Meet single adopter Jane

Establishing a support network

Single mum with her adopted daughter who has Down's SyndromeJane felt able to adopt on her own because of the strong support network around her. Part of a supportive church community, she also established a network of three close friends who would be there for her when she needed them. She was advised to establish these while continuing the assessment process as a single adopter.

“My ideal would have been to adopt with someone” Jane says. “There were definitely doubtful moments and worries, there still are, but a support network was really key, and so I felt like I was able to do it”.

With her family living far away, it was this support that became particularly valuable. “It meant that I saw someone every day during Holly’s first few days with me, but that she didn’t meet too many people in the early days while she was settling in”, she says. She also spoke to a friend who is also an adopter over the phone a lot when she was more housebound with Holly: “That was a really good way of managing it so it wasn’t overwhelming for Holly”.

Single adopters welcome

When looking into the adoption process as a single adopter, Jane was originally discouraged by the lack of focus on single adopters at information events. The presentations she watched focussed on planning around adoption as a couple, stressing how one would work and the other would be at home. Jane then describes an adoption information event she went to run by Coram: “It was completely different, and single adopters were spoken about in the main presentation. They had a break in the middle where you could talk to people, and look at books you’d want to read and talk to some of the other social workers…Right from the beginning I felt very accepted and supported”.

Wanting to adopt a very young child, Jane first heard about Holly a month after she was born, before she was an approved adopter. She had previously considered concurrent planning, but to her surprise she was put forward as an adopter, but not a concurrent carer. “In some ways that was the trickiest bit of the journey, I had spoken to someone in charge of concurrency and felt things were on track” Jane explains. Not being able to be a concurrent carer “was a blow as I particularly wanted a younger child…I had to re-think a lot at that point”.

Jane is now glad she went down the path that she did, being pleased that “there wasn’t that uncertainty” that concurrency can bring. But at the time Jane was left wondering “if I’d have to consider a five- or six-year-old which is very different”.

Adopting a child with additional needs

But Jane was notified about Holly, and was given a small amount of information, including her diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome. “I remember feeling excited” Jane says but also wary because it was the first child she had heard about. Things she did while making her decision included speaking with the Down’s Syndrome Association, learning more about the condition and going to a local support group. She was advised on what the child’s needs could be, and how she would need to be a strong advocate for her education which could be more complicated. Working in education herself though, Jane was not fazed by this.

Jane had also been talking to single adopter of a child with Down’s Syndrome, with whom she was put in touch with before she knew about Holly. “The first time I spoke to her I thought ‘I really can’t do this’” Jane recalls. But as she received more information about Holly, she became more confident. “It was gradual in thinking this is the right child for me”, she says on the process.

The support of her Coram social worker was also incredibly helpful. “Nothing was too much trouble” she says, “there were lots of things I needed my social worker to chase on my behalf.”

Getting to know Holly

Looking back on the adoption and assessment process, Jane says that the hardest part was the early meetings and introductions. She recalls the driving, the amount of people around during the meetings.  Holly had only been with one foster family and was very settled, the couple having had over 40 years of foster care experience. They are absolutely lovely, but there’s still a sense of being watched while you begin to get to know a child you only really know 'on paper'. She says she remembers thinking: ‘this is my child, but I don’t know her at all’. Equally, when Holly first left her foster family and came to live in her new home, it was a ‘momentous’ and happy time, but also an anxious one. Likewise, the transition was an emotional one for the foster carers, as they said goodbye. One big positive was that Jane also had extra  support from her church community, which comes together to cook two weeks’ worth of meals when someone becomes a new parent.

Jane’s life is now very different compared to when she was not a mother, and her perspective on elements of her life has changed. “There’s been a lot more balancing, but that’s been a positive in some ways” she says, “A lot of my focus used to be on work, and I only needed to plan my social life around myself, but you can’t do that anymore”.

Managing the adoption process as a single adopter

On advice she would give to other single adopters, she reiterated the importance of establishing a support network: “Have a range of different people so you’re not always calling on the same person “she says. One friend for example she knew she could call before an unexpected late night trip to A&E with Holly. Also planning is of huge importance, whether it is finances, work leave, or where to buy your cot and buggy. Another key piece of advice is simply just to keep going throughout the process: “persevering, you’ve got to do all that planning yourself while the assessment phase is going on, lots of meetings, health check, writing about your own experiences of parenting and how that will affect how you parent…at times you can get a bit lost in the process…There were a lot of evenings after work it would have been nice to relax, but actually I had to work on this, because I had a meeting with a social worker the next day”.

How Coram helps

After the challenging process, Jane now says looking back it was ‘really worth it’, and says the process has been "really wonderful with its hard moments". Today, she still feels supported by Coram, and is still in touch with her Coram social worker and a family she met at Coram’s adoption training. Her social worker has pointed her in the direction of post-adoption support too if she should need it. “I know who I can go to if there are issues in the future”, Jane says. “Coram have been fantastic every step of the way”.

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 Case studies are real but names are changed and models used to protect confidentiality