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I was adopted by a white family and 35 years later it massively shaped my own parenting journey


Published Jun 20, 2023, 1:56pm

I decided to adopt because I wanted to help and support children who needed a family (Picture: Yoni)

I remember when each of my adopted girls came home for the first time.

My oldest daughter, who had just turned one, was so quiet, gentle and good natured.

My partner Evelyn and I looked at each other with a mixture of trepidation and  joy. 

We celebrated when she had a tantrum as the social worker said ‘she must feel really at home!’. 

My youngest, who had also just turned one, arrived after being dropped off by her foster parents in a minivan full of toys.

Since then, it’s been a pleasure to watch my daughters, now 22 and 20, grow into the young women they are today – and to have played a small part in that. 

I’d wanted to have children for some time before my partner and I decided to adopt, back in 2003.

We’d tried other routes, including artificial insemination, which I struggled with as it felt impersonal, but adoption felt right because I’d been adopted myself. 

I grew up with my parents after they brought me home at at 18 months old. I’d been placed with them on respite when my foster carers went on holiday, but fortunately for me, I never left. 

My parents were significantly older than my friends’ parents, and I was the only Black child that I knew. But they cared for me, and I had a very positive upbringing. 

Across the board, there aren’t enough Black and mixed heritage adopters coming forward

They told me from day one that I was adopted, although in fairness they couldn’t hide it given that they were white.

Except, what they struggled to understand was my ethnicity, and what it was like to be a child who looked so different to all of my peers.

Secondary school was hard. Not so much in my girls’ school, but boys in the school next door called me a lot of names every day on the bus, so I felt very different. 

Fortunately, I developed a love of reading, which helped with the abuse.

At 35, I decided to adopt because I wanted to help and support children who needed a family. I also wanted to be a parent, and while it comes with challenges, it also comes with a lot of joy and laughter. 

Specifically, I wanted to bring home a child with a similar background to me so that I could share my knowledge of their race, culture and ethnicity. 

I grew up with my parents after they adopted me at 18 months old (Picture: Yoni)

This was important to me since, across the board, there aren’t enough Black and mixed heritage adopters coming forward. This unfortunately means that children from Black and mixed heritage backgrounds wait statistically longer to be adopted than others – around two months longer.

Parents willing to love a child for who they are is always a good thing, but children ideally should grow up in a family that understands their needs. 

There’s no denying that a white person caring for a Black child comes with a steep learning curve. Understanding hair and skin care, culture, food, traditions and lifestyle in the child’s birth family. So, it’s great when Black families put themselves forward. 

The thing that I learnt was that you can never have too much knowledge in adopting, and preparing to adopt. Our children will have experienced loss and trauma, irrespective of the age they are placed in our care. 

I also think, as parents, the more we understand our children’s experience, the more we can anticipate and prevent their problems in later life. 

When children feel fully understood and nurtured, their behaviour reflects the security they feel. When a child is given a familiar home cooked meal in the first few days of moving in, this can help them feel safe. 

Living in a family where the child doesn’t stand out as different and they know that their parents understand the challenges of racism can be really powerful. 

It’s why, as an adult, I became involved in Black and in Care – a charity supporting Black young people while in care – many placed with white foster carers – and later started working in social care. 

I was interested in supporting children, because I passionately believe that every child, irrespective of race, religion, ethnicity or gender, should get as many opportunities and as much support as they need to thrive. 

I love being a parent – it’s the most important and satisfying role that I hold. I know I haven’t got everything right, but then no one does!

I would absolutely encourage anyone to consider adoption. Supporting a child who needs it is a life-enhancing and amazing experience. 

It’s the chance to change a child’s life. 

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