There are often many preconceptions. For example, some people think that you will be ruled out if you are disabled, if you are gay, if you are a couple but unmarried, if you are single, if you are on a low income, if you are an ‘older parent’…but this is untrue.
Suzanne is particularly a champion for black adopters. “So many black people think about adoption and say ‘no I can’t because I’m on my own or because I don’t have enough money’. But it can still happen for you because they do seriously look at you for who you are and what you can offer the child. Once you show that you can fit the child in your life, it happens.”
With around 4,000 children currently in the UK care system waiting to be adopted, she wants to encourage more black people to go for it. Suzanne is lucky that her family and friends make up a supportive and close-knit support network for her, with many living close by, including some of the nephews who now dote on her son Jay.
“So many black people think about adoption and say ‘no I can’t because I’m on my own or because I don’t have enough money’.
Suzanne is also proof that people aren’t ruled out of adoption because of their financial situation or needing to work. “You don’t have to be on mega bucks. I’m certainly not and I work full time.” Suzanne advises families to be open and honest with their agency about their financial situation, especially in the current economic climate, with many families facing uncertainties. Once Jay was placed with her, Suzanne’s agency paid her an adoption allowance so she could stay at home and look after Jay for a year. If you want to adopt, you just need to have a tenancy or lease that is secure – and lots of energy, love and understanding.
Suzanne also wants to promote adoption amongst black families because she feels ethnic, cultural and religious identity is an important part of a child’s self-identity. With black boys waiting the longest for an adoptive family, it is important that more black families come forward and consider adoption.
These days, the majority of children waiting to be adopted have been removed from their birth family through a court process, following concerns around neglect or abuse. Young Jay’s adoption story is therefore an unusual one. He is a ‘foundling’, and was abandoned as a baby. The story made the local news, and amazingly, Suzanne saw Jay in the news on TV, but she did not know at the time that Jay would be her son one day. Suzanne finished the adoption approval process and immediately began searching for a child within the pages of Be My Parent. And then, she was told that her agency had indeed found a match for her. Miraculously, the child was little Jay, whom she had seen on the news six months earlier.
Suzanne wanted to meet Jay straight away, but that special day took a few weeks to arrive, which was all in all just over six months after Suzanne begun her adoption journey. Suzanne describes her first emotional meeting with Jay at his foster carer’s house. “I was apprehensive about whether I would actually love him and feel everything that I thought I would. But for me it all clicked into place, which I was surprised about.” Two weeks of introductions followed. Then the day came for Suzanne to take home eleven-month-old Jay forever. “He’s been the best child I could ever hope for and imagine. On day seven, he called me ‘Mum’.” This was Jay’s first word.
Suzanne’s story is even more unusual in that Jay was under the age of one when he was placed with her. There are some babies who are waiting to be adopted in the UK, but very few. The average age of a child at adoption is around three years and ten months, and many of the children who wait the longest for a family are black, as well as children over the age of four, brothers and sisters and those with physical or learning disabilities.
When asked how adoption has changed her life, Suzanne pauses: “From the moment Jay stepped into my life, I haven’t been happier. I live for him. I feel like I’ve had him from the moment he was born, he feels no different.”