My friends have done amazing things, it’s true, but hand on heart the most awesome thing I’ve seen two of them do is adopt.
I’ve watched as they’ve invited broken children into their home and helped them feel loved and wanted.
Well, as loved and wanted as tweenagers can feel. One of them threatened to phone social services to complain about how they were being treated.
The crime? There were vegetables on their plate.
“Good luck with that,” said their dad.
But I am in awe of them. While I’m having sleepless nights about whether or not to take on cats again, they’re raising young people who have had awful starts to life.
So when children’s charity Barnardo’s got in touch to ask if I’d love to share one adopter’s story, I didn’t hesitate.
Birmingham lass Louisa, 47, works in a school and so has seen how children in care can flourish when they find their forever families.
After her sons left home, she decided to extend her family and so contacted Barnardo’s.
For overseas readers, Barnardo’s is an incredible charity. I was taught the story at school, how Thomas John Barnardo was shocked when he saw hos children in London were living in the 19th century and set up a “ragged school” to help. This led to the foundation of children’s homes and a promise to never turn away a child in need.
That continues today. In the year 2017-18, Barnardo’s transformed the lives of 301,100 children, young people, parents and carers – an 11% increase on the year before.
Here, Louisa tells us how she came to adopt six-year-old Polly* and how all their lives have changed…
“I work in a school, so I’ve seen the astronomical difference adoption can make to young lives. Children in care become so much happier after finding a forever home with a loving family. They finally have a stable home and they feel settled. They start doing better at school and they become so much more confident and articulate.
“My two sons had grown up and flown the nest so I was on my own and coming back to an empty house after work. Something was missing – I wanted to extend my family.
“Adoption seemed like a logical choice. I saw no difference between a birth child and an adopted child. I still had the energy to take on new things and I had the time, the space and the love to give. It felt like the right moment.
“I felt valued from the very first day that I contacted Barnardo’s. I had faith in them and they had faith in me. There was lots of paperwork and visits and lots of questions about my own upbringing – they had to ask so many because they were trying to find the right home for a very vulnerable child.
“At the end of the process I had to appear before a panel but Barnardo’s put me at ease and told me what to expect, so I was really well-prepared.
“It was several months before I received a call from a local authority with a potential placement – Polly*. A social worker visited me and then I visited Polly’s foster carers and school to learn more about her.
“We were introduced to each other and enjoyed days out together and she visited my home in Birmingham. Naturally I was worried, wondering if she’d like me and if we’d bond, but we got on really well and everyone agreed she could move in.
“I remember the excitement when we got home. I gave Polly a key to the front door, and as she turned the key and opened the door I said it was her ‘forever home’.
“Two years on, Polly has gone from strength to strength. Her true nature has come out. She isn’t in ‘survival mode’ anymore, trying to put on a false front to people. She knows she can just be herself.
“She’s kind, caring and sociable. She gets on well with everyone. Of course she pushes the boundaries from time to time, but no more than any other young girl. You’re going to get bumps along the way, as with any family, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons. To see her flourish and thrive makes it all worth it.
“One morning, I came downstairs and she was already in her school uniform and had made a packed lunch for me “To thank you for adopting me.” I said: “You never need to thank me. I should be thanking you.”
“Two years on from the adoption, I feel like I’ve always had Polly. She’s enriched my life and she’s enriched the lives of my sons, who idolise her. And she loves having two big brothers.
“It’s been a life-changing experience. She’s an absolute dream, a gem, and the centre of my universe.”
Barnardo’s is calling for more adopters to come forward and welcome a child into their lives. Whether you are a single parent, a LGBT couple, someone with grown-up children or have just always wanted to start a family, they want to hear from you. Visit Barnardo’s for more information.
*Not her real name
How inspirational is Louisa’s story? What an amazing woman. If you’ve enjoyed this, please like and subscribe below and share with your friends.