Single carers have so much to offer!
Shabana, a single Asian adoptive mother of two girls, talks to Suzanne Harding about caring for her daughters and the family’s decision to adopt again.
As a single carer, Shabana first believed that agencies would not be interested in her, but she was soon approved as a short-term foster carer. “I fostered two teenagers and helped them to move on,” she remembers. “One of them said to me: ‘I think you’d make a wonderful mum.’ That comment stayed with me.”
Shabana is also a social worker, and one day she was chatting with a colleague about how hard it could be to find adoptive families for black, Asian and mixed-ethnicity children that come from a similar background. Her colleague mentioned she had been family-finding for three Asian siblings, but that, sadly, she had been unable to keep them together. A family had been found for the youngest child, a boy, but his two older sisters were still waiting. “To my surprise, I said to her, ‘What about me?’! No guarantees were made, of course, but I went through the training, and in 1998, Selina and Saira, who are now 15 and 10, came to live with me.”
Shabana, who is Pakistani, Muslim, has a large extended family with a mix of ethnicities and cultures. Along with friends and colleagues, her family forms a strong support network, and Selina and Saira love being with them all. The girls also have direct contact with their brother, which they think is wonderful, and Shabana at times has even become a source of support to his adoptive family!
Selina and Saira do miss having a younger brother living at home with them, however, which is why Shabana started the process again and became approved to adopt up to two more children, one a boy, in March 2003. “The girls would see our family as complete with another child,” she says. “I’ve also fostered since Selina and Saira came to live with me, and a while ago we looked after a baby boy for six months. We all fell in love with him and hoped to adopt him, but his birth mother wanted a two-parent family for him. It was really hard for us all.” Shabana has found that agencies tend to prefer couples, and feels she is battling a prejudice against single carers. “But we will keep going – we say we are like The Three Musketeers!”
The adoption journey is hard and Shabana knows all about its frustrations, but as she says: “If the waiting is hard for us, what’s it like for the child waiting for the security of a permanent family? My eldest daughter has said to me: ‘If you hadn’t come along, we’d still be waiting.’ I just wish adoption agencies would look beyond the fact that a carer is single. Couples are the ideal – but whose ideal is that? They don’t tend to see what we have to offer, and I’m quite angry about that.”
Shabana feels that single carers can offer perhaps even more support to a child than a couple. “Single carers need to make sure that we have things in place. Help is just a phone call away, and should anything happen to us, we make sure that the children would be cared for. There are so many single carers out there doing a good job, so please, give us a chance!”
All names have been changed.
Originally published in the Be My Parent newspaper in November 2004. Selina and Saira appear in the July 2005 Be My Parent article 'Forever sisters and brothers'.
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Last updated: 05 December 07