A Kent adoptive couple have offered the following tips and advice to people thinking about adoption in Kent. If you have any other tips you'd like to share, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gain child care experience
Prior to and during the adoption process, first-hand experience of child care is a must. When possible this should go beyond looking after children within the immediate family or friends and include nurseries, pre-schools or toddler groups. Advice and support from childcare experts is valuable and these connections could prove extremely helpful as an extension to your support network (for example, your adoptive children attending the nursery where you volunteered).
Don't feel pressured by deadlines
The current adoption process helps to reduce any unnecessary delays. While the child's or children's needs always come first, you should only progress when you are ready and at a pace that suits you. Seeing the process as a 'race to the crossing line' can lead to confusion or disappointment at later and more important stages.
If you are adopting with a partner, place the utmost importance on your relationship
Think about your relationship and how strong your channels of communication are. It is most likely that each of you will be feeling different emotions at different stages and both of you must be able to listen and support the other without reservations or judgement.
With yourselves, the workers and any other person you meet along the way. Being confident to share how you feel about your adoption journey will always enhance your skills as a prospective parent as well as reinforce your status within the process. Honesty in adoption is perceived as a strength and not a weakness.
Begin learning about adoption without any preconceptions or firm expectations
Adoption has, and continues to evolve and each adoption journey is unique to those involved. Although experiences can be shared, they cannot be transferred. One approach will certainly not fit all. Your expectations about your future children as well as your own ability to parent should be as realistic as possible. Don't expect to be perfect or to get it right all the time!
Be fair to your support network
In many ways, those closest to you are adopting with you. Make sure they feel able to express their thoughts and emotions and be clear about the role and the expectations you have of them in relation to your decision to adopt. Aim to build relationships with other adopters that you meet along the way, especially those who are going through the process at the same time as you. Their understanding and support will prove to be invaluable. The stronger and wider your support network is, the greater your resourcefulness as a parent will be.
Embrace the uncertainty that comes from parenting a child with a previous history
There will be only so much information available to you and at some point, like all parents, you will have to face the fact that there are no guarantees of any kind when it comes to raising a child. This issue of uncertainty is particularly prominent the younger your child is.
Trust the adoption team
There is a wealth of expertise in Kent and no shortcut or decision will be taken if it is going to compromise your potential as an adopter. They have your best interest at heart. It is particularly key that you develop a strong relationship with your social worker and when the time comes, with the foster parent.
Try to relate to the birth family of your child/ children
This will empower your relationship with your child/children in the future but It will also aid your bonding, understanding and support towards your adoptive children. This kind of approach will also ease any conflicting feeling that you may have. If deemed appropriate, facilitate a one-off meeting with the birth mother or parents. This is a daunting process, but can bring benefits to your child, their birth family and you.
Give it time
By all means be proactive in finding ways forward, whatever the challenge you are facing. However, always allow yourself the time required for things to fall into place.