My name is Alison* and I am 43 years old.
I adopted a little girl six months ago as a single adopter. I work full time in a local hospital and my work involves working shifts too.
I first considered adopting about 5 years ago when I was coming to the end of what I would call the fertility treatment rollercoaster. I had some major health problems associated with IVF and felt I couldn't do it anymore. I was married at the time and had teenage step children who I adored and was sure I could love and care for an adopted child.
I made some initial enquiries about adoption by telephoning the local adoption teams. I chose Gateshead as I felt they gave me more information and were less negative than the other authorities. I felt that they gave me their time. Some of the other authorities told me they weren't taking on potential adopters.
The assessment did not start for a year after my last failed cycle of IVF. It seemed like I was waiting forever.
The assessment started with regular visits from our appointed social worker but within six months it became apparent my husband did not share the same desire to adopt . We separated and I went on to be reassessed as a single adopter. It was a very difficult decision but the dream of becoming a mother was something I could not compromise on. My husband supported me during the assessment process and supplied the social worker with a reference.
The process started again and fortunately, I had the same social worker. I was upset at the beginning as I was informed that it would be unlikely that I would have a 0-2 year old child placed with me. The way I had imagined my life to be included a young child or baby and it took me some time to readjust my way of thinking and imagine my life with an older child. I now think it's not the age of the child that matters but whether or not you are matched with the right child.
The process took about 14 months altogether but there were several breaks during that due to my reassessment, work commitments and exams.
The social workers ask questions about all aspects of your life. Talking about the tough times in your life to someone you hardly know can take its toll. It's emotionally draining. But when you are in this situation you need to remember why you are doing it. I truly believe that anyone who has gone through fertility treatment and coped with disappointment after disappointment has the emotional to strength to answer a few difficult questions.
Being single during this time has its added stresses but having good friends and family will help you see the light at the end of the tunnel and keep you positive as well as supporting you through the first weeks and months when a child is placed with you.
At the end of the assessment process your social worker will know you very well. That makes matching you with the right child much easier. It might seem like it has taken forever but is well worth it when you are matched with the most perfect child for you and the rest of your family, like my little girl. Going to the adoption panel is pretty daunting on your own but by the time you get there it feels like one of the last hurdles.
I was given the profile of my daughter to look at after I was approved. I read the profile and couldn't think of any reason why she would not perfectly to fit into my life and family.
I met her after a few weeks and she was just as perfect in real life. She was at her foster carer's house where she had been for some time. She said she had butterflies in her tummy and I said I did too.
The introduction programme took place over two weeks. I visited her at the foster carer's and took her on days out. Then she came round to my house and had a sleep over. She moved in the week after. From meeting her to her moving in with me was about two and a half weeks. It seems very quick but it was the right time for both of us.
She has now settled into school and fits in very well with my family. I met my new partner during the assessment process but we don't live together at the moment. He has a young child too and both children get on famously. It might seem like a somewhat unconventional way of having a family but all I can say is it works for us. I'm the happiest I have ever been in my life. Not all families are the same and we feel being different is a good thing.
I took four months off work on adoption leave then went back to work fulltime. Most employers give the same time off for adopters as mothers get on maternity leave. Statutory adoption pay is also available as would statutory maternity pay if you were to give birth to a child. Some single adopters may be entitled to child tax credits too.
I feel that showing my daughter that work is important is a good life lesson for her. Some people ask if I feel guilty that I'm not part time and there to pick her up from school. I feel a bit guilty that I don't feel guilty. I enjoy my job and feel like I'm a better parent for it. If my daughter had a need which meant I was required more at home, then I would do that. She goes to breakfast club and after school club and I take my holidays in the school holidays or she goes to holiday club. She loves these clubs and gets to socialise with her peers, which is helping her enormously with social skills. My family help out with childcare at weekends if I have to work. My daughter loves having sleepovers with her cousins too. Childcare was a big stress and worry before I adopted but like all parents will tell you, it just works out.
Although there have been some unexpected issues after my daughter came to live with me I have been well supported by my family, friends and social workers. These issues are minimal now and life is great. The experience hasn't put me off and further adoption in the future would be something I would definitely consider.
*name changed for confidentiality.
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