I’m so thrilled to introduce Sophia – our first blogger who is a new mum through adoption. I must admit to knowing very little about the whole adoption process, and this first post by Sophia has really opened my eyes to this whole other route to becoming a parent.
If you have any queries about adoption that you would like Sophia to try and answer for you, please comment below.
Sophia blogs at www.loveinthecloudsblog.com
I’m really excited to be the first mum on Blogs for Babies through adoption!
Adoption is a crazy journey and something I find people are really curious about. There is so much in the media or through hearsay that isn’t true so hopefully today I can shed some light on it. Let’s start with busting 20 myths of adoption:
MYTH#1: You get to choose a baby
BUSTED: It’s not like shopping. Anyone who views hearing about children in need in that way really shouldn’t be adopting! Through the lengthy assessment process you explore with your social worker the kind of child as a family that you could cope with, what could make you uncomfortable or affect your attachment with a child, and where your skills and personalities lie. It’s to ensure that once a child is adopted it really will last forever, that long terms needs have really been considered. The social workers discuss profiles of families and children to ensure a “match” is made that will last. For many adopters this means expressing an interest in a child only to be told a large number of adopters are being considered and waiting, hoping for weeks before you know if you’re ruled in or out. It’s not easy.
There are websites where approved adopters can view profiles of children waiting, but it’s not an easy surf. To see all those children in need of a family and read harrowing stories is heart breaking. Whenever we looked on them I felt awful afterwards, however it is a necessity to ensure that matches can be made as quickly as possible for the child.
MYTH#2: You have to pay lots of fees
BUSTED: In America private adoptions can costs tens of thousands. I think this is where this myth in the UK has come from. In the UK, adopting a child through the state, domestically, does not cost anything. The local authority pays for the preparation, training and home assessment. The only charge is when applying to court to formally adopt, which currently is about £170.
Adopting from overseas can be expensive. The adoption agency may charge a fee. There are also the visits to their country to consider, which may be more than once. It can still be well worth it, but is something to think about when considering your options.
MYTH#3: Adopters are always needed so you would have a child straight away
BUSTED: Since the huge, and much needed, campaigns to attract new prospective adopters in many local authorities the wait has actually increased. This doesn’t mean all children have been adopted though. It just means there are a lot more adopters waiting too, but your wait can depend also on what child you are happy to adopt. If you feel you could cope with a child with very high needs, there are sadly many children in need of you. Please contact your local agency!
To give you an example, from the time we attended the adoption information session to when we brought Shipmate (nickname for our son) home took nearly 2 years. That included a delay due to availability of a social worker to take on our case. From what I hear that’s pretty quick, however I also know people for whom it took under a year in their county. It’s worth asking about current waiting times for the assessment when you make an enquiry. That way you can be realistic in your expectations. It’s painful getting your hopes up, i.e. by Christmas we could be a family, only to have to undergo that event still waiting.
MYTH#4: Single people, Gay/Bi/Lesbian people, people with any difficult history, disability or that have ever had depression can’t adopt
BUSTED: Noooo! All applicants for adoption should be treated equally. The most important thing is that you have a loving and stable home. The home assessment covers your relationships, whether you are single, gay or heterosexual makes no difference. It’s about who will be in the child’s life and whether that is a good thing for them. You will also be asked to undertake a health assessment with your GP. If you have had medical problems, the severity, whether this could affect the ability to parent, and whether you have accepted help (especially in depression) will be considered. It is a strength to have known when to seek help. Everyone goes through difficult periods in the life. You are not expected to be perfect.
MYTH#5: You can’t adopt if you live in a flat and must own a house
BUSTED: You can live in the flat, you can be renting. It’s about whether your home is safe and suitable to bring up a child. Just because you don’t have a garden doesn’t mean you won’t be able to use local parks for outdoor time. You will however need a bedroom for the child.
MYTH#6: Once you adopt you’ll relax and get pregnant
BUSTED: This is said so often. Adoption isn’t a relaxing experience. Being a parent generally often isn’t! It’s busy, there is always something to do and kids are demanding. If this was true for any parent, when they are ready for their second child it would just happen! It should also be born in mind that for some (not all) adoptive parents, they may have been through infertility issues. Saying to them they will “just get pregnant” could actually be pretty hurtful.
MYTH#7: Adoption is a second choice
BUSTED: For many people adoption was their first parenting choice. I for one would never look back wishing I’d had a birth child. Any birth child we had had wouldn’t have been Shipmate and I wouldn’t want anyone other than our Shipmate!
MYTH#8: All adopted children have been abused
BUSTED: Children come into the care system for all sorts of reasons. Yes some have been through traumatic abuse that should never have had to happen to them. For others it may have been that they were “At Risk” of abuse e.g. perhaps previous siblings had been harmed and taken into care or there are significant concerns around the safety of a birth parent or their ability to keep the child safe. Though rarer, some babies are also relinquished. My point is just not to make any assumption. You may never know why your friend’s child needed adoption. It’s a very private piece of their life.
