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Thinking of adopting but already have 3 of my own. Advice and comments please

(16 Posts)
IamMrsElf Sat 07-Feb-15 13:55:52

I am lucky enough to have three beautiful, wonderful boys of my own. I have always thought of myself with 4 children and, inparticular, a girl.

I think adoption could be good. I don't know much about it and could be being very naive.

I have discussed this with DH and we both have lots of questions but are keen to find out more.

I thought asking the experienced and intelligent ladies of mumsnet might offer us a good starting point.

All comments welcome.

Lilka Sat 07-Feb-15 15:42:05

Hi and welcome.

Can I answer with a couple of questions? What do you know about adoption so far? And what kind of questions do you have, can you list a few? There's such an enormous amount we could say about adoption, it would help if I knew more about where you're at right now, and we'll probably be able to answer most or all of your questions between us.

But in general, there's a lot of information out there online, and it's important to research carefully about what adoption is and isn't today. It is very different to giving birth to another child.

IamMrsElf Sun 08-Feb-15 21:36:45

Thanks for replying. I do feel like I might be being a bit mad and I'm hoping for some straight talk and sense.

I really only know a little bit about the process. I have read a few websites. I know there are three main stages but know very little about what it entails for the parents to be.

The most pressing questions are:
What does the process feel like emotionally?

What will it be like for our current children?

Who do we have to speak to?

How many forms will we have to fill in? How time consuming will it be? Will it take us away from our children? (I don't mean this to sound insensitive, I just want to know if it's going to end up being detrimental to the raising of the children we have)

Who will they want to speak to?

How much (if any) contact do the child's birth family have, or are entitled to?

What is it like to be adopted?

I know that nobody can tell us if it's right for us but some pointers and information to help us make the right decision before we start the process would be greatly appreciated.

Devora Sun 08-Feb-15 22:36:11

How old are your boys, MrsElf?

Lilka Mon 09-Feb-15 00:45:35

I can only honestly say that it's completely different for different people. The process does entail uncertainty, lots of meetings, a lot of introspection and questionning. Everyone has worries, concerns and confusions, because becoming a parent, whether to your first child or fourth, is about the biggest undertaking you can make in your life, it changes it forever. It would be very strange not to be going through a lot of perhaps conflicting emotions during that process. It is important to only begin the process if you are sure you want a fourth child, and have discounted giving birth as the way to do it. That doesn't mean you emotionally sail through the process though! I found it a challenging process, but not really in the way the media are always on about, (except for talking about my sexuality, which was a big issue when I first adopted, but I wouldn't expect it to be an issue now). What was challenging to me was not talking about my childhood/relationships/beliefs etc in depth, because I'm fine with that, it was all the other stuff! Talking about child abuse. Choosing what kind of a child I wanted to adopt, and by extension saying no to all the other waiting children. Contemplating the uncertainty of it, contemplating the way my whole life was about to change in ways I couldn't even envisage. Waiting. Uncertainty. Juggling all these feelings!

And when I adopted my second child, suddenly I was thinking about how this was going to impact on DD1. And how DD1 was going to impact on my second child. You just don't know. If you're adding a child to your existing family, you have to step out and make that leap with no knowing exactly how it's going to end up. I believed that my DD1 was ready to have a sister and I believed she would be a good sister. I believed she would cope with social workers coming into the house again. I didn't have any guaruntees she and a new sister would get on with each other though. Or that her sister wouldn't have issues that would impact on DD1 in a negative way. But I believed that there would be a positive impact as well.

Social workers would speak to your children as part of the process, so they will be involved in that way. Otherwise, the job of really preparing them for a new sibling falls to you. As Devor said, how old are they roughly? There are age 'restrictions' with adoption - there has to be a certain age gap between your youngest and the new child, and obviously it has a big impact on how you talk to your children about adoption and prepare.

They will want to speak to several people. You will provide references for them, and they will visit at least 1 of those people. They visited my mum as well.

