Dawn and Phil adopted 4 children with additional needs.
To start with, let me introduce myself. I’m Dawn, and along with my husband Phil, we have adopted 4 children over the last 12 years. We have two boys, Samuel 14, and Daniel 11 and two girls, Holly 7 and Sophie 2. All our children have a range of different needs, which I will get into later. We were always open to adopting children with additional needs because to us, no matter what needs a child has, they ultimately want and need a loving, supportive family, which we felt we could give in abundance. We were aware of most of their needs (with a few curveballs thrown in, which I’ll explain later) when we adopted them, which helped us to prepare for their arrival. I’m not going to lie, it hasn’t always been easy, but parenting isn’t always easy. Many people we speak to say we are amazing for adopting 4 children with additional needs. Others think we are a bit crazy (not far from the truth), but to us, we are parents of 4 amazing children, who teach us so much each day, who light up a room with their smiles when they walk in, who test the boundaries, who leave their toys in odd places, who cover the walls in sticky finger marks and who laugh so hard, they make you want to laugh with them. Here is the story of our amazing special family.
Me and my husband, Phil, decided to adopt about 15 years ago. We had both always wanted to have a family, even way before we met. We married in 2004 and like many couples, our thoughts turned to starting a family. After two years it became apparent that we were unable to conceive naturally. It was a very difficult time but it didn’t stop us from pursuing our dream of a family.
We both had a history of working with children in both mainstream and specialist environments so we’re very used to being around children and supporting their development in all areas. After many discussions, we decided that we wanted to start the process of adoption. And so our adoption journey began.
The first to come along was Samuel. He was two years old when we first met him. The first thing I noticed about him was his big, beautiful, blue eyes and his winning smile. He immediately got the photo book we had sent to him and brought it to me on the page of my photo. We then spent the time we had together, playing, reading and having lots of cuddles.
Samuel moved in with us in December 2008 and we got on with family life. He was a very active child and we quickly realised that his development was behind some of his peers. He had only a few words, found it challenging to interact appropriately with his peers, became anxious in crowds and around new people and needed a lot of support to develop appropriate behaviours. We quickly put appropriate strategies in place, and along with the nursery he was attending, involved outside agencies, to put in place a statement of SEN. Samuel then began going to a specialist school, which he attends to this day.
Two years later we were told that Samuel’s birth parents had a sibling. Daniel is Samuel’s full sibling and after a bit of a lengthy process, Daniel came to live with us aged 11 months. The first thing I remember saying when I first saw him was how much he looked like his brother. Again, those piercing blue eyes and magical smile shone through. It was apparent from the first meeting that Daniel too, had some challenges however, to what extent this would be was not yet known. Again we went through the process of involvement from outside agencies, put in relevant strategies and started the statementing process. At 18 months old, Daniel suffered a severe seizure and he had many investigations. Over the next year, he suffered 3 more seizures which led to the conclusion that he had epilepsy. However, after a few years of medication, he has suffered no more seizures. Like his brother, he has no speech but does communicate with Makaton, through pictures and gestures. He has hypermobility and severe learning needs and attends the same school as his brother.
About 2 years later, we decided that we wanted to welcome another child into our family. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen how we planned it and we were unsuccessful in our application. But, being as determined as we are, did not stop us. We joined CCS and they were extremely supportive 3 years after we first explored the possibility of welcoming a 3rd child, that dream became a reality. Holly came to us in January 2017. She was a very active, sociable little girl, with a beautiful smile and a happy disposition. Holly had cerebral palsy and previously had a brain tumour which was successfully removed. Her speech was a little delayed, however, she more than makes up for that now. She settled well, then in November 2017, after being poorly for about two months and many a trip to the hospital, we were given the devastating news that she had a cancerous tumour that had spread from her kidney, up her IVC and into her heart. She quickly got transferred to intensive care and was in a coma for three weeks. She was transferred to Great Ormond Street and remained between two hospitals for 5 months. It broke our hearts seeing our little girl go through so much pain and suffering but we stayed by her side and she was amazing through everything she went through, from feeding tubes, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy, to a big operation where we were uncertain if she would survive. But Holly is a fighter and fought as she did. The tumour was successfully removed and she made a full recovery. Holly is an inspiration, she has been through so much but with help and support from various people and hospitals, we got through it as a family.
Then in July 2018, we were informed that Holly had a half-sister. I won’t go into the challenges that followed, but two years later in June 2020, after we fought very hard, Sophie joined our family and was reunited with her sister at last. Sophie was born with a cleft palate which was successfully repaired. She has delayed speech, but since joining us she has learnt some Makaton and developed some words and lots of sounds. She is a very happy little girl, who loves cuddles, dancing and getting up to mischief with Daniel.
Parenting four children all with a variety of needs has had its challenges, but just seeing how happy they are, the smiles on their faces, the determination from them all despite what they have been through, the love they give, the kindness, the affection, that far outweighs challenges. Our love for them is unconditional and we are so happy that we fought for our amazing family.
One thing that I have learnt from our journey is that you can never predict what is going to happen. There will be great times, there will be challenging times, there will be times you feel so happy and proud, and times that you feel you want to run and hide (but that never works because they always find you), but I can say with hand on heart, I wouldn’t change a thing. My kids are my kids, and they are amazing.