With Mother’s Day just last weekend, I have been having a very thought provoking time. To be honest, it really threw me. I am, on the one hand, conducting quite a big campaign trying to flog the Interior Design Toolkit, the product that Doug and I have launched – realising that it makes the perfect Mother’s Day gift. If you have grown up and left home and are finding that the main reason you are phoning your mum is to ask her to babysit, it is nice to connect and bond over something but different. Working through the kit and discovering your personal interior styles which might be the same or a bit different from each other is really fun.
But of course, on the other hand, I lost my mother when I was quite young, 21 to be exact, so I cannot do this. Here we are on a picnic in the photograph above. I aways found Mother’s day almost impossible, her birthday even worse, I have since had a family of my own and of course this is a huge comfort to me on these difficult days and very much what she would have wanted for me: to make the most of my own life. Difficult of course and I have had lots of ups and downs, but I do try and remember to press on and to just try and look ahead.
I do feel very aware that Mother’s Day is not a straightforward celebration for all of us though, so when Barnardo’s got in touch to see if I would be interested in running a first person piece by their inspiring adopter Louisa, from Birmingham, about her experience adopting her daughter Polly, I was absolutely delighted.
Louisa, 47, from Birmingham, depicted above, works in a school and had seen how children in care flourish when they find their forever families. When her sons left home and she decided to extend her family, so she contacted Barnardo’s, which has been finding families for vulnerable children for more than 100 years, and went on to adopt a six-year-old girl.
Now, two years ago later, she can’t imagine life without her and hopes to inspire other people to consider adoption.
‘I work in a school’ she explains, ‘so I’ve seen the astronomical difference which adoption can make to young lives. Children in care become so much happier after finding a forever home with a loving family. They finally have a stable home and they feel settled. They start doing better at school and they become so much more confident and articulate’.
Her two sons had grown up and flown the nest so she was on her own and coming back to an empty house after work. Something was missing – she realised she wanted to extend her family.
‘Adoption seemed like a natural progression, a logical choice. I saw no difference between a birth child and an adopted child. I still had the energy to take on new things, and I had the time, the space and the love to give. It felt like the right moment’ she recalls.
‘I felt valued from the very first day that I contacted Barnardo’s. I had faith in them and they had faith in me. There was lots of paperwork and visits, and lots of questions about my own upbringing. It was very in-depth but it never felt intrusive, and looking back I can see they had to ask so many questions because they were trying to find the right home for a very vulnerable child’ she reflects.
‘There was a really good support network and I could speak to other adopters at different stages of their journey, which was a great help. At the end of the process I had to appear before a panel but Barnardo’s put me at ease and told me what to expect, so I was really well-prepared. It was several months before I received a call from a local authority with a potential placement – Polly. A social worker visited me at home, and then I visited Polly’s foster carers and school to learn more about her background’ she recalls.
‘We were introduced to each other and enjoyed days out together, and she visited my home back in Birmingham. Naturally I was worried, wondering if she’d like me and if we’d bond, but we got on really well and everyone agreed that she could move in. I remember the excitement when we got home. I gave Polly a key to the front door, and as she turned the key and opened the door I said it was her ‘forever home’. Two years on, Polly has gone from strength to strength. Her true nature has come out. She isn’t in ‘survival mode’ anymore, trying to put on a false front to people. She knows she can just be herself’ she feels.
‘She’s kind, caring and sociable. She gets on well with everyone. Of course she pushes the boundaries from time to time but no more than any other young girl. You’re going to get bumps along the way, as with any family, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons. To see her flourish and thrive makes it all worth it’.
One morning Louisa came downstairs and Polly was already in her school uniform and had made a packed lunch for her. It was such a nice surprise and Louisa asked why she’d done it. She said ‘To thank you for adopting me’. Louisa said ‘You never need to thank me. I should be thanking you’.
Her first Mother’s Day with Polly was really special: ‘she brought me breakfast in bed and told me she was going to do ‘everything’ for the day. She went out with one of my sons to buy me flowers, made lots of things at school for me and we spent the day in the park with our dog. I know she will make this year just as special’.
‘Two years on from the adoption, I feel like I’ve always had her. She’s enriched my life, and she’s enriched the lives of my own sons too, who idolise her – and she loves having two big brothers’! They now also have a phrase which they both race to say to each other, when she wakes up in the morning or before she goes to bed: ‘I love you, I love you most … said it first!’
‘It’s been a life-changing experience’ Louisa says. ‘She’s an absolute dream, a gem, and the centre of my universe.’
‘Thank you for adopting me’, words a mum will never forget. Barnardo’s hope that this inspiring story will encourage other families to welcome a vulnerable child into their lives.
Barnardo’s, the leading children’s charity, is calling for more adopters to come forward and welcome a child into their lives. Whether you are a single parent, a LGBT couple, someone with grownup children or have just always wanted to start a family, they want to hear from you. Visit Barnardo’s now for more information and to find out the many ways you might be able to get involved.
Last year 301,100 children, young people, parents and carers were supported by Barnardo’s through more than 1,000 services across the UK, such as young carers, care leavers, foster carers and adoptive parents, training and skills or parenting classes.
They work to transform the lives of the UK’s most vulnerable children and every year help thousands of families to build a better future. But they cannot do it without you.