Family Matters: ‘Adoption is a wonderful and positive thing to do’

Adoptive parents Hannah and Alastair Gallagher at home in Beighton.
Adoptive parents Hannah and Alastair Gallagher at home in Beighton.
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A Sheffield mum has spoken about how she and her husband decided to adopt their children rather than have their own.

Hannah Gallagher, aged 28, is now mum to a little girl of six and her brother, aged four, who she and husband Alastair adopted last March.

She said: “My mum was adopted when she was 10 and my younger brother, Josh, was adopted when he was six months old, so it was completely normal to my family.

“When I was thinking of having a family, I just assumed that I would be adopting.

“Alastair and I talked about it first. Our main reason to adopt a baby is that as Christians one of the things you should do is take care of orphans and widows, so why not do it as a priority?”

The former RE teacher, now a full-time mum, said that the adoption panel was the toughest part of the process. The members ask difficult questions to make sure that parents know what they are letting themselves in for.

She said: “The main question we were asked at the adoption panel was, what will you do if your children are so difficult you couldn’t possibly manage the third child you want?

“I said that’s going to be difficult. We’ll deal with our feelings about it then.”

She added: “Social workers are a bit funny. They expect you to make these life-changing decisions instantly.

“Your heart catches up with what you said at the time. You have to battle through those personal feelings for a few weeks. It’s a hard process.”

Hannah has also had to accept that she has missed out in other ways.

“Lots of my peers started to tell me they were having babies. There’s differences – if you’re pregnant you can announce it to the world on Facebook and get all the delighted replies.

“Nobody really knew we were adopting as we didn’t say because it might not happen.

“It’s not just missing the pleasure of having an unborn child inside of me, it’s people being able to celebrate with you and those normal rites of passage.

“You also miss out on the children growing up with your friends’ babies, those conversations about what was your labour like and how are you coping with breastfeeding?”

However, the rewards more than make up for that, Hannah says.

“Everybody says adoption can be really hard. It took two and a half years from initially saying we wanted to adopt.

“It was really long, really hard, emotionally draining. I never really believed it was going to happen.

“Even when the children came to live with us, they can come and take them away again.”

She added: “It’s a hard route and wonderful work. They’re children you’ve rescued from a very difficult situation.

“Any child in the care system has to have been in a terrible situation. Me and my husband don’t know the full story.”

Hannah said that adopted children get a life story book that tells children the facts about their life before adoption. She explained: “It shows the child, ‘this is what your house was like and why they removed you’. Children need to know because they can build up this picture that ‘my mum was a princess and I was stolen away from them’.”

Hannah says that she couldn’t recommend adoption too highly. “It’s an absolutely wonderful thing to do. It’s a really positive way to start a family or to add children on to your family.

“If you go in with your eyes open, there’s no reason not to do it.

She comes across negative attitudes. “People think you’ll be locking yourself in a room while they’re burning your house down, instead of which we got these children who are cute, lovely and obedient. They do have some challenging behaviour and significant special needs.”

She added: “We’ve got two very vulnerable children. We’re really going to need to protect them throughout their lives.

“We’re making decisions based on this fact that they are different children who have had a traumatic past. That’s hard.”

However, she and Alastair are thrilled by the progress they can see their children making every day.

Hannah said: “The children absolutely love having pictures of themselves up on the wall and pictures they have made.

“It makes my daughter feel really special. She says ‘mummy’, ‘daddy’, all of our names and ‘family’. They get such a sense of permanency from seeing their pictures on the wall. It’s just lovely.

“When my husband gets in from work, my son gets us in the kitchen close together and says, ‘three, two, one, family!’ He knows without a shadow of a doubt that this is his family.

“There were some worries as to whether they would understand it but children obviously don’t need much to be aware of that.”

Hannah stressed that she has no regrets about her choice: “I wholeheartedly want people to consider it as a wonderful option. There’s nothing especially good about us that’s made us do it.

“We feel adoption is just as good an option for us. We would definitely consider doing it again.

“People always say, ‘why don’t you have your own children?’ These children by adoption are our own children.

“My daughter is so similar to me. It doesn’t feel to me that they are a second option.”