Before my social worker would put me forward for approval as a single adopter, she wanted me to ask my sister and brother-in-law whether they would commit to bringing up my future child if anything ever happened to me. That wasn’t an easy conversation for me to initiate. Camilla and Lloyd had both worked for several years with adolescents in residential care, and so had no illusions about just how challenging a child with a history might be. They had three young children of their own, and while they were very supportive of me, it wasn’t them who wanted to adopt. Fortunately though (and because they are special people), both said they would step into the breach if need be.
Then, once J had been placed with me, and while his attachment to me was still very anxious, I wondered whether he might worry about me disappearing, and what would happen to him. After all, he had been abandoned more than once in his short life already, and so it would be well within the realms of possibility as far as he was concerned. So one afternoon we talked about his place in my sister’s family if for any reason I wasn’t around to look after him. I told my social worker Linda about the conversation during one of her regular visits. “So how did that go?”, she asked, looking a little concerned that I had bitten off more than I could chew this time. “He seems to be quite looking forward to it”, I was able to answer, with a grin.
Little did we know that four years later, I would be talking to Camilla and Lloyd once again about their caring for my son, but this time it would be for real. J was 11 now, and had been with me for four years…. and I had recently been diagnosed with cancer. At that stage, staying alive for J’s sake was literally all that mattered to me. But I had to face up to facts: it was an aggressive cancer, I had had two lots of surgery in quick succession, and I had chemotherapy and radiotherapy coming up. We were all terrified. I would certainly need their help looking after J as the treatment progressed, and I also had to prepare for the ‘what if?’ question that all cancer patients have to face up to. Of course, Camilla and Lloyd were fantastic and did not hesitate, and knowing that I didn’t have to worry about this at least was a huge relief.
It is an issue though that prospective single adopters in particular need to address. Social workers do what they can to minimise the risk by ensuring we have a thorough medical, and asking their medical experts to review family histories for significant illness, but they cannot eliminate the risk entirely. And buses do come along when we least expect them. Mine did anyway. We, as well as our social workers, need to know that our support network is stronger than most and can cope even with this kind of eventuality.
Meanwhile, my cancer never did come back, and I am as confident as I can be that J won’t be moving in with his cousins any time soon, whatever he would like! Thank goodness.
I am linking this post to the Adoption Social’s Weekly Adoption Shout Out, week 91 #WASO, where adopters and adoptees, and others involved, can tell it how it is. The Adoption Social has been shortlisted for the the Digital Champion Award at BAAF’s National Adoption Awards during National Adoption Week.