It is often with sadness children are given up for adoption, but it can result in happiness in equal measure.
In West Sussex there are about 50 adopters needed each year to meet the growing number of children going through the adoption process.
Acting adoption team manager at West Sussex County Council Melissa Paton explained the focus for this year’s National Adoption Week.
She said: “We are looking for parents for sibling groups and children who are older - four plus. It’s those children who can often stay in care longer than single children.
“We want to encourage people to come forward who would consider keeping brothers and sisters together. In most cases it is in the best interests of the children to stay together.
“There is a shortage, but we don’t want that shortage to be the reason they are separated.”
She added: “It can be a challenge, but children have such a special relationship and bond that they can settle in quicker, they keep each other entertained.
“They are survivors of their story. They know what each other’s going through.
“Parents can complete their family sooner and don’t have to go through the adoption process again.”
She explained there were also advantages to adopting older children.
“It depends where you are coming from. A lot of families who have gone through IVF want children as young as possible to nurture. It depends what people’s motives are.
“For older children you are parenting children who have established personalities which may be different to those of the new family.
“Teachers are often good at that - managing different personalities and different needs.
“People who want a challenge, who may have parented already, they know from their own experience they are good at it.”
She said the subject can be clouded by horror stories, but that need not be the case.
“I think it’s trying to see past the horror stories and look at the rewards this can provide a child.
“It may be a simple as encouraging a good sleep pattern. They may have had disrupted sleep due to arguments.
“For children who have experienced neglect - they need someone who has got the patience to help them with their homework, to stimulate them.
“Someone who enjoys walking to educate a child about nature when they don’t even know they are learning. It’s that kind of thing we are looking for.
“It’s accepting this child comes with an identity, experiences and a background that includes and involves a birth family and to embrace that.”
The process of adoption can been a long one. Melissa urged people to not lose hope through that time.
You must be 21 and not have any convictions against children, but most people could be eligible.
Melissa explained: “The council is always wanting to rule people in rather than out. Adoption is not right for every family.
“The reason you are ruled out) could be things like if you are still going through IVF treatment. You need to concentrate on one or the other.
“If you smoke and want to adopt an under five-year-old there are health implications for a child.
“The Government has said anyone can adopt. That’s true, but we need to make sure people have the right skills and circumstances in their lives to enable that to happen.”
Adoptive parent Andrea has worked for the council’s adoption service for ten months and has two children after contracting cervical cancer. She and her husband deliberated for seven years before making an inquiry.
She said: “Going through the process was very long and arduous - a process which thankfully takes far less time nowadays. We attended a preparation course, which was invaluable. Our lives were scrutinised by our social worker and we attended panel - the most intimidating interview of our lives.
“We had medicals, our finances were examined and our patience was tested. But of course it was worth it.
“Our daughter was two and a half when she moved in. Old enough to understand what was going on but not old enough to understand why.
“She was quite a bit older than what we had originally discussed. We had imagined bringing a baby in to our lives.
“And it did possibly take a little longer for us all to attach and bond with each other due to her age. But when we did she just became a part of us.”
two beautiful children
They adopted their son four years later.
Andrea said: “He was 13 months old at the time and no relation to our daughter. They are of course now brother and sister - arguing one minute, the best of friends the next.
“I work for adoption services helping new prospective adopters. I only have my own experiences to draw on and each family will have their own unique stories, like any family with birth children.
“However, I have gone through the adoption process and come out the other side with two beautiful, cheeky children, who push all the boundaries, make loads of mess, give the best ever cuddles and call me ‘mummy’. And if you didn’t know they were adopted, you would never be able to tell.”
Whatever the circumstances of the adoption, there is support throughout and beyond the application process.
At the start of the placement there is a 16-week ‘theraplay’ course - a special type of play which helps children develop a parental bond with their new family.
The support continues until the age of 18 as the family needs it.
Melissa said: “One of the most informative aspects of the support service, should you need help, is with education, behavioural issues, if your circumstances change in relationships to employment.
“We are here to alleviate some of those additional stresses of raising a family in any sense. We have a duty of care to our adopted children. We want to make the situation as easy as possible.”
Later on in the adoption process the council also supports people looking for their birth families. There is an officer dedicated to carrying out the ‘long-lost family’ work.
Melissa said: “She supports people who wish to meet their families and read their adoption files. Children have life story books.
“They can read about the histories at age appropriate time, so it’s not such a shock. They can ask questions to make sense of their histories.”