You would start by speaking to agencies. Most have open evenings/days you can go along to, which hopefully should have adoptive parents there to speak to. You aren't committing to anything by going along to an evening event, it's an opportunity to find out more about the process, and I'd encourage people to go to them. Depending on where you live, you may have a few agencies to choose from. Your county council or your city council, or neighbouring county or city or borough council if you're a Londoner, and then there are voluntary agencies as well. You can speak to as many as you like, attend several initial information evenings, and then choose who to go with.

The process has been changed from when I did it, and I'm not familiar with it but there will be paperwork and homework as well your visits, which will last a couple of hours at a time. It is an involved process, though you wouldn't often be away from your home, apart from attending the preparation course and adoption panel. Your social worker comes out to your house. But it's much less involved than actually raising another child! I mean, any new adopted child will need a vast amount of energy and attention. Any time you add an extra child, by birth or adoption you have to share out the attention and energy further, but a child who has been through trauma and just been taken away from their foster home where they are settled and may even be the only home they can's a very traumatic time, and they need more attention and nurture and 1:1 time.

Contact with birth family all depends on the situation, but it's usually set at 1 or 2 letters a year. There's no 'entitlement' to contact because the birth parents lose all legal rights and legal relationships. Contact is kept by parents because we think it's the right thing to do by our children, or the best that can be done in the situation, not because we're obliged to do it. Although it doesn't always work out sadly. When you're approached about a child, childrens services will have decided on what they think the contact level should be, which is as I said normally 1-2 letters a year, but in other situations might be nothing, or might be 1 visit a year as well as a letter etc. You can choose not to consider a child if you think the contact is too much for you.

I'm not adopted, so I couldn't tell you what it's like. Being adopted is something every adopted child and adopted adult will process differently at different periods of their life. People's lived experiences of being adopted vary hugely.

I think if you asked my DD1 who is an adult (this is what she expresses to me anyway), she would tell you it's hard, painful, a fact of life, the best thing that could have happened to her in her situation, something that sometimes you think about and sometimes you don't. That it means family and love and loss and pain and contradictions all at the same time. That's her experience. She's pro-adoption for children in care who can't go home, but it's not a cure all or a fairytale. Life's not like that. And I understand all of that as much as I can without having had the true understanding that comes from actually going through a similar thing.

I mean if you think about it, to be adopted you are born into a situation which is very difficult. You might be taken at birth but otherwise you are going to experience neglect, or witness domestic abuse, or other types of abuse, and life is probably very dysfunctional. But it's all you know, it's the only way you know the world works. You are taken away from your family, and just placed with a new one. That's truamatic and frightening. You settle there slowly but probably still see your parents reguarly. And this life is a whole lot different than the life you know, which might be incredibly confusing.That home becomes your home, your whole life. Then suddenly some new people come in and after a week or thereabouts, they take you to live with them and bam, like that your whole life is tipped upside down AGAIN. New world, new way of doing things, new adults who are doing everything, and you've just lost your second set of parents. You grow up and have to comprehend and process that fact that you have another mother and father out there, that you can't live with them, that your family wasn't built the same way as everyone else's. Assuming you adopt a younger child, who didn't move around in care. An older child will have memories of their birth family, a bond and so on. Some children find it very difficult, others don't seem to so much. Although you never know what your child is thinking. As you grow older, you think about things differently, life events may shift your perspective on your life and so on.

There are a lot of varying opinions out there from adoptees you can look for. Conflicting opinions from people with different experiences, some very painful to read, others not so. But unfortunately there isn't a lot from people adopted from foster care.

I've just realised the length of this. Sorry!

Italiangreyhound Mon 09-Feb-15 01:01:29

IamMrsElf just wanted to share some thoughts, but wanted to ask why you want to adopt?

If you would like another child is there a reason you can't have another birth child?

I will happily give you my take on your most pressing questions:

What does the process feel like emotionally?

For me, fine. I had six and a half years of fertility treatment that failed (we have a birth dd aged 10 now, 8 when we went through the process). Compared to repeated failed IVF adoption process feels fine. But I can't possibly say how you will experience it. I think if you are a very private person you will probably find it harder. I am quite an open person. I am not saying either is better generally, but I would say a good degree of openness in the adoption process and a willingness to talk about personal things is good.

