Category Archives: Adopting an older child

ADOPTION TODAY – Help/information/support

My last blog ended with this sentence “I have heard that there is more help for adopted and looked-after children nowadays.”

This is good news for people involved in adoption today.

Sam had been with us for one whole year in 1973 before we ever read or heard anything helpful about bringing up a black child as white parents. This was when our Adoption Agency sent us an article from an organisation called “The Open Door Society” in Canada . As I wrote in one of my earliest blogs:

The main thrust that came through to us was that ‘Love is not enough…  Society will see your children as black…  …… The parents have a responsibility to instil in their child, through the media of literature, art and music, a pride and understanding of his racial heritage.” 

 Apart from the only two multiracial families that we met in the North East of England, our support came mainly from the organisation called Harmony that we encountered when we moved to Leicester in the Midlands.


Harmony was an organisation for multi-racial families whether by adoption, fostering or through mixed-race marriages. It was at Harmony gatherings in the 1980s that we learned a lot about skin care and hair care, It was a supportive forum where we could share information  for example about books and toys that showed children who looked like our children.

Aurora 006





I have written about this before. So what is new nowadays?

  • More books featuring the diversity of our population (even if not yet enough. . .)
  • Recruitment of people from ethnic minorities in most areas of Social Work
  • Adoption websites, discussion forums, blogs, shared Tweets  #Adoption.  THESE CAN BE DISCOVERED VIA GOOGLING “ADOPTION SUPPORT”
  • Greater awareness in schools about the special situation of “looked after” children
  • Training and information for families. See the Pac-UK site:  Here below is information about help that is offered in schools in England.   “From April 2014, schools in England can receive the Pupil Premium for children adopted from care, or who left care under a Special Guardianship Order on or after 30 December 2005. Schools can also claim the Pupil Premium for children who left care under a Residence Order on or after 14 October 1991.

The Pupil Premium is to help schools raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and close the gap with their peers.  It is paid to schools in respect of disadvantaged pupils in Reception to Year 11. The Government has extended the coverage of the Pupil Premium in recognition of the traumatic experiences many adopted children have endured in their early lives and a realisation that their needs do not change overnight”.


I wish this kind of help had been available for Jah in the 1980s. (sigh)

+ A Helpful booklet published in 2014

In April 2014 a group of multi-racial families in Cornwall has published an extremely helpful booklet in partnership with Barnardo’s.

“Children Visible by Colour in Cornwall: Suggestions for parents and carers raising BME (black and minority ethnic) and dual heritage children who are ‘visible by colour’.”

Kowetha doc

Kowetha is a pioneering community group of parents and carers living in the West of Cornwall who are raising BME and dual heritage children who are ‘visible by colour’.

The Kowetha Community group has written a handbook to support other families of diverse racial background, which is also valuable for teachers and practitioners. The handbook has been supported by Barnardo’s and considers the following:

  • How a child’s racial heritage influences their childhood experiences in Cornwall.
  • The importance of moving beyond ‘colour blindness’ and positively educating children in Cornish schools about racial diversity.
  • How schools and agencies might recognise and support the unique social pressures experienced by children who are visible by colour, thus meeting their duties under Ofsted.

The advice, information and shared experiences are applicable for all multi-racial families wherever they live . I can heartily recommend it.

The beloved “School Journeys” (Holidays). A boost for Jah’s self-esteem

I had a very dear friend who had three children at the same Primary school. She had a good sense of humour and told me that she worked out very carefully the timing of her visits at Parent’s nights. She was often cast down by reports about one of the children, so she made sure she began with his teacher. She always ended with the daughter who was doing extremely well, so that she could go home on a ‘high’.

By the time Jah moved up the comprehensive school, Sam had proceeded to University, so our Parents’ Night visit was solely to learn about Jah’s academic achievements. We cannot talk of ‘going home on a high’ here, but usually this was a bearable experience, except on one occasion when he had definitely not worked hard enough. This was when he was getting older and really needing to be more serious about study.

In my most recent blog post I mentioned a wonderful national scheme – an obligation to help “looked-after” children. A Designated – called ‘virtual’ Teacher is appointed to promote the educational achievement of all adopted and fostered children. Such a teacher will have a work-load of many children around the country and undertakes visits to see how the child is getting on at school. That is exactly what Jah could have benefitted from. Ah Well. At least I can say that I am delighted that such a scheme is now in operation for today’s “looked-after” children. I so wish it had existed in the 1980s. It could make a difference for the whole of a person’s life.

