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Lena and Stephen on birth children and adoption

It seems to be the adoption worlds best kept secret but there are a quite a few families that have both birth children and adopted children and whilst it adds an extra dimension to the process it is definitely a viable option.

So our family comprises myself Lena and my husband Stephen and we have been married for 22 years and our three children Freddie, Sam and Oscar. Freddie is now, 14, Sam is almost 13 they are our birth children and there is just 18 months between them and then there is Oscar aged 6 who was placed with us when he was 18 months old.

We started the process of trying to adopt when Sam and Freddie were aged 5 and 6 years old having met with several stumbling blocks and long delays in our local authority we came across CCS adoption on the Internet. We loved CCS adoption’s no nonsense approach and the friendly atmosphere that this organisation had. We were thrilled when they accepted us into the formal adoption process. The process wasn’t easy but the training was excellent and we felt supported throughout. We are a Christian family and Church was very important to us and we felt that CCS understood our faith and saw it as a positive part of our lives which was not part of our previous experience.

How did the process affect our Birth children?

Well it wasn’t easy for them, the timescales seemed very long especially during introduction week when they perceived we all got on well with Oscar so “why couldn’t we just take him home?” However our Social Worker had spent a lot of time preparing the children for the new addition to the family and they accepted that she did know what she was doing, so it was probably the right thing. We chose to share the whole journey with our children and to be as honest and open as we could be within the limits of their age and understanding.

How did the children react to their new family situation?

Initially it was really easy as they just saw a cute toddler they could play with but as the honeymoon period passed and some of Oscar’s issues started to surface it became harder for them. It took several years to get a diagnosis for Oscar’s problems all of which had not been apparent when we adopted him. This did take its toll but we kept lines of communication open with the children and with CCS’s help we were able to access the help and support that the whole family needed. The hardest period was actually when Oscar started to attend the same primary school as Sam. It took most of Oscar’s reception year to get him statemented and settled with appropriate one on one support. His behaviour was extreme and Sam felt this reflected badly on him and the family. Once again we accessed appropriate support with the help of CCS who came into school meetings and wrote reports to support our case.

Why do they advise on such a big gap when siblings are often closer in age?

We were initially surprised that at least a two year gap is advised in most cases and it is usually recommended that the gap is bigger than that. With our experience I think this a very sensible approach. Adopted children do have issues birth children will not have to face and often they have long term attachment issues that may or may not be obvious when a child is first placed with a family. To get help and support takes a lot of time and energy and that could leave birth children feeling sidelined. Because we had such a large gap we were able to ensure that our birth children had time with us when Oscar was asleep and that kept our relationship with them healthy. We also had to adapt our parenting style for Oscar to ensure he felt safe and secure this sometimes meant he appeared to get away with things that our birth children had not or that they had been allowed to do things Oscar could not do, as the children were so much older we were able to explain our actions to them. It didn’t stop the “it’s not fair” comments but all children think not getting things done their way is not fair so that didn’t worry us too much.

How did your wider family respond to your decision to adopt?

We were very fortunate that most of our wider family supported our decision even if they thought we were a little mad. Oscar has not been treated any differently than Freddie or Sam on the whole. However there has been less understanding of Oscar’s attachment issues and sensory processing issues by some family members and sometimes that can lead to situations that are less than helpful. This is where having support from other adopters can really help, it at least gives you someone to laugh with. We haven’t needed it but CCS will always talk to the wider family members if needed to help them understand the issues facing adopters and their children.

How do the children react to contact with the Birth Family?

We have annual letterbox contact with Oscar’s birth family this is quite hard for all of the children. As far as Freddie and Sam are concerned Oscar is their brother, but contact reminds them that Oscar has a family that exists that is totally separate to them. Oscar has only just started to be aware of the fact that this makes him different to his brothers but how that will develop we just don’t know.