The popularity of TV shows like Love Child has raised the profile of adoption and fostering, which according to latest research, touches an estimated 1 in 15 Australians.¹
Sydney psychologist, Linda Gilford, specialises in supporting families through the process of fostering and adoption and says that their experiences are not always similar to those depicted on TV and in the movies.
According to Linda, the decision to adopt or foster a child doesn’t just affect the ‘adoption triangle’ of birth parents, adoptive parents and children.
“The effects of adoption and fostering are also felt by siblings and other generations in an extended family.”
She says that while attitudes to adoption have changed since the era of Love Child, the adoption process is still a very stressful experience for most waiting parents.
“TV shows often depict adoption as it was in the 1960s and 1970s, but these days adopting a child involves more than an affluent, childless couple doing a deal with the matron of a home for single mothers.”
Linda explains that Local and Intercountry adoption provide two pathways to adopting a child in NSW.
Neither are quick or easy.
“Approval times for adoptions can vary from 6 months, in the case of Local adoption, to several years for Intercountry adoption,” she says.
While Love Child represents an era when the biological background of the adopted child was often kept secret, Linda says that it is now more common for information about a child’s birth parents to be available to kids and their adoptive families.
“We now know that this information is vital to children’s sense of identity. NSW adoption laws reflect this and open adoption procedures support opportunities for the exchange of information between adopted children and their birth families.”
Linda says that being evaluated for suitability to adopt a child involves intense levels of scrutiny from adoption agencies, such as Family and Community Services.
“The checks and balances involved in adoption procedures can be arduous.”
“Of course, authorities need to be careful about who they choose to foster or adopt a child, but it can be a long process and waiting parents sometimes feel uncertain and isolated as they wait for the outcome of their application.”
She says that adding to a family via fostering or adoption is still not an everyday occurrence in Sydney and that it can be challenge to meet others who understand.
“In any given school, faith or community group, there might be only one or two families who have had experience of fostering or adoption.”
“Because adoptive parents are interviewed by so many agencies, it can also be difficult for them to find a supportive and neutral professional whose role is not to judge their parenting potential.”
“Sometimes, couples just need to talk about what they are feeling, or get advice about the process, and that’s where I come in.”
“Unless you’ve been through it yourself, it’s very hard to really understand what being part of the fostering and adoption system is really like, so I find it very rewarding to support waiting parents.”
“It’s equally lovely to help children and new parents adjust to being a family.”
Linda says there are some challenges specific to raising adopted or fostered children.
“Children who have been fostered or adopted have often seen more and been through more than other children their age.”
She explains that it may take a while for some adopted children to settle in to a family and be able to talk about how they feel about their adoption.
“Their new parents need to be open and accepting of their child’s individual experience, but sometimes, this isn’t as easy as it sounds.”
“Finding a trusted person to talk to, a family member, friend, or counsellor, can help when it comes to figuring things out. It can also help to talk to others who were adopted through a local or online support group.
Linda says that, as with all parenting situations, the positives associated with adoption help to buffer the negatives.
“Parents who have struggled for some time to have a child can feel an immense sense of fulfillment when they finally adopt their child,” she says.
“That’s when the process of building a family really starts.”
Psychologist Linda Gilford is also a fully qualified primary teacher and mum. She has extensive experience in the area of fostering and adoption and has a special professional interest in supporting adoptive parents, children and families.
Linda’s unique understanding of the challenges of adoption and fostering, as well as her expertise in children’s learning and development make her a sought after advisor.
To make an appointment with Linda, contact Kids First Children’s Services in Brookvale on (02) 9938 5419
¹ Winkler, R., Brown, D. W., van Keppel, M., & Blanchard, A. (1988). Clinical practice in adoption(Psychology Practitioner Guideline Books). Oxford: Pergamon.