Adoption - An alternative to HG
There is no doubt hyperemesis limits an awful lot of families. I personally know dozens of women who can not face going through pregnancy again despite wanting more children. Most of them already have one child but sadly some have none.
I've talked before about the benefits of having an only child and personally I do not believe that anyone should have a child to “provide siblings”. However, many people do want more than one child for their own reasons... me included! I wanted three.
Adoption is an option open to people in the UK and with over 4,500 children waiting for adoption in the UK adoptive parents are desperately needed. However, it is important that people considering adoption because they can't have more children biologically have taken the time to grieve for the babies they haven't had. Counselling may help if you are struggling with this and you should allow yourself to go through the grieving process. Most (though by no means all) of us women have grown up from a young age with ideas about our future family and the children we plan to have... not being able to for whatever reason is a genuine loss and the grief can be profound. Give yourself time to heal and come to terms with it.
What does the process involve in a nutshell? Well, to start find out as much as you can about adoption. Look online, read blogs about adoption, investigate which agencies are in your area and contact your local authority. You'll get invited along to an information meeting where you will find out more about what it means to be an adopter and about the children who need adopting. Here you will meet social workers, experienced adopters and other people considering adoption. At this point if you decide to continue you'll choose an agency to register with.
The process involved two stages.
Stage one involves the background checks, references and medical/criminal history checks. You also attend workshops to learn more about adoption and the challenges becoming an adoptive parent.
Kate Hilpern has sat on an adoption panel for ten years and I asked her to explain how adoption differs from standard parenting. Here she explains the challenges and gives a realistic take on the process:
“Adoptive parenting is often described as therapeutic parenting because it requires an additional set of skills in addition to the usual nurturing and love that being a mother or father requires. Usually, these children come from a damaged past - mainly neglect or abuse - and it's the adoptive parent's job to help the child overcome any challenges that this may have brought them, whether this manifests itself in worrying behaviour, coping with painful memories, dealing with loss or all of those things and more. If you ask people to imagine the worst case scenario, they'll usually think of a child who is troublesome and wild, but sometimes the opposite problem happens - that is, they are withdrawn, which can be even more difficult to deal with. For most children, it's neither one nor the other but a complex mix of challenges that pop up at different times of their childhood.
There's no doubt it's challenging, but the vast majority of adoptive parents say it's hugely rewarding and ideally, you should get support when you need it. Having sat on an adoption panel for a decade, it was most satisfying to see these adults who were so keen to be parents either for the first time or to add onto their existing families being matched with children who need homes.
Nobody would say it's easy and this explains why the adoption process can seem challenging and long. Indeed, with an estimated one in five adoptions breaking down, it's essential that we know for sure that any adults who are approved for adoption are going in with their eyes wide open.”
Stage one should only last two months although you can take longer over it if you want. If at this point you still want to proceed you'll move onto stage two.
This stage is carried out by a social worker and takes around 4 months. The social worker will make a number of visits to your home and and you will talk about why you want to adopt and what sort of child would best suit your family. You'll also attend further training sessions which prepare you for becoming adoptive parents.
Next your case will be presented to a panel you will be invited to attend. Based on the report and meeting the panel will a recommendation and the agency will either approve you or not.
Assuming you get approved you will then be matched with a child, usually within three months but it can take longer. Often though it is very quick as agencies explore potential matches before approval in order to speed up the process. But this is not a passive process and you can also pro-actively look for the right child for you via the family finding service Be My Parent (run by BAAF) and via adoption activity days amongst others.
Once a potential match is found for you, more information about the child or children, including their family background, early years history, reason for needing adopting, any special needs and general character will be provided and discussed. If you want to go ahead with the match then you will attend another panel who will also look at whether it is a suitable match and make a recommendation.
“We owe it to these children to make sure a forever family means just that - not a family who is going to let them down because they were not well prepared enough. Many adults wind up changing their mind about the kind of child they'll take on. Having originally wanted a baby, they might wind up preferring the idea of a toddler or an even older child or they might decide to consider a sibling group or a child with disabilities. This also takes time to work through.” - Kate Hilpern
Once the match is approved you get to meet the child. Getting to know them usually starts with a visit their foster carer’s house and plan outings. Next the child will visit you at home, including overnight stays. The child will move in as soon as you are all ready which will obviously be exciting for you all!
You would be entitled to statutory adoption leave and pay, and will continue to be supported by your social worker. Finally after a minimum of 10 weeks you can apply to the courts for an adoption order and once this is complete the child will be legally yours and can take your surname!
Keman is a single man who wanted to adopt to have a family of his own. He kindly answered some questions for me about his experience of becoming an adoptive parent to his little girl:
How did you find the process? I found the process an eventful and emotional journey. I was really blessed and very grateful to have such a great social worker. I had heard certain comments about social workers prior to having my own , however, my social worker was very approachable and welcoming and always kept me up to date with the process. I also felt like I could contact her at any time to discuss any issues that I had regarding the process without being made to feel like I was a burden.
What fears did you have and were they justified? My main fear was attachment and having a bond with my child. I was informed on the adoption awareness course that some adoptive parents do not bond initially. But from the first moment I saw my little girls photograph I knew I would just fall in love with her. She had huge cheeks (I've always loved babies with big cheeks), big brown eyes, long eyelashes and perfect eyebrows, this little girl was made for me. I was really blessed to get to meet her for the first time on my birthday, the best gift anyone in my position could ever ask for. From that day even up to this morning I count my blessings as I've got the most amazing gift I could ever EVER ask for, I’m very grateful.
What has been the best thing about adopting for your family? Being one of seven children and my parents having a foster daughter who gets on well with my daughter. Having nieces and nephews who adore her is just the most amazing feeling. My family do not see my daughter as my adopted child, but just a member of our family in the same way as if my daughter was biological. Seeing all the children playing together is heart melting.
What advice would you give to someone considering adoption? DO IT! DO IT! DO IT! Don’t be put off by time scales, as the times flies by, to stick to what you want but keep an open heart and mind. But most of all enjoy your journey and never give up as your child is waiting for you to provide a warm, loving and stable home!