Marcia, who adopted children using the PACT service, took time out from being a busy mum, to talk to me about her experience in adopting. This follows the campaign launch and article I wrote- Black Adopters needed – supporting the adoption of black children, which I’m supporting. Read about Marcia’s adoption journey story below and how she was supported by the team at PACT:
What were the circumstances that led to you deciding to adopt a child?
As a married couple in our 30’s we hoped that we would create our family naturally. However, we soon discovered that we had undiagnosed fertility issues and we had to talk about how we might complete our family. We had to mentally adjust our thinking and explore our options. So, we discussed IVF, adoption, as well as not having any children. We were forever hopeful and positive about what our future held.
Starting the IVF journey
We started down the IVF route. I decided to lose weight to increase our chances of success, but things didn’t go as planned, as a few months later during my routine monthly examination, I found a lump in my breast. I was diagnosed as having Breast Cancer, the treatment was an aggressive course of chemotherapy and a mastectomy.
We were devastated, but the prognosis was positive. The oncology and fertility consultants worked with us to ensure I could have some eggs removed, and we had our embryos frozen. Post chemotherapy, we had to wait 2 years until we could have the embryos implanted. We had two unsuccessful attempts of IVF.
My husband and I were united in wanting to create a family that included children, and we always discussed the option of adoption, so it wasn’t a difficult decision, just a difficult path.
How easy or difficult was it for you to make the decision to adopt?
My husband and I were united in wanting to create a family that included children, and we always discussed the option of adoption, so it wasn’t a difficult decision, just a difficult path. We did a lot of research regarding the adoption process. We looked into how our lives would change and what we would be able to offer to any children coming into our lives.
Did you find it easy to discuss your decision with friends and/or family?
At first we did not discuss with family, as we wanted to be sure for ourselves that this was what we wanted. It wasn’t until we had our initial interview with PACT that we had more of an open discussion with family and friends. It was easier to have the discussion with some people than others. Some friends had adopted, or knew people who had adopted, others had explored the option for themselves.
Getting support from family & PACT
On the whole, our families were supportive, and not surprised that we were considering adoption. We were conscious about how difficult some family members were finding it. And some people were not comfortable with how intrusive the assessment process was, as it required their active support and contribution with Social Workers, and having to attend courses facilitated by PACT. However, at the end of the day everybody rallied around and supported us.
How did the team at PACT help you with any questions and making your decision?
After some online research, and accessing some adoption focused online forums, we attended a PACT information evening. Even though we had made a decision to actively pursue adoption for the last 6 months or so, this was our first real opportunity to hear from people who had successfully been through the process and had created and completed their families, as well as speak to the PACT workers.
More importantly, PACT offered us the opportunity to think about the children we might be able to offer a home to. What their background and experiences might be. Until now, it had been mainly focused on our need to create a family, and not from the child’s point of view and their right to a family life. The information evening really helped to confirm that we were making the right decision.
But there was spoken and unspoken expectations from our community. For example a couple friends with the teaching or social care professions would tell us about the need to ‘get black boys out of the care system’, as they were the ones whose future was most at risk.
Following the information evening we attended an initial interview with PACT, on a 1:1 level, which was a further opportunity for us to ask questions about the reality of the assessment and matching process, as well as any potential stumbling blocks that we might not have considered.
A Black Woman on an adoption journey
As a black woman, did you feel more under pressure to make the right decision? Were you more conscious of any negative comments from friends and family?
As a strong-minded Black woman, I felt that any decision made was one between my husband and I, and that this would be the right decision for us.
But there was spoken and unspoken expectations from our community. For example a couple friends with the teaching or social care professions would tell us about the need to ‘get black boys out of the care system’, as they were the ones whose future was most at risk. Some people would warn us of the medical histories of the parents, such as Mental Health issues, as well as drug and alcohol issues. Other would warn of the risk of placement disruption or incompatibility.
All of these factors are real, but we had a clear vision and supportive Social Worker from PACT who challenged us, during the assessment process to, reflect upon our values, stereotypes and prejudices.
Tell us about the challenges of adopting and the rewards?
A lot of the challenges are general parenting challenges, bed times, meal times, bonding, sibling rivalry, and a general lack of sleep. But with adopted children there may be additional considerations. For example:
- Not having a full medical history for the children, there are lots of ‘I don’t knows.
- Having to consciously consider attachment. We didn’t have 9 months to prepare and start the bonding process. We have to consciously and deliberately create an environment for our children to feel secure and attached to us.
- Practicing conscious, positive, attachment parenting and raising black children in a community that is historically known for its harsh discipline. We are aware of tuts, eye rolling and whispering judgement, as we are ‘too soft’ or we negotiate too much with our children. But like all parents, we have our view of parenting and it suits our family and that is what’s most important for us.
- Comments about the children not being ‘our children’, can be difficult if we’re having a bad day.
- Contact with Birth family. We have what is called Indirect Letterbox contact. We write a letter once a year and send it to the contact facilitator, who forwards it to the birth family. If the birth family chose to write back, we receive that letter via the contact facilitator – it is an essential and important function we agreed to carry before the placement is agreed. It is for the benefit of the Birth family and for our children as they get older. But compiling each letter is challenging to write and a reminder of the privileged situation we are in.
Being a positive influence on the next generation, who may otherwise not have had the same opportunities, either within their birth families or stuck in the care system.
The rewards are endless:
- Creating a family and family home.
- Being a positive influence on the next generation, who may otherwise not have had the same opportunities, either within their birth families or stuck in the care system.
- Seeing their personal successes at home, at school, with friends.
What advice would you give to any single people or couples who are thinking about adopting?
- Go to Adoption information events.
- Do research, there are several online resources.
- Don’t discount yourself, by thinking you might not be able to adopt because of your circumstances. There are so many children who need a forever family and forever home for one reason or another. Explore what you have to offer and talk to someone.
Huge thanks to Marcia for sharing her personal and heartfelt adoption story with me and for the PACT team for making this interview happen.
If you are considering adoption, or know someone who is, please pass this information to them. The PACT team are ready to hear from you and can answer any questions you have.
Visit the FAQs page and the PACT website to learn more.
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