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Planning adoption ahead?

(10 Posts)
Meita Thu 26-May-11 16:32:09

Would you lovely ladies care to give me some advice?

We have a DBS (is that the correct terminology?), 9 months old.
Before he was conceived, before we started to TTC even, we were thinking about adopting. Kind of, because there are children out there who need loving parents, and maybe we could be that to them, and as we would really love to have kids, it would be win-win, wouldn't it? We figured we would at least strongly consider adopting a hard-to-place child, we'd have to look into it, maybe an 'older' child or even a sibling pair. We looked into processes and stuff but in the end decided to try for a birth child simply because it seemed 'easier' - the adoption process seemed like just about the hardest way to have a child, very daunting, plus having an adopted child seemed hard. We weren't sure we could cope, having never experienced parenthood yet. I guess we just weren't confident enough. For instance, we thought what if we adopt a child who already goes to school. That child would then have more experience and knowledge of the English school system than we have (we both grew up abroad). Wouldn't that make it very hard to parent?

Now DS is here and we love him so much, and our vision of an ideal future entails more than one child in our family, and there are still children out there who need loving parents. So adoption is again becoming a topic, a possibility, something we are thinking about.

Knowing about required age gaps (though I thought it was 3 years?) we have this as yet vague plan to try to adopt a roughly 3-year-old when DS is 6. (Having heard that after 3 years of age, children become 'hard-to-place') But, having mentioned this to friends, I have been told that that would be extremely hard on DS as he would have been a single child for 6 years and then suddenly have a 3-year-old sibling. I am kind of thinking that must be rubbish, if we had another birth child when he was 6 he would be expected to cope, yes of course it wouldn't be easy but getting a sibling can be distressing for the oldest child in a family in any circumstances. Am I underestimating something here?

What I really want to ask, would you think this is a more or less reasonable plan, that we can now lay aside for a few years, and then get back to it in good time? (Incidentially, what would be a good time?) Just like if we had a vague plan to TTC again when DS is 3, we wouldn't worry about it for now and get back to 'family planning' if you so will, in a few years. Or are there things to consider that we don't know about? Should we rather stay abreast, keep reading adoption info, already get in touch with agencies, or whatever?

I think I'm just a little worried because knowing how much can go wrong with planning to have birth children, that you can't just say 'oh we will TTC in 2 years' and then expect to have a baby at 2 years and 9 months, I'm sort of concerned that planning adoption like that could be equally doomed. In which case it would make more sense to say 'yes we want another child, yes we think adoption would be good, so lets start the process now and see where it takes us' (which also sounds attractive to me in a way, but would be sort of giving up on the idea of adopting an older child).

Any comments much appreciated, and thanks for reading through such a long post!

Lilka Thu 26-May-11 18:18:38

Hi smile

Most Local Authority's wouldn't consider you until your DS reaches school age because of the age gap (usually 2 years minimum, up to 4 or 5 years), and some might want more, because they might only be taking on people who have an age range of 0-5 at least, so your DS would need to be 7. But nearer the time, you'll have to phone around and ask what their policy is, or look online at their webpages. They do change so it might well be different in 5 years time than it is now

I think it's fine to plan ahead a bit. You can't ever know how long it would take to get approved and get matched with a child, or even how long to get on a prep course, but you could plan to approach agencies at a certain time e.g. when he turns 6 we'll try and start the ball rolling. It certainly takes patience to go through the process, but I found my homestudy fine both times I went through the full process

I don't necessarily think having a birth child makes it any the easier to adopt. Being an adoptive parent is different to being a birth parent. You have to parent differently, because traditional techniques don't often work, and adoptive children have some pretty wierd and wacky behaviors that you won't have ever seen before anyway grin I think not having experience was helpful to me because I didn't have any pre-concieved notions of how a normal average child behaves iyswim. I took some behavior as normal and was surprised to later to realise no one else's kids did that! But as long as you are flexible, having birth children shouldn't be a problem either, although it sometimes takes longer to get matched with a a child if you already have one

I think leaving it later is better because your DS will be a bit more independent and maybe better able to cope with a new sibling. Having a new birth sibling is different to having a new adoptive sibling, and can be more difficult to adjust to. Children who have been through the system are traumatised children. They have usually been neglected and/or abused, then they lose everything they know when they are removed. They build up a bond with their foster carers, and are then uprooted again when they are adopted. That's if they only have one carer. The children then often have big problems with trusting adults, and attatching to them, and can have problems with food, school, friendships...the effects of their past on their development and their brain follow them around for the long term. So parenting them can be very challenging. It is the best decision I ever made in my life, and the rewards for me have been huge smile but it's certainly not for everyone and you and your DH will have to decide for yourselves whether you want that or not

Meita Fri 27-May-11 20:53:20

Thanks Lilka, very much appreciated. Some food for thought there.