What will it be like for our current children?

I have no idea, but for my dd it has been very mixed. She loves her brother (who she has known for just under a year) and it has been quite up and down. The thing that might go in your favour in terms of your kids accepting a new sibling is they already have siblings and know what to expect, to some degree. For my dd it was all new. However, another thing to be aware of is that you and your husband are already spread around three children so ratio would be two children to one adult where you to adopt. We went from two adults to one child to one to one. In terms of how much time the kids get it is significant. However, really devora's question is very pertinent as how old your children are matters a lot. If they are older they will need less of your time.

Who do we have to speak to?

You can speak to a county council adoption agency or local council adoption agency or a voluntary agency.

How many forms will we have to fill in?

I can't remember, not many, this should not really be one of your concerns IMVHO. Your considering parenting a new child and you know already what that takes so the number of forms is not really a big deal!

How time consuming will it be?

The forms, the process or parenting an adoptive child?

Will it take us away from our children?

Do you mean will filling in the forms/going through the adoption journey or will parenting a new child take you away from your kids?

The forms won't make a big difference, we did all that stuff at night when dd was in bed.

The process was long for us (a year) but some friends had a six-month process. It was time consuming at times but also interesting and helpful.

However, raising a new child will take time and energy and will limit the amount of time on other kids. Whether that child is a birth child, adopted or whatever. That will put all form filling and adoption process in the shade.

You are right to be thinking of these things are generally adopted children are more likely to have issues (I mean those adopted now, if they have come from birth families with their own issues, and there are now very very few relinquished babies in the adoption system) and there will always be uncertainties.

We knew that for dd but we felt the rewards of having a sibling relationship would be worth it. At the moment (under a year in) we are not yet sure how much DD would agree it is all worth it. But she does love him and I feel more and more he is just a part of the family. We are fortunate as ds is very bright, very lovely, a relatively on track in terms of development so not a hugely difficult child to parent and a very rewarding child to parent. But dd is still jealous!

Who will they want to speak to?

Don't take my word for it but 'they' will want to speak to your kids, any previous partners (either people you were married to or I think also lived with) and they will ask for a number of referees, in our case it was two who could be relatives and the remaining four could not be relatives.

How much (if any) contact do the child's birth family have, or are entitled to?

It is generally normal, as far as I am aware, for children not to continue to have face to face contact with their birth parents after adoption, although there are exceptions. Some will have face to face contact with siblings or half siblings if there are any and some with birth grandparents, where it is appropriate. In the limited number of real life domestic adoptions I know of there has only been one with contact with a grandparent and a few with sibling contact (and it is not very often, maybe once or twice a year). And it is only done where it is felt to be in the best interests of the child - as far as I know.

I think most adopters are offered the option of letter box contact with birth parents and sometimes other key family members. We have letter box and are grateful for it. When I first looked into adoption I felt very negative about any contact with birth family, but that was when the whole idea of adoption was hypothetical.

Once our ds was identified to us, he 'became a real person' to us, we began to feel differently and I am very pleased we did.

So we now have letter box. Who knows how long it will go on for, the birth family may not continue to write back. But we will continue to write to them, if appropriate, for his sake.

What is it like to be adopted?

I cannot answer this but you could read this for something useful.

It is primarily about overseas adoption. However, I think, for all children, and especially for pre-verbal children, the experience of bewilderment that adopted children may feel through all their moves etc is very well captured in this article.

I must say one thing that strikes me is your interest in the process of adoption, and that is normal and to be expected. But as quickly as you can I would move your thoughts from that to the actual experience of parenting an adopted child. It is normal to think how do we get there but really in all situations it is not the getting there that really shapes things but the being there.

The process may be hard, but then parenting is hard (as you know), the process may take a year or perhaps six months and then six more months to matching or maybe a year to matching, but once the child arrives they will be a child under your roof for their childhood and hopefully in your life for the rest of your life, and in your children’s lives. That is the bigger picture.

I hope that my comments are helpful but I must stress these are just my opinions and thoughts based on my own experiences and you cannot draw too many conclusions from one person's experiences.

