blog, then please get in contact as we’d love to hear from you.