Early Permanence was the best decision we ever made
Family has always been important to my husband and I, so it was natural for us to want to start our own. Unfortunately, this was not a smooth journey and, after many years of failed IVF treatments, we decided to look into adoption.
Towards the end of our adoption assessment, our social worker talked to us about the idea of “foster-to-adopt”, also known as “early permanence” whereby a child is placed with approved adopters who are given temporary foster parent status to provide ongoing care for a child where the long-term plan maybe adoption. This was something we had never heard of.
She explained that the child would continue to have regular supervised contact visits each week with their birth parents whilst the courts decided whether the child should remain in our care or return to their birth parents. She stressed that we would need to show a lot of emotional resilience to cope, not just with weekly visits but with the uncertainty of the process whilst also caring for a baby and working with the local authority. Having listened to the challenges we would need to face together, as well as the huge benefits to the child, my husband and I decided to brave it and take the risk! This was the best decision we ever made as we are now parents to three children, all placed with us as newborns on a foster-to-adopt basis. Our children are now 5, 2 and 1 years old so, between them, they keep us pretty busy!
Our eldest child was one of the first foster-to-adopt placements that our local authority handled. Being one of the first brought additional complications, since there were no previous foster-to-adopt cases to relate to or parents who could talk to us about their experiences of the process and provide support. Whilst everything initially went very smoothly, there were difficulties towards the end of the process when our child’s birth parents decided to go their separate ways. Suddenly everything changed and we faced some difficult times as the birth parents asked to be assessed as capable of caring for their child as single parents and then put forward family members to be considered. We could only sit tight, hope for the best but prepare ourselves for the worst. It was incredibly stressful and emotionally draining for us and our extended family and the case dragged on for months. As foster parents, caring for the child every day, we found it extremely frustrating that we had no influence on the outcome at all, but finally, after months of uncertainty, we finally heard the news that we had hoped for. We were able to keep the baby and adopt him as our son.
We managed to push the emotional rollercoaster of our foster-to-adopt journey to the back of our minds, forgetting the stress and delighting in the joy of our son. Then, a few years later, we decided to brave it for a second time! Luckily this time everything went smoothly and we were able to bring our second child home from the hospital and later adopt him. However, his arrival prompted inevitable questions from our eldest son (who was 3 years old at the time) regarding the foster-to-adopt process. It was important that we explained this carefully and in child-friendly terms, so we searched for book recommendations that would support us in our discussions with him. At this point, we realised that although we had read lots of adoption books to our son from a very early age, all the stories focused on adoption rather than foster-for-adoption.
After a long book search, we approached numerous social workers for recommendations, but it seemed that although they wished such a book existed, there were no children’s fiction books on this topic that could help. So, I decided to bite the bullet and write my own children’s foster-to-adopt storybook. Freddy Frog’s Forever Family: Wapling, Kate, Sharpe, Caroline: Amazon.co.uk: Books
Freddy Frog’s Forever Family explains the foster to adopt journey using simple, easy-to-understand language and I hope it will support families in opening a discussion around the topic. Although I originally intended it to support children through this journey, it is my hope that the story will benefit adults and children alike and will become a treasured family favourite as children understand and embrace their uniqueness.
Our youngest child was somewhat of a surprise. A short while after I started writing the book, I received an unexpected phone call from our social worker telling us that a baby girl existed and that she was a full sibling to one of our boys. We had a quick dash to the hospital and brought her home a few hours later! We now have the family that we always longed for and are so pleased that we were able to parent all our children from newborn. Although the process is mentally and emotionally tough, we are very glad that we chose this path and we hope that our experiences can help others to find their forever family.