I hope I have not said anything offensive.

Keep reading and posting, keep thinking and most of all work out if and why you want to add to your family, and if so why by adoption.

Good luck.

Italiangreyhound Mon 09-Feb-15 01:02:11

ooooppsse just cross posted with Lilka, I bet you said it all better than me Lilka!!! grin

IamMrsElf Mon 09-Feb-15 08:08:44

Thank you so much for all the help and the questions, clearly things I need to ask myself. I am thinking about the process at the moment, but also about the reality of having another child in our home, it's all a lot to consider and sometimes makes my head spin!

My DSs are 4, 2 and 6 months. I read on my local councils website that they prefer a 2-3 year age gap, so at the moment we want to gather information and then begin the process when DS3 is 18months (if we decide it's right for us). I know this might sound a bit crazy and like I'm rushing but I've been thinking about adoption as long as I've thought about having children. I didn't take it as red that DH and I would be able to have kids of our own and have always felt that adopting is something I would like to do.

My DSs were all c-sections so it's not advisable for me to have a fourth. I'm 32 years old and being pregnant and running around after 3 boys would be intensely physically demanding. My DH doesn't want me to take the risk of getting pregnant again. Also, by adopting we could adopt a girl and I would really love a daughter, I feel like there is a girl shaped hole in my heart and I feel like a bitch for thinking that. I think that people will think I'm ungrateful for what I have got which is just not true. I know that it will not be easy and adopting a girl won't necessairily lead to the relationship I have with my mum. i know all relationships take work and that I will have to be patient and understanding and not project all of my preconceived ideas about a daughter onto a child that has already been through a lot in their tiny life. I expect nothing but am hopeful and I think that's ok, if not please tell me.

DH and I are both teachers and we have seen our fair share of children with terrible home lives. DH is incharge of child protection at his school, so he has regular dealings with lookd after children, social services, the police etc. so I don't think we're completely blind to the type of homelife that a prospective adopted child could have come from or the challenges they may face.

Obviously our children are quite demanding and I know that adopting would be intense and then once we have a new child in our home that there would be a lot of adjustment.

justwhatwasithinking Mon 09-Feb-15 08:30:01

I don't want to repeat most of what has been said, but I'd like to make one point.

We have three DC, two BC and one adopted, aged 7, 5 and 2. DC3 has been home nearly a year. The single biggest challenge (by a long way) was how our time is spent. Before, it was pretty much 50 - 50 (with some exceptions!). But our new DC had 90% of our time for the first few months, with the other two having to split the remaining 10, and even now it is no way even. DC3 has probably 60%, with the other two having to split the rest. We were like you, and could have had another biological child.

And DC3 (on paper) is an 'easy' child (with your sort of age gaps they wouldn't place a 'tricky' child I wouldn't have thought.

I'm not sure if I can stress how much I'd recommend the bigger the gap between the youngest and your adoptive child the better.

IamMrsElf Mon 09-Feb-15 09:17:35

That's really useful advice. Thank you.

Kewcumber Mon 09-Feb-15 12:47:42

I was once told my a social woker that the research shows that the "ideal" age gap was actually 6 years! But I didn;t read the research so no ideal how true that is but it gives your youngest time to mature and understand a bit more.

Lilka Mon 09-Feb-15 13:06:58

On the practical side, do you or in a couple of years time will you have a spare bedroom for a fourth child, because that's a must (apologies if you've already mentionned it)

You'll find that adoption agencies will only very rarely take on prospective adopters whose youngest child is under about 4 years old (maybe about 3 and a half with some agencies), because of the age gap restrictions - most babies placed for adoption are about 1 year old in my experience, we tend to define baby as 0-24 months in adoption. To be approved for a 0-2 year old, your youngest would need to be at least 4. I personally also think that bigger age gaps are better, there is a 10 year gap between my oldest and middle one, and then 9 years between middly and my youngest. Which is obviously larger than most people have but has honestly worked very well and hasn't stopped them all having close sibling relationships, my oldest and youngest are very close. Given you already have 3 children who are close together, I think getting a good age gap between your youngest and a new child would be a wise move, certainly a bigger gap than the minimum allowed.

