Guest Blog for British Association for Adoption and Fostering
I was humbled to be asked to write a guest blog for the British Association for Adoption and Fostering website. BAAF are a remarkable organisation who support, advise and campaign for better outcomes for children in care.
The post is a about permanence and is an edited version of something I wrote a little while ago.
I hope you enjoy it:
When we began to think about adopting a second child we involved our then six year old son in our decision from the very beginning.
The early conversations followed the lines that you would expect from a child of that age.
"Does this mean I don't get so many presents at Christmas?" Was his first question when we raised the issue.
"No, of course not, it just means that you will have a brother or sister who will be there too. Santa will bring you both presents and we'll be buying you both the same number of presents too."
He wasn't convinced. "What about birthdays?" His eyes narrowing, "and Easter eggs."
"All the same, but you will have someone to share those events with," was our very calm reply.
"Hmmm, we'll see," was all he said.
The process of applying for a second child at adoption included our son at every stage. Indeed a large part of the assessment was investigating whether this would be the right thing for him.
We were clear from day one that our son was our prime concern and that if, at any point, we felt that adopting a sibling for him would not be the best thing for him then we would not proceed. His happiness and security were our priority.
Despite his initial sceptical reaction he grew to be positive about the possibility of a brother or sister joining our family. He joined in the family discussions with our social worker and also did some separate work with her to prepare for the prospect of our second adoption.
From the point at which he came to stay with us, we had been consistent and clear with our son that he was living with his Forever Family. We were a family together, we would be that for ever and that his home was, and would be for as long as he wanted it, with us.
Questions of the possibility of being sent away or fears of change had surfaced in the early months of his living with us. He held a terror of being sent back to the first of his two foster carers, the one with whom his relationship had broken down. Our son also dwelled often in that first year on what would happen if either of us was to die.
We reassured him as best we could. Made sure he was absolutely clear that neither he, nor we, were going anywhere and that the family was his forever.
He settled down and after that first year didn't mention any of those fears again.
We were approved to adopt another child and then matched with our daughter about nine months after starting the process for a second time. Our son was excited about the prospect, viewed the DVD of his new sister with interest and engaged with the conversations around her needs and background.
Most touchingly his questions about her reflected his own experience: "So she has no-one to look after her and needs a new family? We can be that family, we can love her and give her a new home like you gave one to me!"
We expected some bumps along the road, but they didn't come. Even the moments of stress passed without any concern.
Three or four days before transition our son came home from school quiet and withdrawn. This being unlike him it's normally a marker of his worrying about something.
He sat on the stairs and began to sob. He then began to cry as only children can, from his boots.
"Here we go," I thought. “This is going to be the conversation where he says he doesn't want a sister.
”I sat with him and hugged him until he was calm enough to speak. "What's wrong?" I asked.
"I've realised today you're not sending me away," he said.
I was dumbfounded. We'd been a family for almost three years, how could he think that?"
Of course we're not, we're never sending you anywhere, we're a family forever!"
"Yes," he replied. "But I wasn't sure, I thought you were getting her to replace me, like they did in the foster home. When one child comes another has to go.
"No matter how much reassurance you give, you can never give enough. The fear remains that somehow this isn't permanent.
So we now have a conversation with each of our children every couple of weeks, just to make sure they know how much they are loved, how we are a family forever and how no one is going to send them anywhere. Ever.