First rate or second best?

Alissa was in her early thirties when she decided to adopt as a single parent. The process was a bit nerve-wracking, but certainly worth it. Today, Alissa is the proud parent of two girls, Shana and Kelisha.

I found out when I was about 19 that I couldn’t have children, and I put this to the back of my mind. But as time went by, I saw people expecting, and kept thinking, ‘That could be me’. I was 33 when I decided to adopt on my own. My older sister fosters and had adopted one of the children she was fostering, and that’s what gave me the idea. I wanted a young child because I wanted that experience of being involved from the start. I’m black Caribbean but, because my nieces and nephews are of mixed ethnicity and my sister adopted a mixed-ethnicity child, I knew that a mixed-ethnicity child would fit in better with my family.

Image of black mum with two children
The assessment process was quite hard work. It was two hours every Monday night for six weeks. I didn’t mind all the questions being asked, but I didn’t like how long the whole process was going to take. It was a bit nervewracking! The panel then approved me for a girl up to three years old.

When I first met Shana, I hadn’t seen a photo of her yet, and couldn’t believe how tall she was for a 16-month-old girl! It took about an hour for her to come over and speak to me. She gave me a toy, and I played a game with her behind the settee. That’s how she got to know me. I didn’t believe then that Shana might actually become my child. I was just playing with her. We met several times after that, and she visited my home twice. And then Shana came to live with me, three months after that first meeting.

It wasn’t long before everything was running smoothly and, because Shana was doing so well, I decided to adopt a second child. I also wanted Shana to have company, as she had come from a big family. It took me over two years! I thought it would be straightforward, and didn’t expect to wait so long. I would be told about children, only for social workers to come back and tell me a family had been found nearby, or that it wouldn’t work after all.

One day, a woman who had been linked with a child through Be My Parent, told me more about it and I started looking in the paper. Sometimes a profile would say the agency would consider single carers, but I’d ring and they’d have a possible match with a couple. I got talking to staff at Be My Parent, and they told me to keep trying and to ‘sell’ myself. And one day it happened! I’d enquired about this girl, but she had been linked with another family. However, when that did not go ahead, she was matched with me! Kelisha was six months old then, and she has now lived with us for over two years. She has settled in quite easily. She was used to having other kids around, and she is one of 17 grandchildren now!

If you are single and want to adopt, it’s important to speak to other single carers and, if possible, go to something like a family day, where you can listen to people’s experiences. That’s why I’ve done a few talks for single carers since adopting, and given them my contact details. They need to know about things like what to do if their child becomes ill, and they are working and trying to sort out childcare.

When I was enquiring about children, I often found that agencies were considering couples first. I managed to adopt Kelisha only because the couple who were being considered for her pulled out. With both the adoptions, I have felt as if single adopters like myself are second best. And it wasn’t easier the second time around either. Still, I have had the support of my family, After Adoption, and also staff in Be My Parent, and that has helped me push myself forwards. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to give to Shana and Kelisha the family that they have today.

As told to Henrietta Bond. All names have been changed.

Originally published in the Be My Parent newspaper in September 2007.

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This article is published with the kind permission of the people involved. You may download it for your own reference but if you wish to use it for any other purpose, please contact Be My Parent for authorisation: Be My Parent, BAAF, Saffron House, 6-10 Kirby Street, London EC1N 8TS. Telephone: 020 7421 2666/5/4.

Last updated: 12 June 09

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