The latest ‘YouCanAdopt’ campaign aims to encourage more people from Black and mixed heritage backgrounds to adopt and offers a variety of support to help adopters along their journey.
A survey for the campaign found that almost 60% of Black parents surveyed said their child had non-blood relatives whom they refer to as ‘aunty’ or ‘uncle’. The meaning of ‘family’ in our communities has always extended far beyond the traditional unit. It helps us bring up our children within a network of love, support and kindness, where we can count on others when we face challenges. The concept that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is supported by the finding that 63 % of Black-African parents living in the UK say they have had help from non-family members to help raise their children.
More children are being adopted within the community; however, many are still waiting for a home. Coming forward to adopt can help ensure that these children remain closely connected with their cultural identity.
Being part of a close community can be an enormous help in feeling able to bring a child into your family. There are almost 2000 children in England waiting for adoption, with children from Black and mixed heritage backgrounds being among those in the greatest need of adopters. They can wait two months longer than other groups to be adopted – on average 26 months. That’s more than two years, and the time can increase much further for children who are over five years old.
Pearl and Errord had twin boys, before adopting Amara when she was almost three years old. Pearl says:
‘It's really important that Black adopters come forward, so that children end up in a home where the culture is appropriate. So they can eat the food, get their hair braided, all that kind of stuff. They need to feel 'this is my home'.
When you adopt a child there’s no doubt that there will be challenges along the way – just as when you raise a birth child - but things have changed over the years and there is now a wealth of support available for adoptive families.
Adoption agencies may offer family days and meet ups, and you can get advice from other adopters. There is also practical, financial, therapeutic and educational support for those who may need it.
Sarah Johal, the National Adoption Strategic Lead, spoke about children who wait the longest:
“While it may take longer to find the right family for some children, every child deserves the right to a loving, stable, and permanent home, which is why You Can Adopt is encouraging anyone considering adopting siblings, older children, children with complex needs or who are from the Black Community to come forward. This campaign also recognises the importance of community in raising a child and highlights the variety of support available to adopters, from peer support, family days out, training sessions and workshops, therapeutic and financial support for groups of children with those additional needs. Adoption may not always be easy, but support is available at each stage and can positively change the trajectory of a child’s life forever.”
Sarah Livingstone has been a foster carer for 10 years and is the chair of the Camden Association of Foster Carers. She helps children to transition to adoption, and says:
‘A lot of local authorities and agencies hold support groups. I would encourage people to get involved in activities like this, where you can make connections with others in a similar situation. Finding like-minded people who’ve been through the same thing and who are willing to share their advice and experiences is so important.’
There can be lots of misconceptions about who can adopt and how long it takes. Again, this has changed, and the process now usually takes around 6 months. You can adopt whether you’re single, married, in a long-term relationship, whether or not you have your own birth children, and regardless of disability or faith. You simply need to be over 21 years old and be able to love and care for a child who is waiting for a family.
Sally adopted twins Arata and Lawei, Sally says: ‘One of the first things I tell people about adoption is to have an open mind and to forget about their preconceived ideas. Approach it completely openly, and you're going to be amazed at how much you can learn - not just about how it all works, but about yourself.’
Adopting a child will transform their life, and it can also change your family in incredible ways.’
Pearl says: ‘When I first met Amara, she looked me in the eye and said 'I have been waiting for you'. And it wasn't 'I've been waiting for you since this morning,' it was 'I've been waiting my whole life for you.'
To find out more about how you could change a child’s life by adopting, visit www.youcanadopt.co.uk/blackadopters