A SALFORD adoption agency is celebrating placing a record number of children and pioneering new methods in the north west.
Caritas Care deals with adoptions as well as providing the north west’s only concurrency service, which provides carers for children while they are waiting for a decision to be made about their future.
But it is still a challenge to find forever families for the 64 per cent of children in adoption who are in sibling groups.
Practice manager Patricia ‘Dish’ Hurst, 57, says: “There are more sibling groups needing families than there are families wanting to adopt sibling groups.
“If you reduce down the number of children you can be considered for, the chances of getting a really good match reduce also. If you can be considered for a wide variety of children, you get a better match.”
Miss Hurst has been working in adoption for around 30 years, and says the main change she has seen has been the safety of the adoption process, and the training and support for potential adopters.
She adds: “Going back years, there were a lot of myths that arose about adoption; you can’t adopt if you’re over 40, or you can’t adopt if you’re not in work, or you can’t adopt if you live in a flat – none of that is true.
“Parenting an adopted child is just like parenting any other child but there’s an added dimension to it.
“A lot of our training is about preparing adopters to A, understand a child’s needs, and B, see beyond the behaviour.”
Rochdale-based Fiona Dunn, 53, adopted her family of three nine years ago, and has recently won the Adopter Champion of the Year award.
Mrs Dunn says: “When the children first came home, they were very open to trying new things, and that has largely stayed with them so they usually still enjoy new challenges. However, curiosity about their birth family has been a reoccurring theme and we expect that to grow as they get older.
“Having a family – by any method – is a very special thing, and the added bonus of adoption is that you’re giving opportunities back to a child or children who may otherwise never reach their full potential.”
To hear more about adoption from Miss Hurst, listen to the audio track below.
Caritas Care’s other service, the concurrent planning service, plays a vital part in the lives of children under the age of three.
It provides care for children whose birth family are being evaluated to see if the child should live with them or not. This decision is made in court, and can take up to 26 weeks.
The concurrency service, which works in partnership with Adoption Matters, is not just the only one in the north west, but is also the biggest of its kind in the country.
In the past three years, 66 children have been placed with carers through the service provided in Salford. Out of that, eight children have been returned to their birth parents.
The rest have either been adopted by their carers, or have an ongoing decision being made. Around 80 per cent of those children are under six months of age.
Vincent Ryan, 35, is a concurrent carer, with the idea that, if the child he is looking after is not to be returned to his birth family, he will legally adopt him.
Mr Ryan’s selection process happened quite quickly, though he had to endure panels of experts who would decide if he was suitable to adopt and become a concurrent carer.
He explains: “That is possibly the most daunting couple of minutes of your life because you’re waiting for fifteen people to decide the rest of your life.
“Thankfully, they unanimously said ‘absolutely, Vince, you’re good to adopt’.
“That was unbelievable, and I think I cried all the way home, if I’m honest.”
The cabin manager, based in north Manchester, added: “I was very unique to the agency in the fact that I’m single, I’m gay, and I fly for a living.
“There are so many children in care, there are so many children out there that just need a loving home that need a chance in life.
“Why not give them that chance? Why go down the route of surrogacy when I knew full well that I would love a child regardless of whether they were biologically mine or they weren’t.”
To hear more about concurrency from Mr Ryan, listen to the audio track below.
Cathy Sowden, 46, concurrent planning manager at Caritas Care, said: “It comes down to what’s best for children. If we can equip our carers with the skills and resilience needed, then the outcomes for those children can only be better in the long-term. It’s Vince, and carers like Vince, who live with the stresses and traumas and emotion that comes with caring for little children day in day out, and not knowing what the outcome will be.
“We ask a lot of our carers.”
For anyone looking to become a concurrent carer, Mr Ryan says: “I didn’t know anything about concurrency when I came into it, but now it’s something I would absolutely champion.
“To me, you’ve got to be able to give your time, a lot of love and a lot of understanding, because sometimes things are out of your control, so you have to have that resilience.
“It’s the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do in your life. The sleepless nights are difficult, but when he smiles and giggles and laughs, it just makes it worth it.
“To me, it’s just one less child that’s out of the system, and that’s in a loving, safe, caring home whilst his future is being decided.”
To find your nearest Caritas Care base, see the map below.