When Jane* and Mark* began the long road to adopting James*, they knew it was going to be challenging. Having reached a point in their lives when they accepted they were not able to have children themselves, they knew that God hadn’t given them parenting hearts for nothing, which gave them the courage to keep going.

In this, National Adoption Week, we spoke to Jane who works in the diocese about the journey, the joy and the heartache of adoption.

The adoption process

There are a lot of forms, meetings, intimidating panels and assessments. There are even more tears, frustrations and expectant joy. “It was an arduous process,” says Jane. “But it has to be. Because our heart was to adopt a slightly older child, we knew that the child would, in all likelihood, come with multiple issues, anxieties and a potentially distressing history. If we were going to be a positive force in his or her life, we had to know that we were up to the task.” In fact, Jane and Mark wanted to adopt siblings but, because of Jane’s ongoing health issues, they were told it would only be possible to adopt one child. That was difficult, explains Jane, but they knew by this time that they were approved to adopt one child.

“We were also reassured to know that our Christian faith was not a barrier to adoption. We were open about our faith, our hopes to bring up a child in a Christian household and the importance of the church in our lives. I’m happy to report that being a Christian isn’t a barrier to adoption!” says Jane.

The joy and anxiety of arrival

Happily, for Jane and Mark, James eventually came into their lives in 2015. “He was just five, lost, confused and hurting. We were aching with love for him and a desire to put him at the centre of our world. All the talks, preparations, assessments and theorising falls away when you’re faced with a young boy who needs a mum and a dad – but how do you do that?” asks Jane. As she says, you pick through all the information, talk to your social workers and support network and exercise wisdom, patience and determination. Plus constant prayers and God’s grace.

“This child is dropped into our world, and he has been taken out of his. That can be extremely difficult. We had a lot of help and our church family were brilliant. Slowly, things settled and James, who had been calling me Jane, or sometimes Mummy-Jane, just casually said “OK Mummy,” as he ran up the stairs to fetch something. If my heart hadn’t softened already, it was done for after that!”

Post-adoption support

All parents face challenges with their children and being an adoptive parent is no different, except the problems they encounter generally come from a place borne out of darker stuff that is hard to associate with the wonder and glory of a young child. “We have to be thoughtful and strategic. Being able to rely on post-adoption support, including an insightful child psychologist has been very helpful. They offer, and we’ve accepted, therapy, guidance and practical advice. It all helps us to better interpret James behaviour and not misinterpret, or read too much into it.

Often there would be triggers from his past that could spark something, we wouldn’t see them coming and nor would James – it could be something as commonplace as a smell. Having professional advice has been invaluable in coping with situations like that, as so easily damage can be done by a thoughtless word or dismissive action. We have had to help James value the positive elements of his past and carry them into his present and future life, but help him to deal with and ultimately discard the negative and damaging aspects. I’ve found myself having the type of conversation that you really shouldn’t be having with a little boy. It’s hard. But it’s very rewarding too.

Talking to Jane it’s obvious to see the joy that James brings to her and her husband’s life. She is pragmatic and realistic but the softness in her voice is that of a mother in love with her child.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity and privacy of the family.

Where to go if you are considering adoption

If you are considering adoption a good first step would be to get in touch with your local authority and go along to one of the open information evenings that they offer throughout the year. Cornwall Council’s Adoption Agency is where Jane and Mark started.

Home for Good, Jane says, were very helpful in the support they offer not just for those considering adoption or fostering, but for the wider church on how to support adoptive families.

For Adoption Week, Families for Children, an adoption agency based in the southwest and First4Adoption, have released research that shows that 57% of the children in the South West waiting for adoptive families are brothers and sisters. If you have a heart to adopt a small family, click on any of the links above to find out more.