We interviewed Eddie one afternoon on Zoom to gain some insight into the pros and cons of adopting siblings.
How was parenting during the Covid lockdown?
Our children always went to nursery or school throughout the Covid Pandemic lockdowns because as adopted children they were classified as vulnerable. This was very beneficial because our kids need structure, they need routine, and they need to be outside and with stimulation beyond what we can manage at home. So parenting them has been alleviated by the fact that they have been a school every day.
We have been very creative, we have discovered more parks, more playgrounds, and more woodland walks than we knew possible to exist in this country. In the beginning, the boys were on balance bikes but then we thought that with so much time at home we should buy bikes. Therefore, they learned to ride bicycles at the ages of three and four. Now ten months later they are on the BMX bike track.
The boundaries have been pushed because we cannot go to friends, we cannot go to a soft play centre, so we have really had to be active and outdoors and our boys have loved it and really have thrived. Getting them out every day is also for our own well-being! Therefore, I would say that we have had it quite easy compared to others.
Were you aware that you always wanted to adopt two children?
I was always against having more than one child. Both my partner and I have one sibling, and I always thought we would adopt one child, settle, get used to becoming parents, gain some experience and then adopt another child. Our social worker pushed us to be approved for 1-2 children which I was fine with, but all along and kept saying to myself “I’m definitely only having one child”.
Then, after our approval, I saw the profile of these two boys, and it kept popping up. I resisted it at first and then eventually allowed myself to read it and within minutes, I knew I had to have these children in my life. Then I formed an emotional attachment to the boys and then started doing the logistics. How would we afford everything? How will we manage with two kids? In addition, these boys were only a year apart in age, they were both still in nappies, both were still being bottle-fed. I thought that it was so far out of our realm of experience, that it would be a lot for us to take on and we felt daunted by the idea.
So, I turned to the online adoption forums for advice such as New Family Social and Adoption UK, and started speaking to other adopters who had siblings. The reality they painted provided two pieces of advice:-
- You will not know any different, whether you have one child or two. Your life changes overnight anyway.
- It is hard, hard hard work but the benefits outweigh any of the doubt.
Plus the brothers had a shared history, the same origins, they would always have each other outside of their birth parents and they therefore share a life-long bond. Since then it has been great. We became a ready-made family overnight, but we are definitely sure that we will not be having any more than two…
The boys had been home for about five months when we were contacted by social services explaining that mum was pregnant again. It had been a concealed pregnancy and they had no idea what sort of care the baby had received. They wanted to see what our initial thoughts were and if we would consider taking another child. At the time we felt that we had been parents for two minutes and there was, no way we could have considered another baby. For us, there was also something about the fact that this child had a different father. This made it easier to emotionally separate ourselves from that situation and we agreed that there was no way we could stretch ourselves to three kids.
When you first met the boys, did you have an instant connection?
We first met our kids after the matching Panel. We were at the foster carers’ home and as soon as we arrived Samuel came toddling over shouting “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy”, and that was a real emotional “WOW”.
It felt like a clinical environment because we had their social workers’ and the foster carers’ eyes on us. If felt a bit like a first date with someone, when you are on your best behaviour, you are testing the waters, you are not your full self. So it took us a while to really bed down and relax, but, by day three we were taking them out by ourselves and when we had the breathing space to just be alone with the kids. It felt right, it felt natural, it felt easy and it felt good.
What is your experience of using the Adoption Support Fund (ASF)?
The ASF has been vital for us. It is something that you do not think you are ever going to really need. Our boys presented as straightforward with no complications at all, but actually, we found out that there were issues, and we started to see that we might need funding.
Jermaine, our youngest son, has many undiagnosed and unidentified behavioural problems, which have become too difficult for us to manage. We are always asking for support, always looking out for their welfare. It is just part of the role of parenting.
We got both boys screened, and when they divulged the costs we realised how grateful we were because there was no way we could have afforded it. Now we use the Adoption Support Fund every year to access additional Post Adoption Support services and will continue to do so as long as we need to.
It is not an easy process to access the additional funding from the ASF; there are so many channels of command, so much form filling. You have to be persistent, tenacious, clear on what you want, and advocate for your child. Then you have to repeat it over and over again because every professional wants to hear it first-hand. It is exhausting and it is draining. There is so much bureaucracy, which of course there should be; you cannot just go around handing out money to everyone without being accountable.
How has the transition into school and nursery been for the boys?
Samuel is in the reception class. His school put him into the only class that had a consistent teacher, and we thought it was great that they recognised he would need an attachment figure to help provide a stable environment.
Jermaine is a school year younger and still at nursery. We are already talking about transition meetings between the nursery and reception class because we all recognise that the change of settings will be a significant upheaval for him.
Jermaine has significant attachment issues, which impede his learning, his social skills, and his ability to adapt to change. The nursery SENCO is very on board with us and we have had input from an Educational Psychologist. He has received higher needs funding which will go with him into his primary school. We are hopeful but know it will not be straightforward. Even now at nursery, he has significant day-to-day issues.
We hope that he will be able to go to the same school as his brother. For familiarity, it will be good because he sees me take his older brother to school every day and we already have a relationship with the teachers. However, we are not wedded to the idea that it is 100% the best place for him. If it emerges that it might not be the best provision, or that he needs something else then we will look into alternatives.
How is life story work helping them to understand where they come from?
Week to week their understanding and language around life story evolves. We have a memory box, and life-story books and they are always available and they can ask for them any time.
The most recent time that we got the memory box out you could tell that there was a real connection with the mother figure. As a parent, you do not want your child to be dealing with loss to that extent, especially as he is only five. Moreover, because he has two fathers he does not really have a replacement mother figure. That was hard for us to watch.
They love seeing the photos, they love seeing the letters, they love having the birthday cards read out to them, it gives them a sense that they were wanted, and that they belong to a wider family other than just what they have here. It is tricky, and we are still learning how to help them deal with their past and the contact we receive.
Mother’s day was a trigger for Samuel. At his nursery, Samuel opted to make two cards and his cards said “to someone special”, rather than dad or daddy. I guess he is beginning to understand that his family is different, and understandably, he does not always want that difference to come up. It is his story to tell, so we just try to support that and help him with good positive messaging around “we love our family” and “we are proud of our family”, but that all families are different. There is absolutely no pressure on him to disclose anything that he does not want to tell people.
The teachers are aware that he has two adopted male parents, and they also support him with that, so I guess we are just trying to prepare ourselves, as we know it will come up more and more as they get older. We have other same-sex adopters within our social group who we meet up with at the park, who have kids the same age as ours. Therefore, we can talk about it and share our experiences and advice.
What advice would you give to people considering adopting siblings?
The biggest key is that many people come to agencies with preconceived ideas when actually it is about being flexible and considering a broader range of children. For some people, you might think that you only want one child, but if there is even a tiny seed that you might be able to consider adopting siblings, then keep talking about it with your SW, and do not rule it out.
Use the Adoption forums to speak to other people with the first-hand experience of adoption. Do not just close your mind off to adopting siblings because there are so many sibling groups that need placing together.
I am glad my partner pushed me to consider siblings. I am glad that I took the initiative to really research and talk to people to get the nitty-gritty low down and the inside track on siblings. Now I cannot imagine my life without these two boys, or one without the other. So just do it.