Becoming an adoptive parent
Edris Miller, from Southampton, UK, describes her experience of adopting as a blind mother. This article first appeared in the Southern Daily Echo (UK) on Wednesday 3 October 2007.
Edris Miller refuses to let her blindness stand in the way of motherhood. She has already brought up one daughter singlehandedly and has recently adopted another into her St Denys home.
Today, her lively adopted eight-year-old, who Edris does not want to be named, is bouncing around the living room like a live wire. Her pigtails fly as she enthusiastically introduces her mum’s guide dog.
Dispelling the myths
As a disabled, single mum, over 50, Edris cheerfully dispels most of the myths surrounding just who is eligible to adopt – particularly when you discover her adopted daughter also has a disability.
“I want to show that disabled people can adopt and that different children need all sorts of people from all walks of life,” she says.
Partially sighted since birth, Edris lost her vision completely 16 years ago but had always harboured dreams of adopting a child.
“I’d always fancied bringing a child over from Guyana in South America where I’m from but there are problems with that,” she says. “Then I found out how many children there are in this country who need loving homes.
“When my eldest daughter went off to drama school I thought the time might be right to think seriously about adopting.”
However, she wasn’t without her worries. “I did think I might not be allowed to do it,” she admits. “But as soon as I made the first call to the National Children’s Home (NCH) children’s charity they were really supportive.”
Not all reactions have been so positive. “I’ve had some people who didn’t approve because I am a single mum and I’m blind and they thought I wouldn’t be capable. But I knew I could do it. I had brought up my other daughter on my own so there was no reason I couldn’t do this.
“The adoption process took a couple of years and involved visits from NCH and social workers. To be honest, it’s the same process anyone would go through.”
Her main challenge, she says, has been getting around and ferrying her daughter to her various dance classes and clubs without being able to drive.
Edris believes her blindness has actually helped her daughter settle and gain confidence in her own identity.
“She’s been extremely good about it. She understands that I can’t read the work she brings home from school and she accepts that. She told me she likes having a blind mum because it means I understand her own disability better.
“I also think it was important for her to have one parent rather than two – I think it makes her feel comfortable and builds her confidence.
“Ethnicity can also play an important role in adoption,” says Edris, although she is keen to stress that all children are different and have different requirements from an adoptive parent.
“I think it was important for her to be placed with a black parent because she has problems with her colour. I don’t know why but she doesn’t like being black and I’m trying to work with that and get her to see that she’s beautiful and intelligent.
“She also got embarrassed talking about her Jamaican heritage but I’m helping her learn about it and be proud of it.”
Adoption and diversity
As part of Black History Month, Southampton City Council and adoption agency NCH are pushing for more black, Asian and mixed heritage adopters to come forward.
Pauline Pearce, adoption manager for Southampton Adoption Services, said: “We have a diverse range of children and we need a diverse range of adopters. There is no ideal adopter – you don’t have to be a certain age or from a certain background. It doesn’t matter if you are single, married, gay or heterosexual or how expensive your house is. We match individual children with the right adopter for them.”
Having been accepted as a prospective parent, Edris found out about a young disabled girl who needed adopting.
“Because I’m disabled myself I liked the idea and after reading her profile I decided I would like to meet her. She was six years old then and bouncy – ten times as bouncy as she is now. She was very cute but manic and charging about all over the place.”
Having been in care since the age of three the little girl lived with Edris for about two years before being officially adopted last June.
“She’s come on a treat,” says Edris proudly. “At first she didn’t like
doing as she was told. She was spoilt and knew how to work the system. She also had attachment problems and would cuddle strangers, not realising it was inappropriate.
“Now people say she is a pleasure to be with. She still has a lot of energy and she needs definite boundaries but now she has the stability she needs.
“It’s a shame she’s had so much rubbish in her life and it’s horrible for children to be passed from pillar to post but she has a lovely nature.
“I know I can give her the security and love that all children would like.
“I can’t emphasise enough that we need more black adopters and people from all walks of life – including disabled people – to adopt.
“If I can influence just one person and it changes one child’s life, it will be worth it.”
Southern Daily Echo (UK) © 2007.
Reproduced by permission of Southern Daily Echo.
National Children’s Home (NCH) , one of the UK’s leading children’s charities, helping children achieve their full potential.
British Association for Adoption and Fostering , the leading UK charity on adoption and fostering.
For international contacts, please see the online version of this journal at www.dppi.org.uk