Adoption support - were we expecting too much?

Diagrama adopters David and Rachel* share their thoughts on their expectations and experience of support when they adopted their two young children.
Grandparents can play a vital role in supporting adopters

One of the first things we had to do when we embarked on our adoption journey in Stage 1 was to complete an eco map detailing all the people we had available to support us in different ways. It is quite interesting now to look back after placement to see how this compares with the reality of our support network after a challenging year. 

We named 17 families/people as our support. These were mostly best friends and family but also work colleagues etc. Only two of these have actually looked after the children for us at all, and one of those was only once.

The others are grandparents who have provided vital support since day 1 - when we returned home with the children and found that they could not wait for us to cook dinner (it had to be instantly ready), they brought around several days worth of home cooked dinners which just needed heating, and a microwave. It took about six months before our children were ready to be left with anyone but, since then, they have helped whenever they can, enabling us to get to important meetings and occasionally have a rest for a few hours.

We could really do with more people able to offer this type of support as it's vital. With two pre-school children with minimal nursery time it has been quite relentless. 

Of the others, many have provided other support such as sounding boards or providing advice, but whilst well meaning it is not usually from any expert knowledge on the issues we face with our children, and you often end up thinking to yourself 'no, not all children do that'. It has been very difficult for Mummy to maintain contact with the people she used to before becoming a parent. She often doesn't know where to begin when people ask “How is it going”. She feels they want the “happy ever after” answer that she is unable to give at the moment. She also feels that it is doom and gloom if she tells them exactly how it is, and doesn't want to appear ungrateful. We are aware that people may think that this is what we had waited so long for, so why are we complaining. 


Friendships have emerged from sources that we had not anticipated. We have lived in our home for 15 years and rarely saw our neighbours as we were both at work full time. Since bringing the children home and being around during the day we have seen them much more. One set of neighbours have provided practical support. They have a grandchild of similar age to our children and when he has outgrown toys they bring them over to us to see if we would like them. There are several toys that the children still use every day, almost a year later. They regularly ask how we are getting on and tell us about their grandchild. It is good to hear about other children’s trials and tribulations as it adds some context to our situation. Not all of our difficulties are solely related to adoption, some are “normal”, however the reaction to normal situations are usually more difficult for our children.

The best advice we feel we could give any prospective adopter is to make friends with other adopters on your journey. During the adoption assessment we met a couple who we instantly clicked with. We stayed in touch throughout the process and still meet up weekly – they have adopted children now too. Mummy met another adopter of two young children at a speech and language therapy group. They meet regularly and are able to share experiences that they have in common. Both of these friendships have been invaluable, they understand about the challenges of suddenly becoming parents, in addition to the needs of the children who have suffered trauma and loss. We do not need to “explain” behaviours and responses to them which mean we can just allow the children to play, and we, as adults can support each other.

Another good form of support is from the online community. Forums such as Adoption UK are a good place to start, whatever stage you are at in the process. Also, Twitter is an excellent support tool. Start following someone like Sally Donovan or any prominent adoption voice and all of a sudden you will find yourself a part of a big community of adopters sharing their experiences through blogs and tweets. There is usually someone going through the same issues as you and everyone is friendly and helpful. 

Post adoption support

Social Workers and other professionals are also very important post adoption, particularly if you are having problems. We have a lot of different professionals involved with our family (at least 16 at last count) and much of the 'support' provided has been slow and unreliable. Diagrama (or Cabrini as they were when we started) have been fantastic from the beginning. They supported us through the approval process, through the matching process and now through the Post Adoption support maze.

Always available, meeting at times that suit us, always helpful, supportive, articulate and detailed when wording reports, it can't be underestimated how important this all is. In other cases, our 'support' has involved constant delays, lack of contact, not doing what they promise, not understanding the issues and even being untruthful on a number of occasions. It is important to recognise the great role that Diagrama have played in our lives for the last couple of years, which we really appreciate. 

Going back to our original support 'eco map', I think it's clear that our ideas on what would constitute support then are very different to the reality now. Most family and friends provide a certain amount of emotional support but other than that are just occasional friendly visitors. The real support has come from people we didn't know two years ago. It comes from experts who understand the issues and can provide practical suggestions to help our daily lives. It comes from other adopters who simply understand the issues you may be facing better than most others.

Adoption is quite a unique journey, with some very complex issues and emotions being experienced by all involved - other adopters will get that better than anyone else so don’t be afraid to tap into their invaluable experience. 

*Names changed to protect privacy

If you would like to read more about David and Rachel’s adoption journey, you can follow their blog here and on Twitter @Adoptanewlife 

If you would like more information about adopting a child with Diagrama or would like to attend one of our information evenings, please call us on 0208 668 2181 or email us today.