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Here are some suggested organisations that offer expert advice on adoption.

What are your stories about adopting with birth children?

(25 Posts)
parasaurolophus Fri 24-May-13 13:57:00

We have two boys, ages 9 and 7. My boys are marvellous. They are happy, doing well in school, have many friends, and are very independent. They get on very well with each other.

A few weeks ago my DH suggested adopting a 4-5 year old girl. (I think the boys will be 11 and 8.5 before we have a child placed with us). The more I looked into this, the more it seemed to be the right thing to do for our family. We have the emotional space to welcome in another person. We have the physical space. DH and I still have a lot of parenting love and energy to give someone. I work in special needs, and I have skills that will help us deal with issues of attachment and challenging behaviour. We would like to adopt a typically developing girl without a serious history of challenging behaviour. I have made a few calls to local adoption agencies.

I have a lot of energy and love to give. I will be able to understand that the challenges presented by an adopted child will not be personal. I can be patient while that bond grows. But what about my boys?

I think my boys will be okay, but I've read horror stories on about how taking on an AC devastated the family. I worry that I am making this decision for my boys because it is something I want. (They will be totally up for this, but they aren't able to make a fully informed choice at their age).

Can anyone share their experiences?

FamiliesShareGerms Fri 24-May-13 16:19:44

Hi para, we adopted DD when DS (birth son) was 5, nearly 6. She was 15 months old at that point, so about 4.5 years between them.

DS was part of the process as far as possible - eg he was aware what we were doing and was very keen to have a little brother or sister. But we didn't involve him in deciding to proceed with the match and didn't tell him until it was confirmed.

So far, so good - they adore each other! My parents were really worried about the impact on DS (they heard the horror stories too) but now say adopting DD is the best thing that we have ever done for him.

Have you got more specific concerns?

Devora Fri 24-May-13 22:42:08


I always come away from that site feeling close to desperate. I don't doubt anything written on it, but inevitably I suppose it is most heavily used by adopters who are having a really rough time. Which could happen to any of us, but is not necessarily representative.

All I can say is that my birth child was rising 5 when we adopted a 10 month old baby. Three years on, they fight and squabble but they also adore each other, are very loyal to each other, and absolutely own each other as sisters. I have no doubt that it has been good for both my children to have each other. But then I may not be representative either.

The home study process will focus very strongly on your sons. They have to be assessed too, and the social worker will help you think through what is best for them. Of course bringing a new child into the family carries risks - this is also true of biological children, though I accept the risks are higher with adoption (I have no idea how to quantify how much higher).

Best of luck with your decision-making.

aladdinsane Sun 26-May-13 18:35:34

I am an UK user and definitely have adopted a challenging child but its not all doom and gloom. I think about adoption in a very positive and I don't regret adopting our little girl
I think your boys are a good age
our bs was 9 when we adopted ad 15 months
she was an 'easy to place' child with no identified extra needs
I just think about it like I would if I had given birth to a child with SN
I am more unhappy with services, the lack decent therapeutic support or post adoption support. Fighting for what she needs takes a lot of my time and energy
I think you need to keep it in mind that few adopted children have grown in a healthy womb, the care system in this country is appalling so being in care from birth does not guarantee a good outcome, my dd had several moves in the care system - all of these are traumas for a developing brain so the chance of having extra needs is much higher than for a birth child
it is very rewarding though

KristinaM Mon 27-May-13 13:56:04

Hi para

You say you want " to adopt a typically developing girl without a serious history of challenging behaviour " aged 4-5 years.

Tell me about this girl, how and when she came into care and why she is now available for adoption now? What kind of life do you imagine she will she have had and how will that fitinto your family and lifestyle?

parasaurolophus Mon 27-May-13 15:14:43

Thanks everyone, for your kind replies. ( forgive my typing here. I am on the iPad because dh and the dss have taken my laptop for a giant multi player mine craft)

I am speaking of a hypothetical girl we hope to adopt. In our talking about this, we have been thinking about who our family could cope with:

1. The child should be a girl. We have 2 boys. I think as girl would occupy an unique place in the family, and I hope that could help with sibling issues.

2. We don't want a baby. Four years feels young enough to be able to form a good attachment with our family, but still much younger than BC.

3. I work in special needs and challenging behaviour. I understand how marvellous these children are, and how much progress they can make. I have made this my life's work. However, I cannot intentionally choose this for my family.