220px-Royal_Opera_House_and_ballerinaOne summer, on the same evening as Jah’s Parents’ Night. I had been given a free ticket to see the ballet at the Royal Opera House. It is the only time I have ever been there. I remember vividly, sitting there watching glorious dancing in an amazing setting, but going round and round in my head were the comments of the school teachers. “Could try harder”. I had to pinch myself to try and sit back and enjoy the ballet and the whole environment and atmosphere of the Royal Opera House. It was not easy.

HOWEVER, on a more positive note, the most significant school-related things to happen during Jah’s teenage years were three magnificent school holidays. These were lovingly referred to as ‘School Journeys’ and Jah’s commitment to these holidays showed that he could certainly apply himself when he wanted to. Of course we paid for the holidays, but he decided that he wanted extra money to spend while away, so he decided to do a paper round to save up extra money.

Big brother Sam had done a paper round for many years. Now Jah had a round of his own. They were both delivering newspapers in a big tower block – not an easy task, especially when the lifts to the top floor were out of action. It amazed us that Jah persisted with the round, that he set his alarm, got out of the house on cold dark mornings and faced the daily challenge. He could clearly do something when he wanted to.

Newspaper delivery




Image courtesy of vectorolie at


The first School Journey was to Greece. He came home more tanned than usual and radiant. That holiday was followed by one the following year to Italy and the third was to Teneriffe.

The holidays were led by a dedicated teacher and some other enthusiastic leaders. Every year the teacher presented each youngster with a postcard at the end of the holiday and on Jah’s he always wrote “Mr Perfect” This is what he wrote on one of his cards:

“Dear Jah

Thanks for coming along. Like last year your behaviour was impeccable. You have shown true consideration and respect for others. You seemed to have enjoyed yourself, singing, dancing, playing games, swimming, partying and going to the disco. I hope all these memories will live with you always. I know these experiences have helped to mould you into the very pleasant, kind, generous person you are. It’s been a pleasure to have you with me. You can come along anytime a trip is planned. Best wishes. G”

A “report” like that did wonders for Jah’s self-esteem. It also lifted our spirits.

1987 Jah reaches secondary school age

I suppose I risk of running out of historical events in writing about the upbringing of Jah and all the family. However, I don’t think I shall run out of reflections and fortunately this blog is entitled “Adoption ReflectionsBringing up a multiracial family”. Our society in 2016 is even more multiracial than in the 1980s so the situation of a multiracial family is still relevant. Therefore let us carry on. Today I am continuing with our story.

We are now in 1987. Strangely not a single child from Jah’s Primary school went on to the school we selected for Sam. However, since Sam was so happy and learning well at his Secondary school, we took it for granted that it would be a good place to send Jah. It had fulfilled its promise of being a good environment for a multiracial society, quite in advance of its time. We did also do the requisite visit to show Jah. He was already motivated to follow his big brother and happily agreed to attend that school.

A few months ago I heard that every school in England has extra money per school year allotted to help “looked-after children” – the current pleasant terminology for adopted or fostered children. (In the year 2014/14 the sum of money was £900 per child) If ONLY Jah had had this help! Sam might not have needed it, but Jah would have benefitted I am quite sure. He had some learning block that we could not understand. It was easier for Sam, as he had come to us more or less a ‘brand new’ baby.

For any reader who has not followed this story, Jah came to us a few weeks before his fourth birthday. So many vital things are learned and absorbed during the very early days of a child’s life. More is known about this today. Jah had obviously missed out on some things, as is the case with many children who move from family to family in their early days.

However, let’s not dwell on the above. We are now just a few weeks before Jah was due to start at the secondary school and a school-related crisis had erupted. Asbestos was discovered in the building. The new entrants had to have lessons in prefabs that were set up on one of the playgrounds. The builders were very busy everywhere. It must have been a nightmare for the staff. I think the children were quite interested, but it must have been a slightly unsettling beginning to their secondary school experience.

construction workImage courtesy of xedos4 at

After several weeks working in these prefabs, the building works became more intense and the lower school was evacuated to an old school building in the Kings Cross area. It was deemed to be “rough”, so the children could not go out at lunchtime. The gates were shut. The children were very impressed and apprehensive. To them it sounded like being in a prison. In those days, school entrances were not usually guarded.

