For both Andi and I this is our second marriage. We had both unsuccessfully tried for a family with our previous partners, however when we got together we just knew life was going to be so different and family was high on our agenda.
Unfortunately for us, I went through early menopause so our opportunities were limited. We explored all avenues and decided that adoption was our best option.
Andi’s family live in the North West and it was his sister who told us about Caritas Care. A colleague of hers had just successfully adopted a two-year-old child and he was so complimentary about Caritas and all the support he and his wife had received throughout the process – they sounded just perfect.
We first contacted Caritas in 2011. It was only a telephone conversation which they followed up by sending us their information pack – we read the pack and all the information they had available on their website.
Whilst we were confident this was what we wanted we found ourselves deliberating over a number of things. My major concern was my age, I was then 46 and I was sure this would be an issue, the other concern was that we didn’t live in the North West of England. Caritas told us that in principal they would be happy to work with us, my age wasn’t a concern for them and geography wasn’t a barrier if we would share some of the travel.
Having decided we would go forward we were into 2012, our wedding was planned for late May and we agreed with Caritas that finalising our big day should take priority, that was until my father was taken seriously ill and sadly died. I was devastated and it took me a long time to come to terms with my loss. In late 2013, we moved house and it was only by the spring of 2014 I felt able to start to talking about adoption again.
When we finally plucked up the courage to ring Caritas again you can imagine our surprise when the lady remembered us! We explained why it had taken us so long to come back to them but they were so understanding, their view is that the time had to be right for us and that they would be happy to consider us just as before.
In the summer of 2014 we had our first informal meeting. By January 2015 we were on our first training course! Lots of myths were dispelled here about what we were getting into and we were given a very clear message in that moving forward we had to be honest, to ourselves, each other and with Caritas.
Over the course of the next eight months we committed fully to the process of establishing our profile. Make no mistake this is hard, emotional stuff and at times you do question what you’re doing and why all this personal insight is needed. Our social worker Rachel was just brilliant with us and during this time she became one of the family. Then by August all the work was done, it was time to go to panel and it suddenly became crystal clear, you have to be right for the child and the child has to be right for you, it’s true what they say about preparation.
In September 2015 the matching panel said yes! We’d be told there might be a quiet period before we moved to the next stage, finding our child………no chance!
At the beginning of October we were at a family fun day dressed as pirates, as you do! Here we met lots of lovely children all intent on having fun at this big party. We’d gone along expecting to learn how these things worked and had no real expectations from the day but then we met this little girl she walked straight up to us confident as you like, intent on play. She chose us that day, and spent the afternoon following us around. It was wonderful, we could have scooped her up and taken her home there and then.
We knew she was the one, but as seems the norm with us things were complicated! She had a much younger brother and the plan was for them to be placed together. We had only ever wanted one child, a little girl. We couldn’t separate them, it was heart wrenching having to make the decision to walk away!
The months of training and preparation teaches you to opt in until you have to opt out, and we relied heavily on our learning now, but we were both devastated and asked that we be allowed some time to get over recent events.
Then about four weeks later we received a call from Rachel. She had been contacted by the child’s social worker following their case review and they had decided to place her younger brother with his new born sister and wondered if we were still interested in taking the little girl on her own?
Oh yes we were, tears of joy and then bewilderment!
How did that happen………who cares!
After yet more hurdles to jump, introductions finally started in April 16, over a two-week period we would be introduced slowly to the little girl – well that was the plan but she had her own ideas and on the first day she announced she’d be staying with us that night! Excited and frightened all at the same time what could we say to that?
On day three the plan was that we would all travel to our home for a visit, however she had yet more surprises for us because after arriving and giving the whole house a good once over, looking in every cupboard and drawer, she marched into the kitchen to announce to the gathered social workers, foster careers and us that she’d be staying!………..and she’s been here ever since!
It has been a hard, exhausting, and at times emotional 12 months, where on reflection I think I could have done some things better but it’s a steep learning curve when you bring a seven-year-old little person into your home and tell her you are her forever family – expect to be tested!
Her resilience is awesome and without a doubt she has changed our lives forever. She is demanding and needs to totally control her little world but she is also funny, inquisitive and so very loving, nothing prepares you for that first “love you Mummy!” She’s grown two inches, put on a stone in weight, it’s hard to keep her in clothes that fit! She is coming on leaps and bounds at school too!
Our adoption application is at court now, hopefully there will be no more hurdles to jump and she will ‘officially and legally’ be our daughter, although in our hearts she is already!
Good luck on your journey.