National Adoption Week 2017 (October 16th-22nd) focused on adopting siblings. There are thousands of adorable little sibling groups waiting for their forever parents to come along, yet siblings are far more difficult place with adoptive families than individual children.
Back when we were negotiating the adoption assessment process, Tom and I made a conscious decision to adopt siblings and in particular sibling brothers. Looking back over our experiences as parents so far, adopting two brothers was the best thing that we’ve ever done. So naturally I jumped at the chance to contribute a guest blog post to adoption charity First4Adoption about siblings to do my bit for National Adoption Week 2017.
Here, in our guest blog post for First4Adoption, we reflect on some of the preconceptions that we had leading up to our placement with Lyall and Richard… (by the way, you can read the original article and other fascinating adopters’ experiences by clicking here).
Did you know that over half of the thousands of children who are waiting for adoptive parents are part of a sibling group?
Tom and I knew that we wanted to have two or more children right from the start. We already had some experience with our nephews, Samuel and Finley, who used to stay with us during the holidays when they were tiny. I have a sister and Tom has a brother and two sisters so we were ourselves brought up as part of sibling groups, along with all the fun, frolics and squabbles that siblings enjoy.
Now that we’ve been a family for almost four years, I’ll reflect on a few of the preconceptions and concerns about adopting siblings that Tom and I had during our adoption process.
Does an adoptive parent of siblings need any special qualities?
Adoptive parents need to be resilient, caring and well-organised (at least most of the time). In my opinion, parents of siblings require extra diplomacy and patience to negotiate the squabbles.
Siblings (in particular our sons) are in perpetual competition with each other. Rich and Lyall are very close in age and ability and will squabble over everything: who has the most rice-krispies, who’s lost the most teeth, who’s seen the road sign for the town centre first, who’s faster at blinking. They have been known to compete over the longest wee. Put simply, the boys like to squabble and compete.
Parents can either ignore the relentless squabbling or assume the role of referee, providing praise without encouraging a second round. It’s a dark art. Tom and I tend to fall somewhere in the middle between referee and passive onlooker, with added humour where possible. We’ve almost mastered the skill of intervening just at the pivotal moment between niggle and full-on combat.
We find that when we provide separate activities for the boys during their spare time, they develop their own unique interests and tend to compete a little more productively.
How much space do siblings need?
Tom and I live in a humble three-bed detached house in a city suburb. Prior to the arrival of our boys, we were encouraged to have Rich and Lyall share the larger second bedroom, to provide consistency and company at bedtime.
In their penultimate temporary home, the boys had their own bedrooms and started to gather their own belongings, decorations and, well, junk (for lack of a better word). Lyall loves football – football calendars, posters, trophies, posters and flags. Meanwhile, Richard loves Justin Bieber, trees and giraffes – much more to my taste admittedly. So when the boys arrived, we quickly decided that they would have their own bedrooms, with room to store their belongings and develop their own style.
It turned out that separate bedrooms work nicely for Rich and Lyall; in the early days when they were little we could stagger their bath/bedtimes, and now that they’re a bit older they can choose their own posters and decorate their bookshelves with books, models and trophies.
At the risk of losing our living room and dining room to toys and kids’ stuff, we decided to restrict all toys and games to the conservatory (a previously vacant godsend) so that we still have some grown-up space in which to enjoy a nice glass of wine without the risk of stepping on Lego bricks.
Is the process of adopting siblings longer?
We adopted our boys in early 2014 after an 18-month application journey. Our adoption process was a little longer than average as there were a couple of legal hoops to negotiate after the boys had been matched with us. However, with the support of our social worker from Adoption Focus, we persevered and everything worked out perfectly well.
Despite taking a little longer than usual in our case, the process for adopting siblings is the same length as the process for adopting an individual child. I’m not sure how the new streamlined process works precisely, but I would allow 18 months from your enquiry to actual placement. The time flies, and it allows you to enjoy some of the luxuries that you’re going to be enjoying less often once kids are placed – a quiet bath, late nights out, spontaneous hotel stays, expensive breakfast cereal and cheap term-time holidays, for example.
What are the main advantages to adopting siblings?
Firstly, stability. When adopted children first arrive, they are very homesick and disorientated. Bedtime is particularly difficult for adopted children as they miss their previous carers and their friends.
Despite their squabbles, siblings are a huge comfort to one another during times of change and upheaval. In the early days of their placement, Rich and Lyall supported each other in subtle ways: a hand on a shoulder, a reassuring nudge or a thoughtful offer of a familiar cuddly toy.
Secondly, siblings provide variety. Our boys are different in almost every possible way (except for their looks – people always assume that they’re twins, much to Lyall’s irritation as the older one). Their unique interests and personalities provide Tom and me with myriad new experiences and an opportunity to develop a unique relationship with Lyall and Rich independently.
For instance, I go to football practice on Saturdays with Lyall while Tom does a spot of gardening or washes the car with Rich, and then we all get the park-and-ride into the city for shopping and tea. Some weekends I visit my Grandma in Weymouth with Rich, while Tom takes Lyall to a sporting event or to get his hair styled at the barbers. The sibling family dynamic works fantastically well.
Should you adopt siblings?
Tom and I have had the time of our lives through all the ups and downs with our adopted siblings, and we’d recommend that you consider siblings when you are family finding.
Siblings provide a huge amount of fun, support and familiarity for each other and, most importantly, twice (or more!) the love and cuddles.