Today, in 2016 Sam and Jah’s secondary school has electronic passes to enter and exit, but things were more relaxed in the 1980s. (They were so shockingly relaxed, that local residents used to walk their dogs in the school grounds – with the attendant mess. Nowadays the entire site is surrounded by a metal fence – and a good thing too. This avoids dogs’ mess and unwelcome intruders.)person walking dog





Image courtesy of Vlado at

I am not sure how much I shall write about Jah’s secondary school experience. As far as I remember, the aspect he enjoyed the most was an out of school activity arranged by a very gifted teacher with one or two other teachers involved –

– namely the beloved “School Journeys”

of which more another day.

Why I started writing my blog

My blog began in September 2013 because there were many things I wanted to say about adopting children of a different race. They are things I have learned as we went along and many are things that I feel strongly about. They are things that I wanted to share. I also wanted to describe how well we were served by our social workers.  Social workers don’t always get a good press.

Recently I have indulged in a few reflections about heritage and backgrounds.

I would now like to return to the narrative/memoir about Jah. When Jah joined our family he was nearly four years old. By then Sam was eight years old and the big sisters were fourteen and sixteen.

Scotland 1980

This photo was taken during our first summer holiday as a family of 6.  We went camping in Scotland.

Throughout their childhood we tried to give both Sam and Jah as much contact with black people as possible. When Jah joined us we were living in Leicester. In that city there was an annual multiracial festival held at the De Montfort Hall, a big public venue and we all enjoyed that. We made some good friends who had adopted a boy and a girl, both of Indian heritage. It was a really good feeling to be able to mix with people of all colours and from a variety of traditions. We enjoyed the music, the food, looking at the different fashions – everything!

Then we joined a group called “Harmony “ and that was excellent.

Harmony badge At Harmony group meetings we met mixed race and adoptive families and the children enjoyed relaxing times with the children. We parents benefitted from discussing shared issues. There was not much information available in those days. Today there are many organisations and much information about health, skin care, hair care and other important matters, as well as post-adoption support. Today one can find out so much via the Internet.

We did what we could to make contact with black people. D. took Sam to steel band practice in a Caribbean area of the city.


child steel band 1Picture courtesy of Owen Lydiard

He enjoyed playing in the band. He also took part in a drama group. In that group he was the only black child and had a role of a “baddie” – (reinforcing a negative image?) not good of course, but he enjoyed performing so we just left it.

As Sam neared the age for choosing a secondary school, we did careful research into the possible schools. As far as we could see, there were hardly any black boys at the local secondary school, so we made enquiries further afield. Fortunately we discovered one school that seemed to have more awareness of the need to acknowledge diversity.

We were about to sign Sam up for that school when D. received a telephone call that was about to change everything entirely for the whole family!


Jah feeling vulnerable. The lost tooth.

As I have mentioned before, I have spent quite some time writing a memoir, entitled “A Rock for Jah”. This has not been published and I doubt whether it ever will be.

D. thought that I have been consulting the Memoir when writing the blog, but so far I have not even looked at it. All the facts and information are imprinted in my memory.

When bringing up a child from babyhood, there are many things that one mentions and teaches a child about life as the days go by.

It seems that when taking on an older child, there are bits of information that one expects a child to have absorbed before they joined the family. However, sometimes there are unexpected  gaps in a child’s knowledge.

One thing that we may not have told Jah was about losing ‘baby teeth’. One day when I fetched him from his early days at school, an adorable, motherly little girl presented him to me. She looked very concerned.concerned girlImage courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

“He’s upset”, she said. “Our teacher said that I had to stay with him and look after him during Assembly. He won’t tell anyone what is wrong.  Then he got better, but now he’s upset again”.

I  knew that this girl was from a Jehovah Witness’s family. They did not celebrate birthdays, or attend Assembly. She had a few smaller brothers and sisters and was clearly used to being like a little mother.

I asked  Jah what was wrong, I noticed that not only was he tearful, but he was speaking in a funny way. His mouth looked strange.lost toothImage courtesy of arztsamui at

“My hooth”, he said in a muffled manner. “My hooth.” I looked into his mouth.  Then I saw what was wrong and he dissolved into floods of tears.sad face + tearIt turned out that his tooth had become loose and fallen out early in the school day. He had kept it in his mouth all day and it was still in there!  He must have feared that this was a great failing on his part. He presumably did not know that this happens to all children. We had neglected to tell him, and he had not mentioned having a loose tooth.  Perhaps I should have noticed. He must still have been feeling vulnerable, even though he had been with us for over a year.  Doubtless his cheery demeanour and amusing attempts at attention-seeking had hidden a deep-seated feeling of insecurity

Fortunately, the problem about the lost tooth was quite an easy one to solve. Once the little girl and I discovered what was wrong, we told him that this happens to all children and is perfectly normal. I am sure that the teacher would have been able to reassure him right at the beginning of the school day, but Jah had been too fearful to explain his dilemma to her.