I think that having our birth DS has given us some confidence, as in, we thought before 'how can we take on a probably difficult, traumatised child when we don't even know if we can deal with a healthy, untraumatised child?' I do understand that parenting an adoptive child brings a different set of challenges. But I'm also aware that having another birth child might also result in a very challenging child, perhaps with SN, there are no guarantees... In fact we were lucky with DS in that he had Group B Strep at birth which leaves many who had it with disabilities (if they survive), that really brought it home to me that anything could happen, but also that I would love my child and do my utmost to be a good parent to him whatever his disabilities.

You have reassured me that it is an ok plan to wait, at least until DS is at school, and then think hard again, do some soul-searching, and start the ball rolling. The only regret I have at that plan is that it means it will be a long time - a long time in which we have a one-child family, a long time until our next child (or children) joins the family. Perhaps in a couple of years or so we could consider fostering... a whole different thing again, I know!

walesblackbird Sat 28-May-11 18:31:45

The thing is though that having another birth child arrive in the family is so very different to having a traumatised baby/toddler/already formed 3 year old.

I've had three babies placed with me. All considered easy to place. Two are relatively straightforward, one has the most awful problems. And he was placed as a baby. With the benefit of hindsight it's not difficult to see that attachment disorder was going to be a problem but having already parented one baby then I thought, naively, that we could easily manage another one so called easy to place baby.

I cannot stress to you how difficult life has been and still is. My son is now 7. He has ADHD as well as an insecure attachment. He has therapy, he is medicated, he has a psychiatrist, he has been regularly excluded from school and is now in a special unit.

He functions emotionally at 18 months, he has separation anxiety. When he's away from me he panics and doesn't cope.

I have two other children - one older and one younger - and it has a huge impact on their lives. We no longer go out as a couple - our son is too difficult for anyone other than us to manage. We have social workers involved in our lives again when a few years ago I thought I'd waved them goodbye!

I'm not saying this simply to put you off but this is our reality. I love my son with all my heart - he is my baby - but life is so, so stressful.

Children don't become hard to place at 3 - no matter at what age they're placed they will have experienced huge traumas and if you have a child with an attachment disorder then we're talking about an inability to attach in the worst instances. Violence, stealing, hoarding food ......

Before you even consider your next step I would start reading. Contact BAAF - they could help.

In the meantime I'd start by reading Margot Sunderland's What Every Parent Should Know. This explains how the brain is wired and how difficult, stressful pregnancies can affect the unborn child.

And then, of course, you need to consider that bm would probably/possibly have abused various substances during pregnancy which, again, can have a long term effect - particularly alcohol.

Good luck. I'm not saying don't do it but you need to educate yourself on the difficulties that you may face.

KristinaM Sat 28-May-11 20:00:23

If your motivation to adopt is to take a hard to place child, then these are school aged children, those in l arge sibling groups and children with significant special needs.

Healthy three year olds are very easy to place and there are families now approved and waiting for such a child

What kind of hard to place child do you think you could parent?

Meita Sat 28-May-11 21:20:15

What kind of hard to place child do I think I/we could parent?

Well, right now I don't know, but we're not considering adopting right now either.
My first (somewhat naive perhaps) thought would have been an older child - I don't remember where I saw that kids over 3 become 'hard to place' but am happy to be corrected on that. I could imagine a 5yo, a 7yo, who knows, perhaps even a 9yo. One reason that makes me wish for the younger side of that spectrum is that otherwise it would be such a long time to wait. Not because I think the younger the better. I suppose different ages at adoption bring different challenges with them, not necessarily worse ones.
Second idea would be a pair of siblings, this would be dependent on our financial situation though - going to +2 children all at once needs to be thought through very carefully. (Not saying that other adoption decisions are easy either!)
I would consider special needs. Again it would be a bit of a financial question. Before DS was born, and before we were confronted with the possibility of him having long term disabilities, I found it hard to imagine having a child with SN. Now I think we would at least consider it. Is it very wrong to think it is a bit like making the decision not to terminate a pregnancy when doctors tell you at your 13w-scan, that your DC will be disabled? I mean, you never have any guarantees for health. But sometimes you have certainty about the lack of full health. And yet you can choose to go ahead. Circumstances would have to be right (I am thinking about support by relatives and such), I think there would be no point in taking on more than we can handle.

Somehow - through documentaries, adverts, webpages and such - I got the idea that there are long waiting lists for adopting babies, but that over 3yo, pairs of siblings, and even the most minor special needs, mean that many kids find it hard to find a home. Is that so far away from the truth?

I'm not sure I'd say my motivation to adopt is to be a family to a hard-to-place child. Maybe more that if we were to adopt, it might as well be a child who would otherwise be likely not to find a family (soon), rather than a child who has several good options lined up. Well. Maybe that is not so different? Will do some more soulsearching. Thanks Kristina and WalesBB for helping me work through these things!

