‘They looked like they hadn’t eaten in weeks, and they never said a single word. Our training was exactly for this moment.’: Mom shares foster-to-adopt journey, advice for other adopters

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“Life certainly brings some surprises, but none more so than Tim (my husband) and I adopting. We already had 5 birth children when we started our journey as foster carers and little did we know that two brothers we fostered would eventually be ours on November 6, 2017.

husband and wife taking a selfie
Courtesy of Nyree Squires

I laugh when I refer to us as empty nesters before we started fostering. We still had four of our own children at home, and plenty to do with running our own chain of day nurseries. I guess it was that feeling that there was more we could do, more we could offer. Our desire to foster had been strong for over at least 10 years when we finally took the leap of faith. Originally, we agreed to have just one long-term foster placement, but that was turned upside down when we took an emergency foster placement call.

I remember the social worker pleading with me to take the boys, even though we were supposedly sticking to the one child we already had because of her complexities. The social worker explained it would only be for 10 days, then the brothers would move on. If we didn’t agree, they would separate the brothers who had already been separated from their sisters. Honestly, there was no way I could say ‘no.’ My heart went out to them, and we prepared for their arrival.

two boys walking with family dog
Courtesy of Nyree Squires

I can remember the day the boys arrived as if it were only yesterday, yet it was 10 years ago. Our front gate swung open, and we saw a peculiar scene. Two young male social workers, both with what looked like babies in their arms. We had been told the boys were nearly 2 and 3, so we were almost wondering if these were the right children. The social workers cautiously brought them into the house for us, still carrying them in arms. I felt myself gasp a little as I saw their tiny, frail little bodies. ‘Surely, they’re babies’ was all I could think.

They had just come from a hospital examination and this had been very traumatic for them. There was still not a sound from the boys for the whole time the men described the sorry tale. Removal by the police from a violent and altogether horrible scene, long hospital waits, lots of crying, and not much eaten. There was a harrowed look on both men’s faces and a cautious glint in their eyes warned us not to ask too much. They seemed worried about putting the boys down, but as foster carers, we knew what our job was.

Our training was exactly for this moment. Reassuring the men that we would be fine and able to settle the children in, they left slowly, with their heads bowed in sorrow. I tried to sit the oldest boy on my lap, having seen him happily be close to the male social worker, but there was obvious distress when I tried to do this. The younger boy seemed to come to life and became oddly vibrant but in a pent-up, anxious kind of way. My default is always to offer drink and food, and I figured that perhaps this would ease the boys in. I prepared cheese, crackers, fruit, and sweet plain biscuits. We asked what they would like, whether they were hungry or thirsty, and they never said a single word.

siblings playing in the mud
Courtesy of Nyree Squires

The food seemed to be viewed as an alien thing, and there was no move to try anything, not even a drink. Yet these children looked like they hadn’t eaten for weeks. Hair was thin, skin pale and sallow. The eldest child’s teeth were completely black. We noted their bumps, bruises, and rashes, faded and ill-fitted clothing. My husband eventually helped by bringing out the train set. This did at least get a smile from them both, and we had found our way in. The saddest thing is they both wanted to go to bed that day with their shoes on. This became a common trait for them to take their possessions everywhere with them.

Over the weeks and months that lay ahead, we built a strong attachment to the boys. They had significant developmental difficulties, including having to learn to speak. They were restless, anxious children, and every experience we gave them seemed to be the very first. Birthdays, Christmas, beaches, and open spaces were all received by them with complete wonderment. As foster carers, it was our job to get them ready for adoption. We did our best to help them with independence, but we voiced our fears that they would never be resilient enough to move from our home.

family walking on the beach
Courtesy of Nyree Squires

A couple of years later, adopters were found for them, and we embraced the opportunity, trying to take a positive stance. The experienced adopters were loving. We felt they seemed a good match. A few months later, shocking news arrived. We learned the adoption had broken down. It was now the decision of the care system to separate the boys into different homes when they moved on. Our sorrow and devastation were overwhelming. We tried our best to have the boys returned to us together. Our fight to get them back was acrimonious, especially now that they had given us three more foster placements.

Our battle for the boys to be within a loving family was worth every tear and heartache. Once they arrived back home with us, we had to repair their trust and attachment to us. They were fearful of moving on again, and this took them many years to overcome. Our love for them and their plucky courage grew and deepened until we just couldn’t imagine life without them. Without us realizing it, they had become part of us and our family.

At first, some of our family was not supportive when we mentioned our desire to adopt the boys. They had good reason to be concerned, because the youngest son was particularly, and still is, extremely challenging. The oldest son has significant developmental delays. Deep down, though, we just knew it was right to give them that last sense of acceptance, belonging, and identity. We feared that keeping them in the foster care system would play on their mind, even though it was agreed they would stay with us.

boys going to swim on the beach
Courtesy of Nyree Squires

I’m calling ‘adoption day’ the day we went to court. All the siblings and social workers involved gathered there to support us. I was so proud of our boys, sitting in the judge’s chair, smiling at him and everyone watching them. It was important that we marked this day for them, so we designed and ordered football t-shirts with their current age and new surname written on the back. Their reaction was priceless as it slowly sank in that they really belonged to us. We had the confirmation of this, when a few days after court, they both started calling Tim, ‘dad’ for the very first time after 6 years of being in our home. This was such a key moment in our lives and theirs.

boys in their new football jerseys
Courtesy of Nyree Squires

Equally special, and something that made many of their teachers weep in school, was how they proudly wore their t-shirts the next day. They wanted everyone to know they were now adopted. It wasn’t only the boys that felt different, we did too. Both Tim and I felt surprised and the feeling of weight lifting off our shoulders. They belonged to us and we to them, now no-one could separate us from them. It was an amazing feeling.

Our love for the boys runs deep, but our challenges remain the same. Their tough start has left them with developmental and behavioral issues that are unlikely to go away. The youngest has uncontrollable angry outbursts and is being assessed for some key childhood conditions. The eldest has significant cognitive delays, including speech. Despite all this, their achievements and resilience have grown by the days, weeks, and months.

family sitting around
Courtesy of Nyree Squires

Those frail little boys have learned to ride bikes, scooters, skateboards. They love to swim in the sea and bodyboard on the waves. Watching playing football (soccer) with friends is another great love. They understand the need for some chores (although not liked!) and share the dog walking every day. Both boys adore their brother and sisters, who are always happy to spend a day out or some precious time with them. Our commitment to them is as if I had given birth to them. There is no difference in our love for them.

As you can see, adoption can be a hard pathway, and therefore, I started up my adoption channel, and I am writing my book. Adopters face so many unique challenges that they may not understand before they adopt. Most people, before they look into the process, think of a young baby who will be grateful when they are older than someone who adopted them. Often, adoption is very far from this scenario. Of course, straightforward adoptions can happen.

However, there is normally the pain of separation and loss and the realization of what life could have been for the child and the birth parents. There can also be many unwanted behaviors from the child. These can be there from the beginning or developed. Adopters can feel all at sea and confused. For some, it’s just too much, and the adoption doesn’t work out or they become confused and depressed. It would be great to think my channel offers firm support, and I may help to stop some of those failed adoptions. Or that I can stop some adopters from becoming depressed and isolated. I believe knowledge is power. I hope our story of adoption is inspiring and thought-provoking. You can find me as ‘Adoption With Nyree’ across various social media platforms.”

birthday for young boy
Courtesy of Nyree Squires

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nyree Squires of Adoption With Nyree. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and her websiteSubmit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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