Adopting: from application to parenthood

One couple's experience of adopting two children
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The Independent Online

Alison, 32, has two adopted children, Laura and Jonathan. Her husband is in the Third Regiment of the Royal Horse Artillery in the Army, and they adopted their children through the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (Ssafa) Forces Help in 2005

I knew from childhood that I had a medical condition that meant that I could not have children. My husband and I had tried IVF once, but it ended in miscarriage. We decided that instead of going through the heartache of waiting for IVF again, we would consider adoption.

Our agency, SSAFA, was the obvious choice for us as they are used to dealing with army families, so they have plenty of contacts abroad. After we applied, we had to wait for about a year for a social worker to become available. A home study was then conducted after our Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks, which involved some questions about why we wanted to adopt and what our expectations were, as well as questions about our own childhood and our relationship as a couple. The checks are thorough, but not intrusive. The agency simply tries to get to know you individually and as a couple, because they don't want to get anything wrong.

We'd just about completed the home study when my husband was sent to Iraq in 2003, so everything was put on hold. It was almost three years after we'd applied that we went to panel. This isn't typical - the normal time between applying and going to panel is six months to a year.

The agency then began to look for children we might be suitable for, and they found Laura and Jonathan in about six weeks, which was really quick - I expected to have to wait for up to a year.

All through the adoption process we received support from both our SSAFA social worker and the children's social worker. They continued to visit about every two weeks to a month while Laura and Jonathan were living with us, but these visits stopped once we had legally adopted the children. Of course, they're still at the end of the phone if we have any problems.

The agency has Adoption Days once a year, so every family can go and meet others in their position. There are people there who have completed the process, like us, but also those who have only just started it, which gives us the chance to support other families trying to adopt.

I would urge anyone thinking of adoption to go for it and not to give up. It may seem like an empty process at times, but it's really worth it because there are so many children who need a loving home. I would recommend SSAFA, particularly to service families because they're used to the chaotic lifestyle and can provide expertise that you might not necessarily get with a local authority.

I would also recommend adoption instead of IVF, which drains you both financially and emotionally, with no guarantee of a child at the end of it. The most rewarding thing about adoption has been getting to know our children, who were two and nine months old when we met them. Even though I didn't physically give birth to my children, we have a very close bond. I just can't imagine life without them.

To make an enquiry about the SSAFA Forces Help Adoption Service contact the Adoption Administrator on 020-7463 9326 or