Meita Sat 28-May-11 21:38:38

Also, WalesBB, I'm sorry to hear how hard things are for you.

DP has an adopted brother, who was predicted to be 'retarded' when he was placed with their family at age 2 (the terminology of the time). He has recently graduated with a Masters degree and is a well adjusted adult with a close relationship to his parents and siblings. Maybe this 'success story' has made me too optimistic.
I do understand (at least on an abstract level - I suppose to REALLY understand, you need to have the experience) that every adopted child will come with their particular challenges - at the very least the trauma of abandonment by their birth parents. I am also aware though that having a(nother) birth child does not guarantee health and well-being and an easy life ...

walesblackbird Sat 28-May-11 22:21:00

I think the thing is that adoptions that happened 20/30 odd years ago are very different to adoptions nowadays. Now you're talking about babies or children being removed from dysfunctional birth mothers. Birth mothers who abused substances during pregnancy, who possibly lived with violent partners who abused them during pregnancy. Stressful pregnancies affect stress levels in a child. My son functions at a stress level which is much, much higher than a 'normal' person because of the stresses that he endured whilst in bm's womb and before being placed with us.

Generally they're not abandoned by birth family - our son's bm fought very hard to keep him actually - and that's partly the problem. They're quite often unable to see that they're not putting their child's interests first and are incapable of doing so.

You have a birth child and you bringing and adopted child into an already settled home can bring huge challenges. Certainly you wouldn't be allowed to adopt a child older than your birth child. Your birth child would have to be able to keep their place in the hierarchy.

My son is a very, very bright little boy with a high IQ - it's just that because of his very tough (albeit relatively short) time with bps it's left him with possibly a lifelong 'disability'.

All I can suggest is that you keep researching and keep reading. The better educated you are then the more prepared you will be!

Lilka Sat 28-May-11 23:07:13

Agree with Wales. Nowadays it is very rare for a mother to give up her parental rights. If you adopt an older child, you will be definitely adopting a child who was taken away from their first parents. And to be honest, it has to be pretty bad to lose your child for good. You're talking being severely neglected, physically and/or sexually abused etc. Living with parents who hit each other, or used drugs in front of their child. Bounced around from carer to carer. I'm talking about the mental effects of that having happened on the childs brain and their development. It can be so tough parenting in these circumstances. In my experience, beyond amazing as well...the tougher the challenge, the more amazing the reward when my children achieve something. But my children, especially especially my girls, will never recover. They will never be the people they would have been if they had never been abused. My oldest has achieved amazing things...but not what a 'normal' child could expect to achieve. She has made lasting friendships. She is happily married. She has 3 GCSE's! I know quite a few adult adoptees her age who won't achieve that any time soon. Equally, I know a few who have achieved much more! But the issues nowadays are not the same as 30 years ago. They are barely on the same planet in some respects

And yes, there are many many people hoping to adopt babies. Children over 5 wait longer, once they are over 7, it's a slim chance of getting adopted, because so few adoptive parents want a child over 7. I adopted a 10 year old, but willing to go a couple of years older, and I have only found two people, both online, who were willing to go that high in age. Now, everyone must pick the right age range for them. But I would like to say, some people have this idea that the age of the child is the biggest factor in any potential problems. I am pretty darn sure it's not. The experiences the child has had, and their own individual personality are IMO the biggest factors. My two older girls have still done better than a couple of kids adopted as babies

snail1973 Mon 30-May-11 22:51:00

Meita, you seem like a very thoughtful person and are obviously aware of some of the issues involved in adoption, so you are several steps ahead of me when I first thought about it! I think your feeling that adopting is the hardest route possible to get a child is not far from the truth.

As other posters have said, the reality is that these days there is usually a queue of couples (and some single people) ready and waiting to adopt 'easy' children. Age is a big factor, because the older the child the more likely it is that they have suffered longer periods of harm/abuse/neglect. However, the bigger issues are whether the child has diagnosed developmental delay, physical or mental disabilities or issues arising from drug or alcohol addiction.

Noone would deny however that many couples do want a child in the under 2 yrs age category, and I think that once they are 3yrs they probably are a little harder to place...(no evidence for that other than a 3yr old girl I knew about who it took ages to place and had no issues other than having red hair which I think some people are funny about) but nowhere near as hard to place as those with significant 'issues'.

Many LAs are now wanting a larger age gap between children, but not all... in fact we found one who were happy to assess us when DD was only 4 yrs. So it is worth ringing around.

Don't be afraid to say, yes we would still like to explore this, but we would prefer a younger child (3 yrs or under) and see where that takes you. Just because there are others out there who want the same doesn't mean you shouldn't go for it. And I think that your experience with GBS would be reason enough for any SW to understand why perhaps you didn't necessarily want another birth child when there are children who need a new family... Good luck

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