Adopting a child is a huge decision but one that can make a dramatic difference to the lives of children.
“Adoption is a life-changing experience. The joy that it’s brought us is incredible. It’s given us two beautiful daughters and we feel privileged that we’re making a massive difference to their lives. We’ve given them a chance; a future; a happy, stable, loving family. It’s not always easy, but when they say ‘I love you mum and dad’ it makes it all worthwhile,” said Stephen who adopted Bethany, seven, and Samantha, five, with his wife Linda.
“Linda and I had always wanted our own family,” he said. “We couldn’t have children so we tried IVF. After a few unsuccessful rounds, the IVF clinic mentioned adoption, but at that time we were still determined to try for our own children. But after three years and five failed attempts, we knew it was time to explore adoption.
“It was the natural next step. It felt right. Looking back, and knowing what we know now about adoption and the happiness it can bring, we wish we’d done it sooner.”
The couple first approached the council’s adoption team in 2008 and soon after a social worker came to visit them in their home.
Stephen explained: “He was really helpful and caring, and talked us through what we needed to think about and do. Next we went on a council-run training course to introduce us to adoption.
“It was really insightful and taught us about everything, from the process and what forms to fill in, to the issues that children in care might have and the challenges we may face. The really great thing about the training was listening to the stories of people who had already adopted or been adopted. As they’d been through the experience themselves, this helped Linda and I relate to them and the process.
“After the training we were given time to reflect and make a decision - was adoption right for us? Our answer was a resounding yes.
“We then had a series of home study visits by our social worker to assess our application before going to approval panel. Next we went through a process to match us with the ‘right’ children for us before going to matching panel. Our social worker guided us all the way. In 2010, Bethany and Samantha moved in with us.
“Bethany was four-and-a-half and Samantha was two-and-a-half when they came to live with us. They’re sisters and had been together all their lives.
“We’d always said we wanted to adopt siblings - that way, they’d already have a strong bond and would be there for each other. When they moved in with us we experienced two immediate emotions.
“First: nervousness - going from no children to two would be challenging.
“Second: an overwhelming feeling of unconditional love - we suddenly thought ‘these two bundles of joy in front of us are our daughters’.
“The girls were excited and nervous but took everything in their stride. They were previously in foster care, and we’d already got to know them. But even the very first time we met them, after their foster carer had told them all about us - and we’ll always remember this - they called us mummy and daddy. A fantastic feeling.
“We often have to pinch ourselves and say ‘wow’ - it’s just amazing that we’ve got our own family. We don’t even mind the girls waking us up at 6am on a Sunday. Even the little things are so exciting for us, like celebrating Christmas with them and teaching them to ride a bike - things that all parents experience, but adoption somehow makes these moments seem even more special.
“The girls know they’re adopted - we’re open and honest with them and talk about it, and that’s really important. As they get older we’ll talk to them more in depth, and Calderdale Council offers lots of information and support on this.”
The couple are quick to point out that taking in children is not always easy but help and support is at hand.
“Not everything in the garden is rosy, and anyone going into adoption needs to be realistic, patient and open-minded. A lot of children in the care system have faced some kind of trauma, and it’s bound to affect them. For example, our eldest struggles with learning and is behind at school. But there’s always someone to turn to for advice and support.
“Calderdale Council has been great. They run brilliant group sessions about topical issues and we can always call the adoption team for advice if we need it. We recently got in touch with them about our daughter’s education and they suggested we go to one of their group sessions. We got a lot out of it as we could talk to experts and share experiences with other adopters.
“Another key support group is the people we met in the early stages of the adoption process - people who have gone through the same things as us at the same time. You build a natural relationship with them. We’re still in touch with three of the couples we met on our initial training, and we’re always learning from each other. The council also proactively gives new adopters other people’s details who have already been through a similar process - we’re still friends with them now, and our daughters are friends with their children. We help the council out as well by offering to talk to other adopters and prospective adopters about our experience. We’ve benefited so much from the adoption process that we want to give something back.”
Interested in adoption? Complete an enquiry form at www.calderdale.gov.uk/adoption or talk to the Council on 0845 245 6000.