Hope*, 44, and her husband Nigel*, 46, adopted sisters Summer* and Rachel* through PACT in October 2015. Summer was just under two-and-a-half years old and Rachel was 16 months old.
The couple, who had always wanted children, hadn’t been able to conceive naturally and had just started fertility investigations when Hope was diagnosed with breast cancer. After successful treatment for cancer and two unsuccessful attempts to become pregnant using embryos which had been frozen before chemotherapy, the couple contacted PACT about adoption. They were advised to wait six months following their last fertility treatment, and as soon as they could after that, they attended an information event and started the process of adopting with PACT.
A registered nurse, Hope said she found the adoption process much harder than she expected but that their PACT social worker had been fantastically supportive and had “empowered” them throughout.
“Every day I do assessments with people to get their histories so as far as I was concerned it was in the bag, I thought I knew what to expect and the kinds of questions we’d get asked and why. But when it’s you sitting there telling someone everything about you, it was just the strangest thing. It was actually really cathartic but just something that nothing or no-one can really prepare you for.”
After being approved for adoption, Hope, who is Black British with a Guyanese/Jamaican family heritage, and Nigel, who was born in Jamaica, were matched with Summer and Rachel, who are of Caribbean family heritage.
Hope said meeting the girls for the first time was an amazing experience.
“I had thought they might take a while to get used to us, but they ran up calling us Mummy and Daddy. There was this moment of realisation that this is really happening.”
Following a week of getting to know Summer and Rachel and taking over their care from their foster family, the girls moved in with them.
“Suddenly it was just the four of us. I remember Nigel and I just looked at each other – it was overwhelming, we were both so excited but also so nervous.”
Hope, who took a year off work, said it was a steep learning curve, but that the girls settled really well.
“We were really lucky, the girls took to us and their new home immediately. All the preparation work and transition went really well and they could just get on with being children.
“The only real issue we had was over food. We did have at least six months of buying tinned ravioli and macaroni cheese, which at the time I did find heart breaking. Now the girls come home and ask for rice and peas and chicken so it is much better.”
Hope said she felt that identity should be given careful consideration when matching children with adoptive parents. Her girls now attend a local school where there is a mix of cultures and ethnicities.
“I am black and grew up in this county but I went to a school where I was one of only four black children and I vividly remember feeling that there is no-one else here who looks like me, which is not nice especially when you’re 11 or 12 and you don’t want to be different from your friends.
“My parents were really proud of who they are and where they came from, and they raised us in a way that made identity important so very quickly I learned to be proud of who I was.
“I just think that in their lives my girls will have 101 extra things to deal with because they are adopted so if issues over identity can be minimised, then that can only be a positive thing. For me I am absolutely determined to do what I can to make my girls proud of who they are, and I know I can help them with that.”
*Names changed in line with confidentiality