Amy and Ben, from Bolton have adopted six children, here Amy tells their adoption story.
“My name is Amy and adoption has always been the way I planned to have a family. I was born in St Bees in Cumbria and was raised in a wonderful family, being the youngest of four siblings. The only ‘difficulty’ I faced was being the youngest child – I loved babies and was desperate for my parents to give me a baby brother or sister, which never happened!
One of my most vivid memories as a child was watching the Ethiopian famine on John Craven’s Newsround when I was 5 years old. The images I saw of starving orphans in Africa never left me.
As a loved, privileged child, it always hurt to think of children who didn’t have a loving or secure family. I couldn’t imagine that and I grew up knowing that one day I would adopt children to give them the love and security I have always had.
Working with disadvantaged children has always been my ‘calling’. I am not religious, it was just where I knew my life was going. I did a Gap Year in a Zimbabwean Orphanage when I was 18 and then I volunteered in Romanian Orphanages throughout University. I met Ben, my husband from Sutton Coldfield, on my first day at University and on our first date I told him I planned to adopt five children from Africa – he knew my plans from the outset and kept on dating me!
When we graduated (I am a Teacher and Ben was an Archaeologist) we moved to Tanzania to work at an International School there. During the weekends and evenings we volunteered at a local orphanage and seeing all the children who needed families – we soon decided to apply to adopt.
Barnabas joined our family in 2003 when he was 2 years old. He was tiny and quite sick initially – but settled immediately and brought such joy to our lives. Whilst pursuing his adoption, Ben and I decided to set up our own Baby Home in Tanzania. Orphanages we visited and volunteered at were such awful places and most children remained in them for life. So few were being adopted or reunified and it broke my heart to know they would never be raised in a loving family.
We built Forever Angels which was an interim home caring for orphaned and abandoned babies and opened in 2006. Over the last 13 years we have cared for over 360 babies at the centre and have helped to facilitate over 100 adoptions. We have also set up Maisha Matters which is a community program which provides life saving nutrition to orphan babies living at home with their relatives as well as training and business creation. Our program empowers the caregivers to provide for their own children (meaning they never need to enter an orphanage) and keeps children in their own biological families. We have supported over 650 babies through this program over the last 4 years. www.foreverangels.org
Whilst living in Tanzania for 12 years we adopted four more children.
In 2004, Tia joined our family when she was 6 months old.
In 2006, Molly joined us when she was 3 months old.
In 2007, we adopted Leila when she was 6 weeks old.
In 2009, Charlie joined us when he was 4 years old.
We stayed in Tanzania for 12 years as we believed it was important for the children to know their native language and culture. In 2014, we moved back to the UK because Leila is profoundly Deaf and has special needs and there was no support for her in Tanzania.
The children were amazing in adjusting to life in England – in fact, I think I struggled to settle here more than they did! I planned our move very carefully though. We moved to Bolton, a very diverse city and it was definitely the right decision. My children attend a very diverse school and have African friends which was so important to them and me.
It was very important that my children keep their culture and heritage – our house is full of African art; we fill our shelves with books which have Black main characters; we cook Tanzanian food, we still speak Swahili and we will always return to Tanzania for our holidays.
Ben and I both work full time, but are very lucky to be able to work from home and with very flexible working hours. I continue to run Forever Angels and Ben is a Software Developer. We basically ‘tag-team’ between working and looking after the children.
When we got back to England, I had five wonderful children and my heart was full. But I kept seeing adverts about foster care and adoption and the need especially for children with special needs and black and ethnic minority children to have families. I knew we still had room in our hearts and lives for more children (and after a few house renovations, we had room in our house too!)
After living back in England for two and a half years, we contacted Adoption Matters and have never looked back. We adopted Ameena who came to us when she was 10 weeks old, she is also Black African although born in the UK. I was a little worried about the age gap between her and our other children (our other children are aged 18, 15, 14, 13, 12 now) but I needn’t have worried. Ameena is adored! Her older siblings just love her and she brings such joy to our family (which is a true blessing on days where we have teenage angst!)
My children are my whole life. They are amazing. Being a Mum to six children (who attend five different schools!) is busy but I would have it no other way. I make a huge effort to spend alone, quality time with each child and they are all exceptionally well-adjusted, kind, intelligent and thoughtful children.
Barnabas is actually leaving home this month to go to University to study Law and my heart is breaking a little (but is also full of pride – he is an incredible adult and I am privileged to be his Mum.)
I found Adoption Matters to be really great. They were very open minded and supportive as I am sure other agencies may have been sceptical about us adopting a sixth child (and they also helped us adopt the most precious little girl in existence!)
I can honestly say that adoption is without a doubt, the best thing I ever did (6 times over!) I would never want to create a family in any other way. If you have love in your heart, have strength and passion to support a child no matter what, then adoption could be the right path for you.”