Not everyone who adopts siblings comes to a Voluntary Adoption Agency like ARC Adoption North East, or Regional Adoption Agency, like our partners at Adopt Coast to Coast, set on the idea of adopting more than one child. Some, like Claire and her husband David, come to the decision once they are in the application or assessment process, find out more about themselves and the children, and start thinking more in-depth about their future family.

Here Claire shares their adoption story as part of our ‘Better off Together’ sibling campaign.

Speaking about her decision to adopt Claire said: “I had a diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome, so I knew conceiving naturally was going to be incredibly tough.  Whilst fertility treatment was an option, I just felt that the process wasn’t right for us – I worried it would be too physically invasive and I was also concerned about the emotional impact it would have on us as a couple.

“We loved the idea of offering a home to a child who had had a difficult start in life, and we knew we could give a child the family they needed to thrive, so adoption was the natural choice.”

Claire and David initially started their adoption application thinking they would adopt one child. But as the application process progressed and they learnt more about the children in care, the couple changed their mind. In-time they decided they would be open to adopting a sibling group. Claire said: “We were approved to match with either a single child or siblings at panel, and once we started looking at profiles of children, we expressed interest in a few of them including single children and siblings.

“I remember getting a call from our social worker to say that we had been linked with one of the brother and sisters we had expressed interest in.  I had said that I would need to talk to my husband about it, and I would get back to them, but in the meantime, my husband had taken a call from the child’s social worker to say we’d been short listed, and he said, ‘We’ll have them!’”

Meeting the children

Although every case is different, for Claire and David they met their children twice informally at a chemistry meeting (or bump-in meeting as they are also known). The meetings are often done once a match is identified and social workers agree it works on paper, but before the adopter(s) and Social Workers decide it is right to progress. The chemistry meeting brings a child to life in a natural setting and gives adopters the opportunity to observe the child and see if it ‘feels right’.  Such meetings can be particularly beneficial if a child has complex needs as it allows adopters to see the reality of the child’s care needs.  If all parties feel the match to be right, the adopters go back to panel for approval of the match, and if approved by the Agency Decision Maker, introductions are planned.

Claire said: “We first did an hour-long chemistry meeting with the children at the foster carers’ house, and we came out gushing.  But we’d said we would make an official decision after the second planned meeting and our upcoming holiday. The second meeting was two hours long, and we came out, got to the car and both said, ‘Yes they are our children’. I just had a feeling when I saw them together. Our son was a baby, and our daughter was a little older at 2 and a half, and she just wanted to be loved and with us.  At this point we just knew siblings was the right choice for us.

Getting ready for the children’s arrival

“Once our decision was made, we immediately bought them little teddies and put together a photobook of us enjoying our holiday adventures (teddies and all). When we got back, I dropped it off for them, and then we had a week and a half to get two rooms ready and to tell my boss I was going off. It’s funny reading the original description now – I can really get a picture of them from it and it’s so accurate.”

There were some concerns along the way

There are lots of understandable concerns when prospective adopters start thinking about adopting more than one child. For Claire, her main apprehensions were about finance, with her saying: “Both me and my husband work full time and we wanted it to stay that way and maintain our standard of living.  My main concerns were about whether we could afford more than one child. For the age of children we were looking at, we needed two of everything – two nurseries, a double pram, two car seats and we needed to think about whether we needed a bigger car, whilst also weighing up the cost of private childcare. My worries were about affording to have two of everything at the same time.

“As the process went on, we started to talk about the dynamic of our family and opened up discussion about adopting siblings. We thought it would be lovely to bring home two children and bring them up together, to maintain that sibling relationship and the important bond. We slowly started to think ‘maybe we can do this’.

“We also discussed childcare with family, and we had a large support network which reassured us.  When we were asked to think about it by our social worker, we decided we would probably want to add more children to the family later. There was no guarantee if we were to add to our family further down the line that we’d get a second child from the same birth family, so for us we thought it was better to bring them into the family together, and to bring them up together as both birth siblings and our children. 

