From the start of our adoption journey we always said we would like to adopt two children. At one point when we were looking at profiles of the children in care we saw many single children who we thought we would be good parents for. At that point we started to realise that if we did adopt a single child we would then want to go through the process again so we could have another. We envisaged our family as a family of four.
As things turned out we were approached by social services about two brothers and six months later they were living with us, 5 months after that we were their legal parents.
My sons are around 18 months apart in age. Some would say that is far too close together, sometimes I would agree with them. Sometimes.
Most of the time I think the age gap is perfect for them. My Eldest plays slightly younger than he is, so that means the things he plays with are the same as the things my Youngest plays with. As they are still quite young this does lead to the inevitable sharing conflict, when one is playing with a toy the other inevitably gets envious tunnel vision and all other toys don’t appear to exist any more. Being a constant mediator is tough and tries our patience, but now they are both able to communicate it is getting easier. They even, on occasion, sort out their own conflict using only words! On occasion.
When they aren’t squabbling though they can play nicely, Eldest helps Youngest with puzzles, Youngest has even asked Eldest to help him with something (and he said Yes!). They do play together nicely with the same toys, and those are the times when I think, yes, they have just the right age gap. Those times are increasing and the conflicts are decreasing as they get older.
I am very glad our children were able to be adopted together. Keeping them together has given each of them a playmate, a friend and an ally against us, and while they do have a shared history which will be difficult for them to talk about when they’re older, they also do not trigger the memories of trauma in one another. Splitting them would have lead to more trauma for them, so keeping our boys together seems to have resulted in a positive outcome overall.
This is something which is important to consider when social services and the family courts make the decision to keep siblings together or to split them into different adoptive homes. Some children will trigger traumatic memories in their siblings, resulting in emotional meltdowns, violent and other behaviour which can be difficult for a parent to cope with and support them through. If they were kept with their siblings this behaviour in one sibling will inevitably have a negative impact on the others. So, ultimately it isn’t always in the children’s best interests to keep them together.
According to First4Adoption currently more than half of all children in care who need an adoptive family are in a sibling group. They are also generally not sought after by the adopters that are coming through the approval process. Some agencies are limiting their recruitment of adopters who are not willing to accept sibling groups or other ‘harder to place’ children, such as older ones (meaning over 4!) and children with extra needs or development delays. They have limited resources so they need to concentrate them on finding parents for the children they have in their care. Many agencies are now targeting their adoption literature at potential sibling adopters, such is the need.
I am clearly an advocate for sibling adoption, we did it, at the moment relatively successfully. It is a strange experience though going from no children to suddenly having a fully fledged family of 4. You definitely do need to have a lot more energy than if you only have one child. You don’t get to decide when you have that second child like you usually would if you were becoming a biological parent, you just get them all at once.
It turns your life upside down, people tell you they “don’t know how you do it”, all the time you’re wondering yourself, thinking that you’re muddling through and if the children are alive at the end of the week then you’ve done well. That may sound negative, but there is an overwhelming sense of achievement that you get when you see your children interacting. Seeing them care about each other, show empathy and love towards each other. Knowing that as they get older they will always have a shared history, someone that will be able to fully relate with them and their experiences.
It can be tough, but that’s parenting. Yes, we have the added pressure of having to deal with the traumas of their past, but that is adoption. Adoption in the UK is no longer about parents wanting to expand their families (if it ever was), it’s about finding the best possible homes for the vulnerable children who need them. I think that social services need to be more honest with potential adopters about this before they even enter the approval process, and not once they get approved and start wondering why they’re waiting months and years to find a child they will be suitable parents for, when there are so many children in need of homes.
I wouldn’t change our decision to adopt siblings. Even when the squabbling is at its worst, I have never even second guessed that decision. It was the right choice for us then, and I love my life as it is now. That life is one of being Dad to adopted siblings.
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