There is no doubt that UK adoption is improving, but due to the nature of adoption, potential adopters will always face some big challenges in order to initially become parents and to ensure they are effective parents.
This list of 8 of the biggest challenges is created from our own experience, as well as anecdotal evidence. There are a variety of challenges that adopters face, but these are perhaps the most common in UK adoption.
The UK adoption process
The process itself is a challenge. As I have stated, it is improving, and has even been streamlined since we were matched with our boy. However, the fact remains that it is arduous, emotional and sometimes painstakingly long.
A certain amount of resilience is needed to complete the process, so those starting it, need to be fully invested in what they are undertaking.
Rejection of the agency
Being rejected by your local council or adoption agency is a painful experience; especially after IVF. The challenge is to not let it deter you, but to strive on, and be confident that you can complete your family through a different route.
I feel we may have been the exception to the rule on this point, so it won’t happen to everyone, but if starting the adoption process in the UK, it is perhaps worth hedging your bets, and looking at a number of councils and agencies.
This is a hardship which tests pretty much everyone wanting to adopt. The hardest waiting to be done is between panel and matching. So many factors affect this timeline, that the fate of the potential adopters is entirely in the lap of the Gods.
This lack of control can be particularly hard. However, having gone through IVF and forcibly relinquishing control over our parental destiny, it was something we had experience of. The big difference with adoption though, is that the outcome has a much, much greater likelihood of being positive.
Lack of general knowledge of adoption
I am the first to admit that had I not been party to the adoption process in the manner that I have, I would in all likelihood be as ill-informed as the rest of the UK public. This is not to say people don’t care; it is simply a lack of understanding of UK adoption and its peripheral topics.
The challenge I found was to explain a lot of our situation to people who had been misled or misinformed about what adoption entails.
I now choose my explanations carefully, more frequently opting for awkward silence than educating the other party.
The single biggest challenge in raising an adopted child in the UK is parenting a child with attachment issues, which invariably affects all adopted children to some degree.
Trauma and loss are big parts of adoption, and this often leads to children who have a more difficult time forming relationships and attachments to key figures in their life – their parents.
A great deal of the preparation is planning for this kind of parenting, and I would encourage anyone starting the adoption process to educate themselves on attachment theory and related discussion points.
Behaviour of adopted children
There is an abhorrent misconception that children are placed in the care system because they are bad. Adopted children do often present challenging behaviour, but it is often a symptom of their trauma and suffering.
What I am talking about is not ‘challenging behaviour’; it is the multi layered lens that we, as adoptive parents, view the behaviour of our children.
For example, my son goes through spates of waking up in the middle of the night screaming.
- Is this normal toddler behaviour?
- Was it a bad dream?
- Is he too hot?
- Is it a reaction to a past trauma?
Adoptive parents always have that extra question to ask when trying to decipher the little idiosyncrasies in their own children. Over time we will learn, but when the child is first placed, it can spell an anxious time.
Food related anxiety
As well as attachment, food anxiety is a common issue for adopted children and parents. Issues with food manifest themselves in a variety of ways, but it is often linked to irregular feeding when the child was young.
Meal times can be very challenging for parents, and so before placement, they are advised to fully prepare for difficult meal times.
Rejection from the child/Jealousy
One of my biggest fears is the continued communication with my son about his early life. We are committed to being honest and open with him and ensuring he has a full comprehension of his identity (as far as we possibly can.)
This doesn’t stop the fear of how he will feel, and how we will feel when he is at the age to fully understand what has happened. I have promised to be as proactive as is necessary when it comes to exploring his feelings around his birth family. I can only hope that I will not feel rejected if his curiosity is as strong as I think it will be.
What challenges have you faced as an adoptive parent? What is your advice?
If you have had any challenging experience during the UK adoption process, I would love to hear from you, please comment below.