We have the love and resources to take in and care for another child. I could have another baby, but I don't want to. I would like to give these love and resources to a child who needs a home.

The child I imagine will have suffered trauma and have attachment issues. She will test us with difficult behaviours for a time and she will take awhile to attach. In my imaginary scenario we work very hard on attachment and behaviour. This does not scare me. I know how to do this. In two years she is a loved and happy member of our family. She will go to regular school and have friends. I will love her very much.

I do not know if this is a reasonable scenario. I did a pubmed search yesterday and very little is known about late, domestic adoption. Nothing is known about the effects on BC. Frankly, adoptionuk is terrifying as many people seemed to have adopted children with chronic psychopathology. It is a big risk to take, and I worry that it is an irresponsible level of risk for my BC.

It all may be irrelevant, as my previously enthusstic DH is now not signing the preliminary papers for the LA. He says he will, but he isn't. I am a bit sad, as this feels like something I really wan to explore.

parasaurolophus Mon 27-May-13 15:35:48

He just signed it with no fuss at all. Four hours of mine craft with the boys on a rainy day has made him agreeable.

Now I can meet with a SW who can tell me how realistic I am being.

Lilka Mon 27-May-13 16:20:48

I don't have BC but have adopted more than once so have gone through the worries about my first/second child and what will happen when the second/third child comes into the mix etc

My two girls were adopted as older children, but older than you are considering, and also with identified and diagnosed special needs, and my son was a younger child with no identified special needs meeting all developmental milestones. However I'm pretty unusual, most of the adoptive families I know have adopted children aged 0-6 without any identified moderate-severe special needs.

When it comes to children aged 4-6... the majority of the children do have emotional issues not present in a birth child. The majority, a few years along the line from coming home, are loved unconditionally and the families are happy. However even years down the line the majority need a bit of additional input. The most common issues I've seen families deal with are educational (not so much academic performance but social/anxieties/behavioural), social, and insecurities/attachment or trust related things. Those aren't issues which rule their lives and they are very happy and would not regret adoption for a minute, but they are additional things which are dealt with on top of all the standard things they deal with as a family.

Then there are a significant minority who do have definite special needs (emotional/behavioural) and another minority who don't appear to have any additional needs at all.

So my feeling is...realistically, in considering an older child, you need to be prepared and comfortable to parent a child with some additional needs which will be there for the majority of their childhood/into adulthood. I'm not talking severe problems, but things like a child who needs a bit more input in social situations, a child who needs some extra input in (mainstream) school, a child who can become quite anxious and then revert/regress back to some behaviours which test you, a child who does need time to attach. A child who does have some difficult behaviours although not so problematic they are needing to attend at CAHMS etc.

I would definitely reasonably expect you to be able to identify a child aged 4-6 who - has suffered trauma and has some insecurities/attachment issues/difficult but not scary behaviours, has some friends at school, is performing somewhere between a bit below to a bit above average, and is not significantly developmentally delayed or diagnosed with any moderate-severe special needs. Obviously though, it is a leap of faith and no one can predict how the move will affect the child etc.

Also, a child aged 6 who joins you is highly likely to have strong memories of their birth family home life and contact sessions etc, so be prepared also to deal with the topic of birth family coming up more often. Older children often have complex feelings about their birth family, it's a topic you need to be comfortable discussing.

However my children do have good sibling relationships and the majority of adopters I know with more than one child also do not have any significant problems with sibling relationships.


Happyasapiginshite Tue 28-May-13 23:55:28

Lilka, can I just're lovely. You always take time to write out very considered posts. flowers

KristinaM Tue 28-May-13 23:59:34

< looks for like button>

aladdinsane Wed 29-May-13 07:08:47

I would like to point out how serious attachment disorder is
I have read posts on here and other forums where potential adopters say they do not want a child with SN or challenging behaviour but do expect to cope with the attachment stuff
My DD's only diagnosis is attachment disorder and it is very challenging and serious
We live with internal locks on our doors, she has a full time 1-1 at school, we cannot let her play unsupervised at all
Attachment is about more than the child bonding with you and your family. It should really be called 'neurodevelopment disorder' because it changes the way the brain develops. Attachment style is developed according to how the child is nurtured from birth
Love and nurture can improve the lot of any child but you cannot undo the brain that has already developed
Our fantastic SW advised to say yes to SN but a definite no to attachment problems because we have BS. We got a child with severe attachment problems.
Thats the other thing to remember - you may say you cope with eg a child who has been sexually abused. Well you may get that child because SS do not always have a complete history or it may come to light later
Adopted children need parents who will cope with whatever comes up and there will be many uncertainties

Lilka Wed 29-May-13 14:41:20

blush smile thank you Happy and Kristina thanks But I do type very fast and I don't spend as long on posts as you might think looking at them!!

