Early Permanence And Adoption: ‘We Feel So Lucky’

'Meeting my adopted daughter’s birth grandmother and sister for the first time was a special and emotional day.'

early permanence adoption

by *Frankie |
Published on

For National Adoption Week, single adoptive mum Frankie shares her journey to becoming a parent.

Adoption was something I’d been exploring as a single person for several years. But it was in 2019 that I first came across something called ‘early permanence’ and felt strongly it was something I wanted to do. These placements, pioneered by adoption agency Coram, enable babies and young children to be placed with carers who are approved to adopt them later, if the courts decide they cannot be cared for permanently by their birth family.

I was instantly drawn to its benefits. The court process takes a long time and so it’s a good idea for younger children to be able to bond with a family who may then go on to become their permanent parents. It reduces disruption and gives them stability.

Of course, the process is hard. You have to talk through all of the possible challenges and it’s essential to be prepared. I was never swayed to change my mind though, I knew I definitely wanted to do it, despite the possible risk of a child being returned to birth family.

I started the training process with Coram in 2020. You are trained to be an adopter but also receive intensive training and support for the process of being a foster carer. This involves working with social workers and professionals in the child’s life, having contact meetings with the child’s birth family, and being prepared to manage a return of the child to their birth family where this is the outcome.

I was approved as an early permanence carer later that year and a few months later I was told about Sophie, a three-month old baby. I tried not to get my hopes up in case things didn’t progress. But just a few days before Christmas, Sophie came to live with me.

Sophie hadn’t had much stimulation and everything was overwhelming for her, it was a big change to be in such a different environment. But our bond felt immediate. I’d been preparing myself for the challenges so was surprised by how positive it felt. Even if I wouldn’t go on to become her adoptive mum, I knew how much she needed to be loved.

In my training I learned about managing contact with birth family members. Contact with Sophie’s birth parents was not possible, however contact meetings - online due to the covid restrictions at that time - were arranged with Sophie’s maternal grandmother, Denise, and Sophie’s older sister Olivia.

Olivia is cared for by her grandparents through special guardianship and it had been a very tough decision for them when Sophie was born as to whether they would also be able to look after Sophie too. They had wanted the sisters to stay together but decided that due to their age, they would struggle to give Sophie the best chance in life, and that it would give her more stability to live with another family.

I was terrified ahead of our first meeting. I wanted to prove that I would be good for Sophie, and I worried about being judged as a single parent. But it went much better than I’d imagined. Olivia was so excited to meet her little sister, and the conversation flowed easily, as we talked about Sophie’s progress and all the little things she has in common with her big sister.

Then in 2021, we met in person for the first time. It was a very special and emotional day. When she spotted Sophie, Olivia ran over to her squealing, examining her as if to check she was real. Denise and I were both in tears.

Six months later, the Adoption Order was granted, and I officially became Sophie’s adoptive mum. Usually meetings with birth family would taper off at this point, replaced by letterbox contact or annual contact, supervised by a social worker. But Denise and I were keen for contact to continue so we met with the social workers to set out a plan and agree some rules and expectations.

We’ve since met up several times and keep in touch with messages, sharing updates on the girls. It’s been lovely to watch the girls’ bond grow. Sophie’s grandparents were among the first people I told when she took her first steps and said her first word. They’ve told me how grateful they are to have her in their life.

Having a link with her sister and grandparents will also help Sophie with understanding her life story as she grows up. There will be less mystery for her or feel like a huge part of her identity is missing. These are many things that adopted people say they yearned for growing up. We feel so lucky – more people to love Sophie can only be a good thing.

Coram has worked with Early Permanence Carers for over 20 years, giving children stability at a time of uncertainty in their lives. Find out more at coramadoption.org.uk

All names have been changed.

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