‘Some things you are prepared for, other you get caught completely off guard’
A new campaign launched by the National Adoption Service for Wales hopes to encourage more people to adopt those children waiting the longest.
There are 119 children currently waiting to be adopted in Wales, with 29 of those children waiting for nine months or more.
For boys, sibling groups, children over three, and those with complex early histories, the wait to find a forever home can last a long time.
But a new campaign launched during National Adoption Week (October 18-23) wants to change all that by debunking the myth that babies and girls are easier to adopt.
To open the hearts and minds of potential adopters to those children currently waiting to find a family, #ChooseFamily will hear from parents across Wales about the realities of adopting a child, regardless of their age, sex, or if they are part of a sibling group.
Single mum Natasha adopted through Adoption Mid and West Wales in 2014. With an open mind, Tasha, researched adoption thoroughly before she began the process alone.
Tasha, who is a teacher, adopted siblings of Thai heritage – a three-year-old daughter and a 20-month-old boy – because she knew that boys, minority ethnic children and siblings typically wait the longest to be adopted.
It is made clear very early on that all adopted children will manifest their trauma in one way or another at some point in their life. Some of this you are prepared for, other times it can catch you completely off guard.
“My daughter was the more anxious and hypersensitive of my two children. I think that because she was older when she went into care she has more of a recollection of neglect. My family knew to be more cautious and to give her extra reassurance when it was dark or there were loud noises - but one thing we didn’t prepare for is how petrified she was of balloons and anyone singing Happy Birthday.
“She couldn’t tell us why, but she was storing a memory we can only speculate about. It caused her to freeze and cry or come running to cling onto me. Other parents would ask why I insisted on bringing her along to parties, but I didn’t want her to miss out or have to ask the class not to celebrate birthdays, so we worked together over time to help her find coping strategies. Now, she has been to a few birthday sleepovers and will get up dancing at holiday kids’ club - she’s come a long way.
“I remember having a friendly debate with a social worker about interracial adoption and feeling strongly about not letting the difference in our skin colour be a barrier. I was challenged on this as the social worker pointed out that I wouldn’t be the one growing up different.
“In many ways she was right, and thankfully, we have navigated the conversations about our differences easily. We have multi-ethnic friends and he often likes to point out when I am the odd one out in the car or on family holidays.
“The world is made up of so many different families and society and adoption have caught up with each other. Not only did that make it easier for me as a single person to adopt, having examples to show how the nuclear family is varied is helping my son to understand that everyone is different. Just the other day he asked me when he was getting a dad, because everyone has one. When we revisited the story of his birth father and started going through the list of family and friends who were unmarried, had lost partners or are in same sex couples, he wasn’t so concerned that it was just the three of us.”
Suzanne Griffiths, Director of the National Adoption Service for Wales, said:
We know from research conducted within adoption services in Wales that myths in relation to age and gender continue to exist; some prospective adopters believe that younger children present with fewer issues and others feel that girls are easier to care for.
“This is not always the case as all children have different needs and experiences and often the quieter child can be harder to work with.
“Sometimes we know less about the experiences of a younger child whereas we might have more detailed knowledge where an older child is concerned. For these older children we are often in a better position to predict any future support needs should they require it.”
National Adoption Service is asking for people to share the moments that made their family @nas_cymru #ChooseFamily to encourage others to choose to adopt.
For more information about adoption, visit adoptionmwwales.org.uk