Aberdeen’s adoption stories: The day that changed my life
As part of the national focus on Adoption Week, Aberdeen adoptive parents have shared their life-changing experience.
Every day Aberdeen City Council’s adoption service works with inspirational people who are prepared to make a lifelong commitment to children who need the love, care, stability and security of a family.
Two events to coincide with national Adoption Week are being held in Aberdeen. An Adoption UK Roadshow at Central Library on Monday (20 November) will be followed by a special screening of the film And Violet at the Beach Ballroom on Thursday, 23 November. For further information on the film visit: www.andviolet.co.uk . Free tickets for the screening, which will be held in the Star Ballroom at the Beach Ballroom, can be booked at: https://goo.gl/c1mFj6 . Further information on adoption services is available by calling 01224 264242 and online at: https://goo.gl/NJUjBh .
The moving account below is a first-hand experience of an Aberdeen resident who has faced the challenges and embraced the rewards of adoption.
The day that changed my life:
I was very nervous as I walked up to the door on King Street one day during the Easter holidays in 2011. I wasn’t sure I was what they were looking for, I thought I might be sent away when they found out I was on my own. Looking back I can say it was the day that changed my life - in just over six years I’ve gained two sons, life is very busy and hectic at times but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
When I walked through the door that day I was greeted by smiling face and shown to a side room where I was met by the duty social worker. They took some details and explained the process in detail to me. It was informal and she put me at ease very quickly.
I had a visit at home, then in September I was put on the three day preparation course where I met some other people at the same stage as me, all from different backgrounds all at different places in life. One couple had started the process, other couple, like me, had birth children and another had no children. We bonded well and it was like an antenatal group for us particularly in the early days.
From that day it was a whirlwind of meetings, discussing every aspect of my life, my parenting, my values, finances and upbringing. It was interesting, emotional, and difficult at times but through talking about it openly and honestly it was a relatively quick process. The support from my social worker it made it easy to do. Then there was a bit where my job was done and it was over to my worker. She had to follow up references, write up documents and prepare me for going to panel.
Panel was nerve wracking. The chair of the panel was very nice and welcoming but still they had my future in their hands. My son was keen to be a big brother and these strangers were going to make the decision. They asked questions based on what was in my Form F and asked for more information about my support network and my son’s views.
I was taken to a small room whilst they asked my worker questions and after what seemed like a lifetime (but was really only about 15 minutes) they came through and told they were going to approve my application to adopt. I was so happy, when I left I phoned my parents and my son and they were delighted too, but the hard work was just about to start.
Aberdeen was in the fortunate position that they didn’t have any children that met my requirements. We waited but there was no sign of any. Scotland then decided to trial Adoption Exchange Events, they had been used in England with great success. I signed up and waited for the dates to come around.
First I went to another local authority, there I was greeted by a room full of pictures of children all looking for a forever family. There were social workers and foster carers all ready to talk about the children giving valuable insight and helping to turn the pictures on the boards into real little people. Everyone was so accommodating and knowledgeable.
It was tricky as sometimes we just weren’t compatible for certain reasons but with a face and a name you can’t help thinking about the children and wondering if they did ever find their forever family.
Here I stumbled across the consortium table and on it a little boy who had similar interests to members of my own family, his favourite song was the same as my son’s and his favourite activity was swimming the same as me and my son, it seemed too good to be true. I even walked away and left his profile initially before returning to collect it on my way out and leaving mine with the lady.
There was two weeks before the next event. I had passed the profiles I had collected to my worker with the consortium table boy on the top. He was definitely our first choice. My worker had contacted his worker and the ball was rolling however she was now leaving to start a family of her own and I was getting a new worker, so I headed south with my mum armed with only a name of my new worker and a desire to know more about this little boy.
At the next Exchange Event I was wandering around, looking at the tables trying to see if there were any better matches but I knew none were more suited to us than what I already had. I was just about to finish for the day when my eye was caught by a video playing of a little boy. It was the boy whose picture I had at home. Lucky for me his foster carer was there to give more information about day to day living and his social worker. They both knew about me and had my profile with them too. Even better I found my new worker at the very next table and introduced myself and took her to see them.
