‘We want to share our adoption story to offer encouragement to others who may have health conditions and fear they may not be accepted as adopters,’ says James. ‘We are both in our early forties and were born with heart conditions which required medical interventions. Our initial application to adopt with our local authority was not successful, giving our weight and our health as the reason, by the social worker, with whom we didn’t agree.
'Despite this experience we were determined to find a way to have a family and contacted One Adoption and spoke to the nearest local office to us,’ says Louise.
‘Our social worker was very supportive and encouraging, and our adoption journey got underway in 2018,’ says James. ‘Following an adoption medical we started the process, but unfortunately Louise had to have heart surgery in 2019 and that meant we couldn’t progress to the next stage. Louise’s health had to come first. Unfortunately, I urgently ended up in hospital with my heart, in the same hospital and on the same day as Louise, so we were both downhearted on discharge home. However, our lovely social worker came to see us and was very positive and supportive, so once Louise was well and back at work we reapplied to adopt in July 2019.
‘Following further medicals, we progressed to panel in January 2020. We were interested in siblings, keeping a family group together, and although we were approved for a young child, possibly an Early Permanence Placement (foster to adopt), we had always felt that children aged between two and five years would be better for us. Luckily our social worker knew we wanted siblings and as she was also a family finder she said she had two lovely children who ‘would be perfect’ for us. She couldn’t share their details yet and left us in suspense!
‘We saw a number of profiles, including the siblings she had mentioned, and she asked if we would increase our age range to six years old. We thought – well, another year won’t make much difference – so we asked to know more about the children she had in mind. We saw their profiles and thought wow! They had been in foster care for three years and had had a challenging time, a new social worker every so often, and we had had a tough journey as well, so we thought yes, we still want to adopt two and keeping them together as a family is exactly what they need.’
‘Our families were concerned about our health more than anything, asking us if we were sure we still wanted two children,’ says Louise. ‘But they had been so supportive, as had our friends, that we felt we had a strong network already in place, so we decided to proceed with the potential match and waited for the children to be granted a Placement Order.’
‘And then Covid hit,’ says James. ‘The children’s court hearing was delayed by four months with the matching panel taking place in August, online. Seeing 12 people we’d never met before on-screen, in their homes and us sitting at the dining room table was a very strange experience! To us, each of the stages was a hurdle you get over, then the next.
Transition and moving in!
'We had a ‘Bump Into’ meeting and were introduced to the children as friends of their foster carer. Christopher held my hand at once and his sister was a bit more wary and just observed. Once Christopher was in the play area Alice decided to play as well. We took our dog along, as we were told Alice loved animals. It all seemed to go really well. Their foster carer and our social worker, who knew us and them, both gave reports on how we had all interacted and that really helped. The match was recommended and we went to meet them again but we still couldn’t tell them that we were going to be their mum and dad!
‘We created two life story books with pictures of our house, our parents and their aunts and uncles and once everything was approved we could finally tell the children we were going to be their mum and dad. We met the children at the foster carer’s caravan and Christopher said, ‘Can I call you dad?’ That felt amazing, surreal and really nice. It was the first time we could have a family photo. Christopher was grinning all day and we enjoyed fish and chips, and the amusements. They still had to return to their foster carer’s and on the way home we were filled with a really joyful feeling inside, we were both really, really happy.’
‘Christopher, however, thought he was coming home with us there and then, and cried – he had wanted to have a mum and dad for such a long time,’ says Louise.
‘We all had to isolate for two weeks due to Covid before introduction week,’ says James. ‘We went to their foster carer’s and they came to visit us at home and looked round. We knew Christopher loved Spiderman and Alice loved unicorns and fairies so we decorated their rooms for them and Christopher couldn’t stop jumping up and down and smiling. They had always shared a room so this was a big step. Christopher was ready but Alice was a little unsure. We had a sleepover and it felt very strange having two children in the house. I daren’t go to sleep!’
‘We brought their clothes and toys over during that week and then they moved in,’ says Louise. ‘The children were starting new a school and nursery, so we had a week to adjust before slowly starting the process of introducing them to school. Christopher didn’t want to let go of us at first but now he runs into the classroom and loves school. Alice enjoys nursery and she starts school in September.’
Becoming a family
‘It took a while for them to settle into family life and our peer mentor was really good at helping us to help them to settle, especially with bedtime routines,’ says James.
‘People say to us, ‘you are so brave, you’re great’ but we say the children are very brave. They moved from somewhere they had been for three years, moved in with strangers and started a new school and nursery.’
‘Even though it has been tough at times I wouldn’t change it,’ says Louise. ‘The children still see their foster carer every two weeks via WhatsApp; they’ve become part of the family. The children are also in contact with their two younger siblings who have been adopted by another family. They are going to meet up for the first time in-person soon. We feel it’s really important that they have some connection with their past and create their own supportive network for when they grow up.’
‘The best thing about having the children is being called Dad,’ says James. ‘It’s an amazing feeling. Being part of a family and having two beings who are dependent on you.
‘The advice I would give to someone with health problems who wants to adopt is you need to make your own decision, but don’t be afraid. We spoke about it a lot; we both wanted a family and to be able to give the children a family. Don’t only look at yourself, look at what you can give a child.’
‘It’s not an easy road but it’s not impossible,’ says Louise. ‘Don’t be frightened. Give it a go but do make sure that along with determination you have a supportive network of family and friends.’