For those who are unaware, if you are wanting to adopt a child/children the likelihood is that you will adopt children who are toddlers or older. The possibility of adopting a baby is slim to none (although this statistic does somewhat depend on the ethnicity of the child.). But for us, a white British couple, it is unusual for a baby to be in the adoption system. According to figures calculated by AdoptionUK, back in 2016 only 5% of looked after children were under 1 year of age. This is compared to 20% of cihldren aged between 5 and 9!
There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, even if a child is removed at birth from their birth families, they will then go to foster care while the wheels of adoption are put in motion. Usually a child is only removed at birth if either, the birth parents have already had children removed from them, or the birth parents are already in the remit of the social workers.
When a child is put into foster carer, they will have contact with their birth parents on a very regular basis – sometimes several times a week – whilst the parents are assessed to see if they are able to provide a safe home for their child. This assessment can takes months to be completed. Whilst this is going on, Social Workers are also busy assessing other family members to see if they could potentially safely bring up the child. Only when all potential family members have been discounted does the child move into the adoption sector and become available to be adopted. Hence why children are more often toddlers before they are in the adoption system!
One of the biggest flaws of this system is that children can be moved many times to different foster homes in their young lives. Both Little Sir and Little Miss were in 5 foster care homes before they came home to us – this was in a year and a half! This can, understandably cause distress, trauma, attachment issues amongst other issues. So one way that the trauma may be reduced is through fostering to adopt.
In a nutshell, fostering to adopt is where a child moves from their birth families to carers who will initially foster them, and then, if the child is then moved into the adoption system, will adopt them. The benefits to the child are huge! Through fostering to adopt, the potential is that the child will only move into one home, rather than several. This means that they will be able to build memories early on and celebrate developmental milestones and key events with one set of carers they will remain with. It also allows the child to develop strong relationships early on with their carers and the carers can offer restorative care to the child much earlier on.
Having adopted our children at 3 and 5, we can confirm that they both have suffered significant trauma through the loss not only of their birth parents, but the 5 different carers they were with over the years. We are able to stay in contact with their final foster carer, but we aren’t able to be in contact with previous ones. If they had been able to go through the fostering to adopt system, this trauma would have been significantly reduced for them.
So, 2 and a half years after adopting Little Miss and Little Sir, we are starting again on a new journey, but this time through fostering to adopt. The children are both very much on board and Little Sir would love to be a big brother. We know that there are likely to be trials along the way, and we’ll have to talk to the children about the possibility that the baby might go back to their birth family. But I know that, however difficult it might be for us if that happens, we will work together to celebrate that the baby will be love wherever they go, either with us or with their birth families. I think it’ll bring us even closer together as a family, and ultimately fostering to adopt will be our one way of bringing a baby into our family. Whether this is permanently or as short term carers, I know it’s something that we are all feeling passionate about.
I’d love to know if you or someone you know has been through fostering to adopt, and how they have found it! Let me know in the comments below!