Ellen was adopted into our family at 5 years of age. She had been in foster care for nearly three years and previous to that was with her birth mother. Like most children removed from their birth parents, Ellen’s mother wasn’t meeting her needs sadly. Three years in foster care was a long time and though she was in a stable environment, Ellen was in a house where the mother was a child carer, so again Ellen’s personal needs were not being met and she was a number to some extent in the home. We didn’t quite understand how that could be but after being with us a while we could quite clearly see where the gaps had been for her. Ellen had to be with the child care children after school, didn’t have the option to go to her own room, focus on her personal interests, hobbies and knew that no one had a watch over her in a group of children.
Focus on personal needs and development
Ellen was in a good routine and had been looked after well but it was clear that she had been in a busy house and her personal needs/development needed attention. It was as though she ‘floated’ around the house at first, was quick to go from one thing to another and not really listen to instruction or conversation. It was clear her attention and focus weren’t there for her age. I noted quite quickly with her friends that she would tune out and not listen to the conversations for long and was more interested in her environment around her. She was and still is a chatty, interactive little girl but there was a bit of hypervigilance and lack of focus. Ellen had gone through Primary 1 and was set to go through Primary 2 when she came to us. She struggled at the beginning. Her memory was poor and she didn’t remember a lot of Primary 1 content. She couldn’t even remember the days of the week. She had also been put to school at 4 and a half. As I stuck into homework with her I could tell she was capable of it. I knew she could think for herself, I strongly believed it was her lack of attention and focus that was slowing her down. She had also had so much change in her life, she was in charge of herself to an extent and was like most children – if they don’t want to do it, they’re no different to me as a child – stubborn!
She’s a thinker!
We took Ellen on her first holiday – to Turkey – she had a ball, in the pool all day, out in the garden – she has a great imagination and can play by herself for hours. Making houses, dolls, restaurants, shops out of whatever she can find. I knew she was a thinker in her own way. Well she proved me right! Ellen would always wake early but be encouraged to read for a little while and could get up at 7.30 at weekends. She had a nice big pink watch her brothers bought her to welcome her into the family and she could tell the time in hours and half hours. I got up this morning on holiday to find Ellen already up and in full swing with her dolls in her room. We had a chat about her being up too early and she said her watch said 8.30. I looked at her watch and sure enough it was and I thought oh it’s the time difference. It wasn’t until later that day I thought we are 2 hours ahead, checked her watch and it had stopped at 8.30 with the pin out. Ellen had got up and put the watch an hour ahead. At that moment I thought, she can think and work things out for herself no problem, she was only five!
Moving school made a huge difference
After two years we decided to move Ellen to the same school as her brothers and put her back a year. We thought this was the best opportunity at a new school. She had caught up considerably at her previous school but I could still tell she was running a bit younger than her peers and just needed that time to catch up developmentally.
This has been the best move for Ellen. In the last year she has come on leaps and bounds. I never thought I would see her concentrate so well. Her teachers have nothing but praise for her. She is moving up her levels, learning and retaining so much better. She reads and writes music, plays the piano, sings – learning her lyrics within minutes of new songs. Music has been great for her.
Empathy for other children
Her emotions have matured and she shows her happiness and love now which she struggled to at the beginning. She recently cut her hair for cancer, showing real empathy for the little girls with no hair and wanted to help them. Ellen was quite flat when she first arrived and didn’t show her emotions at all, even on opening her first birthday presents…… now she can barely sleep when it’s Christmas and birthdays.
Just like any other child with their parents
I am so proud of the resilience Ellen has shown. To think of the poor start and upset and changes she has gone through and to come out the other end the way she has is a credit to herself. She has developed a great sense of humour and plays pranks on her dad as much as he does with her, which is just great to see as it shows she is no different to any other biological child with their parents.
She is very much part of our family
I could not imagine life without Ellen now and it’s true, you get the child that is meant for you, biologically or not. Like any child, they will test boundaries, patience and sanity but hey ….. who didn’t as a child?
If you would like to find out more about adopting or fostering a child through St Andrew’s Children’s Society please call 0131 454 3370 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog post was written by a couple who adopted a child through St Andrew’s Children’s Society.