Here we talked to Jennifer and Stephen who adopted two young sisters back in 2020. They turned to adoption to complete their family, after attempts to have children naturally were unsuccessful. Below we share what adopting siblings has meant to them, and for their family.
For many people thinking about having children, they often think about having more than one, and when adopting it brings a consideration as to whether you would adopt one child, and then look to adopt again further down the line, or alternatively adopt siblings together at the same time.
On asking Jennifer and Stephen about their motivation for adopting siblings, they say it was something they had always considered based on their own family experiences. They both grew up with siblings and the thought of not having them with them, led them to think about the children in need of families alongside their brothers and sisters, as well as what they envisaged as their ideal family unit.
Stephen explains: “We’d been trying for a family for many years and we’d decided between us possibly that adopting one wouldn’t be enough,” with Jennifer adding: “We also thought two together would be quite nice for both them and for us. Having someone there for you through both the happy and tough times you experience in life.”
New parent concerns
Jennifer and Stephen started the adoption process in 2019, completing preparation training and having lots of detailed discussion with their social worker, before being approved at panel and being matched with two little girls. Although they were confident in their decision to adopt siblings, like all new parents, they still had a couple of apprehensions as the time for the children to join them grew closer. Jennifer explains:
“Our biggest concern was how they were coming into our family, and how they would react to it. We were as prepared as we could be, but for them, they’d had so much change in their lives already.”
Laylah was five and Isla was almost three when they moved to their new forever home. Jennifer continues: “They went from a very busy birth family household to a very busy foster family, and then to come to us where it was just the two of them. I think we realised we needed to help support and nurture their relationship. It wasn’t something that was a huge concern but something that we thought about as they were coming into our family.”
Stephen also recalls that although they had done lots of training, there was still an element of ‘winging it’ when they actually arrived home, responding and adapting to what the girls needed, and being careful to not put too much pressure on them as they adjusted to their new home and being the only children there together, with two relatively new adults.
Stephen said: “Jennifer and I had been together for quite some while, and we relied on each other, and all of a sudden, two little people came into the house and time is pretty much not your own anymore. It’s demanding but it’s so worthwhile.
“We just wanted them to gel and they seem to have done that. They are close in age, and they bounce off each other, and that’s important. That’s what we hoped for when we were thinking about adopting siblings.”
Settling in together
A number of parents who adopt brothers and sisters together tell us that having a sibling there with them during the transition to the adoptive home is comforting to the children, helping them to settle in. Jennifer talks about one particular experience they had:
“When they came home to us they had a bedroom each, and that was great and they were excited to begin with. But I think over the weeks to months, Laylah didn’t settle well on a night and there was a lot of shouting downstairs, and just not being able to sleep.”
Stephen adds: “It was my suggestion, I thought not only for the closeness of the girls, but for our peace of mind too, why don’t we put Isla in with Laylah? Isla sleeps very well and goes to sleep very early, so then Laylah is encouraged to join her and get on with her own quiet time in the room before going to sleep. It worked like a charm, and they’ve been there ever since, and they’re quite happy with that.”
Jennifer reflected on this, thinking about the fact that they had always shared a room, living in such busy households previously, and that Laylah still needed the company of her sibling at night to settle. She also thinks sharing a space between them helps with their relationship. Eventually, when they are ready, they can have their own bedrooms again.
Shared experiences and understanding
Talking about the shared experiences her girls have with each other, Jennifer highlights why she feels it’s important to keep brothers and sisters together.
“We think brothers and sisters should be kept together for that support they’ve got. They’ve been through similar early experiences that try as we might, we could never understand. So for them to have each other still, in an environment to be able to support each other and talk to each other about things is really valuable.
“Isla was very young when things started happening (in the birth home). Laylah was older and more aware, and as questions come, it will be Laylah who can answer most questions for Isla, and we can be there to support that. We can have open conversations as much as we can, but for siblings to be able to have each other to talk to about that in the future is very important.”
Advice and support for people considering adopting siblings
When asking Jennifer and Stephen what advice they’d give to others thinking about adopting siblings, they suggest finding out more, meeting children in real life at activity days and chemistry meetings, being open to what comes, and generally just doing the best you can.
Jennifer says: “If you think you can only have or manage one child, then that is fine, but if there is even just a small part of you that thinks or considers siblings, then have those conversations, talk about it, speak to your social worker, start exploring profiles, ask the questions and it’ll hopefully confirm it either way for you. We’ve said before that we don’t think there’s anything special about us particularly. We are quite average and if we can do it, then a lot of people can do it as well. It has really been the best thing for us.”
Jennifer also talks about how the ongoing support of their adoption agency has been really valuable to their family: “We’ve never needed anything too heavy but just knowing that our adoption agency is there to support us with things we may need is a huge thing.
“We enjoy a lot of the events they put on for children and families too. It’s great to feel part of that wider family. At a recent beach activity, Laylah asked me afterwards if the children she was playing with there were all adopted too. I don’t know all the different family circumstances of course, but I told her ‘Yes, most of them will be,’ so it’s great for her to know that there are lots of other children who have been adopted too, enjoying life with new families. It just normalises it more for her I think.”
For Stephen and Jennifer, adopting their daughters turned their life upside down, but in a really wonderful way. Jennifer says: “It’s changed our lives massively and you would expect it to. You really would. Yes, there’s demands on your time, your energy, but there’s also double the fun, double the joy and at the end of the day it’s wonderful.”
It’s over to Laylah and Isla for final thoughts. Everyone laughs as Isla tells us that they were allowed an ice lolly for breakfast today as a special treat. On asking them what the best thing about their family is, they said they love having family hugs and that they like days out, going to the beach and the theme park, Light Water Valley.
Laylah says: “If you don’t have a sister, you just have to play on your own or with Mum and Dad, but if you have a sister you get to play with her. I like it when we both play babies together.”
Isla adds: “We like going to the soft play together. I like the slide, the big blue one, it’s fast. When I go up the big bits, Laylah helps me do it.”
The girls agree that people should adopt brothers and sisters so they can be happy, and that they think they’d be sad if they weren’t together now. This is despite instances of hiding glasses and snoring in the night – the very best of friends can still have little annoyances.
Find out more
Read all about the benefits of adopting siblings in our article here.
View more of our real-life video case studies on the our children, our families page.
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