Adopting for a second time

Having experienced the joy of adoption, many parents go on to adopt again. Here, adoptive dad Peter tells us how he and his wife adopted two girls through Family Care, four years apart, and how different it was second time around.

“After a few years of marriage, and a rather unpleasant experience with a fertility clinic, we had to face the realisation that we were extremely unlikely to have children via natural means. We felt adrift, unsupported and hollow.

My wife and I had talked about adoption, but were unsure whether we’d be able to accept someone else’s child as our own. We went to an adoption information event where we heard from parents who’d adopted, and listening to their joy clinched it for us. At last, there was light at the end of what had been a dark and miserable tunnel.

Our first daughter, A, came to us at the age of 15 months. As she grew, we started to wonder if a younger sibling might be nice for her. We were growing in confidence as parents and wanted to add to our family. When A turned four, we started looking into adopting again.

 

We had several concerns though, and it was a very different set of issues to consider this time. The most important thing for us was that A must not feel pushed out or that she was second best. I suppose it’s inevitable for a first child to feel side-lined by a younger sibling but, deeper than that, she must never think that she wasn’t enough or that we needed a second child to be happy. Thankfully, when we broached the subject of finding a little brother or sister for her, A was over the moon!

It’s easy to forget that our girls have travelled different paths to our family

We had concerns about being ‘old’ parents by the time the children were adults (we were already in our forties) and whether we’d have the energy to cope with a second child. We also wondered if we’d be as lucky a second time, and find another child as wonderful as A. There were so many ‘what-ifs’: what if the second child turned our lives upside-down? What if we didn’t bond? What if they didn’t get on with A? There were practical concerns too, like the lack of a spare bedroom, but we talked it all through with our social worker and she really supported us.

The preparation and assessment process was easier second-time around and we were lucky enough to have the same social worker again. We didn’t have to repeat all of the preparation training, but just refreshed our skills using online tools. Approval panel seemed much easier second time around as we knew what to expect and now had some parenting experience to fall back on.

Managing A’s expectations was difficult, as it took a while to find a match: we didn’t want to raise her hopes too early or unnecessarily. When we finally got a match, we tried to contain our excitement and explained to A that we had to make sure this was the right sister for her, and that everyone had to be happy before anything was made definite.

My wife and I had seen photos and a DVD of our potential second daughter, M, but we weren’t able to share those with A yet. So we tried to describe her new sibling and talked about how A would get involved in meeting her and help her settle into our family. By the time we were heading off to begin introductions and first contact, A was very keen to take on the role of big sister!

Matching panel was slightly more stressful this time, due to some medical risks still being investigated by M’s paediatrician, and definitive answers were unavailable. We had a good team supporting us though and the panel members were able to explain the potential medical issues. Reassured by the discussions at panel, matching was successfully completed without further delay.

When M came home, A was amazing – so welcoming, helpful and kind to her new sister, who was just 14 months old. We were so proud of how she took it in her stride and her fascination with this new person in her life was wonderful to see.

“Everything we went through was worth it, tenfold.”

The two girls bonded remarkably well, but after six months A began to get anxious about leaving M when she went to school, and there was envy that M spent more time with Mummy and Daddy while she was at school. Normal concerns for any siblings really, but it caused a short spell of increasingly anxious behaviour.

We had expected this, and had been trying to make sure that we still spent one-on-one time with A, as well as doing family activities together. We also worked closely with the school and with our Family Care social worker to make sure A’s emotional well-being was monitored and supported. Our social worker provided one-to-one support sessions for her at home, including some Theraplay.  Slowly but surely, A’s confidence returned and the anxious behaviour began to decrease.

My advice to anyone considering adoption for a second time is to make sure you manage the needs, thoughts, fears and expectations of your eldest child with honesty, clarity and compassion. Prepare them gently and gradually, using simple, age-appropriate language. Keep them involved as much as you can.

Also, try not to compare the next adoption with your first. It’s only natural, and you will draw on your previous experience for sure, but it can create unnecessary anxiety. For example, there were potential health and development issues flagged with M, which we hadn’t experienced with A. This tarnished the joy a little during matching and introductions, but our network of family and friends, and our social worker, really helped us through that period and we regained focus and positivity. A few days into introductions with M, we knew that whatever the future held, whatever medical challenges may or may not arise, this was meant to be.

After a year with us, M is happy and healthy, and our family feels complete. Our two girls love each other very much (and fall out with each other as sisters do!) but they’re so close it’s easy to forget they’ve travelled different paths to join our family.

We feel honoured and blessed. Everything we went through to get to this position was worth it, tenfold.”