Adopting sibling groups

This year’s National Adoption Week (16th to 22nd October 2017) focuses on finding the right adopters for sibling groups. Over the past four years we have debated the merits of adopting one, two, or even three siblings at the same time.

When first beginning the adoption process we had an image of adopting one child, probably a preschool aged boy, and perhaps adding to our family later, if that was practical and beneficial to our little one. When we were approved as adopters this was a blanket approval, meaning we could be matched with one or more children, boys or girls, of any age. While we waited, we continued to explore what we could offer a child or children and how well we could meet their specific needs. We soon learned that sibling groups are amongst the hardest to place, that many people are put off by ‘older’ children (4+), that sibling pairs may need to be separated to ensure that one or more is adopted or kept together and their plan changed to long-term fostering. The thought of being separated from our own siblings – at any age, let alone in early childhood – saddened us greatly and we felt more determined to consider sibling pairs. As time passed, we also had to think realistically about whether we could face the adoption process a second time.

We both have siblings and have fond childhood memories of shared experiences – trips to the seaside, Christmas mornings, playing in the garden. These are accompanied by recollections of squabbles and fights (verbal and physical), often remembered with equal warmth. In adoption terms, we considered what it meant to have someone else with shared experiences. There are positives regarding identity. But there is also a shared history, likely including neglect, possibly trauma and abuse. Eventually we reasoned that the positives balanced the negatives and began actively considering sibling pairs.

Suddenly, a local authority asked us if we would consider three siblings. Our first response was expletive ridden. Our later, reasoned response was we would consider it but no promises. We spoke with friends and family, we sought the advice of people who had already adopted three siblings together (I will be forever indebted to these people for their kindness, generosity, and wisdom). Shortly after we attended a Coram Adoption Activity Day, meeting a delightful trio we were already linked with through Link Maker. Honestly, we were mesmerised and infatuated. We reasoned that it was doable, if we had a firm handle on the logistics. We couldn’t adopt just any three, but we could make it work with these three.

But soon we remembered what it was like sharing our parents’ attention and sometimes feeling jealous or left out. We listened to people reasoning that you only have two hands and two knees and someone will inevitably miss out. As the middle child of three, my wife sometimes had a tricky relationship with her siblings (though they are the best of friends in adulthood). The nagging doubts grew. Would we be ‘good enough’ for three? What if we let them down?

Then we saw the profile of a single child at a family finding event hosted by our approving local authority. As soon as we saw him, we both knew we would be his forever family. Since then we have been matched with the little boy and await introductions. It is a fantastic match, unanimously agreed and approved. His birth parents – who are unable to care for any child – are young enough that he may be joined by a sibling in the future. But those three siblings will always have a special place in our hearts. Some family will be very lucky to welcome them into their home and their lives.

It may seem counter-intuitive for me to write about deciding not to adopt siblings in a week when national focus is on the needs of sibling groups awaiting adoption. In the end, the decision was made based on the best match – and surely that needs to be key to all family finding. We are superbly placed to meet our little one’s needs in a way that we wouldn’t for other children. Adopting siblings at the same time, especially three or more, requires a very special type of person and I tip my hat to them.

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