MYTH#9: All adopted children are orphans
BUSTED: Again this is rare. Usually there is a birth family in existence for whom you need to be able to have some understanding and perhaps have letterbox or face to face contact. That you will need to explain to the child and help them to understand the situation.
MYTH#10: Adopting an older child means you miss the hard bit/sleepless nights/nappies etc.
BUSTED: For many adoptive parents this is met with sadness. They would have loved to have been a walking zombie from a sleepless night with their child as a baby, or drowning in nappies. For some children they come with other “difficult” times as they settle in with their new family and learn to trust again. It’s not necessarily harder or easier, just different.
MYTH#11: You can just adopt from abroad
BUSTED: There is the option of adopting from abroad but that’s a whole specialist subject in itself. Not something I have experience of. However I know from friends it’s also a long process, from many countries an even longer process than in the UK. You may be dealing with another language, a foreign legal system, fees and distance. Whilst obviously still very worth it, to them it’s not as easy as “just adopting from abroad”.
MYTH#12: You can’t adopt if you’re in the military
BUSTED: Yes you can! Military personnel are also entitled to Adoption Leave. You can adopt through your local authority or there is an organisation called SAFA especially for military families that provides an adoption service.
MYTH#13: Adoption means you have to live in fear of birth family finding you
BUSTED: Not all birth families pose a danger. Some try to move on the best they can from such a hard experience. Some may have agreed with the route of adoption or adoption was needed because they couldn’t care for their child due to severe learning disability for example. Where there is a danger, the adoption agency would discuss that with you and measures that could be put in place e.g. the child may be adopted out of the county or in extreme circumstances it may be advised their name is changed. Part of the agency’s job is to ensure a safe match, risk assess and provide a support plan.
MYTH#14: Birth family can claim the adopted child back
BUSTED: Once a child has been adopted it cannot be overturned. You become the legal parent of your child permanently.
MYTH#15: It’s best not to tell the child they were adopted/help them to forget about their past
BUSTED: This attitude always breaks my heart. In my opinion (and many professionals in the area) children have a right to their origins and history. Imagine finding out by accident as a teenager or adult and feeling your parents lied to you about something so so important. In the past this may have been common but many of those adoptees grew up feeling something was “different” and feeling hurt that they weren’t told the truth and choice was taken away.
There are many books and services available now to help explain adoption to a child. Their social worker provides a life story book and later life letter to explain their personal history on their level.
In our house adoption is an open subject. Children in the wider family know Shipmate was adopted and have children’s story books to begin explaining it in a child friendly way. It doesn’t need to feel shameful or secretive.
MYTH#16: You get paid loads to adopt
BUSTED: Adoption agencies don’t pay prospective adopters to adopt. Adoption Allowance is available the same as it is to biological families in the form of maternity pay. It’s not much! Some adoptive families may receive a top up from their adoption agency, but this would be for extra support such as towards medical needs.
MYTH#17: You can’t adopt over age 40
BUSTED: You must be over 21 years old but there is no upper age limit in law as far as I am aware. The adoption agency would discuss with you your particular circumstances.
MYTH#18: You can’t adopt if you already have birth children
BUSTED: Not at all. Many adopters have previous birth or adopted children. The current child/ren’s needs would be considered to help them understand what adoption means and how things will change. Some children may need a home with no other children due to their experience or needs but there are many who would love brothers and sisters.
MYTH#19: You can’t adopt if you have ever been in trouble with the police
BUSTED: Obviously if you have any convictions against children you won’t be suitable to adopt. However other convictions would be considered by the adoption agency on a case by case basis. If you were caught shoplifting a nail varnish as a dare as a teenager it’s unlikely that’s going to affect whether you would be a good parent now!
MYTH#20: You can’t love an adopted child as much as a birth child
BUSTED: I don’t have experience of a birth child however every day I think I can’t love this little guy any more than I do then the next day it surprises me that I do! I am told by biological parents it is just the same for them. For some the feeling is immediate, for some it takes time to grow (just as it can for a biological parent). The love between a mother and child is special and personal however it is formed and not something that I feel should be compared whether it’s between adoptive and biological parent or between biological to biological parent. It’s too individual. Love occurs in many circumstances and different types of relationships around the world. There is no way of measuring it. I think we should just value it however it turns up 😉
I hope that has made sense for you. If not please leave a comment below and I’ll try to help along with any questions you may have that I haven’t answered. In my next post I’ll tell you how our story started. It’s been a long and at times overwhelming journey, but oh so worth it.
Follow Sophia on Twitter @loveclouddesign