MILITARY ADOPTION: FACT VS FICTION
News release by SSAFA.
New research conducted by SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity has highlighted some of the general publics’ misconceptions surrounding military adoption. SSAFA wants to debunk the myths and encourage Armed Forces personnel to consider adoption. There are over 2000 children currently waiting for a home in the UK*.
The research found that just over 3 in 10 Brits would describe military parents as regimented (32%) or strict (31%), and just 24 per cent of Brits would describe a military parent as loving. Even more shockingly, 20 per cent of 16-24-year olds think all military parents suffer from PTSD, when only 6% of those in the military actually suffer from PTSD*. This is just one of the stereotypes that SSAFA dispel every day, knowing the positive outcomes for children placed for adoption with military families.
It is perhaps not surprising that research participants recognise that the adoption process may be harder for someone in the Forces, just under 2 in 5 (38%) Brits say that working in the military would make being considered for adoption more difficult.
SSAFA has been a registered independent adoption agency since 2000 and was developed to counteract the difficulties faced by some serving personnel looking to adopt. While many members of the Armed Forces can adopt via their Local Authority, some adoption agencies do not accept applications from serving personnel due to misconceptions about the military lifestyle. SSAFA are the experts in military adoption and understand the complex demands of military life. SSAFA has worked successfully with individuals and couples from all service backgrounds to create loving families.
Whilst being in the military can make adoption harder, Brits believe other things can make adoption tougher too. The survey showed the factors* that are considered to make qualifying for adoption hard include:
• earning less than £30K (33%)
• being a single parent (48%)
• being over the age of 40 (41%)
• being in a transgender couple (36%)
SSAFA works with a wide variety of people, providing homes for children with a range of needs. It recognises that there is no typical adoptive parent and welcomes enquires from anyone who feels they would like more information about adoption.
Jill Farrelly, Head of Adoption Service at SSAFA, says: “The misconceptions surrounding military parents and who would be eligible for adoption may be stopping potential adopters coming forward. I would urge anyone considering adoption to contact SSAFA and give one of thousands of children waiting for a forever home a chance of family life.
“People who have served, or are serving, within the Armed Forces tend to be resilient, tenacious and resourceful with a can-do attitude and a sense of humour, which are particularly useful attributes when it comes to parenting vulnerable children who have had a difficult start in life.”
If you or someone you know is currently serving and would like to adopt, encourage them to get in touch with SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity. To find out more, visit https://www.ssafa.org.uk/get-help/military-families/adoption
Andy Wilson is a Major in the British Army who made the decision to adopt two children through SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity and registered adoption agency.
Talking about the adoption process, he said: “You always just assume that you’ll be able to conceive children naturally, but that wasn’t the case for me and my partner, Stacey. In 2009, I was diagnosed with Azoospermia, which means I cannot produce sperm and it meant that we would never be able to conceive children naturally.
I’m a Major in the Army and we were based in Germany when we found out the devastating news. I was adopted so this was an option that crossed our minds but adopting can be more difficult when you’re in the Forces. A lot of local adoption agencies can see the regular moves as an unstable environment and often don’t understand the military lifestyle. In fact, military families are built on love and resilience – and if anything, the moving around makes you more stable as a family unit.
Normally we would have gone to the Local Authority to talk about adoption but because we were based in Germany – that wasn’t an option anyway. It was our doctor that told us to get in touch with SSAFA, an Armed Forces charity that is also a registered adoption agency.
Once we contacted SSAFA, we were straight away introduced to an amazing social worker who talked us through all the options. At the time we were so desperate to have children, we felt like we had to go through the process as quickly as possible but the best advice we got from SSAFA was to slow down and give ourselves a year to decide. Slowing down gave us a chance to recover from the IVF treatments and grieve the fact that we would never be able to have our own biological children. That year also gave us time to research and make sure adoption was the right decision for us – it’s not something that can be taken lightly.
Funnily enough, the moment we realised adoption was for us was all down to an episode of Friends. We were watching the episode when Monica and Chandler find out that can’t have children and were going to have a sperm donor. Monica says to Chandler that she only wanted to carry his baby. Stacey and I looked at each other and thought, yeah that’s right.
The adoption process was an emotional rollercoaster. You have to have a lot of resilience and be brutally honest about what you’re prepared to go through as an individual, a couple and later, as a family unit. You must be so open and honest throughout the whole process and that can feel strange at first. You have to say what situations you may not feel comfortable to deal with, and that’s hard because you feel like you’re saying ‘no’ to lots of children that might need a home. You eventually see that it’s okay that there are some children that wouldn’t work in your family unit. Not every child is going to be a match.
Once all the forms are filled in and the interviews and courses have been attended – it turns into a waiting game. It’s the most difficult part of the whole process and it’s incredibly hard to be patient when you’re also desperate to be a parent. There was a point when we’d been approved by the adoption panel, but we still had to wait to be matched with our child. It was a strange state to be in as you’re totally over the moon about being approved but you still don’t have your son or daughter.
I honestly couldn’t have gone through the adoption process without SSAFA. They supported us emotionally and financially through the whole process. They were brilliant. Anything we were worried about, we knew we could pick up the phone and someone from SSAFA would speak to us. They always acted as an advocate for us and understood what military life is like – we knew they had our back and were talking to all the local authorities and telling them to consider us as a good option. They were so supportive during the process that after adopting our first child, Aaron, we went on to adopt our Ruby.
No matter how difficult our journey has been, it’s all worth it now we have two beautiful children. It’s easy to take for granted but I’ll never forget what we, and our children have been through to get to this point. The joy of waking up and going into their bedroom to give them a kiss is incredible. Being able to create our own journey with our children and explore with them has made life exciting again – it’s a feeling that just can’t be described.
Obviously, there is ups and downs with every family and of course, we experience those too. The difference for us is that we have someone from SSAFA on the other end of the phone to support us. SSAFA has helped us work with the children’s schools to make sure the teachers understand the nuances of caring for an adopted child and make sure they feel comfortable and happy in their schools.
If you are considering adoption and you’re currently serving in the military then I would urge you to get in touch with SSAFA. Talk to as many people as possible about the process, research as much as you can – but don’t be daunted. Whatever you’re going through may seem scary now, but in a couple of years – you could be sat there with your own family and feel as lucky as we do.”
Words copyright SSAFA
SSAFA’s work in this area is terribly important. It might also be critical to achieving a good outcome as you apply to adopt a child. TMT is aware of a retired Army captain who, in his late thirties, was told by the adoption agency that his military career made it unlikely that he would be considered a suitable parent for adoption purposes. At the same time, his wife, a primary-school teacher, was informed that she had “insufficient experience of babies” to be a successful mother. If you have had similar responses from an agency when applying to adopt a child, then please let TMT know. We have to stamp out this sort of prejudice. Ed.