Plea to give a child a forever homePublished Tuesday, 18th October 2016
This week is National Adoption Week and the Council is urging those considering adoption to give them a call and start the process today. Read Helen's story...
With more than 450 children in care in Rotherham, prospective parents are being urged to help change some of these children's futures forever by adopting them.
Children come in to care for a variety of reasons – from an illness or crisis in the family to the horrible reality that they are at risk of abuse or neglect.
Wherever possible, and when it is safe to do so, social care staff try to keep children with their birth families – even if this takes days, months or years.
However, for some children it will never be possible for them to return to their birth families. Instead they will be considered for adoption or long-term fostering.
These children come into the care of Rotherham Council whose job it is to make sure they are given every chance possible to be adopted. This week is National Adoption Week and the Council is urging those considering adoption to give them a call and start the process today.
The Council has children of all ages needing a permanent home, including babies, sibling groups and children with disabilities.
Helen from Wickersley knows all too well what it is means to take the plunge and adopt a child needing a forever home.
Years of fertility treatment finally led to the birth of her first child with her first husband, but after they divorced, the heartache of not being able to conceive naturally happened again with her second husband.
The couple, who work in Sheffield, finally decided to think about adoption and began the process with Rotherham Council.
"I was 36 at the time and desperate for another child,"said Helen. "But this was eight years ago and the adoption procedure was the old process, which thankfully no longer exists. Each area from visiting, social work meetings and training took a long time and happened consecutively, now with adoption everything is much quicker and happens in around nine months if there are no delays from the family, as the training, visits and court hearings happen at the same time."
Her search started in 2008 and they began finalising the adoption process in 2011, officially adopting their baby daughter in February 2012. Jenny* was 10 months old when they adopted her, she is now a bright and bubbly five year old, happily living with the family in Rotherham with her older sister …and her younger brother as well.
Helen and her husband Nick* were lucky enough to be able to adopt Jenny's full sibling Jack* through an Early Permanence Plan at Rotherham Council in 2014. This is where children are placed with adopters who initially foster the child and may become their adopters once the court proceedings have concluded.
However, they only found out they may have the chance of adopting Jack just two weeks before he was due to be born, as it became apparent his birth parents would not be able to look after him. This was a bit of a shock to Helen, who had thought she had completed her family after adopting Jenny. "Once we found out there was a possibility of adopting him it really wasn't a difficult decision at all to decide to take this baby as well,"added Helen. "We were being given the opportunity to bring together two siblings and build the right family for them and we knew it was the right decision for the future of both the children. In fact it was not even a decision; my heart knew it was right."
As soon as she had the phone call, preparation began for them to be able to take Jack in under a fostering arrangement and eight weeks later after DBS checks and getting the cot in place, Helen had Jack in her arms.
In October 2014 the process began for them to adopt Jack and it was official in February last year.
"The difference between early permanence and adoption is that you get to know your child quicker and the bonding and attachment process is much easier and smoother – mainly because you are handed a new born baby," added Helen. "However, there was a big difference with the court proceedings – when we were adopting Jenny we weren't really aware of the other challenges and discussions going on, just focussing on our part of the journey, but with early permanence we were aware of the other parents and family members being put forward to adopt, which can be quite daunting until the papers come through. But Rotherham Council's adoption team were great and helped us through the whole process, being with us through each stage until he was finally ours."
Helen has had such a great experience adopting with Rotherham Council she is this week holding a special session at her work in Sheffield to encourage other people to think about adoption. "Some people may not have thought about it before," said Helen, "But rather than being passive and waiting for people to come to the Council I have decided to put the thought into people's heads first. Adoption is without doubt one of the best things I have ever done and I know it could be the same for other people out there too. Adoption makes all the difference to a child but also makes a difference to parents as well."
Children coming into care may not have had the same chances as other children, largely due to neglect or abuse, and they may be behind their peers in terms of emotional, educational and social development. Some children will have specific learning and physical disabilities or health problems.
Rotherham Council provides an on-going programme of training to help adopters improve their skills and understanding of these children in their care.
Cllr Gordon Watson, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children and Young People's Services at Rotherham Council said: "Having a child is a gift and something to be treasured, but some children are not lucky enough to be born into families where they are put first in this way. That is why it is imperative we do all we can for the children who come into our care to put this right and try and give them the families they deserve to have. I would urge anyone thinking of adopting to pick up the phone and give us a call so we can change the lives of the young children we are currently caring for."
Anyone interested in adopting should contact Rotherham Council's adoption team.
All names marked with * have been changed to protect the children's identity.