Let’s put my family in context. My husband has four children from his first marriage. The eldest and the youngest came to live with us when they were 18 and 13 respectively. Before they moved in we tried to have a family of our own naturally, but this was not to be. So we looked into adoption around 2005.
During the initial LEA visit we were told if this went ahead our current children would not be allowed to stay overnight with us for about six months, and so we decided that the time wasn’t right and we put all our focus into the family we already had.
Fast forward to 2012, and we moved home into a larger house with spare rooms. My husband made an off-the-cuff comment about how we now had room and the two kids who weren’t living with us didn’t stay over any more, so we could look into adoption again. Two weeks later I made the initial phone call to Adoption Focus who were to support us for the next year.
We spoke to all four children about the idea before we went ahead with enquiries. Their feelings had to come first, and if they weren’t happy about it and didn’t want to share their Dad with anyone else then so be it. Surprisingly, they were all on board.
They didn’t have it easy though. All four of them and their mum had to come to meetings, and were asked to relive the time my husband moved out. We don’t know what they were asked in the interviews (because quite frankly it is none of our concern), but I do know that they were detailed and very emotionally draining. But even through all of that they still stood by us.
They were the first people we told when we were approved at panel and they were constantly in our minds when going through the matching process. The eldest had left home by this point to move in with his girlfriend and her son, so we also had to consider how any new children would fit in with them. Initially we were considering one child, but our social worker convinced us a sibling group would be better. With hindsight she was spot on, as I can feel a little on the sidelines when all four of them get together, so at least the kids would have each other.
Matching was an interesting experience because we had to consider our existing family – kids and grandkids. We knew that taking on children with possible sexualised behaviours would not have been ideal, and we were forced to become very realistic about what we could cope with. We didn’t want to let our new children down by putting them in a situation they couldn’t cope with.
Something clicked with us when we first saw the profiles of the girls we eventually adopted, and we put all our energies into pursuing them. We kept all of the kids informed every step of the way and involved them in our decision-making process, especially the youngest who would be living with them.
The day after we met the girls, we got together with the older children at the crematorium (it was a year since my father-in-law had died) and we were able to tell them about them and show them pictures.
A week later when the girls came home, their new siblings wgave them a week to settle in before coming round the visit them (the one who lived with us was on holiday that week too). Straight away you could see a bond forming. The birth children didn’t see the newcomers as a threat to their relationship with their Dad at all. If anything, they are treated more like nieces than sisters because of the age gap. This means they get treated and spoilt rather than fought and bickered with.
We organised the house so that our youngest can have her own space when she needs it. We would rather she spent time with the girls because she wants to rather than is forced to.
Three years on and they are an integral part of our family. They have been asked to be bridesmaids and we have gone on holiday with our eldest child and his family. It always amuses me that they are aunties to an 8 year old, especially when they are only six and eight themselves. It’s great for our grandson as when he is with our family he has children of his own age to play with rather than being with boring grown-ups.
The adult children now visit us more than they would have done if the girls weren’t around, and one of them in particular always brings them some chocolate and/or a magazine. They are also very good at knowing when I need a break and will take them out for a while, to the zoo or to the cinema. In fact the girls are used by their elder siblings as an excuse to go and see films like Cars and Captain Underpants at the cinema.
Pride of place in our house is a picture of me, my husband and our six children. None of them is related to me by birth, but all of them have a unique place in my heart. Life hasn’t always been easy, with one of the elder children coping badly with my husband’s divorce, but I’m pleased to say that if anything our two youngest have brought the family back together. We are closer now than we have ever been.
The age difference between the four older ones and the younger two works. They don’t see themselves as being any more important than anyone else, but the one who lives with us can still be ‘daddy’s little girl’ where her birth siblings are concerned, but now also has a very important role as a big sister and role model to her younger sisters.
All four of the big kids are proud to have adopted sisters and I am proud of them for accepting them with all of their hearts!