Couple tell of decision to adopt family

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With more than 65,000 children in care across the UK last year, it is becoming ever harder to find many of them a permanent home.

And of those auccessful adoptions, one in five breaking down because families don’t get the support they need,

Charity After Adoption delivers support and courses to adoptive families once they have adopted, in a bid to prevent them becoming just another statistic.

Lancaster couple Victoria and Jake Smith have adopted three children – half brothers Matthew and Ben and, more recently, two-year-old Mia.

The pair met when Victoria was 19 and she had already decided that she wanted to adopt children.

Victoria, now 38, said: “From about the age of 18 I thought that if I were ever to have a family I would adopt rather than have children naturally.

“Jake and I discussed this fairly early on in our relationship – if we could adopt, we decided that we would.

“We started seriously thinking about adoption in 2004 and made enquiries.

“We adopted through our local authority and in 2006 we were placed with two half brothers, Matthew and Ben, now aged 10 and nine.

“Matthew was a few weeks away from his fourth birthday and Ben was just two-and-a-half.”

Before the formal assessment begins, all prospective adoptive parents must attend a preparation course. This aims to give an insight into the assessment itself, the legal process and what the couples might expect from the children.

“It did give us the building blocks to learn from,” Victoria said. “Perhaps the greatest lesson was that you don’t always fall in love at first sight.

“This can be true of children too. We have had to get to know our children, and them us.

“I didn’t have any expectations from the children, but I suppose I thought I would be better at being a parent than I feel I am.

“Parenting adopted children is a real challenge most of the time and nearly every day. These children have been inherently traumatised and that doesn’t just disappear.”

Victoria and Jake, 40, were told about the SafeBase course run by charity After Adoption, which provides information, parenting techniques and the opportunity to meet other parents who are going through the same thing.

“I think this course should be given to everyone who adopts and within 12 months of children being placed,” Victoria said.

“It gives you the tools to tolerate difficult situations and provide that consistent and constant environment that children need.

“If you suffer like my children have, it underpins who you are and whom you trust.

“We continue to face difficulties and it can be seemingly simple things that can trigger great feelings of anger and anxiety.

“We also have great times though. Without the children we wouldn’t have the trips to Disneyland and generally do the fun things that you do with children.

“The most rewarding thing now is that my sons are starting to talk about their birth parents. They are conscious of the situation and are able to talk about it to us.

“When you shut your front door it’s not just the people inside that are your family; you have to remember that they have got birth parents and they are vital to them and to you, and even if you don’t have contact, you mustn’t forget them, because it’s part of life.”

Victoria and Jake adopted their third child, Mia, at Easter.

“It has been easier this time around as I finally feel that we are parents now,” Victoria said.

“We have learnt a lot and can approach things with more confidence.

“I cannot stress enough though the importance of support; whether it is from family or After Adoption, it is crucial.”

*The children’s names have been changed for the benefit of this article.