National Adoption Week - ‘Providing children with a loving home was more important than having biological children’

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A quick glance around the cosy, terraced house in Sheffield automatically leads you to believe it has been a family home forever.

Toys litter every surface in the living room; magnets proudly grip artwork and wellies are scattered at the door, kicked off by small feet clearly eager to get home.

Adoption feature

Adoption feature

Gemma hastily scoops up a pile of dolls and cuddly bunnies from the sofa while apologising she can’t make tea as her eldest finished all the milk without her realising.

Wind the clock back just six months and this house was a whole different world.

No toys would have been on the floor, sofas or dining room table. No children’s curtains or covers would have adorned the bedrooms, no tiny toothbrushes would have been in the bathroom and no small clothes would have been bulging out of the linen basket.

Back then, Gemma and her husband Chris were like any other care-free 29-year-olds who had not yet embarked on parenthood.

Coun Jackie Drayton

Coun Jackie Drayton

But that all changed at Easter when they took the plunge and adopted not just one, but three children – a sibling group – changing their lives overnight.

“Most parents get time to get used to being a family,” said Gemma, a primary school teacher.

“They start with a newborn baby and watch it grow and develop and then they may choose to perhaps have another child a couple of years later, having ‘mastered’ what it is to be a parent.

“Not us. We were very keen to have a family but we are both of the view that there are already so many children out there who need help. We felt we were able to give these children a loving home and that was more important to us than having biological children.”

Chris, who works in research, said: “That’s when we decided to look into adoption. We knew we wanted to have a family and we were both ready so we said we would like to be considered for one, if not two children.

“It was tough at first because people automatically assume you want to adopt because you have not been able to conceive your own children naturally, but of course that is not the case with us.

“We never even wanted to try for a biological baby.”

The couple attended a South Yorkshire-wide adoption activity day, run by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, where they, along with other potential adopters, were able to play with lots of different children all looking for their forever home.

Gemma said: “We clicked instantly with one family group. Throughout the day we kept being drawn back to the same trio of children. Playing with them seemed so natural.

“The next day, when we were painting the living room, we both put our paintbrushes down and turned to each other at the same time and said: ‘Let’s do it, they are the right ones for us.’

“It was uncanny we were thinking exactly the same thing at the same time, we knew it was meant to be.”

The couple went through careful matching exercises with Sheffield Council’s adoption team to make sure adopting the children – then aged just two, four and six – was the right decision for them.

Finally an independent adoption panel made the decision to allow them to become a family. Gemma said: “That day seems so long ago now. The children are happily settled and doing well at school and I seem to be not much more than a glorified taxi driver, running them to various different clubs and events all the time.

“Never is there a dull moment in our house now.

“I would really, really recommend adopting a sibling group as a serious option to other people out there thinking about adoption. You get your forever family in one go. It is all there already – all one package.

“We knew we wanted a family with more than one child in it eventually and so this was the right move.

“Had we adopted one, we would then have had to go through the whole process again a year or two years later to adopt a sibling for them, and have the added pressure of how the first adopted child would take to a new member of the family.

“You can never be too careful about these things. Our three children get on so well together, they clearly love each other very much and look out for each other.

“We have been so lucky and although our life has changed forever, it has changed so much for the better. We would never want it any other way now.”

Sheffield Council wants to encourage more people to come forward and adopt during National Adoption Week, from October 19 to 25.

There were 43 children adopted in the city in 2014/15 and so far this year 37 children have been adopted.

Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children, young people and families said: “We encourage and support applications from a wide variety of people who want to or are considering giving a forever home to a child or children.

“Often, as Gemma says, getting an already established family group can help with the bonding process between children and I would encourage anyone who is thinking seriously about adopting to consider taking a family group.

“These children have often already been through such heartache that to lose a brother or sister as well go through the adoption process can sometimes make things worse.

“Please, please do come forward and speak to us. Our role is to make sure that we create families that are right together, at the end of the day no one wants a placement to break down or a child to not find the right forever family, that’s why we need more people to come forward to make sure we have enough people able and willing to adopt.”

n For more information about adopting call 0114 2735010 or visit www.sheffield.gov.uk/adoption