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Molly’s story - “Adoption isn’t a last resort.”

Molly, 26, adopted her son in 2020. She and her husband Sam are also parents to a 4-year-old biological daughter. Here, Molly explains why she adopted and what it has meant for her family.

I had several miscarriages before I had my daughter. When I was pregnant with her, I was scared I’d lose her too. My mental health was at its lowest and her birth - an emergency C-section - was also really traumatic.

I knew I didn’t want to go through that again. So in 2019, when my daughter was three, we started researching adoption. Reading more about the process, it felt so positive. With adoption, it felt less like the pressure was on me, which was something I’d struggled with during pregnancy.

We contacted an adoption agency who were very honest about the challenges we’d face and told us some of the scenarios children in care have been through. But even with that, we felt sure we could do it. We’ve never looked back.

Molly and her husband decided to adopt after experiencing a stressful pregnancy with her first daughter.

The adoption process

The first stage in adoption mainly involves paperwork, but stage two is a different story. It was three months of intensive assessments covering everything from our education and lifestyle to our medical history and our relationship.

Other adopters had warned us that the process could be very intrusive. But there’s a reason they go into so much detail about your life - you are parenting children with trauma and that can be a challenge, so you need to be prepared for it.

We went before a virtual panel in May to find out if we’d been approved. It was incredibly nerve-wracking because they tell you if you’re going to be a parent or not. We got a unanimous “yes”, which was amazing!

Finding our son

Before the panel, we’d been allowed to start what is called ‘family finding’. Your social worker looks for children to match you with and you can also search through children’s profiles on a special website. I remember looking through all the profiles for the first time and just crying. It was awful to see all their faces and read about the things they’d experienced. I don’t think anything can prepare you for that. It’s heartbreaking.

In the end, our social worker found our little man before we even went before the panel. I’d driven to the supermarket and, when I pulled up, an email pinged on my phone. It was from our social worker and the subject line just said, ‘Baby Profile’.

I didn’t even get out of the car! I drove home then Sam and I read his profile together. There wasn’t much information - just a photo and a bit of background about him and his birth family.

It sounds strange, but we fell in love with him before we even met him.

We had to go before a ‘matching panel’ in July 2020, where we were asked how we’d meet his needs and how we’d explain his life story to him. This is something all adopters have to do - it’s a really important part of the process. We got a unanimous yes again, which was just incredible. We were going to be a family of four.

Telling our daughter she was going to be a big sister

Even though our daughter was little, she’d been very involved in the whole adoption process. Our social worker was brilliant and spent time with her, explaining that she was helping us find a brother or sister.

Telling her that she was going to be a big sister was amazing. She was so excited, taking the photo we’d given her of her brother and putting it in her bedroom.

A few weeks later, we met our son for the first time. You spend two weeks with your child, gradually building up the time you’re with them, before bringing them home. The first day was just an hour. When the foster carer brought him in to meet us, he looked at us as if to say, “Who are you?” It was the most surreal moment. I was in total disbelief - all the photos had become a reality. It was amazing playing with him, we didn’t want to leave.

Our daughter met him a few days later and that will go down as the best day of my life. The foster carer opened the door with him in her arms and my daughter started screaming his name before giving him the biggest hug.

Bringing our son home

We brought him home two weeks later and that was probably the most overwhelming day for me. While we were excited to bring him home, the loss really hit me. His safe person was his foster carer and I felt so guilty taking him away from that. It was also hard for his birth family - if they’d been updated, they would know that was the day he was moving to his forever home.

Even though everything was new for him, our son settled in quickly. He was definitely observing everything for the first few months, but we can see a completely different personality now that he feels safe with us.

Molly's social worker helped her daughter understand the adoption process and prepare to become a big sister.

Therapeutic play

As adopters, we are trained in therapeutic play, which helps children process their trauma and loss. It encourages eye contact and physical touch for bonding. We do about 30 minutes of this a day. It could be as simple as balloon bouncing or drawing weather maps on his back, so he gets used to our voices and our touch.

We also do therapeutic parenting which involves putting a lot of structure and boundaries in place to make children feel safe.

For example, we use ‘time in’ rather than ‘time out’. This means that we stay close to our kids when they’re having a tough time, instead of using a naughty step. We would say something like, “I can see you are struggling. I want you to stay close to me so I can see you’re okay.”

'You might be wondering, “Can I love a child who isn’t biologically mine?” The answer is yes!'

Molly’s top tips

1. Adoption is not a ‘last resort’

People think it’s a last resort if you can’t have children, for example. But it isn’t, it’s a choice that can be made at any stage of your life. There is no ideal adopter - you don’t have to be middle-aged or wealthy. I know single, same-sex, older and younger adopters.

2. Find your support network

Prepare yourself as much as you can by joining the adoptive community on social media, or through Adoption UK. Once you’ve found that community, the support is endless. You should also get ongoing support from your adoption agency.

3. Be open and honest

Your social worker doesn't want to see the perfect parent. They want to see people who’ve faced challenges and can understand loss and trauma. That means you’ll be able to empathise with the child you are going to adopt.

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