Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Becoming Four: Adopting Siblings #NAW2014

We do love the Otters!
It's 11:33pm and I've finally sat down in bed to try and write a post for National Adoption Week 2014 (NAW). I should be asleep. I'd like to have been in bed at least over an hour ago but life as a family of four is busy. Add to that a house build and caring for my Mother-In-Law who has Alzheimer's and you'll probably understand why I'm writing this post at 11:33pm. It's important to me to be involved in NAW each year because adoption has changed my life in so many ways and I've always hoped that my blog would provide an insight into adoption for people who are considering adoption.  This year the theme for NAW is siblings and it's a subject close to my heart.

There are so many sibling groups of children who are waiting to be adopted. They are termed "hard to place" because adopters often want to adopt a child as young as possible and they generally only want to adopt one child. The children are often older than the majority of adopters are considering, Often they are separated from each other or they have to wait longer to be adopted or they hope for a long term foster care placement so they aren't passed from pillar to post. I have two Brothers who I don't know (due to stupid parental decisions during my childhood) and I know that the longing for a relationship with them is one that never leaves me.

I will put my hand up and admit it. We were those adopters. We were open to the idea of two children but we were concerned about our coping skills and experience and there were many scare stories about adopting older children and we wanted a younger child.  I wouldn't change how things have worked out for us for all the tea in China but I will just say I know a lot more now than I did back then and I would consider things very differently now if I were a prospective adopter chatting to my Social Worker about the children we hoped to adopt.

Introductions with Katie
When we were matched with Katie in December 2009, who was 2 years old, there was also the prospect of a sibling (Kip) who was a newborn at that time, joining us in the near future. This seemed like the ideal prospect. We had time to settle into our new lives as parents and then introduce another child. Our family would be complete. Something didn't feel right for me though. I wasn't sure what felt wrong but I was deeply worried about how Katie would cope with a sibling arriving so soon after her own arrival. Moving to us was a big thing for her because she was incredibly happy in her foster care placement.  We were anxious to make sure that nothing impacted on her attachment to us. Attachment takes a lot of time to deepen and it's different for every child.  Katie's transition to us was easier than the Social Workers predicted but there was an attachment to transfer from her Foster Carer to me (primarily) and we were anxious that nothing disrupted that.  Interestingly (although it was more of an anxiety at the time) I also didn't feel a connection to pictures of the baby, Kip, in the way I had with Katie. As the months ticked by the niggle grew into a real anxiety. I was worried about how Katie would cope and also how I would cope. I carried with me a lot of anxieties about parenting siblings due to a difficult childhood myself.  I grew up being told never to have more than one child because it "ruins your life".  It took me a long time to realise that the voice whispering those words to me was not my own inner voice but was that of my Mother's.

As fate would have it, I was instrumental in helping to find Kip's Birth Father. Katie, Kip and Pip all have different Birth Fathers.  I worked for an agency that specialised in supporting young people and was able to give our Social Worker advice about how she might find him. Kip's Birth Father fought for custody and Kip now lives with him and his FiancĂ©e along with his Step Brother and newborn Brother. I now feel strongly that my anxiety about Kip was because I knew Kip wasn't meant to live with us and the timing wasn't right for Katie.  I am very relieved that Kip is now where he was meant to be. Kip is very much a part of our lives though. He lives only a few minutes away from us and we see him regularly. He seems happy and well adjusted and we have a wonderful relationship with his Father.  It all feels right, if a little unusual.

Introductions with Pip
Time went on and TCM and I felt the time was right for Katie to have a sibling at home and we went through the adoption process for a second time. We initially were seeking to adopt a sister for Katie. Another toddler, just as Katie was when we adopted her.  It was during this process that we were notified of the imminent arrival of Pip and asked if we would adopt him when he was born. This changed all our plans but this time it all felt right and Pip moved in with us, aged 7 months, in May 2013.  Katie and Pip are the image of each other, yet Kip looks more like my Nephew.

Fast forwarding to where we are now 18 months later. Katie turns 7 this week. It always seems poignant that her birthday (and Kip's) falls within National Adoption Week. Pip turned 2 about 2 weeks ago. Life is noisy and hectic and both children are like whirling dervishes. Katie appears to be coming through what has been a very challenging period since Pip joined us and also meeting Kip for the first time a year and a bit ago, reinforcing my fear that she might not have coped with another sibling so close to her initial placement with us. She is sleeping well again and seems to be accepting that Pip is here to stay.  That acceptance has been a massive challenge for her, and us, but it's wonderful to see their love and familiarity growing for each other and see Katie relaxing into our new life as a family of four. Pip is getting older and becoming more fun for Katie to play with and, due to Katie's emotional regression, they meet each other age-wise somewhere in the middle. Pip is embracing being 2. His nickname at home is Hercules because he is so broad and brawny and like a rugby player and powers through everything in his way. He takes life at full speed.  He utterly adores his big Sister whom he thinks is the best thing since sliced bread and he loves seeing his older Brother too. I often joke that we are a modern, adopted, blended family. We truly are a family made by adoption in so many ways. We now have both sets of Foster Carers in our extended family as well as Kip and his family.  It's strange and I think I would have said you were crazy if you'd told me four years ago that this is how it would be, but it all works.  

