As part of our Adopt a New Perspective campaign we spoke to families who have first-hand experience of adopting children who tend to wait longer to be adopted. In this article we meet Lynn and Terry – a couple who have five birth children as well as five adopted children with learning difficulties and disabilities who talk about their experiences and offer advice to others approaching adoption.
Lynn is a birth mother of five, a foster carer for over 40 children and an adoptive parent to five more children with learning difficulties and disabilities, including ADHD, autism, and Global Development Delay.
Their story began when Lynn left her nursing role to become a Foster Carer with a specific interest in children with disabilities. Back in 2002 a special baby joined their family. This little girl changed their lives in so many ways; she became the first of five girls with varying special needs Lynn, and her husband Terry would go on to adopt.
Speaking about her experiences of reading children’s reports Lynn said: “When reading a profile for children with disabilities, you get a better picture of what the future holds, helping to prepare you for the journey ahead. It gives prospective adopters time to chat to other parents and professionals who can advise on the challenges which may be faced on their journey. A disabled child can bring challenges with medical appointments etc, but it also brings so many rewards that others take for granted, as milestones are reached.
“For me when you’re looking at the report for children with additional needs, you have a better starting point because you know more about what you’re taking on. You’re making the choice from day one. Personally, I have found it easier raising my five daughters with learning difficulties and disabilities because I knew what I was getting into.”
Throughout the adoption application process, prospective adopters are asked to consider what conditions they feel they are and are not particularly suited to care for. It can be a challenge for some, but for Lynn she found the decision easy, saying:
My mind was open to children with disabilities and learning difficulties, because of my job as a foster carer which meant that I knew the reality of caring for a child with additional needs. I went on to adopt four of the children that I was caring for as a foster carer and they all have disabilities or learning difficulties.
With disabled children every small step is a bigger reward than it is than with other children. We’ve been trying to get our youngest to clap her hands for 3 years, she isn’t yet, but if she did it would be a whole other level of amazing. With children without additional needs, it’s always great when they do something new, but you do tend to just accept it – with a disabled child the reward is so much bigger. You can see their eyes light-up around us and it’s the best reaction you can ask for.
Supporting other families
Lynn’s experience led to her setting up a very successful local charity, for children with disabilities and additional needs and their families, Pathways 4 All /The Tim Lamb children’s Centre where Lynn is still a volunteer CEO. Lynn believes the support she received from her social worker and others she’s met along the way has been invaluable, adding:
Our Social Worker was a brilliant support to us too…being very honest in preparing us for what “may” lie ahead…allowing us to be fully prepared prior to the adoption.
We have also met some wonderful parents on our journey, who are a brilliant support network for sharing experiences and celebrating the children’s achievements. When you have a child that needs extra support, you enter a whole other environment and community. It’s a world where everyone gets on, you understand each other’s problems and you build relationships with supportive and kind people.
Advice to others
When asked what advice she would offer, Lynn said: “I would say to anyone thinking about adopting a child with additional needs to be very open minded when you get the paperwork. You need to think about it very seriously, look at your support network and research the disability the child actually has in detail. You can take a child that on paper looks fine, but two years down the line you might find they have ADHD or autism and that to me is harder to cope with, as it’s all new and you’re thrown in at the deep end. You have to research what the disability is and decide if you think you can cope with what that entails. I would say look at your strengths and consider what you are capable of. It’s also important to make sure that you are supported in your decision by family and friends.
“I adopted for a fifth time after reading about a little girl I couldn’t stop thinking about on a family finding website and doing so has made my life complete. We now have a very smiley happy 10-year-old little girl, who rewards us daily with her giggles and cuddles. As you can imagine we are a busy home, and children born or adopted can bring their challenges. However, we are still here to tell the story (and yes we could write a book). But we are very much advocates for adoption, and I would always tell people not to overlook the children with disabilities, as they really do change your life in so many wonderful ways.”
Find out more
Read all about our Adopt a New Perspective campaign in our news section.