Monday, 30 April 2012

An insight into adopting a child with disabilities

I thought long and hard before deciding to write this story. We're just an ordinary family of six, who, like thousands of others, happen to have a child with disabilities. And he just happens to be adopted. There are thousands of children in the UK waiting for adoption, and many will never be placed with families. I hope that by sharing our experience we may be able to offer a bit of practical advice and insight to others who might be thinking of adoption, and in particular if they are thinking of adopting a child with disabilities.

The decision to adopt, or even to make that first phone call, isn’t at all straightforward. It's the beginning of a mystery tour…an unknown journey. We thought a lot about the sort of child that would fit in best with our family. We ended up thinking that a child with mild disabilities might be the best fit. Of course, the term "mild disability" is a bit elastic. William, who we eventually adopted, has cerebral palsy. He is more physically disabled than we'd envisaged and we think that he may never be able to walk.

When he joined us it was a bit like being parents for the first time again – having a being who is totally dependent on you, despite your utter lack of experience and skills. William didn't come with an instruction manual. There was lots of information about his background and the nature of his disability, and there were lists of the routines he was used to, the things he would eat, and his bedtime rituals. We've had to put our own unwritten manual together about how to fully care for him as we've gone along, and as we have got to know William and grown to love and understand him.

William has enriched us and our other children. We re-read his early life history the other day: his premature birth and subsequent withdrawal from opiates as a result of his birth mother's drug addiction; periods alone in hospital; nine different care arrangements in the first six months of his life; the overwhelming grief he went through when he came to live with us and had to leave his foster carers; the struggle to find his sense of self in the light of being unwanted by his birth family; coming to terms with being a wheelchair user. And if that wasn't enough, it was then discovered that he had a visual impairment, he developed migraines and he was shunned by other children when he desperately wanted their friendship. Given all this, it is remarkable that he's as cheerful, loving and courageous as he is, and that he shows no shred of self-pity. He can light up a room with his infectious love of life. It is a privilege and joy to be his parents.

Robert and Evie, along with their three birth children, adopted William, a little boy with cerebral palsy. You can read more about their life together in The Family Business.

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