The children love washing up!
It has been hard though. It is hard still. There are many daily challenges that we spend a lot of time trying to understand and parent. We get it wrong on a daily basis and I regularly feel stressed and out of my comfort zone but I love being with the children irrespective of that.  Our children are bright and funny and intelligent and loving but both were exposed to drugs and alcohol in utero and have both experienced a huge move in their lives from Foster homes they were happy within. This can bring challenges for them, and us.  Both are emotionally behind their peers. Katie is emotionally delayed and often regresses to a 3 year old so we have to remember to parent her age appropriately rather than chronologically. She is doing well at school and in her hobbies though and her more negative behaviour is mostly saved for her homelife. Pip could be slightly speech delayed although is now embracing his words more and more daily and I'm not overly worried. He seems more babyish than most of his peers however although passed his 2 year check with flying colours, speech aside. 

I am grateful that my children have each other and also their middle Brother. I think that the sibling link is so very important. I worry about what will happen though when the phone rings and we hear about sibling number 4. We want to keep all the children together but cannot base our lives totally on the decisions of other people.  I know I am going to find it very hard when that call comes because I don't think I would be able to offer the best home to another child or the one after that or the one after that etc and I know we will have to say "no" at some point. These are issues that many adopters will potentially face and it's important to be aware of it. 

Waiting for the cows
Although I'd like life to be a lot less complicated than it currently is I wouldn't change our life as it is. We were blessed to have two amazing children who adore each other (that doesn't mean they play together like little angels though - I can't misrepresent the truth!). I'm so pleased we've been able to keep the children together. I think it will be so important in the future for them all because siblings will be around a lot longer than us parents and I hope that they will continue to be a part of each others lives throughout their lives and offer each other love and support.

All I would say to prospective adopters is to discuss siblings with your Social Worker. Be open to discussions. Consider an older child as part of a sibling group.  Ask to speak to adopters who have adopted older children or sibling groups and get an honest picture. Ultimately go with what feels right for you though.  All sorts of adopters are needed so don't feel that you might not be suitable for reasons such as being single; or being gay; or for cultural, faith or race reasons.

I'm linking up with Coram this year for #NAW14 and I'm sharing some of their videos made with adopters to help raise awareness of the option of adopting siblings.  There will also be lots of Twitter chatter at #NAW2014 so do check it out and read all the other blogs that people will be sharing this week.  Many of the blogs written by other adopters are linked on the left hand side of my blog.  Do also take a wander over to The Adoption Social  where you will find a veritable plethora of information and resources and other adopters who are writing and sharing their experiences.  Here is the video from Paul and Graham who have adopted siblings through Coram.  

I chuckled when I watched this video particularly as lovely holidays and lie-ins are definitely a thing of the past here too.  Like Paul and Graham we wouldn't change our lives or go back to life before the children.  Katie and Pip enrich our lives in ways we could never imagine before we adopted and I'm glad I didn't listen to my Mother and only have one child.

Is Adoption an Option for You?

If you want to find out more about adoption generally here are some helpful links to get you started:

Gem x


  1. Thanks for a great article telling it like it is ��

    1. Thank you Sarah. I like to write honestly because I know how important it is to have an honest account when you're going through the adoption process. Some of my blog posts are upbeat and sometimes things aren't so great. Overall we're all doing really well currently after a really difficult blip. Long may that continue! :) Thank you for posting x

  2. Excellent article. I still can't understand why if you had agreed to take Pip before he was even born, he needed to be with a foster carer for 7 months.
    There was once a documentary on tv about adopting - it was a series following three or four families through the whole process (you probably saw it). One family had the same decision as you but they decided not to adopt the sibling when s/he was born. Their reasons were exactly as you said - they wanted to decide what their family would be and how big it would be, not have another woman's decisions dictate the nature of their family. They also wanted to be an independent family unit rather than be surrogate parents for one woman as and when she had children. Interesting how different considerations affect different people.
    I hope that if K, K and P's birth mother has another child, she has it in a situation where she is able to bring him/her up herself.

    1. Thank you! The reason for the delay is that BM was given the chance to see how she got on with taking care of Pip. Sadly this broke down after about 4 months and then there was the wait for the adoption order. We didn't know any of this, in true SW fashion. We were asked to adopt Pip and then heard nothing for months. We finally heard formally that we could adopt him just after we went to panel to be approved as second time adopters. His adoption order went through the day after we were approved. If our original panel date hadn't been cancelled this wouldn't have happened. It all happens in its own time I think. Still it was a shame we couldn't have him earlier but procedures are procedures, however much we might be able to predict the outcome and the frustration we had to endure whilst we waited. I often wonder that the human rights of the birth parent seem to come before the human rights of the child. xx

    2. Ooops - hit send too quickly. Yes I did see that programme and commented on the similarities. It is tough as an adopter to know that you may have to say "no" to a child that is related to your children. I don't know how I will feel when that time comes. I, too, hope that circumstances might be different for their BM in the future and that she can get settled and be happy.

  3. FinallyAFamily20135 November 2014 at 19:35

    We always wanted a sibling group, we even moved to a three bedroom house to meet the adoption agency criteria of having a separate bedroom for each child. Having gone through all of that expense we then approached them asking for a sibling group only to be told that we had no chance of getting one due to "lack of child care experience". It does make me very annoyed when there are adverts all over the place for wanting adopters and wanting adopters for this and for that specific thing and then when they get willing people they find one reason or another to block them again.