It’s National Adoption Week

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“It felt like it was the right thing to do even if it was not the easiest option!

This is one Adoption UK member’s response to the question ‘Too old at 4?’- posed by this year’s National Adoption Week, which runs until Sunday.

Anne Lakin adopted two siblings, a boy and a girl, who were aged six and seven when they were placed with her 12 years ago.

Anne, from Belfast, said: “I knew most people wanted to adopt babies and there were a lot of older children who desperately needed a family. I’m a teacher so I knew just how young, underdeveloped and vulnerable children, especially those aged between four and seven, could be. I also knew how even traumatised children could respond to care and attention.”

When Anne’s social worker showed her the profile of the siblings, who would later become her son and daughter, she says she “made a connection” straight away.

She said: “It was one of those moments that you hear about – we thought they’d fit into our family”.

Anne describes the first six months of her new family as “absolutely wonderful”.

She said: “It was the loveliest experience of my life. There were some struggles but both children fitted in quite well to school, extended family and community”.

“My fondest memories are being physically close to the children, feeling their affections, holding them and being able to talk to them.”

Older children waiting to be adopted are often likely to be in sibling groups or to have additional needs and there is currently a shortage of adoptive parents coming forward for these children.

Approximately a quarter of the 76 children who were adopted in Northern Ireland last year (April 14-March 15) were aged four or older.

Anne had first considered adopting as a single person, when she was in her early 30s. But it wasn’t until she was married and in her late 30s that she embarked on her adoption journey.

“I knew I was unlikely to have my own children so I went ahead with it,” Anne explained.

“The more I found out the more I realised I should be open-minded about adopting an older child.”

Anne believes some prospective adopters may be put off adopting an older child as they will miss out on some parenting experiences, usually associated with younger children.

“This wasn’t the case with our children though as there were many things they hadn’t experienced as young children,” Anne explained. “They’d never been taught to play in water as they’d never been to a swimming pool, or in the sea, so we were able to re-parent them and enjoy activities with them for the first time.”

Anne, who is a special school teacher and a support worker for Adoption UK, continued: “Adopting older children does not always appear to be the easiest route but the best thing to do is to find the best match for you.”

Hugh Thornbery, Chief Executive of Adoption UK, said: “We believe all children can enjoy positive futures. Parenting adopted children can be both challenging and rewarding and assistance should be available to all adoptive families who need it to ensure that no adoption breaks down due to lack of support. We are here to provide help, information and support to adoptive families, those in the process of adopting and those who work with adopted children.”

Una Carragher, Manager of HSC Regional Adoption and Fostering Service said, “We are delighted to be co-launching National Adoption Week with Adoption UK. We hope the question “Too old at 4?” will raise awareness of the need for more adopters for children aged four and over, who we know wait longer for adopters. We work closely with the five HSC Trusts to recruit, support and provide learning and development opportunities for adoptive families in Northern Ireland. ”

HSC Regional Adoption and Fostering Service commission training on behalf of the five HSC Trusts which is delivered by Adoption UK. Pre and post adoptive training helps to equip adopters with a range of techniques and skills to deal with whatever issues may arise when welcoming an adopted child into their family.

Adoption UK will be hosting an Information Day at Belfast’s Crescent Arts Centre on University Road from 3pm until 5pm on Sunday 25th October.

Judith Linton, Adoption UK’s Development Manager Northern Ireland, said: “It’s an open afternoon so members of the public can come along to hear the positive experiences of adoptive parents and those of young people who were adopted. It’s a great opportunity to find out a wee bit more about the realities of adoption.”

For more information about the Information Day email tracey@adoptionuk.org.uk