Almost half the world, more than 3 billion people, live on less than $2.50 a day and more than 80% of them live on less than $10 a day across our globe. According to UNICEF, more than 22,000 children die each day due to poverty and they die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the conscience of the world. Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read or even sign their own name and some of our children began their existence in such villages in the remotes parts of these countries.

I am a mum to 4 young children, 2 of whom were adopted from West Africa in very challenging circumstances in 2007 & 2009. My own exposure to third world trauma, my own adoption experience and the passion and training I have for supporting families through the adoption process, have all helped form the wealth of experience I have today in family support work.

Probably one of the most emotionally difficult, defiantly heart wrenching but most rewarding things I have ever done in my 37 years of life (and twice). Not many little girls act out scenes from orphanages or care homes during their imaginary play time as kids and there are certainly not very many teenagers whose dream suddenly becomes a vision of building a family through adoption one day before even a thought of a biological child. Well, at 12 years old, this was my dream. My life ambition, an ache in my very young and developmentally immature heart that I knew one day would become my life.

I had the most amazing childhood. Supportive parents, a lovely family home in the suburbs of London, a great education and a burning desire to change a life one day with my passion for the third world. Trekking the Himalayan Mountains at 16 years old was probably the beginning of my adventures that would shape me into adulthood and be the start of my crazy adventures yet to come. Fast forward a decade and I was now living in Dubai, having studied abroad, lived and travelled across the globe and with no road maps, no one else in my family or friendship circle who had ever adopted and at only 25 years old, I embarked on what was to be the most harrowing few years of my life.

As well as being elated at the thought, the nerves were building up back then too. I was about to make this dream a reality and with a new husband, a new country and a new home under my belt, I ignited that old fire and began the adoption process. This longed for little girl who had been part of my thoughts since I was little and my desire to be a mum, was intense, overpowering and now so real. I had done so much in my short life so far and this was the next stepping stone for me. To meet a man who was willing to share my dream and do this with me was special…. Really special!

We are forever grateful to Dubai and the UAE to have supported our journey, as expatriates to adopt our 2 girls from Sierra Leone and Liberia when so little is still known about the process whilst not living in your home country. The adoption “home study” is a process that every parent, regardless of nationality, who would like to consider adoption, must complete.

This process is internationally recognised as a parent preparation course that qualifies you as potential adopters and ensures you have met all legal and psychological requirements to ensure the child is returning to a safe and secure family. It usually takes 2-4 months and can vary depending on each person’s circumstances and family status. Once this is completed and your adoption paperwork and all medical and security checks have been done, you are ready to build a dossier for your chosen county of adoption.

Adoption laws change all the time and every single country around the world has different rules and regulations. Some are linked to certain nationalities, certain ages or religious beliefs and some are so very immature in their processes that it can be a lot of trial and error and fact finding for yourself as soon to be parents.

Countries that have been successful for expatriates living overseas are Ethiopia, Guatemala, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Mexico, Ukraine, Korea, Uganda, Seychelles and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Your dossier usually consists of another round of paperwork that you will need to compile with the help of adoption professionals and then submitting it to your country of choice to begin the wait for a referral. I often get asked “how long does this referral take?” and I honestly find this one of the most emotional and difficult questions to answer. I have been there and remember that period like it was yesterday and yet it has been over a decade since my first “referral”.

Sleeping with my laptop, sitting up, between time zones, waiting for “news”, dreaming endlessly about a child that you didn’t even know existed yet, welling up every time I saw a baby and appearing like a deranged and emotionally unstable wreck to the outside world.

Every county of adoption has different wait times and costs and these can differ from a few weeks to 6 months. “How long?” really is such a difficult question to answer and without a doubt, one of the hardest parts of the adoption journey.

Once you’re matched or “referred” and you accept your referral, your wait becomes even more heart wrenching. Emotionally torturous in fact but what a gift of life you are given at the end. During this wait, your head is still in your job and your day to day life must remain “normal” but your heart is on the other side of the world somewhere hugging this virtual child that you’ve not yet met. The virtual feeling that you have “given birth” to a baby and it’s been taken from you, placed in someone else’s care, on the other side of the world and told you can maybe have her back in a few months but the decision lies with someone in a court somewhere that you have never met. I honestly don’t know how else to explain it.
If you can get through this bit without losing your sanity, you’re good to get going on the adoption parenting journey I reckon.

A soon to be court appearance, more medical checks and lots of stamping later and you’re nearly ready to go home. The best feeling ever and utter euphoria at what you’ve just achieved.

The immense passion and energy I have developed for families that choose adoption is difficult to quantify. Helping families through some of these early emotions that bring up questions like “is this right for me?” or “can I take on such an emotionally challenging but rewarding journey?” is paramount for success.

It’s isolating, lonely and so mentally draining at times that it’s important that parents reach out and get further support and empowerment to ultimately improve the relationships they will have with their children one day.

If you have any questions relating to adoption, parenting a child with specific attachment issues, the specific adoption process, parent preparation classes, direct family liaison work or therapeutic care, Selina has 13 years’ experience in Dubai and an unprecedented and unique understanding of the region. She is qualified with an Honours awarded Bachelor’s Degree, an MSc in Psychology, further UK training in Developmental Psychotherapy and more specific trauma related training
The adoption support team can offer confidential home visits, family observation sessions, tailor made therapy sessions, education evenings, specialized training and workshops as well as home study preparation support.

Amazing isn’t it? Would you like write for British Mums? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Please drop us an email at blog@britishmums.com

Read more:

Autism and Me – My Journey by British Mum Andrea Jane Guy

10 Things Little Children Do That Drive Us To Insanity

The Day My Husband Lost His Job