A passion for welcome

An adoptive parent shares their story of welcome and hospitality

My mum has the biggest heart I’ve ever known. When I was growing up in Africa, she always, always had an open house. You’ve probably heard the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” – it’s literal. People raise other people’s children; that’s how it was for us. There were several times during my childhood when children who had lost parents or whose parents were struggling would come and live with us. Some would stay for a week, others months or even years. We’ve always had children live with us at different times of our lives growing up, and we were all treated the same; it wasn’t that we were the birth children while others were guests. We lived in the same house, we ate the same food, we wore the same clothes. Mum wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Interestingly, this is how I ended up meeting my husband. His mother had unfortunately passed away, so my mum stepped in to provide some support, taking him in after school and providing him meals while his dad was working in the evenings. That was how our friendship started when we were around 11 years old. Welcome and hospitality were at the heart of our relationship from then on. So the subject of adoption has always been normal in a sense, and it’s something we spoke about even before we were married. There was no discussion or debate, we always knew that adoption was a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.

Fast forward a few years, and we’re married with one birth daughter. It’s interesting how comfortable you can get in your ‘normal.’ We found ourselves asking, “Can we really do this?” But again and again, we would feel that tug on our hearts that told us, “Don’t forget. This is something you need to do.” So when the time was right, we began a conversation with our local council and, as they say, the rest is history!

Our assessment process was a mixed experience. Stage one started really well; we had the initial visit, we had a chat and we attended an information evening. But when we reached the point where we had to start things like police checks, it began to get complicated. Because my husband and I hadn’t lived in the UK before we turned 18, we had to have an international police check. This was the most frustrating part of the entire process. When we were told we needed it we asked, “Where do we go? Where do we start?” and we were met with, “Well, we’re not really sure. Maybe call your embassy?”. Getting those checks alone took nearly three months and to be honest, it made us question the whole process. If things were this difficult at such an early stage, what else might be coming down the line?

However, once we overcame that hurdle, the process continued relatively smoothly. We had a fantastic social worker; I really can’t praise her enough. She knew what she was doing, and she found a way to make the experience interactive and encouraging. You spend a lot of time talking about your life story – the highs and the lows – and we really felt that she was listening to us with a huge degree of empathy and understanding. When she gave us her first draft of the report, there were very few changes we had to make, and the changes needed were incredibly minor. A misspelled name here, a change of date there. She captured our story beautifully. After the struggle at the beginning of the process, it felt like God brought this social worker in to our lives to help us carry on.

Our approval panel was really positive. We could tell that they had read our report so thoroughly, and they praised our lovely social worker for writing it. It can be awfully daunting to sit in front of ten strangers who have read the ins and outs of your life, but our panel were incredibly reassuring and they made really encouraging comments. I’ll always remember the chairman saying to us, “Just reading through your stories, I am confident that any child who comes into your family would have a wonderful home.”

Not long after that, we were matched with our son. Again, the social workers were just amazing. We had a fantastic family finder who was really proactive, determined to find our boy a home. There was absolutely no reason why he should have waited as long as he did. The placement order had been made before he was born, and he was waiting for two and a half years – his whole life – for his family.

Watching him grow and mature since then has been beautiful. When he arrived he could barely speak at all, and now he uses so many big words to describe and articulate how he feels very clearly. He recently had a familiarisation day at school, and he was really looking forward to it. He kept clasping his little fists under his chin and telling me, “Mummy, I’m so excited!”. Another thing that makes me laugh is that when I ask him a question, he’s started responding with, “Hmm… I’m thinking…”. I love it! What is he thinking? What is going on in his little head? I can’t wait to hear what he’s going to come out with next!

My own mum instilled in us a passion for welcome, hospitality and love – she reflected to us the heart of the Father. Adopting our son has been a beautiful, exciting and challenging journey, and with each step I take I gain a greater understanding of what it means when the Bible says we are adopted into God’s family – unconditionally, without question. In my frail humanity and in all my imperfection, I continue to try to reflect His heart in how I love and care for my own children.

Date published:
14 October 2021


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