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What is adoption really like? And does it work out in the end?!

43 replies

DazedConfused99 · 10/05/2018 10:37

My husband and I have always wanted children, but when we couldn't make that happen the traditional way adoption seems like an obvious choice. We're halfway through the assessment process and we're finding it really tough. We both have a good amount of experience with children, so the level of negative judgement from our social worker/the adoption agency has been a real shock and very upsetting, to the point where it's making us think about giving up! (When my sister read a letter they sent to us, requiring us to take a break between stage 1 and 2 in order to complete various tasks, she described it as a character assassination!)

At the same time I've seen research that found that only a quarter of adopters feel their family life is happy and stable after adoption. We were in no denial about there being challenges from children having experienced abuse/ trauma but I'm beginning to wonder if it's going to be a whole lot 'worse' than we're expected. If I'm honest, I'm not even sure what 'challenging' really means, as all my friends who have birth-children say that parenting is exhausting and challenging! What I'm reading implies that we'd have to give up our jobs and that family life would be a constant battle and soul destroying. I'm really not sure I want that!

I would be so grateful if anyone who's adopted could give me a real insight into what adoption is really like, and what the 'challenges' really are in practice. I'd like to hope for the best, with eyes wide open, but I'm really struggling right now! Thanks!

OP posts:
BPG20 · 10/05/2018 11:36

I am in the very early days of placement - 4 months today with a now 17mo little boy. We are extremely lucky that he has settled in very well and has no apparent health issues or attachment issues but we can't predict the future! What I can say is that right now (and almost immediately after the first few weeks of settling in), our life is very normal. He is a normal toddler with a normal big brother, mummy and daddy who love him.

There will be additional hurdles as he gets older and we will need to make sure we are well prepared for that. However - so we are able to predict what these hurdles will be and can prepare. Parents of birth children do not have the same amount of forewarning, and any child can have hurdles!

I know some people have had a very difficult time of it and I am not trying to make it sound all sunshine and roses. But for us, at this moment in time, life is bloody good.

Cassie9 · 10/05/2018 12:04

There is alot of negative adoption talk online but I think that because ppl having difficulties seek help online whilst those managing fine don't need to seek help. I'm 10 months into placement and have a court date for our adoption order. Lo came to my family on a foster to adopt placement when he was ten days old. He'd had significant drug exposure in womb and he spent months going through symptoms of withdrawal. We don't know if the drugs will have any long term negative . At the moment he's hitting all his milestone. It was tough but it was also absolutely worth it! I have a birth son too. I would say parenting is challenging but parenting my adoptive son has been more challenging. Wouldn't change a thing though. Lo amazes me everyday and complete our family.

PicaK · 10/05/2018 13:13

I'm two years in. It's wonderful and brilliant. We pinch ourselves at how great it is sometimes. Life is fabulous.
There are hard bits. Bits when we're so sad for little one for the difficulties she faces. Sometimes her attachment and fasd means she hits us - and it hurts. She wakes 5 times a night. If i am not careful with my energy levels i am exhausted.

That's how adoption is for us.

BPG20 · 10/05/2018 13:43

I echo what Cassie said - people who post online are often struggling and looking for advice. So from the outside it can look more negative than the reality of it is.

I felt like SWs did everything they could to put off in order to weed out the week. And thats completely understandable because there is every chance you could have a very difficult time with it. But there's also no reason to believe you can't have a happy family life.

PoppyStellar · 10/05/2018 14:38

Totally agree with what the others say about being aware that there will be a disproportionate amount of ‘negative’ stories on online forums such as this because people are much more likely to post when they need help or advice.

Fwiw, I’m 5 years in and would still say that adopting was the best thing I ever did (and am fairly sure DD feels the same - at the moment anyway, not sure she’ll remain quite as enamoured with me when she’s a teenager!)

I’m a lone parent and there have been plenty of really tough times but for me the good times definitely outweigh the bad. From what I remember of going through the process SWs very much want to prepare you for possible worst case scenarios and my advice would be to be honest with yourselves and them about what you can and can’t cope with when you get to thinking about matching.

There are plenty of unknowns with adoption and you do need to have a good amount of resilience to cope with all the challenges adoption brings on top of the general stresses of bringing up kids but a good support network of friends and family will get you through most things.

My only other advice would be to seek post adoption support at the first sign you need it. It can take a while to get post adoption support in place and I wish I’d sought it sooner but once it was in place it’s been very helpful for both of us.

