Helen, an adoptive mum of two, offers her advice to those thinking about adoption.
When you get to the point at which you feel adoption is right for you, you can usually expect a maddening response from the people you tell. They suck their teeth, much like a plumber pricing up a job, and say, 'Oooh, isn't it really horrible and difficult to get through?' Then it's, 'Training, why do you need training? Regular parents don’t need training.' Well, no they don't, and perhaps they should, but this is very different. Besides, they don't train you to be a parent, they train you to understand what it feels like to be adopted.
My partner and I adopted two children two years ago and contrary to what the teeth-sucking, concerned well-wishers might tell you, we actually enjoyed the process. Genuinely. And we're not the only ones. Thousands of successful adopted families would agree it's a process worth going through. But who knows how many people are put off by the negative attitudes surrounding adoption and never go through with it.
You know how parents will tell you they could lift a car from off their child or stop a train with their own body because they love them so much? So could I. I absolutely know I could do any of those things if something threatened my children and I cannot believe there are any other parents out there who love theirs one drop more than we love ours. But to get to this point as an adoptive parent, you have to go through the process. It is a means to a very wonderful end and not something to dread or be defensive about it.
There are some aspects to the adoption process that can feel a bit uncomfortable. It can take a long time, longer than the average pregnancy certainly. It can be difficult answering questions about your life and who you are. It can be tense, constantly waiting for meetings to happen and for a panel date to be set. But you know what? So it should be. Social workers who are assessing people to be prospective adoptive parents have a job to do and they absolutely have to get it right. The children they are placing with forever families deserve to go to parents who have been thoroughly checked out and have thoroughly thought it through. We're the grown-ups. We can take a bit of discomfort for the sake of children who have had a tumultuous time.
The next time someone tells you they are thinking of adopting, don't tell them how hard it can be. Tell them what a wonderful thing it is they're doing. And if you're about to go through it, stick with it. It might just be the best thing you ever do.