Monthly Archives: August 2014

Adoption and the home-grown helpful sisters

One day somebody asked me about our experience of adopting two sons. That wasn’t such an unusual question, but her following comment rather surprised me. Perhaps it shouldn’t have.

She said “The sisters must have been very generous-hearted”.

I ask myself: Did I take it for granted that our children would be “generous-hearted”? Did I simply assume that they would benefit from having the brothers?

We exposed our daughters from the ages of four and two to a different kind of society when we went to work and live in Western Malaysia for a few years.

map W.MalaysiaImage courtesy of Thanamat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Exposure to a different kind of society can be a very ‘eye-opening’ experience for people of any age. It was easy for Lucy and Anna to see that they were quite fortunate and that they could share with others.

Clearly some people in Malaysia were far far richer than we were, but there was poverty in some places for all to see. And once a week we looked after a little child who suffered from Cerebral Palsy. Lucy and Anna liked her and observed how she could do so little for herself, yet they had many things in common with her. She was a child like them. They enjoyed making her smile and laugh and sharing funny situations with her. One example I can remember was when our kitten jumped into the dolls pram and let the girls push him round the garden.

kittenImage courtesy of digidreamgrafix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This made all the girls laugh long and loud. So Yes. They had fun with her, but Lucy and Anna were also definitely “generous-hearted” in helping to entertain and care for this little girl. (Unfortunately it is so long ago that I cannot remember her name.)

The little girl was brought to us every Tuesday, by one of the missionaries who lived in her town. She then stayed one or two nights with us and I took her to the local school for children with a variety of disabilites. It was called “The Spastic School” and indeed most of the children who attended were like her and suffered from Cerebral Palsy.

On her first “sleep-over” it was not easy looking after her even when she was asleep, because naturally she dribbled a bit onto her pillow and the ants soon found that out. However, during that first night, we managed to defeat the ants by putting the four legs of the cot in big saucers of water and the ants could not get over the water. I think that everything else, including her food, was quite simple to deal with, although now I cannot imagine what we gave her to eat.

As I have said, the little girl stayed one or two nights with us every week. It was the missionary who brought her, but it was her mother who came to collect her by bus when it was time for her to go home. It was so moving to see her little face light up every time she heard her mother’s footsteps as she came to collect her! I think she was happy with us and the school was most helpful with providing her with enriching experiences and activities.  It was clear that she benefited from attending there, but nothing is as good as a Mum coming to collect a child with love written all over her face! Our girls were always amazed that their little friend could hear the mother long before they heard her footsteps.

***

         We were in Malaysia for three years. We then returned to England and applied to adopt a baby. Our children were aged 8 and 6 when baby Sam joined the family. Their baby brother gave them great joy all along, so maybe being “generous-hearted” did not apply. They played with him, watched him if I put him on rug to kick while I was preparing food in the kitchen and generally enjoyed helping with him and playing with him. He was very adored and from the moment he arrived. He definitely enriched all our lives.

playing 16.30.47Anna and Sam having fun in a make-believe tent.

By the time we applied to adopt Jah, the girls were much older. They were already teenagers. I think Lucy, as the eldest, felt protective of us during the settling-in period and maybe she thought that it would become even more difficult for us during the years ahead, but they were both so great.

In my last blog post there is a photo of Jah on his 5th birthday.

5th b'day Jah

If you look carefully in the background you can see a big girl standing behind the boy in red. That was Anna. She was wonderful at helping to arrange games and activities for the young brothers

Well. The more I write here, the more I realise that we are indeed extremely fortunate in our daughters as well as our sons! And YES. They benefited in many ways, but they were also definitely “generous-hearted”.

Waiting – Jah’s Life Story Book

For well over one year we were considered as Jah’s Foster parents, with a view to becoming his adoptive parents. The delay was partly due to the fact that his birth mother had apparently disappeared. At any rate nobody knew her address. It was important to contact her, so that she could give her consent to the adoption. Another factor for the delay was that the so-called brilliant barrister had gone on maternity leave.  She was the one the London Borough had been so happy to engage.

Jah was getting impatient for the actual adoption, especially as time was drawing near for us to register him at the local Primary School. It was the one Sam already attended, although he was by now in the elevated position of being in the Junior school department.

Jah was five years old in June.

5th b'day JahAfter his birthday I went with him to register at the Infants School for the following Term. I explained why his surname was still not the same as ours. This gave us another opportunity to study the Life Story his social worker had prepared for him.

In case anybody is not familiar with a Life Story Book – it sets out the origins and early days of a child, so that he or she does not feel that they have started their life completely anew. It is necessary for children to know that they have a history. Who they are descended from is a vital part of who they are and in many cases, they have had life-changing influences from many loving people along the way. These people should also feature in the Life Story. I believe that today, children will be provided with a video as well.

Pat, Jah’s Social worker, had gathered a photo of the hospital he was born in.

hosp(We emphasised that both Prince William and Prince Harry had been born in that hospital, so he looked suitably impressed!) She had also gathered one photo of each of his birth parents and all his half brothers and sisters, as well as pictures of the wonderful short-term foster parents who had in fact looked after him for 1 ½ years.

One day in late summer we received an invitation to attend a Foster Family Party at the Town Hall of the London Borough.

That was quite an experience. So many families poured into the building, that I had the impression that the men at the Reception were completely overwhelmed. (Maybe I was fantasising, but it seemed to me that they ducked down behind the Reception desk and let us all stream through.) I imagine they were used to business people, Council workers and councillors.

Business men 'round the clock'Image courtesy of cuteimage / FreeDigitalPhotos.net  Businessmen round the clock

They would rarely have experienced such a stampede of excited children. They looked terrified!

children hurrying                  2 party girls

Images courtesy of sattva / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

All four of our children soon found children of their own age to talk to and engage with. We parents also had some very interesting encounters with other foster and would-be-adoptive parents. It was quite sobering to hear all the different experiences children had been through.

And so the long waiting period continued – until one day we had an excited telephone call from Pat, Jah’s hard-working social worker. His birth mother had been located. She had come into a London hospital, giving birth to another child. Her current social worker was a very strong person, who explained how much better if would be for Jah, if his birth mother consented to the adoption. She had not seen him for years and the adoption was going to be inevitable, but her formal permission would mean that in future everybody could say that this was the birth mother’s wish and Jah would know this as he grew older.

The ‘brilliant barrister’ had not returned from maternity leave but another one was lined up and it looked as if things would move more swiftly now.

Jah looked at the back pages in his Life  Story Book.  They had not been filled in.”They can be for my ‘doption day”, he observed solemnly. 

We just hoped that they could be filled in fairly quickly.