Adopting an older child is different from adopting a baby.  However,  this is  National Adoption Month and I would like to mention that there is a very great need for adopters of older children. I heard recently something disturbing on the news.  Apparently during this last year, only about half the usual number of adoptions have taken place. This means that many children who should be placed for adoption, are being let down.  This is a serious matter.

There is an interesting website for anyone interested in adoption. It is the website of BAAF (British Adoption and Fostering)

It was in its early days when we adopted, but today the organisation has developed and the staff offer a wealth of information for adopters. Please pass this on to any people you know who are contemplating adoption.

I suppose I felt that I had let Jah down by not preparing him for losing teeth. However, with the benefit of hindsight, I can say that it is hard for parents to get everything right all the time and fortunately most of us survive!

The story so far. The story will be continued.

We have now arrived at the moment where Jah has been officially adopted. Unsurprisingly, this is not the end of the story. It is simply a new beginning. Adoption is for life.

Jah himself has asked me not to write much about his teenage years. I don’t think many of us would want much written about ours either, so naturally I shall respect that. ( I hope he will allow me to write about one of his best memories – the School Journeys. We’ll see.)

My next blog post will return to our everyday life.

In the meantime, I have just realised via Twitter that this is National Adoption week. There are so many interesting and inspiring life-stories mentioned on the website of BAAF (British Adoption and Fostering), that I would encourage people to have a read. See

The pictures I can offer this week are of a little red case and a sunflower – and then an image of carrying on to face the future. red-suitcase-200

THE SUITCASE looks exactly like the tiny one Jah brought with him when he moved into our house, our family and our life. As I have mentioned before, it contained just a few clothes. His foster family had thoughtfully decided that it would be better for us to get him his new clothes as he grew. He didn’t need to bring many with him. Life would move on.

sunflower A SUNFLOWER. When Jah moved into our family, aged 3 years and 11 months, he brought with him a little present for us. It was a rather straggly sunflower seedling. He watered it and tended it and by the end of the summer, it had grown stronger and produced a healthy flower. I like the image.


FACING THE FUTURE. Now that Jah officially shared the family surname we faced the future together. To be continued.

Bringing the good news from London to Leicester. Adoption Day.

I don’t remember much about the journey home to Leicester with the good news about Jah’s official Adoption.

We knew that the children were all waiting anxiously. I don’t know which adult was staying with them – or probably Lucy was quite old enough, so she would have been in charge.

Naturally I shall never forget the children’s reactions.

Jah greeted us with big wide eyes. He looked almost ‘white’ with anxiety, even though we had telephoned them with the good news. Perhaps he needed to hear it from us directly. Instantly his eyes regained their sparkle and he looked immensely relieved and happy. So did Sam, Lucy and Anna.

I was touched by Lucy’s gift to Jah. Many months previously, she had decided to embroider a new shoe bag for him to take to school, complete with his official name – the same family name as all of us. It had been waiting in a drawer for many months until this important day. He cherished that present and used it with great pride for a long time. Amazingly I still have it. The felt of the little footprints has shrunk slightly, but can still be seen quite clearly.

Shoe bag I have no photos of the whole family celebrating, but the following picture conveys the atmosphere in our household on that important Adoption Day. Happy:rejoicingImage courtesy of Stuart Miles at (cropped)

Notionally this could be Sam, Jah, Lucy and Anna.

 These reflections will continue. Adoption Day was obviously a significant new beginning, but in another sense it was a continuation. We had been committed to Jah as our adopted son ever since he joined the family just before his fourth birthday.  As with all adoptive parents, it is a commitment for life.

Adoption Day arrived at last.

As November drew nearer and nearer, Jah grew more anxious. We did not want to make a big issue of going to the Court for his adoption, but he himself was quite focused on the idea of being officially a member of the family, sharing the same surname.

Then, shortly before we were due to go to London, yet another solicitor took over the case.

We received an urgent ‘phone call.TelephoneImage courtesy of cooldesign at

I had a feeling that the caller was starting halfway through a sentence. She was speaking extremely fast and sounded agitated. It was the new solicitor. She told us in no uncertain terms

“On No account should Jah come to the Court. I understand that you were expecting him to be there! His birth mother has agreed to attend the Court and I think it would be most unsuitable for them to meet after all these years.”

