Clare and Simon had always wanted children and assumed the pregnancies would happen - but they didn’t. Lots of tests and tears later - they remained a childless couple. They had been warned by friends that the adoption process was difficult and that the children were damaged and unlovable. Despite this, they plucked up the courage to contact Adoption Focus.

They learned that the children who needed adopters weren’t babies, but older - four and above - and needed placements with their brothers and sisters. They thought long and hard about why they wanted to become parents.

The preparation groups helped them to understand the needs of children, and how they would meet them. They met people like them – ordinary people who wanted to adopt. After their assessment and approval they worried when they found themselves having to say ‘no’ to some children because they needed more than they felt they could offer. But there was something about Leanne and Tom – they looked so vulnerable and so care worn. A little girl carrying all the troubles of the world, and a little boy - lost.

Leanne was five - she could tell you the street names for all sorts of drugs. She knew when her mum needed another fix. She knew all about keeping herself and Tom quiet - and she shouted words that would make you blush. She could strip the bed when she had wet it, and cower in the corner when she expected to be hit.

She could tell you all about looking after Tom – what soft toy he needed to go to sleep with; how he hated having his hair washed; what his bad dreams would be about, and what he was saying. His speech was poor, and he needed Leanne to interpret for him.

Tom looked to his sister for everything. At three he appeared to be more like an 18 month old. Small and delayed in his speech, he didn’t want cuddles from anyone other than Leanne. Adults were large and frightening to him.

When Clare and Simon met their children, it wasn’t love at first sight, and the children weren't going to make it easy for anyone to get close to them. They needed to get to know the children better, so that they could begin to look after them – begin to be their parents.

The early days were exhausting – physically and mentally. Clare and Simon thought they had stressful jobs – until now. They didn't believe they could feel so exhausted and useless, for so little reward. Their social worker told them this was normal – parenting is hard work - adoptive parenting is even harder - but after time the rewards can be fantastic. Reassuring phone calls and coffee mornings with other adopters, support from the nursery and the health visitor, and piles of ironing done - thanks to grandma's support - the couple survived.

Then one day - Tom put his arms up to Clare – he wanted a cuddle and Leanne was too busy with her puzzle. Finally, he trusted her.

The next few years continued to be a challenge. Speech therapists helped Tom - and Leanne learned to relax and play. The little things helped along the way – two dry nights increasing to three and then four, and then only the occasional slip up. Tom giggling with delight when he played a game with his dad.

Leanne looking offended when she overheard someone else use a swear word. The family holidays, and sitting down at the end of the day, with children safe in bed, a school certificate of achievement for Leanne, and a party invitation for Tom – and knowing, this is what they wanted - to be parents. Adoption Focus helped them to achieve this.

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