Kirsty and Adam’s Story – Part 1 – Kirsty
Kirsty and Adam adopted a sister and brother through CCS Adoption a few years ago. Here, Kirsty shares her experience of what that has been like for her – the good, the bad and everything in between. And in Part 2 you can read, Adam, her husband’s side of the same story.
What brought you to adoption and can you remember when you decided to adopt?
My husband and I started trying for a baby after we got married. After a few years, we were referred for fertility treatment which was also unsuccessful. We often felt through the fertility process that it would not work, so we started thinking about adoption quite early on. We just wanted to have children so adoption seemed like the natural next step, and we were genuinely excited to start the process as soon as we could.
Why did you choose CCS Adoption?
We looked up the adoption agencies in our local area and the first one we came across was CCS. We contacted them and went to an information event, thinking that we would also attend some with other agencies too. However, we felt really welcomed, informed and comfortable after the first session and decided not to continue to look around.
How did you find the assessment process and training?
The assessment was a lot of interviews, lots of paperwork and a lot of reflection on our lives, upbringing, relationships and friendships. We both had to take time off work or be flexible to have early appointments in CCS with our social worker and spent a lot of time talking about ourselves.
I found the talking about myself a little hard to start with but I got into it. It was nice in some ways to spend time thinking about how I have got to where I am and the social worker also focused on helping to prep us for what being an adoptive parent might be like.
The training was really good, very informative, and gave us the chance to meet other adopters. We are now close friends with another couple who we met on our last day of training so we went through the process of panel, matching and the craziness of placement pretty much at the same time which has been such great support.
Can you remember hearing about and then meeting your children for the first time?
We came across our children on Link Maker so initially saw a picture of them and a little sort of profile. Ideally, we wanted a boy and a girl under 4 so they matched our criteria. However, it was so much more than that. They just looked ‘right’ to us, very cute and smiley and sounded like they loved the outdoors. Lots of things we read about them in their profile made us excited to try and meet them. We arranged a ‘glimpse meeting’ where we went to their playgroup and saw them with their foster carer. It was so exciting and they just felt like our kids even then. I remember thinking that they looked like the cutest kids there! It was hard not to actually interact with them but it was really valuable to see them in person, it made it all seem so real.
The first meeting was at the foster carer’s house during our transition week a couple of months after the glimpse meeting.
The kids ran up to us and they were so excited to see us. We spent a couple of hours with them on that first day playing and reading stories. It was a very surreal day, very emotional and just amazing to finally be with our kids. We came away covered in stickers and worn out but elated at how right it felt.
What were the early days like?
A complete blur!!! Going from no children to two toddlers at once felt like being thrown in at the deep end and that feeling that I had of ‘I can definitely be an adoptive parent…I have so much love to give, we will be great parents’ seemed so naive. All of a sudden, I felt very unprepared and had a big crisis of confidence about my ability to parent. The first week or two were great fun but our daughter really struggled and regressed (physically and emotionally) a lot after that initial honeymoon period as she slowly realised that she wasn’t returning to the foster carers. She was extremely emotionally dysregulated and took a long time to attach to us. She was scared and very unsure so her behaviour was erratic, controlling, violent at times and exhausting for her and us. There were still lots of really fun times but it felt like such hard work. For various reasons, we had quite a bit of social worker involvement (from the children’s local authority) which was stressful and having people in the house (family or otherwise) caused our daughter a lot of distress. Initially, I was taking adoption leave on my own but it became too stressful so we decided that my husband would share the leave. This was the best decision we could have made, although things were still tough.
Both being there for our kids and having that time to bond as a family really helped things to settle down. It also meant we could ‘tag team’ a bit to make sure each of us could have a bit of a break.
We had a hot summer that year so I have lots of lovely memories of being outside with the kids, going on day trips, picnics and just playing. After the first few months being a bit of a blur, that summer, when things started to feel more relaxed, it’s when I really started to feel like a ‘mum’ and we started to feel like a family.