Although life remains challenging at times I’d still consider me and DD an adoption ‘success’ and from the various other adoptive families I know I would say this is more the norm than not.

DazedConfused99 · 10/05/2018 16:33

Thanks everyone, I really appreciate you sharing your experiences. It's really encouraging and reassuring! Re-reading my original post I sound a bit bonkers and ungrateful for the opportunity to adopt! I guess at the moment I'm doubting everything, including myself, and getting caught up in the worst case scenario! Fingers crossed things will feel more settled once (if!) we get approved, and then we can focus on the really important bit which is our potential child!

OP posts:
Italiangreyhound · 10/05/2018 16:34

Our birth dd is 14, our adopted son is 7 and has been with us 4 years.

We are a pretty normal family. We have had great post adoption support.

Can you say why they want you to take a break without outing yourselves?

BPG20 · 10/05/2018 16:54

Dazed you don't sound ungrateful at all just a little overwhelmed...and it IS overwhelming. I spent the whole assessment process with a feeling of impending doom! But I've loved having DS and he is such a delight. I won't adopt again but that's because I also have DSS and we feel 2 is enough for us. But if I had to go back and decide whether or not to do it all over again for DS, I would do it in a heartbeat. He has made our lives and our family better.

Ted27 · 10/05/2018 16:56

Depends what you mean by turning out all right in the end. What or when is the end?
Adoption is a gamble. And everyone's experience is different. Thats it really.
Its great when families get off to a great start, I did, but often problems don't become apparent until the children start nursery or school and differences become apparent, or when the teenage years hit. Adoption is a marathon, not a sprint.

I am six years down the line, my son will be 14 in June. I am optimistic and confident about the future. The first 4 months were fabulous, the next six months were sheer hell. The next couple of years were fine. When he was 10 his behaviour started getting increasingly aggressive. We were lucky in that we got funding from the ASF before is was capped and had life story therapy. The end result has been worth it but I can't pretend it was a picnic. It was painful, emotional, draining. I'm glad its done, We still have the support of a therapist. My son has ASD and a learning difficulty. He has done amazingly well at school, with a lot of support he will get a handful of GCSEs, go to college and get a job.
Thats probably 'the end' for me, if I can get him to adulthood, working and in his own flat, then it will have been worth it.
I think you have to go into adoption prepared for the worst case scenario. And maybe you will get lucky. Yes be prepared for one of you to have to give up work or at least go part time.

I'd say our life is 80% 'normal'. I work, he goes to school, we have great holidays together, we go to the cinema, theatre and sports events.
He has friends, he is happy and secure. He is also highly anxious and still needs incredible levels of emotional support - which is draining for me. I'm single and am still working part time three days a week 6 years in. Sometimes that feels too much. I need time for meetings at school, SWs and therapists. I have an ASD support group which is my lifeline. It gives me time for a bit of self care, to get housework done, fill in the endless forms, so that when he is home from school he has my full attention. I did flirt with the idea of increasing my hours but then GCSEs reared their heads.
Yes parenting any child is hard. However, your friends with birth children will never have to expain to their children that they couldn't live with their birth families because their birth parents are drug addicts, alcoholics or beat each other up. They will never have to explain abuse or neglect. They will never have to explain why they have other siblings living in other families. They will never have to deal with the child going off to find that other familiy.
Other challenges - getting support in school, getting theraputic support, dealing with toddler behaviour from a 10 year old because their emotional age is so much younger, manipulative, controlling behaviour and yes sometimes violence.
Whilst we are stable now, we haven't always been. We have had a tough few years. Over the next few weeks, I have significant news of his birth family to tell him, I can't tell what impact it will have on him. I think he will take it in his stride but I wish he didnt have to deal with it, and puberty and starting his GCSEs.
I don't know if you would regard this as positive or negative. But its how it is for many adoptive families, you bumble along, you hit a bump, you get over it.
But adoption can also be a very dire and desparate experience.
I wouldn't go back. I have an amazing young man for a son. He is the bravest person I know.
Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. But if you aren't prepared to make huge sacrifices, then don't do it.

donquixotedelamancha · 10/05/2018 17:43

What is adoption really like? It's being a parent, with all the range of experience that implies. In most practical terms the way you had kids makes no difference.

A caveat Adopted children in the UK have a higher incidence of some difficulties than birth children (notably FASD, Attachment issues). You can make choices in matching that control risk a bit, but you cannot be sure of the future. If you want to adopt, you have to accept the potential for difficulty.

