A new Direction

How we became adoptive parents



Gary’s death left a great void in our hearts and our lives. While we were casting around for a new direction in which to channel our energies a friend suggested that we might like to try fostering handicapped children. After due consideration we concluded that short term fostering was not an option as we couldn’t bear the thought of children coming and going, but we thought we could probably manage to look after a child on a more permanent basis.  Barnados New Families Fostering and Adoption Agency welcomed us with open arms when they  heard of the extent of our knowledge and experience. They accepted us as potential foster parents and took us through a long and comprehensive assessment procedure which left us feeling as though we had been turned inside out and left that way. At first it wasn’t easy giving the social worker access to our innermost feelings but we gradually began to put our trust in her and talk to her freely.


Assessment and Compatibility


The assessment process was designed to find out whether we were emotionally fit to look after a child of other parents, particularly one with severe and complex special needs, and that we weren’t just looking for a replacement for our own son. Our family history and individual characters were thoroughly examined. Religious and racist opinions and views on bringing up children were questioned. Our sons and daughter were interviewed about their feelings on someone else’s child coming into the family and how it would affect them. They each thought that we should be taking things easy after having had such a hard life bringing up their handicapped brother. Independently of each other they said that the final decision was ours alone and the boys in particular made it clear that they weren’t prepared to be involved with another child’s upbringing. On the day we were passed by the adoption panel there was great rejoicing between Jack, Lynn and I. Together we looked through two big books called Be My Parent and eventually made a list of the children whose details matched our requirements and these were compared with the social worker’s opinion and knowledge of the children’s and our own compatibility.




When we first heard about Stephen we were very uncertain, but the social worker had a strong feeling about him. On our initial visit to his Barnados home nobody expected Stephen to acknowledge us due to his natural disinclination to go to strangers. We were happy, therefore, to watch him while gleaning some information about his special needs from his key worker. She explained that at the age of two years five months Stephen suffered a bout of status epilepsy which caused severe neurological damage leaving him with no speech, limited cognition, unable to use his right hand and affecting his vision on the right side. After wandering past us a number of times, casting sideways glances at us, Stephen surprised and moved everyone by approaching Jack and staying within the circle of his arms. Because Jack did not touch him he stayed for quite a while. It was, and is, important to let Stephen do the touching.  From then on Stephen gave out strong indications of attachment to us. The assessment and transition processes were hurried along because he displayed great distress when taken back to the home after being with us. We, in our turn, liked him a lot and have since grown to love him very much.  At this point in time, 22 years on, we know that we gave him the right emotional and practical support through adolescence into adulthood thereby enabling him to move on to independent living in the community.



Page 5


Stephen aged 8

Stephen aged 28