Adopting a child with a different heritage - Fatima's story


When I first looked into adoption a few years ago, I was told if I did go ahead, it might be difficult to find a match with a child with the same background as me as and Asian Muslim
I thought about it for a couple of years, and looked into fostering, but soon realised it wasn’t for me, so I got back in touch with the adoption agency again and decided to go ahead with the process.  I was told that being a single adopter wouldn’t be a barrier, as long as I had a good support network and was financially secure.

I actually really enjoyed the assessment process. As I revisited my childhood, education, work history and relationships, it became more meaningful to me, all my previous experiences had contributed to making me the person I am today. I had some experience working with vulnerable children and adults and was familiar with some of the issues children from the care system faced. I built a great relationship with my social worker. I made sure that I did the research and was up-front and honest. I would advise people thinking of adopting, not to worry about the assessment process, it can be intrusive but they are not trying to judge you. The assessment is to protect both you and the child.

During the training I met another single adopter and we now meet up every month and have been able to support each other, and our children have grown up together. Single adopters face some issues that are particular to them compared to a two parent family. We are ‘mummy dad’ as my son sometimes calls me! All major decisions are made by ourselves and although we can discuss things with others ultimately everything rests with us which can be quite scary. I also attend the single adopters group as well as other adoption events so that my son can maintain contact and friendships with children who are adopted. I anticipate this will become more important to him as he grows older. It also allows me to discuss relevant issues with other like-minded people.

Once I was coming towards the end of the assessment process I went to a family finding event and was drawn to the very first photograph I saw – he was a lovely little three year old boy, with dual heritage. I did look at other photographs but I kept coming back to this little boy who reminded me of other children in my extended family.  I didn’t have a particular preference – girl or boy – or what their background was. What was important to me was that I was right for them and that I could meet their needs. My approval panel was only a few days later and then it all started to progress quickly! It was a bit of a rollercoaster! I wanted to make sure I’d made the right decision so I spent a lot of time speaking with my social worker – I did get panicky at one point but my social worker helped me through it, and we started the introduction process.

We arranged a ‘bump into meeting’ at the local park, where I was introduced as a family friend – but even at that young age, he seemed to know more – and we hit it off straight away. He took to me really well and we just spent the whole time playing together.

We spent a lot of the introduction period playing in the park – it was a lovely summer – and the process went really smoothly. He would wait for me to arrive at the window every morning. When he first visited my house – his new home – he knew exactly where his bedroom was, he was so excited, he just ran up and made himself at home!

The first night was difficult though, I was constantly checking on him to make sure he was still breathing even though he was three! He also wanted his foster carer and I didn’t know what to do and he took time to fall asleep. In fact, I have maintained contact with the foster carers, initially so my son didn’t have to deal with more loss, and so he can make sense of his early memories. We now visit them regularly and they us and he is able to articulate his memories and experiences from when he lived with them.

After the first few weeks he stopped asking for his foster mum, and was generally much more settled. At first he would cry out at night needing comfort (his foster family had warned me that he suffered from nightmares) and he tended to get panicky if he couldn’t see me immediately for example if I was in a different room but in time with a regular routine he was much more settled. He doesn’t shout out at night or have nightmares anymore. One of the things I had some concern about before he moved in was whether he would build a secure attachment with me as he was already three when he came to me. 

We spent that summer just the two of us, and slowly I introduced him to my family. The children in my family all made him little videos of them singing and introducing themselves, so when they did come to meet, he felt like he already knew them. He was shy at first but soon realised they were his new family and he didn’t need to be shy with them all.
I do think being on my own actually helped him settle in, I could stick to a routine and he wasn’t competing for my attention. He knew this was our home together. I do realise I’ve been very lucky because the attachment came so naturally to both of us.

Not that it was all easy! My whole life changed overnight. I suddenly had a very lively child who was with me every minute of the day. He wouldn’t leave my side, so I was having to balance things like cooking, cleaning and shopping whilst caring for him too. I was shattered! He had some speech and language issues when he moved in and some health issues, but with me advocating for him we managed to get his health issues treated quickly and within six months his speech was already so much better.

For me, adopting a child who had a different background to me wasn’t an issue – I did have some concerns that family members might not accept him as mine, but I didn’t need to have worried at all. I have a diverse network of friends and they think he is a real character and absolutely gorgeous, as do I! 

We have now been together 18 months. We’ve been on holiday overseas which he loved. He has started reception school and I have returned to full time work. Work has been understanding, I used to travel a lot for work but tend to work more from home now which means I can attend lots of his school events and be there to pick him up. He loves school and is doing really well. We have developed a lovely routine and rhythm to our daily life. I really can’t imagine my life without him now.

Children need lots of love and stability and if you can give them this, that is what really matters. It is important to remember that although adoption is a two-way relationship – you must be realistic about what you can offer the child, not what they can offer you. If you can give them lots of love, time, attention and stability that’s a great foundation from which to work from.