Adopting a child with developmental delay - Alice and Michael's story


Alice, 27, and her husband Michael 29, decided that adoption was the way they wanted to create their family. Now they are the proud parents of James, aged nearly two, who has some additional health needs.

‘We had always planned to adopt and I first saw an advert for a One Adoption information event on a bus stop and thought: it’s happening tomorrow, let’s go,’ says Alice. ‘We went along to the meeting with no clear idea of what we wanted, other than we didn’t want a new-born baby and felt we couldn’t manage the uncertainty around Early Permanence Placement (EPP).

‘This was just before Covid so by the time the pandemic hit, the training and home study was online. We didn’t really mind that and got used to the Zoom calls.

‘Once we were approved, our social worker showed us the profiles of some of the children looking for a family. James was the second photo and profile I saw. Straight away I thought, ‘that’s the baby I want’. James was one year old. He was a really bonny little boy and I could tell he had a really strong personality that shone through, and he really stood out. People say you’ll know when you see the child you want, that connection.

‘Reading through his profile I could see he had quite significant needs and I thought, I don’t know if I can be the parent he needs. So after a lot of thought we decided not to pursue the relationship further. Six weeks or so later we started to look at more profiles on Link Maker, the national matching database.

‘We looked at other children and then found that James’ profile was on there as well and he had made some significant progress during that six-week period. I just thought, he’s the one we need, he was the family I had imagined. I could tell that bond was already there and we were drawn back to him. We thought, let’s go for it.

‘James has global developmental delay and there was also a question over whether he had inherited any genetic issues. We knew his future was a bit uncertain, a bit up in the air, but so far genetic testing has shown there is nothing wrong. He has been under the care of some specialist services, including Portage, to enable him to develop his gross and fine motor skills.

‘He does have some physical developmental delay and was very late sitting and walking, and needed significant support from occupational therapy and physiotherapy to get there. They are now really happy with how he’s come on, he’s full of energy. James was also really small for his age, as his growth was restricted during pregnancy and during the first year of his life, and has support from a dietician. Although he can feed himself to a point, he just has a small appetite which we are trying to build up with special yoghurts.

‘Speech and Language services were involved to aid his speech and to help develop his munching actions and mouth muscles which in turn will aid his ability to chew and eat more solid foods. His speech isn’t close to where it should be but he said his first word aged 20 months and we were so amazed that he got there to do it. It’s such a big achievement. He’s such a character and that’s so apparent, even though he hasn’t got the communication skills you’d expect at this age.

‘We have noticed changes every day since James became part of our family this summer. Every day he’s coming on and rather than compare him with other children and what they are doing, we celebrate every step he makes.

‘I take it day by day and try not to look too far into the future as we know there is some uncertainty, but I know we will be with him every day for his life: that’s the commitment we’ve made.

‘Initially, James was under lot of services, but none are actively involved now, apart from the dietician who we see every 2-3 months to encourage James to eat more and varied foods.

‘I was a nursery nurse before we adopted James and I worked with children with quite significant needs, more so than James’, so I was used to caring for a child with difficulties.

‘Coming in to adoption, I was worried I’d got in too deep but I’ve found it so easy and effortless. There’s such a good partnership between me and James, it feels right, like it was meant to be. Even with the difficulties and uncertainties we face, you just do it. We were able to give James a secure and nurturing family, and extended family who live nearby, so that he could thrive and enjoy the opportunities, cuddles, love and support he deserves.

‘He’s nearly two now and has brought such a lot of joy to our lives. Every day we see him develop and make progress: it’s amazing.'