I always wanted a family. In my thirties I wasn’t in a relationship so I started to think about how I could make having a family a reality.
I wasn’t going to wait for it to happen. I believe you make your own fortune.
Having thought about this a lot I believed I wanted a child aged three or four. I knew I would need to carry on working full time and was trying to be realistic about what I could manage.
I think there has been a lot of good work done in recent times and the message around adoption is clear that adopters are welcomed in all shapes and sizes.
Despite this I was nervous about the assessment and how I would be judged. I thought I could work full time and still be a good mum, but would others?
The hardest part of the whole thing was making the first call. I procrastinated for a while and eventually I was brave enough to pick up the phone.
It can be tempting to think about what kind of answers you think people will want to hear through the process, but I accepted that the questions are there for a reason and being honest and realistic would make sure that the process and outcomes were right for everyone.
I didn’t find the process too difficult. I was led by my social worker and just kept looking at the next visit.
Harder to place
After being approved to adopt a child, I went to an afternoon with prospective adopters of older and harder to place children.
It seems pretty cold... going to look at children being ‘advertised’, for the want of a better expression. But I found it really eye opening.
We were shown pictures and videos of different children looking for their forever home. That was when I first saw Cora.
She was six which was older than I had been considering. But there was just something that said, ‘this is right’. In her video, she was bright, happy and inquisitive.
Knowing at six years old, a child was being considered harder to place just didn’t seem right. I was reading all about her and how excited she was at the prospect of having a new family and how ready she was to be adopted into a forever home.
I started thinking ‘she’s only six, she’s still so young. Ultimately, I wanted a family and so did she and that’s what kept coming back to me... it seemed right.
I pursued her adoption and in between more meetings and introductions I went and met people who were influential in her life - her teachers, her foster carers, health professionals and social worker.
Mentally I was trying to be driven by reality and not emotion.
I had done all the reading and had lots of questions to ask. I wanted there to be as few surprises as possible.
I had to be realistic because it was me on my own relying on my parents for childcare to allow me to provide for us both and do all the things I’d wanted to do. If she had any health issues for example I knew I wouldn’t be the right person for her. That being said, I was and still am well aware that you don’t know what is round the corner, but I wanted to know as much as I could.
The process can be long and you might think, ‘I’ll just go for it, it will be fine.’ But it’s about being able to say ‘maybe this isn’t right for me or the child, but the right fit will come along.’
I take my hat off to everyone who I met, they were so helpful and honest, nothing came as a surprise and they had answers to everything. Still to this day, some of the descriptions of Cora sit in my mind so clearly and remain true - resilient, happy and ready.
Amazing foster carers
She was placed into care at five and had been through a lot – more than anyone should ever go through. She was with her foster carers for a year and they did an amazing job. Even to this day she has contact with them and can have this for as long as she wants. I believe they shared a very special time and that should be remembered.
They did a lot of work with her so that she knew that her foster home (hopefully) wasn’t her forever home – giving her the permission she needed mentally to be able to move on embrace a new chapter. Right from the start she was really keen to be adopted and start again in a new home.
Bringing her home was terrifying. You’ve done all this preparation and it’s been your life for so long, communicating with other people, and all of a sudden it was just us two. It takes some time to sink in and adjust to having someone else in the home to think about.
At first my family were a bit nervous she would reject them. But she really wanted a granny and grandad and was happy they were hers so that was that. You would never have known she hadn’t been mine from day one.
Cora was a bit behind in some things at school – understandably. It was important to me that she catch up in school, but not more important than her happiness and feeling safe with me. Because of this I have never put any academic pressure on her – as long as she does herself proud then I’ll be happy.
She caught up in school by year six and I couldn’t be prouder of her school report, it says she is bubbly, polite and kind and contributes in class. What more could I ask for?
She is quite easily pleased and will give most stuff a go. She is happiest with her cousin or visiting granny and taking the dogs out. She is most definitely a home body!
One thing adopters may find daunting is Letterbox Contact with birth parents; how much contact should they have and how much do you tell them?
Cora knows everything with just a few details that she isn’t quite old enough to understand properly. I always answer her questions when she asks them and everyone in the family knows they can talk about it. From the first day I hoped that openness would prevent any upset further down the line.
She wasn’t interested in writing to her birth mum, so in the beginning I wrote on her behalf. I encouraged contact with her birth family so there would be no regrets or resentment in the future like ‘why didn’t we try’.
They never wrote back which is not uncommon but she is very pragmatic about it. She says ‘they had their chance and this is where I’m supposed to be.’
I think it’s best to be honest and open and to have decided what your approach will be ahead of time.
It still makes me well up to think that at six, seven or eight a child is written off as too old to be adopted. They still just want a cuddle or help getting dressed. They have a curious mind that is so keen to make sense of the world around them.
People think they wouldn’t feel like their own; like they’ve missed out on part of their life. You haven’t missed anything. They are still changing and have so much more growing up to do. You could do this with them as their parent. Do not rule out an older child.