There are currently 30 children in need of adoptive parents in the Western Trust Area alone. To mark National Adoption Week, Journal reporter CLAIRE ALLAN spoke with two local families who have undergone the adoption process to become proud parents
Derry couple James and Orlaith had always considered adopting a child at some stage in their lives. “My parents had been foster carers and I could see the benefit of adoption, so it was something we talked about from early on in our relationship,” James explained. However neither James nor Orlaith evisaged that one day they would be in the position where adoption was their only choice when it came to starting a family.
“We had gone down all other routes to have children and were left with adoption as our only option,” Orlaith said. So eight years after they were married, and after years of heartache, the couple decided to approach the Western Trust for information on adoption.
“At the same time we were looking at intra-country adoption. It sounds strange now but we thought by going down that road we might have more of a chance of getting a younger child - but when we spoke to the Trust, and read the stories of the local children who were in need of a home we just felt it would be right to look for a child closer to home even if it meant they would be that bit older when we got them.
“It just felt right,” Orlaith explained.
So the pair began the process with the Western Trust in 2006 and went through the assessment and training programme before being asked if they wanted to be considered for dual approval - which would mean approval to both foster and adopt.
“We had to think about that,” James explained. “Having seen how hard it is when a long term fostered child goes back we had to think very seriously about what we would be able to manage. Would we be able to take on a child knowing that there was even a slight possibility we would have to give him or her back.”
Both Orlaith and James said that throughout the process, when they had these tough decisions to make, they had the support of their social worker and the adoption team at the Trust.
“The process was long, and some times it was tough - but to be honest, it was worth it. We just tried to stay focused on what we were aiming for and that helped.”
The couple decided to opt for dual approval and within a year of their initial application they had the approval they had been longing for. But they found they still had to undergo more waiting.
“It just felt like we were plodding along, waiting for news,” Orlaith said, until the couple received a call in October to come and see the Trust.
“We were all called in and told that there were no children available for adoption locally - that judges in the family courts were less likely to free children for adoption and that we could face a wait of up to five years.”
The couple were left devastated, and having to reassess their options again. Once again they looked at adopting a child from another country but the pair said the process just did “not feel right”.
“We resigned ourselves, pretty much, to a childless life,” Orlaith said - but fate was to have another trick up her sleeve and just four weeks later they received a call about a two year old boy who needed to be placed.
“We just couldn’t get our heads around it,” James it. “We felt every emotion - excitement and panic. I suppose the same emotions all new parents go through but without the nine months to prepare ourselves.”
Because of the Christmas season, the couple waited till the new year to meet their son, Ben.
“As soon as we saw his picture it felt real - it just slotted into place. It was amazing.”
On their first meeting with Ben, Orlaith said her heart lept when the toddler referred to James as Daddy - having been prepared for the transition by his foster carers. “It took me a moment to realise who he was talking about but it was just amazing.”
Ben moved in with his new family just 11 days after their first meeting and has settled beautifully into family life. Earlier this year Orlaith and James’ family was completed when they got a call about another child who available for adoption - Ben’s biological brother.
Within weeks, the couple welcomed baby Matthew into their home.
“Three years ago we could never have dreamed we would be in this position,” Orlaith said. “At times it was very hard - the legal process could be very frustrating. But the day when the adoption order was granted for Ben - that was just amazing. And now we have our two boys.”
Limavady couple Wendy and Peter also went down the adoption route to become parents. The couple, who adopted brothers seven years ago, say their experience has been exceptionally positive and they would urge anyone who wants to adopt to look into their options.
Wendy said when the couple, who have no other children, decided to adopt they approached a number of agencies and eventually attended an information evening run by the Family Care Society in Derry.
“We just decided to try and find out what information we could and immediately we felt at ease with the Family Care Society.” Having left their initial meeting feeling positive, Wendy and Peter decided to approach the society and express their interest in beginning the formal process.
“We talked things through with a social worker. They had to assess whether we were suitable as parents and explain the process to us. Even though we were told from the start that we were unlikely to adopt a baby, we realised there were children out there who needed good homes and we could provide them with that security.”
The couple went through two years of training and assessments - a process which Wendy says did feel ‘never ending’ at times. “We realised everything they were doing was for the good of the child. You just have to keep that in your mind the whole time - and don’t give up. If you want it enough, keep going and think of the end goal.”
For Wendy and Peter that end goal was their sons, brothers Aidan and Jack who were just 5 and 6 at the time of their adoption.
“That first time we met them - that was really emotional. We were so nervous when we went to see them but they were so excited. They had been well prepared and they were delighted to us,”
The couple built up contact with their children over two weeks before the boys eventually came to live in their new home.
“That was a brilliant feeling. To have them home and for them to call us mammy and daddy for the first time. We have never looked back.”
To find out more about adoption locally you can contact the Family Care Society on 028 71 368592 or the Western Trust by calling Catherine McKevitt, Social Work Manager Adoption on T: 028 71314226 or Sandra Farrell, Social Work Manager Adoption on T: 028 82835115.