The work then started. He didn’t have a Permanence Order with Authority to Adopt (POAA) but it was due to be heard in the coming six months, so all we could do was wait.
We asked lots of questions about him, I spoke with his foster carer on the phone, met the medical advisor and class teacher. We did all the initial meetings and with every meeting I felt that the match was right. I was falling in love with this wee boy who I had never met.
His POAA hearing was heard and it took longer than expected, all in all it took almost four months. At that point things started to move very quickly. The following month we went back to panel, then the month after that we met him and he moved in with us. He settled quickly and barring a couple of tears at night time initially he was a happy boy who quickly adapted to live with us. That was in 2013, two years and three months since I had walked off the street into the adoption offices in King Street.
Fast forward two and a bit years to September 2015, life as a family of three was very settled, my boys were very close and I had moved jobs and was happily employed. We had always talked about going back and seeing if we could extend the family again. I spoke to both of my boys and they were delighted. My youngest was very excited to not be the baby brother and was very keen to teach a new brother how to do things. My oldest was again happy (it is not cool to show excitement at his age) and we started the process again.
This time we needed more space first, and ideally I needed to lose some weight. We started to build to give us some more bedrooms and I started to exercise more. These went side by side along with an update to our Form F. This time the assessment took longer, the extension alone took a year. I lost four stone, changed worker, finished the assessment and we were ready to go.
During my assessment there was a shake-up at the adoption and fostering service and when I went to panel I was lucky to have to two workers with me who had completed my assessment. My initial worker had moved to the permanence team and was now going to be my family finder and my assessing worker. We went to panel in Easter 2017. The panel were great again this time they were even quicker to come to a decision. It had taken us 18 months to get to this point, we hunkered down ready for the long wait to find our next little man but little did we know what the following three months would have in store.
My worker and I discussed the plan, again Aberdeen didn’t have children the right age for us, we looked at Adoption Exchange Days again, Linkmaker (an online system) was now available to adopters, and there were Activity Days too. I struggled with the idea of an activity day, seeing the actual children there I felt I would want to take them all home so we made the decision to go with an upcoming Exchange Day and re-evaluate the Activity Day at a later stage. I was signed up and waited for the day to arrive.
One week later I was walking in the woods over at Hazlehead when my phone rang. The reception was patchy but when I found a good spot my worker told me that she had attended the Activity Day, she had seen a little boy who she thought we should enquire further about. I was excited but nervous. I logged on to Linkmaker and was approved by my worker, I looked up the little boy and found his profile. His needs seemed greater than I thought we could manage, but I’d been here before. Sometimes seeing it in black and white can make it seem worse than it is. Time to do the homework, questions had to be asked and people spoken to. Again this time I took time to speak with foster carers, social workers, and school teachers. The more I heard the more I loved my wee man before I had even met him.
A date was made for panel and we travelled down in the sunshine to meet and discuss the match, again it went very smoothly and the decision was made rather quickly. I quickly phoned my sons they were very excited and keen to meet their new brother. Just as well they only had a few weeks to wait!
Today I am a single mother of three very active boys. My house is a mess, there is never any peace or quiet, there are finger marks on the walls and windows and the fridge is never full for long!
Would I have it any other way? No.
Would I change what I have done? Never.
Do I love my hectic life? Of course.
Would I recommend adoption to others? Yes, if you have the patience, love and time to spend with a child, making them feel secure, giving them somewhere to belong and someone to belong to then the hard work is worth it. It is not always easy, the waiting can be hard, the introductions and first few months can be tricky but being there, allowing them time to adjust, keeping routines familiar and allowing contact with foster carers (phone, Facetime) help them to trust you and feel secure in their new home, allow them to adjust quickly and embrace their new life in the their new family. As with any children there are ups and downs are adopted children are no different. They come with a past we can’t always understand and sometimes they don’t either.
Today I have three lovely boys who make my life complete, I am sure they would say the same. We may not be a ‘normally’ created family but this is my family, they make me laugh every day, they are all very different but together we are a team who have such a strong bond I know I have made the right decisions for them all and two boys who had no family to call their own now have a family forever.