D. and I were instantly relieved and as we explained the new scenario to Jah, we could see anxiety lift from his small shoulders.

And so, the great day dawned.  It was arranged that we would meet Pat, Jah’s social worker, at Euston Station. We would then walk to Aldwych. I remember that it was a gloriously sunny November day. We passed the Inns of Court and peered at their impressive grounds and buildings. We arrived finally at the Royal Courts of Justice – a beautiful building with marble interiors.Royal Courts of Justice

I didn’t have time to take in the architectural features of the entrance hall of the Court, because almost immediately we were face-to-face with Jah’s birth mother. She looked very like him, tall and light skinned and her face resembled his. She was quite calm. I suppose I had expected her to be somewhat nervous. She had one request. “Tell him one day that he has two brothers.” We said we would do that.

What happened inside the court room is indelibly fixed in my mind. Firstly we sat down a few rows behind the birth mother, but someone asked us to move to the other side of the room. That was mildly unsettling. Were they expecting trouble? Or had we just been tactless or naïve and unwise in not thinking of a more suitable place to sit?

To our surprise, a barrister whom we had never met, did the talking, but she was so forthright. She read out in a loud voice so many incriminating things about the birth mother. I feared that this would cause the birth mother to walk out in a huff and jeopardise the whole situation.

Fortunately, the judge was a person of kindness, stature and evidently a man of great experience and understanding. He reprimanded the barrister and said that since she and he both had the papers in their hands, she only needed to refer to the relevant paragraph by number. Then he would consider each paragraph.

Finally permission was granted to us to be Jah’s legal adopters.  It is hard to describe the feeling of relief we both experienced.

One thing I regret is that I never wrote and thanked the judge for his consideration, but my excuse is that we were always so busy. (No real excuse I know.)

After the hearing D. and I went and celebrated beside the fountains at the Barbican. In those days we were very much visitors to London and it felt good to be celebrating in a smart venue in our capital city. We shared a glass of wine between us, because we never had much money and that seemed quite extravagant enough. The air was cold, but the sun was shining and we sat outside. This legal step was a milestone.  It had been a long time coming, but now our family was complete.BarbicanImage courtesy of vegadsl at

(Sometimes in the future Jah would ask “Can we ‘dopt a little brother?” We replied. “We did. And You are IT!”)

Continuing with Jah’s story

Recently I have been doing what this blog title suggests and indulging in ‘Adoption Reflections’. Now I’d like to continue Jah’s story.

To re-cap where we were with Jah’s situation.

  • He was now five years old.
  • We were all waiting for an adoption order to be granted.
  • An alternative barrister had been lined up to present his case
  • Amazingly, his birth mother had been located.

    She had turned up at a hospital giving birth to her third child.  As the birth was by Caesarian section,  Jah’s birth mother had to stay in the hospital for a while and a hospital social worker had spoken to her at length about the advantage of her giving her consent to the adoption. The really good news was that she was going to agree to this. Sadly, we heard that this new baby was suffering from foetal alcohol syndrome and was born with learning difficulties. The social worker was trying to enable the mother to look after him. The alternative would be for him to go directly to a foster home. This would then be the third child she would have given up to the care of others. (Jah was her first-born. The second son had been adopted by a couple who took him to live in the United States.)

Jah was due to start school in September. He longed to have the same surname as the rest of the family, but we tried to make light of this and said that things would soon work out.

At last the day dawned when Jah could start school. He set out confidently.

Jah looking important with new haircut

After he had been at school for a couple of weeks, all parents had an interview with his teacher. She was very experienced and due to retire soon. To our surprise she said that Jah was quite a slow learner, although she did have confidence that he would get there in the end.

This did not sound at all like the bright, lively child we knew. We knew that he did have some strange learning blocks but we thought it was more to do with a lack of confidence. The teacher agreed. I asked whether they had any books that showed children that looked like him. They had none at all, so we suggested some that the school could use. (Reminder. This was c. 1981 and long before people had given much thought to representing diversity in books.

As I have mentioned earlier, books are still not representative enough. But they were even WORSE then!).

Jah soon made friends at school and was often invited round to other children’s houses. He grew in confidence. Things began to move on the legal front and we were told that there would be a hearing at the High Court – the Royal Courts of Justice – some time in November.

By mid-October we began to talk to Jah about the adoption day, because we had always been given to understand that he would accompany us.

We all waited anxiously for a date to attend the Court.

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 /  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 /

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.