I do agree with aladdinsane that attachment disorder is definitely on the severe end of special needs. The problem for social services is that attachment is a spectrum and the majority of waiting children do have some issues with they need to prepare all adoptive parents to deal with (at least milder) attachment issues. But of course some children have these issues to a much greater degree and they do need parenting plus and therapeutic inuput. When I did the tick box form second time around, I said 'yes' to some attachment issues but 'no' to attachment disorder/RAD as I did not really want to cope with that if I had the choice...but I did know, as aladdin so rightly points out, your preferences in no way matter if you adopt a child whose attachment disorder has been missed/not identified/signs ignored. As it was, I adopted a (second) child who did have certain needs (foetal alcohol effects being the main one) and certain ways of behaving, that I was not aware of at the time of adopting, and had to adjust.

Adoption means accepting uncertainty to a large degree. You can express your preferences and then you and your SW will try as far as possible to find a child who meets the preferences you expressed. But at the end of the day, you make a leap of faith when you adopt.

parasaurolophus Wed 29-May-13 19:42:49

Thanks again for these very thoughtful and considered ideas. I appreciate all the time you are giving.

I have been reading the research on adoption in the UK. Only about 25% of placements over the age of five end up without behaviour problems. Another 50% are considered "happy" adoptions and the other 25% break down or experience serious challenging behaviours. A percentage of children can go on to form healthy attachments but many do not. The most interesting data were that most problems were stable after the first year.

It is a lot to consider, and our main concerns are about the impact on our BC. We will have a lot of questions to ask the SW when we meet soon.

Italiangreyhound Thu 30-May-13 00:51:57

aladdinsane can I ask, if it is not too nosy, how quickly you realised the extend of your dd's attachment disorder and how you coped?
I know adoptive parents don't like lots of praise, and I know why, but if I were wearing a hat I would take it off to you.

I am just eager to learn. Please PM me if you prefer, not not at all if you prefer. Thanks so much.

Para can I ask if you have spoken about this to your boys at all and what they think? I'm just curious. My DD knows all about our adoption plans and is very keen. It is very hard to keep having to dampen down some of her enthusiasm about it, she is very positive but I know we may be in for a very rocky road at times. We really wanted our DD to have a sibling and this is our way of doing it, I really wanted to be a mum again and I now feel very positive about it all but also quite scared. It is really a lot to get one's head around!

All best wishes, Para.

aladdinsane Thu 30-May-13 08:06:19

I will pm you with more info
She was only 15 months old when placed so I took it to be a more extreme sort of toddler behaviour
I did notice very worrying signs when we were doing intros though - I was already emotionally involved and no way would i have not taken her

For anyone who doesnt want my life : She had too many moves for such a young child, in a room full of people she went to anyone with arms outstretched and you wouldnt have known who was her foster carer, she headbutted fc and would bang her head on the walls and floor (although we were not told the full extent of this until she was placed with us, neither was our SW), although she was very needy she didnt seem to get comfort from being held and would work her way around everyone in the room
my other big mistake was not securing a commitment to post adoption support and therapy before going for the AO - I have been fighting for this ever since

parasaurolophus Thu 30-May-13 09:35:25

The biggest concern for me (with regard to BC) is the unknowable about the issues the child has that you can help with and the issues that you can't help with. I have read and read and read about risk factors, and we can be firm about what we can handle. This thread has been so helpful in helping me understand that you can't really control what happens. These are the conversations DH and I are having now.

Italiangreyhound, we haven't told the boys yet because we are still exploring this idea. They will be all for it, I am sure, but they can't really understand this decision. We don't trust them not to tell all their friends, who will then tell all their parents, and we don't want to have those conversations yet. One of the boys has a recently adopted girl in his class (she seems to be doing great) so it is a conversation topic that has some traction. When DH and I have made up our mind, we will start to talk to the boys about it. If they are totally against it, we will wait. I don't think they will be against it though, I think they will find it interesting. As 7 and 9 year old boys, I don't think they are very good at predicting how something will make them feel.

