Rita, aged 56, is a single adopter who lives with her daughter Victoria, aged 15.
Rita had always known that she wanted to be a parent and had thought about adoption for many years. It gradually became more concrete in her mind, and she made her first call at the age of 44. Rita’s mother had been an adoption social worker and had heard good things about Coram.
Rita found the adoption application process straightforward and felt very supported by Coram, but her initial anxieties centred around the matching process: “I couldn’t see how the magic would work. I used to receive the magazines with the profiles of the children, and I found it hard to feel a connection with any of them.” But Rita’s social worker reassured her: “my social worker had a lot of experience, and she could pick up so much from a child’s profile. She really knew what she was doing, and I felt that she really wanted it to work.”
After a few potential matches did not progress, Rita’s social worker called to say that she had received the profile of a four-year-old girl.
“I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but she sent me the profile and it was just love at first sight. I just thought it was too good to be true.”
Rita began her assessments in April 2009 and was approved as an adopter in October 2009. “In March 2010 I learned about Victoria and she came home to live with me in September 2010. It was just under a year from approval to her coming to live with me.” Rita felt that this time frame worked well for her: “If I had been told straight after approval that they had someone immediately, it would have been too soon for me. I think I needed that time to process things.”
Victoria had been diagnosed with Developmental Coordination Disorder and anxiety, and was under the care of a paediatrician, physiotherapist and occupational therapist. She has recently been diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum, which has been very helpful in explaining earlier difficulties. Initially in her adoption journey, Rita had reservations about caring for a child with additional needs. But as she learned more about Victoria and her conditions, she felt it became less of a barrier. Rita believes that it is important to go into adoption with an open mind: “The irony is that everything I thought I couldn’t cope with at the beginning, I have managed to cope with.”
It took some time for Rita to understand what Victoria might be interested in, but her efforts soon paid off: “Victoria didn’t have many interests or books when she arrived to live with me. But very soon she developed lots of interests and it has enriched my world. I have done things that I would never have done if it wasn’t for Victoria”. Rita recalls a special day at a theme park about six weeks after Victoria had moved in: “Victoria smiled for the first time at the theme park. She said ‘Mummy, I’m happy’, so we got season tickets and went all the time!”
Victoria had missed out on going to nursery in her early years and struggled initially at her mainstream primary school before changing to a special school in Year 2. This was a challenging time for Rita and she was supported by Coram:
“I had the most fantastic social worker from Coram who was my absolute rock, she was there through thick and thin. She was the “Rolls Royce” of social workers, she went above and beyond. She was always on the end of the phone.”
Victoria then gradually transitioned back into a mainstream primary school and is now at a small mainstream secondary school and will sit her GCSEs next year. As well as flourishing at school, Victoria has enjoyed a wide range of hobbies.
Rita and Victoria also enjoy being part of a close community of single adoptive families. “I joined a support network with other single adopters, even before I’d been matched with Victoria, and we are still in touch now. We now have a group of single adopters from all over the country and we have been going on holiday together for the past few years.”
For Rita, adoption has not been an easy road, but she wouldn’t have it any other way: “My daughter is so much more than I could ever have hoped for. My expectations have been exceeded a thousand times over. We talk about how she found me, and I found her. We couldn’t imagine a better match.”
Rita has also transformed as a result of the adoption:
“I feel more fulfilled, I know I wouldn’t have felt complete without being a parent, so I am the person I wanted to be.”
Watching Victoria’s progress over the years has been astonishing for Rita. “It feels like such a privilege to be able to help her become herself. I can’t take credit for the person she is becoming but I feel that I’m part of it. It feels like my greatest achievement. I have poured my heart and soul into her. The rewards are more rewarding when you’ve had a difficult start.”