What’s fostering and what’s adoption?

“Being adopted will be good. There’ll be no more Social Workers wanting to know my business. I can be in all the photos at school, and I can be on Snapchat and Tik Tok like normal kids. And when we go on holiday, I won’t need a special letter to say who I am.”

Most kids who get adopted are pretty young.

I’m not big on statistics, but 75% of kids who get adopted are yet to start Reception.

This kid was 9, so significantly older than a typical adoptee.

He’d been in and out of the Care System all his life and had a pretty good understanding of what adoption meant.

We had been fostering him for about three years.

He arrived as a Short Term Placement (0-2 years), and then had become Long Term (2 years +).

I think this status was more or less irrelevant to him, when he made it clear he wanted to be a more permanent member of our family.

He’d discovered a Sharpie (other permanent markers are available) and had added a picture of himself to a family photo. 

A very moving conversation ensued.

It was a rookie error on my part. Left unattended a foster kid found a Sharpie permanent pen, smashed the glass out of a family photo, pulled the frame off and draw a picture of himself.

Explaining that you want to join someone else’s family is a very difficult thing to do.

You’re making yourself very vulnerable to rejection.

Adding himself to a family photo was how he chose to show his feelings.

The implications for us were also not insignificant.

As Foster Carers, there is always an element of ‘temporary’, and a feeling that you don’t have ‘full responsibility’.

Even if a child is with you on a permanent basis, Social Workers will still play some sort of role.

Day to day, or even month to month, you may well make all the decisions, but ultimately The State has the final say.

The child will still have their own surname, and will almost inevitably become a ‘Care Leaver’ sometime in the future.

They may stay in touch but they may not.

There are also significant financial implications.

Foster Carers have to do mandatory training, meet various standards and are expected to provide a level of care that is arguably above and beyond that of a birth parent.

I would advise parents generally, and Foster Carers in particular, to own absolutely no Permanent Felt Tips.

No one is quite comfortable discussing this but Foster Carers get paid. They don’t earn a fortune, but they get a income for looking after a vulnerable child.

Foster Carers work in close conjunction with Social Workers.

Typically, adopters are on their own.

Lemn Sissay is a great Poet. He had a horrific time in the Care System. ‘Family is the privilege everyone should be able to take for granted’.

Adopters are not paid.

Legally, their adopted child is as much their child as a birth child.

Many adopters have experienced infertility, have visited medical specialists, have possibly had unsuccessful IVF, have considered whether to pay to have more IVF, have decided against it, and then reached the conclusion that they are not going to have children naturally.

They grieve.

They then begin to explore adoption.

Some adopters are same sex couples, and some are single people.

They will have contacted an Adoption Agency, been repeatedly visited by a Social Worker, and gone through a rigorous assessment process.

Eventually, a group of independent experts will decide whether they are fit to be parents.

They will then be matched with a child or children.

What can take some people 9 months and very little thought, can end up taking years of high emotion and anguish.

Reaching the point of bringing your children home can be a long and arduous journey.

And then you have to start parenting!

I think it’s quite unusual for Mainstream Foster Carers to adopt.

We are aware that our journey has been very different from many other adopters.

We knew our son had had a very difficult time whilst in care.

We knew that he had absolutely no family who could care for him.

We knew he wanted to be adopted into our family.

Kids in care are surrounded by numerous professionals, including Social Workers, Teachers, Teaching Assistants, Sencos and Foster Carers. This kid is surrounded by his family.

We knew we were relieving the State of a significant financial and bureaucratic burden, and we knew that no one would want to describe a child in such a way.

But we wanted this to work.

Whilst being fully committed to our son, we knew we’d need help and we were going for Permanent with a very big ‘P’.

We told our Local Authority that we would need some financial support, some Post Adoption Support, some therapy, some help with Speech and Language, some Life Story work and that possibly, he would never be able to live independently.

A few emails later, they agreed.

We resigned as Foster Carers, got approved as Adopters, got matched with our son, who had been living with us for some years, and then he became legally ours.

We went to Pizza Express and ate as much as we could as a celebration.

I don’t know if there are success criteria for an adoption.

I do know that adoption does not solve issues of attachment and abandonment.

Neglect and all varieties of abuse leave a legacy that generally last well into adulthood.

I think there are about 80,000 kids in the Care System in England. Some will live with family members and some will live with Mainstream Foster Carers.

Our adopted son has recently begun to ask when we will foster again.

He thinks we’d be good at it, and he doesn’t want to be the youngest.

There are worse reasons for looking after a kid.

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Birth parent, Foster Carer, Adopter and Recruiter of Foster Carers for Liverpool City Council

4 thoughts on “What’s fostering and what’s adoption?”

  1. Similar to our journey except that Pizza Express completely screwed up our adoption celebration meal so we ended up getting sandwiches from M&S and eating them in the car. Not quite what we’d hoped. Enjoyed this as always Phil. That photo is an absolute treasure.

    Liked by 1 person

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