Children aged over four generally wait longer to be adopted – with many prospective adopters wanting to adopt a child who is as young as possible, so they can experience many of the traditional firsts such as first step, first solid food etc. Our Adopt A New Perspective campaign challenges people to think about some of the children who wait a little longer for their forever home, including children aged over 4 and the significant impact they can make to their lives. Here adopters, Allan and Debbie write about their experiences of adopting their daughter when she was four years old.
We began the adoption process without having a fixed idea of what age of child would be right for us. We just felt we had enough time, love and energy to give a child a new family and home. We had two children already so doing the baby stage wasn’t a necessity for us.
Through discussions with our social worker, we probably felt a toddler, maybe 2-3 years old would be right for us, but even then, we felt the right child was important, not the right age.
During our assessment phase, we were invited to a special event being hosted by the Council. It was aimed at trying to match ‘difficult to place’ children with families. This included any child over the age of 4, as well as sibling groups, children with particular special needs etc. We went with a very open mind despite our profile stating 2-3 years old. We were shown a profile of a little girl who, at the time, was 4 ½. She well and truly caught our hearts. Her past was complicated, and we knew that this would bring challenges for us but that did not deter us, she was the little girl for us. Amazingly, the Council agreed, and we were matched with her.
So, a few months later we had our little girl living with us. She had needed some additional help and support given her past to get her ready for the transition to her new family. We were supported by the agency too with training, particularly in relation to attachment. The introductions took a little bit longer than normal, we all had to ensure that everyone was ready, but she was now with us, our daughter.
Things were great at first but then our daughter’s past became more of an influence. She could be easily scared, she could be distant and she lacked an innate sense of safety and security. We knew it was her past reflecting into the present, but it still wasn’t easy. The hardest thing of all was when we felt she was rejecting our love.
However, this was our little girl, our daughter and were not for giving up. Quite simply, we had to break down those barriers by consistently showing her love every day with structure and support. Essentially, we had to prove that we were indeed mum and dad and that this was her family, her forever home.
Understanding her past
The one big thing in our favour was that we understood her past and understood her behaviour thanks to the training and support we’d received. Over time, our daughter relaxed, came to trust us and let us into her heart. Although she couldn’t verbalise many of her feelings at first, she has always been aware of her past and in the long run, we think that has helped her accept it and move on. We have always been open and honest with her which has helped immensely. It builds trust.
Many older children have attachment issues. They have sometimes been through chaotic beginnings, where mums and dads didn’t act like mums and dads should. The sense of safety and security that should come naturally isn’t there and we had to rebuild that, brick by brick. Having a clear structure is important, ensuring that boundaries are in place and respected. Being there every day to wipe tears, play, laugh, eat, even all the normal daily family stuff. It all builds the foundations back.
Our daughter has now been with us for over 6 years. She is an absolutely wonderful grown-up girl now. She is courageous, resilient, beautiful and has the biggest and kindest heart you could ever hope for. She has been through a lot in her life but with consistent love, structure and support, she is thriving. Without doubt, it has been the hardest thing we have done but the rewards outstrip that 10 times over. So much so, we did it all again a few years later! Our advice is to be open to older children, they are full of love, potential and hope. You just need to unlock it.
Find out more
If you think you could provide a safe and loving home for a child or children over four years old like Debbie and Allan please complete our enquiry form here or email us at email@example.com