PearlyWhites Thu 30-May-13 09:41:25

Op I think you are being a little naive if you think the difficult behaviour will only be for a time, it may well be all the time. Having experience of special needs children is NOT the same as adopting a child who is traumatised. I do wish you well .

Italiangreyhound Thu 30-May-13 16:54:21

Thanks para I hope all will go well with you and your family, I am glad these threads are useful.

You said One of the boys has a recently adopted girl in his class (she seems to be doing great) so it is a conversation topic that has some traction. Have you made friends with the mum and chatted to her, I would think she would be a useful resource. I don't think you need to tell anyone anything too much, by that I mean we talked about adoption in general terms first with DD (now 8) and we made it clear it was private to talk about at home or with her close friends but not at school. I did this because I did not want everyone knowing our business and if we backed out or did not get accepted my main fear was that my DD's friends would think she had been lying about it, rather than anyone thinking we had 'failed' in some way. I agree it can hard to keep kids quiet so I am sure you are doing the right thing in waiting before talking about it.

aladdinsane Thank you so much for your message, I have replied and will pick your brain some more if you are willing to be 'brain-picked'!! Please! Thanks so much.

2ndtimeround Sat 01-Jun-13 20:03:46

Hello all! I am really delighted to find this discussion as my DH and I are about to move further along our adoption journey. We have two biological children (6&8) and have many emotions racing through us and a million questions. We are doing our prep group in about 10 days but appreciate that we are coming at this from a slightly different place (we were told that the LA had never had a couple with 2 bio children adopt before) than the others are likely to be. We both have had long careers in education of children with special needs and I specialise in a medical setting with children with complex needs, many of whom are looked after or waiting for adoption a d from very very complex backgrounds. I'm not sure that being experts in child development and behavioural dificulties professionally and being parents twice over prepares you for being an adoptive parent (I'm fast learning that this is a very different journey and outcome). Our eyes have been opened to the complexities and challenges and I also agree that lots of the posts on other sites from people in our position are negative and very distressing. It feels scary to enter into something that will rock our very stable and secure foundation as a family but equally that feels like a great place to start from. The children have expressed good and less good viewpoints (only on initial discussions) but it is so abstract for them to relate to (it's abstract enough for us!). A mix of delight, excitement, anxiety, worry and entering the great unknown... But some of that likely comes with parenthood of any kind, this just feels amplified greatly. Any advice on how to involve bio children in be process would be great fully received and I'd love to hear how things progress. Thanks again! &#128522;

parasaurolophus Tue 27-Aug-13 14:45:09

I thought I would follow this up in case others find it during a search.

We have decided not to proceed with adoption at this time, which is heartbreaking but the right choice for us.

We met with our LA and our VA, both of whom were very positive and encouraging. We were invited to attend the course for our LA. Both the LA and VA thought we could adopt a child that would likely not have serious behaviour issues. But all the reading we did here, at adoption UK, and the books the LA recommended by Dan Hughes, suggested that the reality was likely to be different.

DH and I decided that WE could handle adoption, and provide the kind of parenting an adopted child might need, it would not be fair to ask our BC to handle these issues. Adoption could be great for all of us, but it is a big risk to take on the BC's behalf. Our youngest BC was also very much against the idea.

With a very heavy heart, we have postponed the idea of adoption. Maybe in a few years it will seem like a better time.

Best of luck to everyone on their adoption journeys, and thank you very much for all kind words you have given me.

KristinaM Tue 27-Aug-13 23:22:11

Thank you for coming back to update us, very few people take the time to do this and it's much appreciated.

I wish you and your family all the best smile

Italiangreyhound Tue 27-Aug-13 23:41:04

Para all best wishes to you and your family.

jamiesndryliesmammy Wed 28-Aug-13 04:26:12

alot of adopted children have problems no matter how young they are i was took into care at 3 months adopted at 2 and i have 5 mental health issues cause of it and people think it doesn't hurt the child but it does soo much i know what im on about but good luck if you do hunii smile xxx

Meita Wed 28-Aug-13 09:19:27

Thanks for the follow up, para. I had been following this thread and had found it most useful for our own deliberations.

I'm sure that despite this being a well-thought out decision, you must also be grieving for what is not to be (or not right now anyway) at some level. Try to look after yourself! Is there anything you could do - some long held desire - that you could treat yourself with now?

FamiliesShareGerms Thu 05-Sep-13 07:08:28

Thank you for the update, and do come back here on the future if you want to ponder your decision and think it would be helpful to discuss with us.

Best wishes

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