Can you tell us a bit about your children?
We have two children – a girl and a boy who are full siblings. They came to us when our daughter was about to be 3 and our son was nearly 2. They are about a year apart in age and are really close. They love spending time together and always look out for each other. Both love the outdoors, going on adventures and playing on the beach. Our daughter is strong-willed, bright, kind and fiercely loving. Our son is funny, sweet, clever and very silly.
Our children had quite different experiences in their birth families. Our daughter was neglected and received inconstant care in a chaotic home and our son was seriously physically harmed as a baby which resulted in care proceedings. The effects of that manifest in different ways. Our daughter does really struggle at times with her emotions both at home and in school and our son has had to have some follow-up surgery as a result of the injuries he sustained. They have both had challenges to overcome and will continue to do so, but they are genuinely so positive. They are a delight to be around and we are so proud of them.
Has there been anything that surprised you?
I was not surprised by the process of becoming approved as we felt so well supported through the process, but I think I was surprised with the matching process and how quickly it felt ‘ok’ to say no to certain children. I certainly felt apprehensive about how the process would work, how long it would take, and the fact that we would be selecting children and therefore ‘rejecting’ others. It was hard at first but I quickly felt that saying no was the right thing for us, as our social worker said, the children might not be right for us but they would be right for another family. Once we saw pictures of our children and read about them, we just had the feeling that they were the children for us.
Do your children have contact with their birth family and what impact does it have on them?
We have yearly letterbox contact, so we write a letter that goes via the local authority to the birth mum, dad, and parental grandmother. We generally give an update on the children, the things we have done in the past year, their health and appearance, their interests, etc. We have received letters back from birth mum only. We read these letters to the children and they have coped really well with them. It has instigated some questions, but overall it has been positive. The letters from birth mum have seemed genuine, although she does seem to sugarcoat the past when the children were in her care. Writing and receiving these letters is likely more emotional for us than the children, although, as they are so young, I don’t think they give it much thought. I am sure as the children get older this contact will be much harder.
What is family life like now?
Family life now is great. We have a lot of fun together, the kids get on well, they are thriving in school and are just lots of fun to be around. Both sets of grandparents love the kids so much and all have a really strong bond which is just so lovely. The stress of the first few months feels like a lifetime ago now, things have changed a lot and we are just able to enjoy family life now and feel proud of all we have gone through.
What have been the best and hardest bits of adoption for you?
The best bits are just seeing my kids grow and develop after a hard start in life. I’m thankful they are together in a safe home and can have the life they deserve.
The hardest part is the guilt when I feel that I haven’t got it right when I’ve shouted or been too hard on them, or not given them the time they need. I can feel very guilty and feel the pressure to parent ‘perfectly’ to try and make up for how things were in the birth family.
What has been your friends’ and family’s involvement in your adoption journey?
Our family have been great, so supportive and loving and did all they could to help with the approval process. Both sets of grandparents attended a CCS training day for family and friends which was really useful for them.
Our children were the first grandchildren of both sets of grandparents so they were very eagerly anticipated!! We have a lot of contact with family, especially grandparents and the relationship between them is really strong. They were desperate at the start to visit a lot so we did have to make them aware that the children needed to take things slowly. We did video calls and my mum sent weekly postcards to build the relationships from afar. Gradually we built up that contact and now see them really regularly.
Friends have been very supportive too and love seeing the children. The friends we have with children, and other friends who have also adopted have been invaluable support.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about adopting?
I would say that it’s important to remember that the move to your house will be another change for the children, another trauma, on top of everything they have experienced. So, although coming to your house will be the last move; the stable and loving home they need, the transition itself will take time to recover from and it could take some time for the children to settle and for the attachments to develop. Also, becoming an adoptive parent is a huge change to your life to suddenly have a child or children in your house, and you have to parent them!
It can be a shock and for a while, it may not feel like you had imagined it would. But, be kind to yourself, give yourself and the children time. It’s the hardest thing I have ever done, but the most rewarding.