National Adoption Week: How adopting children changed the lives of this Portsmouth couple
This week is National Adoption Week, and Portsmouth City Council is raising awareness of the need to recruit more adoptive families for children of all ages, especially those aged two years or older and sibling groups.Â
Jo and Bill are a couple from Portsmouth in their 40s who adopted two young boys around four years ago.
Bill said: '˜Jo and I had been married for a long time before we decided we'd try for children. We never wanted kids before, we were just enjoying life, socialising with our friends, spending our money on ourselves. Our friends started to have children, and we realised we wanted to have a family of our own. Over time, it became apparent it wasn't happening, Jo had had a miscarriage, and we were pretty despondent.
'˜You start noticing the adoption adverts out there, and we saw a TV programme about parents adopting children in care, really emotional viewing, and we realised we had another option.
'˜We contacted the council, and said we were looking for siblings, boys or girls, and they said they had a real need for people who would take groups of brothers and sisters. We started the process, which took around nine months, it was pretty involved on the safeguarding side, of course it has to be, but you get through it. The panel was a bit nerve wracking, but then you're accepted and on your way.'
Jo adds: '˜We were shown a number of profiles of children, and these two boys stood out to us. We were certain they were for us, in our minds we could see us all together as a family unit.
'˜They had been with a wonderful set of foster carers for over a year, and our social worker set up a full week of daily introductions to the boys. Bill was OK, but I was nervous about meeting them, what if they didn't like us etc, but the foster carers were amazing, we met them briefly on the first day, and as the week progressed, spent more and more time with them, taking them out for a day etc. We also periodically brought their possessions home to set up their bedroom, as brothers they wanted to share, to make sure it felt like a home from home.
Bill said '˜I remember them coming through the front door, it was a remarkable feeling, and they seemed to settle incredibly quickly. Suddenly we were that family unit, it dawns on you both that you've got these little people fully dependent on you, and you can't get it wrong. I stayed at work, Jo took adoption maternity leave to help the kids settle, and settle they did. Jo then got made redundant, a blessing in disguise as we used the money to enable her to stay at home for two years, and do some house renovations to give us more space.
'Then we swapped roles, Jo is now back at work, and I'm a stay-at-home dad, it's great, I take them to school, pick them up, am the primary carer, and keep on top of other house maintenance we still need.Â I'll go back to work when they are older, but for now, I'm just enjoying time with my children, it's a real blessing.'
Unsurprisingly Bill and Jo have become big advocates of adoption and regularly attend events for Portsmouth City Council, to talk to people considering adopting themselves.
Bill said: '˜We do it a lot, it's amazing to see couples and single people coming through the door to find out if adoption is for them. We can only say how we have found it life changing and the best thing we've ever done. Yes, it can feel scary, but everyone feels like that when they are having children. We tell them what to expect about the process, what it's like meeting your children, and when they first call you mum and dad. To quote a famous book, our advice is 'feel the fear and do it anyway', we've never regretted it.'
For Jo the best thing about adoption is having your dream of a forever family realised, she said: '˜When you adopt siblings, suddenly we had the family we had wanted for so long.Â Then comes all the firsts, their first day at school, them being invited to friends' birthday parties, and your first Christmas.Â We couldn't be more grateful to their foster carers for the job they did, they are amazing people that we still keep in touch with.'
How you can adopt
Anyone can apply to adopt or foster regardless of ethnicity, sexuality, gender, whether single or part of a couple, and whether you rent or own your own home, as long as you have a spare room.
There is also an open recruitment event in the reception area of the Civic Offices in Guildhall Square, on Tuesday, November 13, 7pm to 8.30pm. As well as the adoption team being on hand for those considering adoption, there is also a focus on recruiting people interested in becoming respite foster carers, and foster carers for unaccompanied asylum seeking children in the city.
Cllr Rob Wood, the council's cabinet member for children and families, said: '˜Recruiting more adoptive families and foster carers is a council priority. We have amazing people who have adopted and fostered children and young people in care, but we need many more to come forward. At our upcoming event, we are particularly keen to speak to anyone with any childcare experience, experience of working with young people or people with disabilities.'