That said, I know literally dozens of adopters, most not 'easy to place' kids. Not one has experienced the extreme difficulties you sometimes read about. In my professional capacity I deal with many kids who show the extreme behaviour you read about online, I only know two children in hundreds who are adopted. I have seen first hand how big a difference good parenting makes to kids with very difficult issues.

@DazedConfused99. I would appreciate if you could PM me the research you mentioned- there is not enough hard data on outcomes, but I must say I'm a little skeptical of the numbers you quote.

And does it work out in the end?! Yes of course it does. Worked for me, worked for my kids, worked for many, many people I know. It's fab.

You shouldn't adopt if it's not right for you- the kids needs are what come first; but I hope it is the right choice for you and that it all goes well.

ladymelbourne1926 · 10/05/2018 21:49

I have 2 adopted daughters and 2 births sons. My experience is that adoption is that it is hard, my eldest was severely traumatised and needed years of intensive therapy, my youngest was born addicted and went through withdrawal, she has global development delay and a seizure disorder as a result. Chances are she'll never lead a fully independent life but I went in with my eyes open. All things my birth sons haven't had to face.
You get a bias view here because people including myself only tend to post when they are struggling. Statistically adopted children are more likely to have additional needs and issues, and nothing is ever certain. You can manage your expectations to a certain extent by choosing what you feel you can or cannot handle but a lot of issues simply don't present at a young age.
It's never been easy but is it worth it.....of course. I have the best 4 children in the world, they are happy, loved and my house Is full of life and usually slightly hysterical laughter. Even on our worst days I wouldn't change a thing.
I would say that the process whilst hard and seemingly negative at times, is so for a reason. Going in with your eyes as wide open as possible will stand you in good stead.

UnderTheNameOfSanders · 10/05/2018 22:01

We are 11 years in. Adopted siblings age 2.5 and 8.
First 8.5 years were amazingly smooth.
Last 2.5 years have been a stressful rollercoaster with our eldest (so since turned 16 / went to college).

I'm glad we adopted. And many people go through stressy times with teens.

dimples76 · 11/05/2018 06:09

I remember on my prep course they described adoption as parenting plus and I think that's a fairly apt description.

As Ted27 mentioned there are a lot of additional issues that birth families do not have to deal with. As well as that the child's genetic inheritance, in utero experience and time with BF can create a lot of additional challenges.

I became a single Mum through adoption 3.5 years ago and I would say that those 3.5 years have been the happiest but also the most anxiety filled time of my life.

Italiangreyhound · 11/05/2018 08:46

@Ted27 and others, brilliant posts.

Italiangreyhound · 11/05/2018 08:48

I'm in the unusual situation that because birth dd, now a teenager, is on the autistic spectrum, my adopted son (now 7) is actually easier! But that is rare. He still has his own issues but he is amazing, brilliant and very funny.

Like most parenting I think this id incredible and incredibly difficult at times. But worth it.

gabsdot · 11/05/2018 10:36

I have 2 adoptive children. The oldest is 14 and was adopted at 8 months. He seems to bear no scars from his early experience although he was born to a drug user and was premature.
My daughter is 10 and was adopted at 2.5. She has health issues which we were aware of and also a global development delay as a result of early childhood trauma. But she's great fun and will most probably lead an independent life eventually.
Our kids have brought us so much joy. We love family life and feel very blessed to have them.
We're a very normal family really. It's not the end but I'd say it's working out well so far.

Ted27 · 11/05/2018 11:02

as far as I am aware the numbers are around a third of adoptions are largely trouble free, a third experience difficulties but are stable, a third experience significant difficulties, with about 2% disrupting in some way.

I'm also in touch with a lot of adoptive families, including several where children have been unable to stay within the family and are either in specialist FC, residential schools or have returned to the birth families in their teens.

I think its irresponsible to prospective adopters not to alert them to the fact that they could very easily be in that third. Its pure luck, nothing to do with how good a parent you are, sometimes the kids are just not able to live in a family setting. The parents I know in this situation love their kids with a passion and fought long and hard for them. But it was just too much.
Its probably helpful to not try and think of things in terms of positive or negative. That 'negative' is a child and someone's life.

I found reading about other families experiences far better preparation for adoption than the training you do. Forewarned is forearmed, I was able to recognise signs, and behaviour for what it was and get help quickly.

I'm afraid I see too many adopters who don't want to think about the potential difficulties and then seem quite surprised that they don't sail off into the sunset with the perfect family they imagined.

