Mary Walters waited for an agonizing three years before she brought her daughter home. Miss Walters had to celebrate multiple Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter without her as she still did not have legal guardianship for little Jenny, as do many other families who still await the response from adoption agencies. During the years 2011-2012, only 24 children were adopted in Wales.
About the long and bureaucratic process of adoption, Miss Walters says: “There is too much of paperwork and medical reports can get a bit tedious. I counted the days and months, knowing she was growing older and meeting milestones without me being present. She had her first birthday, her first tooth, her first steps, and her first tears. However, now she is at home. When you see your child with you, it is worth the wait.”
The average time for an adoption to be processed in Wales is two years and three months. However, a statistical study conducted by Wales Online shows that children often spend as much as five years in foster care and social services until they can be handed over to their adoptive parents.
In case of an international adoption, the stakes are even higher as international relationship between the parent and host country is very important. Camille Mora, adopted her son from Russia when he was only 15 months old. She says: “It was a really tough time. The hardest part was worrying that the country could halt, stall or shut down adoptions at any time. That was very hard emotionally. There are so many parts, in adoption, that were out of our control and that is just really hard.”
Judith Jones, a social worker at Welsh Saint David’s Children Society, says that background checks are a necessary part of adoption. She says: “Background checks generally don’t take more than a few months unless there is a medical condition involved in the family. Police checks are an important part and sometimes it takes the longest time to be completed. We just have one aim, to secure the child’s future and provide him/her a safe and happy family.”
Joel and Jessica, a young couple who did not want to disclose their surnames due to privacy reasons, recently adopted a child in Switzerland and felt that the entire process of adoption was very frustrating. Joel said: “This procedure makes us feel different from ‘natural’ parents. ‘Normal’ parents don’t have to be evaluated to be parents. We feel like candidates, we have to “sell” ourselves to get a child.”
After submitting the paper work, parents for a long time do not hear anything from the adoptive agencies. Joel and Jessica received just an acknowledgement after they had filed for adoption. He said: “For months, we don’t receive any news. We are left to wonder whether our folder is at the top or at the end of candidates for adoption.
“We feel different in comparison to our friends. They are not judged to be parents while we are judged at every step. This is not fair. Situation is not fair,” they added.
At some extent society fails to treat adoption the same way as pregnancy. Mrs Mora says that during the long waiting period, when everything is uncertain, “your friends don’t drop in and comfort you as they would do in a case of ‘real’ pregnancy. Unlike bringing home a baby from the hospital, no one was dropping meals off at our house or cleaning for us. People don’t ask how we are doing. For a lot of people, adoption doesn’t count, the same way a pregnancy does. But for us, this is as close to being pregnancy as we will ever get, especially when you consider that a lot of us adoptive parents have already struggled with infertility, and multiple miscarriages. The entire process is just very emotionally draining.”
A spokesperson for Adoption UK, charity which offers support to prospective adopters and adoptive parents, says that the long period of wait can be difficult and corruptive for both the adoptive parents and the child. “Due to adopted children’s early traumatising experiences of abuse and neglect within the birth family, they are far more likely to have significant emotional, behavioural and developmental difficulties requiring therapeutic support services. These difficulties can present major parenting challenges. Delays in finding adoptive parents add to the harm that many children in care will already have experienced, leading to more involved and costly adoption support services” she says.
Mrs Mora’s son, Dmitri, took almost nine months to settle with them. During the first few months, he would cry all night long and refuse the care and comfort given by his parents. She says: “You have been waiting, dreaming of this child and he has consumed your thoughts for a year or years, but he hasn’t been waiting for you. All he knows is orphanage life. He doesn’t know parents or love. That has to be taught and he hasn’t learned it yet. He doesn’t know what it means to be loved. When you try to hold and comfort him, he arches his back to get away from your hold, because he has never been comforted before, and the closeness is uncomfortable to him.”
Informing the child about the adoption is another milestone which the parents have to undergo. A social worker at British Association for Adoption and Fostering said that older children have a more emotional and traumatic experience during adoption as many of them have had bad experiences in foster homes. She adds: “Many children at times, suffer abuse and neglect at care centres, due to which when they suddenly find themselves at a new home with new faces they take a long time to adjust. In case of infants it’s an easier transition.”
Amy Jacks is a single mother of two adoptive sons. She says that her older son, five and half years old, recently realised that everyone in this world is not an adopted child. She says: “right now he feels very special and he loves to tell everyone how I flew and brought him home on an airplane. He recently drew a picture of how the adoption took place. The art is priceless to me”.
On the other hand, Miss Walters says: “Jenny knows that she is adopted and we talk about it all the time. But at age 4, who knows?”
It is not just the paper work and background checks which form a hurdle for adoptive parents, many countries don’t allow single parents to adopt children. Many adoption agencies, social service centres and government do not allow single parents to adopt citing reasons of instability and future financial problems.
Amy feels that this discrimination is not fair. “Single parents need to provide extra paperwork, medical and undergo various police checks. The main priority for foster homes is financial stability. Being a single parent is hard, yet it is very rewarding,” she feels.
Mary too was a single mother and she fought a long battle to adopt Jenny despite getting the clearance from the government and police. The adoption agencies had put a hold to the process, as Jenny was suffering from various medical conditions due to drug abuse from her birth mother. Jenny, was admitted to “unfit for adoption” category by the adoption agency. Yet, for Mary, Jenny remained precious and she went against the advice of social workers and adoption agencies who said that, “it would be difficult for a single mother to deal with Jenny’s medical conditions.”
She even sent a letter to Russia, from where she adopted her daughter, Jenny, against the adoption ban for single parents. She says: “It’s unfair to us when situations are made difficult for us to adopt because we do not have a partner.” She feels that everyone deserves a complete family, a child, “a chance to be happy without any discrimination.”