Mum tells firsthand her experience of adopting siblings with Lancashire and Blackpool Adoption Service
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More than 80% of children currently waiting with Adoption Lancashire and Blackpool for their forever home are in sibling groups. We have spoken exclusively to one mum-of-three from Lancashire who has given an honest account of her experience with the adoption process.
When I received my infertility diagnosis - for a moment I thought my hope of having a family was over.
But in actual fact, it was the day that set me on my path to becoming a mum to the three best, very beautiful, kind and loving siblings ever.
When I first met my husband we talked of our shared passion to adopt in our later years.
So when faced with the idea of torturous fertility treatment (that might not work) or the prospect of adoption - there was no question for us.
The hardest part of the whole process was to come next. Making the initial call to social services to register our interest and laying our vulnerabilities out in public for the first time.
But it was like ripping off a plaster. It stung for just a second.
The initial visit from our social worker was the most nervous I have ever been. I spent hours cleaning the house, choosing what biscuits to offer and deciding what to wear.
But looking back I wish I could have told myself - 'we have a lot to offer, be positive and open and it will happen'.
Mum-of-three from Lancashire
We have a lot to offer, be positive and open and it will happen.
Slowly as the process started to evolve - we settled in - like you do with a pair of comfortable socks.
Regular meetings with our social worker became like having coffee with a friend.
We learned the process was solely about making sure the placement was right for the children and all difficult questions were about making sure we were equipped to handle any issues that might occur.
Then came the big meeting - the criteria checklist.
This was a difficult part of the process for us. Having to say what race, colourings, backgrounds and disabilities we could offer a home too and to what level.
For example, if we say we can accept a child with sight issues - we were asked where our limit was on a scale of one to 10? A child needing glasses being one and a blind child being 10. It felt like playing god.
But in reality it made us question our individual thoughts and ideas - and gave us a chance to discuss them thoroughly to check if the decisions we were making were for the right reasons.
Our initial process started during Covid-19 - which meant our approval panels were online.
The first one - approval to be an adopter - was nerve wracking.
We sat in a virtual waiting room - ready to be called in and quizzed by a board of independent advisors and professionals.
But after just minutes of being on the call - we were put at ease and it was clear to see everyone in the process was just trying to do the right thing for the vulnerable children needing a good home.
Then came the waiting. We were approved but not yet matched with a sibling group.
We decided early on we wanted a big family so after hearing sibling groups spend longer in care than individual children we knew we could help.
We spent hours procrastinating over whether we could cope with two or three children at the same time.
We settled on two as our theory was if they were both in meltdown we could have one each.
Then came the news on a Friday afternoon we had been waiting five weeks for.... we had been potentially matched with a 21-month-old little boy and a seven-month-old little girl.
We were thrilled - we were promised the profiles to look at over the weekend. But they didn't arrive.
When we chased up, first thing Monday morning, we were told there had been a meeting and because we had a link to Blackpool and the parents were deemed 'dangerous' the risk of placing the children with us was out of the question.
The disappointment we felt was intense but just days later we got another call to say the decision had been reviewed by senior management and actually we were able to explore the match further.
We were thrilled. As I read the anonymous profile I knew these were our children. I felt an instant connection.
We had received profiles before but they had never felt quite right - but this was different.
We proceeded to have a meeting with the family finder and the children's social worker to discuss the risk birth parents posed.
They were volatile, hard to read, aggressive with authority and each other.
But both me and my husband felt sure we could mitigate any risk.
The meeting went well. We were able to convince the social workers we were the right people for these siblings.
The feeling was amazing. We then spent October to January preparing for their arrival.
We decorated, met the foster carers and had a 'bump into' session with the children.
My heart instantly swelled. They were beautiful, kind, funny and playful babies - needing love and security.
The foster carers were amazing. They were so supportive during these sessions. They have really become extended members of our family.
Bridging was wonderful. We spent hours paying, eating and learning about each other.
We took everything at the children's pace and in return they took everything in their stride.
The day they moved in forever was really emotional. Our new family unit had been formed.
A short time later, our youngest started to be unwell. She had no pre-existing conditions but kept having bouts of breathing issues.
During a visit to the hospital and describing her symptoms - doctors tested her for Type 1 Diabetes. Weirdly, the same condition my husband has.
The tests came back conclusive - she was diabetic too.
The news was a shock - but having dealt with my husband's condition for years - we knew you could live a fulfilled life if you look after yourself.
We attended training courses and with support from the hospital I learnt how to carb count and how to manage her condition.
Just weeks later we were playing in the park when I got a phone call.
"Are you sitting down?" said the children's social worker.
She went on to say that it had been discovered that the birth mum was pregnant again and had been concealing it.
She was in fact five months pregnant and it was most likely the plan for the new baby would be one of adoption.
We were shocked but also happy.
We clearly had a lot to think about but another addition to the family could be on the way.
Both me and my husband instantly knew we wanted to take the third child if the plan for adoption was the way it was to go.
Keeping the children together was really important - even if it meant having a one-year-old, two-year-old and a three-year-old at the same time.
So we did our sums, discussed it with our loved ones and told social workers we were in.
Just four weeks after our full adoption had gone through for our eldest two children, we started the assessment process again for the new baby.
Due to the risk level of the parents and maintaining the safety of the eldest two children - we were ruled out of foster to adopt.
This meant we had extra time to settle as a family of four before the new baby arrived.
But when she moved in at 10 months old - our family was complete.
The older children adore her and so do we. It feels so natural and as though they have all been here forever.
Adopting siblings was by far the best decision we ever made. It has fulfilled our life in a way we didn't know was possible.
I'd urge anyone considering it to be brave and take the leap.
People often say our children are lucky to have us, but in actual fact we are the lucky ones.
They enrich our lives every single day.
Can you help?
Adoption Lancashire and Blackpool seek adoptive parents from all walks of life, and welcome applications from people of all ages, single, married, cohabiting, in same-sex relationships, with or without their own children, working or not.
Anyone who is thinking of adoption can find out more by booking a place at an information event, which are held regularly across the county. Find out more at adoptionlancashireblackpool.org.uk or by calling 0300 123 6727.