For most of us, even with the difficulties, adoption remains the best thing we have done. My son has pushed me to my limits but we have always come through and he has the makings of a fine young man.

No regrets here but its a tough road to travel

Yolande7 · 11/05/2018 15:13

We are 6 years in and my daughters are wonderful! No one who meets them thinks twice about anything and teachers completely forget they were traumatised and adopted (which is not a good thing).

However, at home I do see differences and they are both in therapy. They are managing that fine too though. They are more needy than birth children and we always have to think ahead and prepare and explain much more. Their behaviours are often slightly more extreme than in birth children. It is all manageable though. We are a very happy family and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I would research as much as possible and read practical guides like Big Steps for little People, The Connected Child and The Unofficial Guide to Adoptive Parenting to learn about behaviours and techniques how to deal with them.

BlackAmericanoNoSugar · 11/05/2018 15:27

We haven't reached 'in the end' yet, and it's hard to judge which way our older DC is going to go as he approaches adulthood. Looking back I think that in some ways the assessment for adopters is right to be awkward and difficult, because if you can't push through for what you want against bureaucracy and opposition then you might not have what it takes to do the best for a difficult child.

I have to do a lot of advocacy for DS, persuade people to change their approach, give him another chance, understand his background etc. I also have to do a lot of socialisation work with him, teach him the way he is expected to behave, help him understand both people's feelings and give him coping mechanisms for difficult situations. There's also a lot of associated admin, for instance at the moment I am trying to find him a new school as his current one don't want him back next year. If I were the type to give up or be overwhelmed in the face of opposition then his life, and the lives of the rest of the family, would be more difficult and less happy.

On the other hand, I love both of my children to bits and have no regrets at all about adopting them. They have improved my life and my abilities (not least my negotiating ability). My horizons have been broadened and I have far more empathy and understanding for other people than I ever did before having children.

bostonkremekrazy · 11/05/2018 15:28

We are 10 years in.
4 adopted - all have some level of disability - 3 fas. 3 attachment difficulties. The baby we had the youngest (5months) has the easiest relationship with us, no attachment issues, but the greatest physical disability - though was placed as a 'healthy baby' you never can tell when you have a tiny baby what may happen.
Our children amaze and delight us every day, but it has been a fight with ss, nhs and education often to get all our children need.
You need strong support network to keep up the fight as sometimes it is exhausting.
Your marriage can take a backseat and we work hard at preserving ours and making time for each other.
Adoption is parenting plus...but wonderful and a gift I would never ever return. My kids are my everything...we adore each other.

Firstnameterms · 11/05/2018 19:59

2years in...all great so far. No issues at all. However she is only 3...
I’m sure something will happen in the future. The difference? When we were going through the process we were just thinking about a faceless child and scaring ourselves shitless. Now? We know her, love her, protect her. Whatever happens now, she is worth fighting for because she is no longer a faceless child that I fear.

clairedelalune · 12/05/2018 00:36

What is 'being ok in the end'? Life has a knack of throwing challenges your way no matter which way your children came to be your children. I like the description of parenting plus.
What you have to remember is that birth parents haven't had the level of training or preparation to become parents, so they generally haven't been scared witless by the whole thing. Nobody has questioned them about how they might deal with a traumatised child with global developmental delay or a distressed, srlf harming teenager. But these things can affect a birth child too. So I view it as being forearmed. And like doquix said good parenting can make a humongous positive influence.

Clinicalwaste · 12/05/2018 18:43

I am 9 months into placement with our 5 year old. First 6 months were tough and grim, bonding took time and faking it was hard at times. Social workers in my experience really don’t have a clue. Now we are free from that pressure things are really good and getting better every day. No post adoption support needed.

sleep5 · 12/05/2018 18:56

Every social worker is different. My impression from the process (recently placed) is that they like to try and push your buttons to see how you'll react. So even if your experience is fine they'll push for more. They may push for more personal or financial information - something that has caused a number of people I know to drop out.

After all, the children you adopt could have various problems and they need to see you'll be rational and calm rather than give up at the first challenge. They don't want a disruption or for you to have a nervous breakdown.

You just have to grin it and bear it and know it'll be worth it once you get through the process.

Twogirlsandme · 12/05/2018 19:52

10 years in with two teen girls. We've had ups and downs ( one of mine has spd) but I think we have a lovely life, very much the life I dreamed about and wanted. I wanted to be a Mum and have a lovely and adoption is the best thing I've ever done.

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