“We were also conscious that their background would have to be incorporated into their life story work, and for us we just thought that if we adopted on two separate occasions, explaining that the children are brother and sister but from different birth families was a bit complicated.  Adopting siblings was certainly something we came around to.”

Advice for others

Adopting in general is a big decision and for anyone thinking about adopting siblings there’s even more to consider. When reflecting on what advice she would offer other prospective adopters, Claire said: “For anyone who’s thinking about adopting siblings I’d say that it’s a big step and it isn’t all plain sailing, but adopting siblings is so rewarding and if you can do it, I would highly recommend you do. You have to be very aware that you are bringing two or three children into your home, and they will need lots of attention but it’s so worthwhile.

“I would also advise anyone considering adopting siblings, to speak to someone who has done it already. Get their point of view and hear about their real experience. That was the most valuable part of the decision making for me.  Our social worker put us in touch with a woman who’d adopted siblings and being able to talk honestly and openly to someone who has been through the process from start to finish, and then hearing about their lives now a few years down the line, was way more important to me than anything else. I can’t thank her enough for that support.

“I spoke to the lady of the family about my reservations and worries and she reassured me that she had exactly the same queries, worries, anxieties. She spoke about how she incorporated her children into her family, and every single thing she said put my mind at rest and eased my anxieties.  To me speaking to the mum really, really helped me.  We also had a lot of support and a lot of donations – everyone was very kind, and we got given a double buggy, so take all of the offers!”

Settling in

The children moved in with Claire and David during the Covid 19 pandemic, and the family found themselves living together just a few days before the country went into lockdown. Reflecting on this time Claire said: “We couldn’t have any other help during lockdown, so it was all focused on the children.  Our son was very little so took to his new home straight-away, but my daughter had a lot of anxiety and due to delayed speech, wasn’t able to express her feelings.

“Despite being so young, my daughter had a very caring role for my son within the birth family, so she didn’t quite know how to be a child when she came to live with us. Every time I went to change his nappy or give him his lunch she was there. So, we had to explain to her that it was lovely that she wanted to care for baby brother, but we could do that from now on, and gradually this sunk in.

“Lockdown was hard, but now we can reflect on it, we think the bond they have with each other and with us, was strengthened by it all.  They came out of their shells quite quickly because they had each other and total focus from us. As hard as it was at the time, it made us bond as a new family of four. The day they came home is something I’ll never forget.”

Best things

When asked about the best things about adopting a brother and sister group there’s no hesitation from Claire: “Without a doubt seeing them together, playing from morning till dusk is the best thing about having siblings. Their imaginative play is amazing. He’s the patient and she’s the doctor, or he’s the student and she’s the teacher – she’s always the bossy one!  They have their little fights as siblings do, but then they also go to nursery together hand-in-hand and come out again the same way. They just love being together.

“I’m close to my brother and it’s lovely to see that relationship developing with my own children. Even the little things are special – my daughter will bring him food ready for when he wakes up and everything is shared between them. They look out for each other and it’s wonderful to see them safe and growing up together, knowing that they came to us together and their future will be with us, together.  It’s a bond that will last.

“For me, the idea of my two being separated is so hard now. They are so close, and it’s so important to me that they’ll have the same lifestyle and opportunities. Them being raised as brother and sister is how their birth family would have wanted it to be too.

“Our daughter couldn’t speak when she first came to us, and after some speech therapy it became clear that it was because nobody had talked to her, not that she couldn’t speak. This meant that the children sort of learnt how to speak together, and our son will translate for his sister even now. They have a sort of secret language, and they totally understand each other. My heart almost burst at her nursery graduation when she was asked about her favourite thing about nursery, and she proudly said, ‘I couldn’t talk before, and now I can sing.’

“We went into the adoption process thinking that one child would make our family complete. But as you progress, your mindset changes and your thoughts change along the way. It’s quite a rollercoaster. We definitely went in focused on having one child and came out of it very happily with two.”

If you are interested in finding out more about about adoption, our experienced team will be happy to tell you more about the process, the children in need of families and the support available. Please click here to complete the contact form and suggest a convenient time for us to be in touch.