By the time Sam was six, we realised that the years had flown by and we had failed in one aspect of our family plan. We always intended to adopt another boy so that Sam could have a little brother “the same colour as me”.
We began the process when Sam was six. He was ten by the time we were finally allowed to adopt Joshua. I am sure this cannot be regarded as quick by any standards. It was entirely different from when we adopted Sam as a baby.
To set the new adoption in process we contacted the society that placed Sam with us. By the late 1970s there were far fewer adoptions of black and mixed race children by white families. There were still many children who needed adopting but the policy was changing.
Research had revealed how hard some black children found it growing up in white families. In some cases it was particularly difficult if they grew up in all-white areas. Sometimes they only fully realised that society saw them as black by the time they were in their teens. We knew this and one of our key concerns was to help to support our young son to develop a healthy racial identity.
It is obvious that placing a black or mixed race child with a loving black or mixed-race family is easier for the adopted child, but we hoped the adoption society would look favourably on us, as we already had Sam.
One day at Sam’s school, an adoptive mother of a mixed race son turned up with a pram. Inside was a mixed-race baby whom they were hoping to adopt. Perhaps we had not left things too late?
We went ahead and applied to the adoption society. All sorts of references were sought before we could be invited for an interview. Some of our friends thought that this was ‘outrageous’, since Sam was obviously happy and well integrated into the whole family. We thought, on the contrary, that it was absolutely proper and necessary. If we were inspected as a family and passed, this would show that the society thought we were still fit people to adopt. Circumstances and people can change. An official approval would be welcome affirmation of our suitability.
We passed all the references. We passed a home visit. We passed a fairly gruelling interview when all five of us came to be questioned at the London Head Office.
Then there was only one hurdle left. This was the Final Panel Meeting. We adults were pretty excited on the evening of that Meeting. I had prepared everybody’s favourite food – shepherds’ pie followed by fruit jelly and ice cream. We had not told the children that the panel was meeting that day, but we adults were only too aware. We were expecting an evening of great celebration.
Then the phone call came. The Panel could not agree!
There was to be one more meeting in a few weeks’ time. One member of the panel was querying our ability to manage financially with a fourth child. D. was a full-time minister of a church and she knew how badly they were paid. She was worried..
We had our favourite food but did not mention our set-back.
We would have to wait and see and hope that a re-convened panel meeting would give us all the ‘go-ahead’.
It did. We were finally approved as would-be-adopters of an older child. They said that there was a greater need for people to adopt an older child. They felt that a child around the age of three or four would be more suitable for our family than a baby – more of a companion for Sam.
There were still many months before we heard of a child who might fit into our family. This was to be a long waiting game.