Dear future adoptive parent,
For many years, my husband and I had imagined our family would be built by adoption first.
However, two overseas expatriate stints in the UK and then the UAE saw that dream begin to fade away. I knew that my husband and I would be too old to commence the 5 to 10 year process on our return to Australia. But while living in Dubai, I saw a newspaper article featuring families adopting children. After investigation, I realised we could adopt while living as expatriates.
I was beyond excited.
I’d almost given up on adopting yet had such a strong desire and ability to do so.
My husband Robert and I commenced the adoption process right away – home study, psychologist assessments, police checks, financial checks and so much more. We were delighted to adopt three children from Sierra Leone over a twelve month-period. We adopted “older” children (two, four and twelve years old at the time).
I know without a shred of doubt that if we hadn’t adopted our kids, they would still be institutionalised. We know this, because we stay in touch with the centre that cared for them. Their friends are all still there.
We lived in Dubai for a further two years, before returning to Sydney where our children are now thriving.
I cannot tell you how many people have said to me: I’d love to adopt but I am too old, or can’t put myself through the process.
In 2015, UNICEF reported there were more than 140 million orphans worldwide and at the time more than 11,000 children were in care in Australia. In 2015-2016, just 278 adoptions were finalised in Australia.
It breaks my heart to contemplate all of these children growing up without a permanent family. I remember one day, nearly ten years ago, my little girl came to hug me for about the 400th time that day. I looked at her and flippantly said, wow, you need so many hugs!
She responded deadpan and immediately: “Mum, that’s because no one hugged me in the centre”.
I know we as a nation have long-standing pain and shame from the Stolen Generation. My absolute preference is for family-centred care, and there are some fabulous programs in many countries that are shifting the dial on this. But it’s slow, child by child. What happens to this whole generation of forgotten institutionalised children? They are not adopted because it’s no longer considered the “best option”. Show me the other options and I’ll change my mind.
In Australia, I returned to work having had a long career break.
My husband took on the primary care duties for our family while I built my career in investment management. I now lead the global multi-asset investment firm Russell Investment’s Australian Institutional business.
While working full time and nurturing my growing family, myself and my husband, along with two of our friends Selina Smyth and Tammie Flinos, wrote a book: Lionheart: The Real Life Guide for Adoptive Families. This is a parenting guidebook for families considering adoption or parenting adopted children. We wanted to share our personal stories of raising adoptive families to provide a modern toolbox of ideas. Our book is a resource for parents and covers topics such as trauma, behavioural challenges and parental self-care.
Between us, we have 12 children, adopted and biological. We know that the journey for parents of adopted children, foster children, and children who have experienced trauma can be isolating. Parents can find it hard to share their challenges with friends and family. This is the book we wish we’d had a decade ago as we started out to raise healthy and resilient adopted children and stay sane in the process.
I’d wanted to write a book to share our adoptive parenting experiences. Even today, when one of our adopted children has an issue, we continue to support each other through advice, shared experiences and reassurance. This comfort is what we wanted our book to provide all adoptive families.