Adopting a child with additional needs - Victoria's story

Victoria shares her experience of adopting children with additional needs

Our social worker was pretty sceptical at the beginning, when we said we were interested in adopting a child with a disability. She said, “there are lots of children waiting – why would you want one with additional needs?”

I grew up as one of 10 children, and have both birth and adopted siblings. For me, adoption has always been a normal thing, and it’s something I always knew I wanted to do. I work as a paediatric nurse, and my husband is an assistant head at a school for children with complex medical and physical needs. We know that children with disabilities often wait the longest for a foster or adoptive home, and we felt that this was something we could offer.

We began to explore adoption after having our first birth child. Despite our social worker’s initial scepticism, she took us through the process, which was tough at times and involved lots and lots of questions. As we journeyed together we felt she really began to ‘get’ us, and why we wanted to adopt a child with additional needs. Looking back, she really was amazing, actually – we know that all of those hard questions were necessary to ensure that we were the right, safe, loving home for child who has been waiting a long time.

Henry joined our family six years ago, when he was three years old. He has Down Syndrome with a number of additional health and development needs, but this didn’t stop a great bond developing really quickly between him and our birth son. They have a very typical brother relationship – they joke with each other, they get annoyed at each other, and they are there for one another.

A few years and two other birth children later, we decided our family had yet more to offer, so we applied to adopt again. While our work and experiences in our families have given us a lot of experience, we knew we had limitations in the kinds of needs our family could meet – for example, our house wasn’t really wheelchair accessible. And we were honest with the social worker about what where we felt our strengths were, but also what we felt probably wouldn’t work for our family.

Our social worker told us about another little baby with Down Syndrome who at that time was in foster care. When we met her, we learnt that her foster carers are Christians, and Home for Good Champions, and they had a whole network of people praying for this little baby and her future family. This was our introduction to Home for Good, and we’ve since become Champions ourselves and are so thankful to be part of such a huge network of people who are each playing their part for vulnerable children.

We were approved to adopt our little girl a few months ago. She moved in during lockdown, and while that certainly had its challenges, this time at home has allowed us to have lots of time together as a family to bond and build attachment. We know she has some exciting times ahead of her, as we look forward to a time when we can begin to explore outside of our house and introduce her to our loved ones.

Being parents to children with additional needs is something we believe God has called us to. My relationship with my siblings and our professional experiences have definitely helped equip us to care for our children - but of course we’ve still encountered difficult times. Henry can have challenging behaviour at times, and while his aggression is never aimed at his family as it’s what happens when he feels in a crisis, it isn’t nice for any of us to see. It can be particularly upsetting for the other kids, so we have lots of big – and often hard – conversations.

But I think when our little ones see how Henry feels and how he expresses his feelings and experiences, they are developing a really deep understanding and empathy for what some other children and other people feel and experience and face. We can’t protect our children from the fact that life is a bit hard and rubbish sometimes, but what we can do is try to teach them how to cope and manage when those hard times do come. And I don’t think we, as parents, could ever have taught our children some of the amazing things they have learnt from their siblings.

Right now, children with additional needs are amongst those who wait the longest for family. Like all children, they deserve a home and a family who will commit them and offer them the love, security and encouragement they need to fulfil their potential. We would love for more families to consider fostering or adopting a child with additional needs – could you offer that love, security and encouragement? Click here to find an information event.

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