Could you open your home and your heart to not one, but two or even three, children in need? Families desperately needed to adopt sibling groups in Suffolk

Could you make room in your life for a child?

Could you make room in your life for a child? - Credit: EDP picture library

All too often, children in care face the prospect of being separated from their brothers and sisters because it can be difficult to find people who want to adopt siblings.

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Make a Difference

Not so long ago Anna found a note from her eldest son to his younger sibling. It read: “You are the best brother in 99 universes,” writes Sheena Grant.

The simple sentiment, scrawled by an eight-year-old hand, made her smile. It still does, every time she thinks of it.

It makes her realise that behind the sibling rivalry and tantrums there is a deep bond of brotherly love. But it also makes her realise something else. Her boys, Daniel and Reece, have the chance of a life-long relationship that could so easily have been denied them.

That is because until Anna and her husband Paul adopted the brothers almost six years ago they had never actually even met one another, although they had the same birth parents.

Children are waiting to be housed with loving families

Children are waiting to be housed with loving families - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Daniel, who was then three, had been living with foster carers since being removed from his birth family at the age of one and Reece, then only a baby, had been placed with a different foster family soon after he was born.

It was only when Anna and Paul, who live in mid Suffolk, put their names forward to adopt siblings that the brothers were finally able to get to know one another.

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“The truth is,” says Anna, “that if we had not done that they probably would have been put up for adoption separately. The thought that the boys could have been separated for life is too awful to contemplate.

“As much as they fight and argue - just like any other siblings - they do love each other so much.”

Could you offer these boys the love they need?

Could you offer these boys the love they need? - Credit: Archant

Sadly, Daniel and Reece’s story is not an isolated one. The need to try and find permanent homes for siblings is so great that it was the focus of National Adoption Week earlier this month. In Suffolk, the county’s adoption service is keen to hear from people who may be able to do for other children what Anna and Paul have done for Daniel and Reece.

For them, adopting siblings seemed the logical thing to do right from the start. They had been unable to have children naturally and having grown up with brothers and sisters themselves wanted that for any family of their own.

“We were in our late 30s when we went into adoption and felt we had the space and financial security to offer a home to siblings, if we were deemed suitable,” says Anna.

“After we found we couldn’t have children naturally we did look at IVF and started to explore that possibility but, if I’m honest, perhaps not wholeheartedly. We never really felt it was the thing for us.

“When it got to the point where they were talking about us needing to use donor eggs we felt that if were going to go down that route we might as well look at adoption. We were pretty committed to that option right from the start but felt we just had to investigate IVF first. We both felt that if we were going to use donor eggs there were more than enough children in the world already in need of homes and we would rather find children who needed a forever family than go down the IVF route.”

After an initial phone call to register their interest the couple went to an informal information evening before applying to adopt. After a range of checks and vetting procedures were carried out they went through to the next stage.

“We had to go on a course,” says Anna. “It was quite intense and pulled no punches, telling you what you could expect and the various problems children up for adoption may face. It was a bit of them looking to see if we were suitable but also us finding out if we wanted to carry on with the process. You can say ‘it is not for us’ at any point.”

Eventually, the couple reached the stage where they were able to start looking at the profiles of children who needed a permanent family before going in front of panel to get final approval.

“After we were approved a social worker recommended we should adopt a sibling group of two between the ages of 0-5. We were happy with that and it felt amazing to be approved.

“For us the match with Daniel and Reece happened very quickly,” says Anna. “Looking back I think we were very fortunate because we didn’t have to wait long. From our point of view the system worked very well and was very quick.

“At first we were given written profiles of the boys but no pictures. We both felt that they sounded a good match with us and we were very excited. After that we were shown pictures and the match was approved.

“I was working as a teacher at the time and had been saying to the school head that I would be leaving at the end of the summer term. But because it all went through so quickly I found myself leaving at half term.”

After weeks of introductions with the boys Daniel moved in first, followed by Reece a few weeks later.

“In our case it was slightly unusual because it was the first time the boys would be living together as well,” says Anna. “Once it was decided we were going to adopt them both, the boys visited each other (while still in their respective foster homes) but Daniel was still only just three so I am not sure how much he took in and understood. Reece, of course, was just a baby.

“Within six weeks we went from having no children to having two aged under five. “They settled in amazingly well but it was a shock to our system at first, having to get up and do night feeds for a baby.”

But the couple weren’t on their own in those early days. They had regular visits from social workers and all the support they needed. Anna and Paul formally adopted the boys a few months later.

Life continued in the chaotic way it often does with small children, surrounded by toys, laughter and the occasional tears. But eventually it became obvious Daniel was having some emotional difficulties related to his early experiences.

Anna and Paul went back to the adoption support service to get help.

“They have been fantastic and slowly but surely things are getting better,” says Anna.

“It’s coming up for six years since we adopted the boys and it has been tough at times. But the rewards of family life far out-weigh any of the difficulties. Adopted children do sometimes have additional needs but the support is always there. Help is there at the end of a phone.

“I would say that if anyone is even considering adoption they should go and find out more about it and the children who desperately need loving, permanent homes.

“It is the best thing we have ever done. The boys are so embedded in our wider family and feel so much part of our family. For sibling groups the thought of them not being together and having to lead separate lives, after everything else they have often been through, is horrendous. Our boys know that they are brothers and they will always stick up for each other. Without us having adopted the pair of them that would never have happened.

“The note I found that Daniel had written to Reece says it all and makes everything else worthwhile.”

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Suffolk adoption service is focusing on finding forever families for sibling groups, older children and youngsters with disabilities.

It used this month’s adoption week to try and get prospective adopters to come forward.

There are currently 723 children in care in Suffolk and five currently waiting for a new family to be found.

Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We really need people who can offer children with disabilities, additional needs and sibling groups a loving and supportive family for life. We need those who can help a child recover from the difficulties that brought them into care, and enable them to go on to reach their potential and thrive in a new family. Suffolk’s adoption service provides ongoing support to help you and your family both in the early stages of adoption and also later on.

“Adoption is a lifelong commitment and we commit to supporting our adoptive families as long as our help is needed. This can be through practical and financial support as well as specialist help with other areas of a child’s development as they grow up.

“I would strongly urge those who think they have what it takes to come forward and find out more about adoption. Please, pick up the phone today.”

For more information about adopting in Suffolk telephone 01473 264800 or email fosterandadopt@suffolk.gov.uk.