You decided to adopt after your birth children left home. Can you tell us a bit more about that decision?
My brother was adopted as a child so adoption has always been part of my life and it was something that has always been on my mind. After my children left home and I remarried, my new husband didn’t have any children of his own and we wanted a family, so we started looking at different options.
How did you decide that adoption was right for you?
At first, we considered fostering. I worked in an environment with young children as a special needs teaching assistant, so I knew that I could give love and open my heart to a child that was not my own.
We decided to go for adoption because I didn’t like the idea of getting emotionally attached to a child that might be moved on and having little control over that.
What was the approval process like for you?
It was a very anxious time for me. Once you have made that final decision to go through the adoption process then you’re already committed. You throw your heart, your future, everything into it and you’re eagerly waiting for this new life to start.
I spent a lot of time wondering if we could get approved because I had quite a chaotic past. I lived in a very poor home with domestic violence and left school at 15. I also suffered domestic violence in my first marriage, but ultimately, I think having gone through everything that I did has made me more empathic and resilient which are important qualities to have in this process.
How did you find the matching process? How long did it take from start to finish?
Once you have been approved, waiting for a match feels like a long time, but looking back it’s not really.
Our daughter was a complex case, so it was important that we took our time and had all the necessary information to support and prepare ourselves for her arrival. For us it was just under a year from the initial match to her coming home.
It doesn’t usually take that long; every case is different.
The matching process is perhaps the most emotionally intense part of the adoption process, how did you prepare yourself for that?
I don’t know if you can prepare yourself completely for it. You do a lot of training and reading. I joined Adoption UK and read everything I could on forums etc.
It’s intense but exciting. You’re mentally trying to prepare for your child but also physically preparing the house and getting everything ready.
Who were the key people involved in the matching process?
You have your own social worker looking out for matches for you as well as the family finder for the child and the child’s social worker as well. There are other people involved and the matching panel is about 8-10 people including a doctor, a psychologist and such, but the main people are your social worker, the child’s social worker and the family finder.
I think it is very important to have a good relationship with your social worker because they know your strengths and weaknesses. On paper I didn’t think I looked that good, but my social worker believed in me.
Is there such a thing as a ‘perfect fit’ and what thoughts did you have about that going into it?
I won’t lie, I think you have an image in your mind. You know this child will not look like you so you kind of build up this fantasy child. I think the best thing you can do is to let go of that. Trust your social worker and don’t wait for that magic one.
When I read my daughter’s profile, I didn’t see her picture, but I decided there and then I was going to be her mum. I wasn’t worried about whether we would bond, what she looked like or anything else. What I cared about was that this little girl needed a mum, and I am that mum. The bond that has developed since she came home has grown into an immense love.
What did you find to be the most challenging part of the matching process?
It was challenging because I knew that I could do the job and we were excited for everything to fall into place. But I understand why the process has to be thorough to make sure everything is right for children who have experienced trauma and neglect.
Just remember, anything that is worth having takes time.
What did you enjoy most about the matching process?
It was great to be able to think we were almost at the finish line ready to complete our family. It seemed tangible in a way once we got to the matching process.
How did your expectations of the matching process compare to what happened?
My advice would be to try and roll with it. It can be hard, but you have got to go through each stage as they come. It will happen, you will get there. No matching process is the same, it all depends on the child and the circumstances.
What do you wish you would have known before starting the process? What advice would you give people who are just about to start the process?
I don’t think there was anything I wish I’d known. You get a lot of training and information throughout. I would say to anyone going through the process, try not to expect it to be a completely smooth ride. I know that’s what people want but you have to bear in mind most of these children have a complex history and the process is built in a way to make sure they end up in the right home for them.
If I could give one piece of advice to anyone just starting the process, it would be to try to fit in any big things that you want to do. That might sound like weird advice but do it now that you have the time for it and to take your mind off the process for a bit. We do not get any time on our own anymore, although we wouldn’t change this for the world.
Oh, and get support. Take advantage of any support groups or help that you can get through Adoption UK, NAS or other services if possible.
To hear more from Amanda and the other adopters about how the found the matching process, tune into episode three of the Truth be Told: Adoption stories podcast