IamMrsElf Mon 09-Feb-15 19:21:23

We do have a spare room and no one had mentioned it yet, but another good thing to know.

Thank you all for the practical advice and things to think about. It is clear to me that now really is not the right time to adopt and we wouldn't be able to anyway - for good reason. DH and I need to spend a lot more time researching it, asking questions and gathering information while we enjoy the children we do have, we can then go into this with our eyes wide open when DS3 is older.

My SIL asked me some really strange questions about this and I was beginning to think that I wasn't "allowed" to adopt because I already have kids and that I was being greedy and unfair to my children. I don't see it like that at all but I wanted to know what other people, who have been through the process and actually know something about adoption, thought about us adopting given our circumstances.

Any more advice, starting points, things to consider would be really helpful. Thank you all.

KristinaM Mon 09-Feb-15 23:37:31

I would advise you to wait until your youngest is at school , say when they are 5,7 and 9 . Otherwise I don't think you have the time . TBH I'd be suprised if you find an agency willing to assess you to adopt a Baby or toddler child when you already have an 18 month old and a 3 year old at home .

And if you can't cope with being pregnant in your early 30s and running around aftre 3 boys, you will not be able to cope with running around aftre 4 kids . I'm guessing you have health problems ( as you mention not being able to cope with physically demanding situations ) - you need to factor in how you woudl cope with the demands of adoption and another child . You woudl both have to have medical as part of the assessment and you might need a report from your consultant too.

Remember that most adopted children will not just fit into your busy life and adapt to your household. Often it's the other way around .

It will affect your other children a great deal - their lives may have to be fitted around the needs of their youngest sibling. I have three children still at school and I'm out at activities with them most nights a week and at weekends . If they had a younger pre school sibling, this would be impossible- they couldnt do most of the things they do now .

It's hard for both parents to work full time and parent three NT children, unless you have a lot of family support or paid childcare . Let alone adding in an adopted child. So most agencies woudl probably expect one of you to be at home FT. Even if they don't , there is a lot of compettion for white NT babies, and you woudl be competing with couples who have one SAHP and none or only one another child.

Most children available for adoption have some form of additional needs - as other have said they will need LOTS of attention . TBH your other children will lose out a lot - so you need to be sure that your personal desire to adopt / have a daughter is worth the cost to them. Do you think they will gain enough from having another sibling to make up for other things ?

Sorry if this sounds unduly negative, but I'm trying to be realistic , as I have experience of adoption and big families and kids with SN. And of being pregnant and running around aftre 4 kids !

IamMrsElf Wed 11-Feb-15 13:37:46

Realism is good. I am the queen of rose tinted specs.

I don't have any physical disabilities but I don't do pregnancy very well. I have a lot of energy and am constantly on the go which is all good, I really love being a mum. I didn't know that I would need a medical - I am realising that there is a lot I don't know and I'm probably not giving enough info about us and not asking the right questions either.

I am a full time SAHM but was teacher beforehand. I gave up work after I got pregnant with DS2. I love kids and think, as a family, we would have a lot to offer an adoptive child. I know that it will be hard, going from 2 to 3 was an eye openener! I think we would be better off waiting until DS3 is at school so I can give more time and attention to an adoptive child.

I know that my children will have to share more of my time and DH's time but I do think there are lots of benefits to having a larger family and a mixture of genders is good.

Perhaps I need realism with a sledgehammer because I think as long as the boys are ok with it and we got approved, that it would be really great.

DH and I did discuss the option of adopting a sibling pair rather than having DS3. We talked a lot for a long time before deciding to try for another child of our own. Of course we could just stop at 3 but I feel like we have a lot to offer and we would get so much back in return. Am I being wildly optimisitc?

I think I need a reality check and some more insight into the day to day life of being an adoptive parent.

Kewcumber Wed 11-Feb-15 13:51:42

Come and clean my house if you have lots of energy and I will, in return, give you insight into the day to day life of being an adoptive parent. Seems a fair swop.

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