The number of children being adopted in Cumbria exceeds the national average but this is no reason to sit back – there are 51 children in the county waiting for a family and 12 more yet to be born yet but who will go straight into care. STEPHANIE MANLEY takes a closer look at this life-changing issue


ZOE Hoggan was taken into care when she was just days old, and wasn’t adopted until the age of eight. During that time she moved around the country between 30 different foster homes.

“I was just desperate for a family. I wanted to be claimed, to belong to somebody,” said the 29-year-old.

“I moved around so much that I had some behavioural problems. I was in the south of England but couldn’t be placed, so I was put up for adoption nationwide.”

Fortunately, Zoe was matched with Annabelle and moved from Swindon to join her new mum in Carlisle.

Now she has three sisters and two brothers – all adopted by Annabelle, who also works as part of Cumbria County Council’s adoption team.

Annabelle said: “I got to 29 and had not found Mr Right, so I decided to do it. Five of my children were between the ages of six and eight when I adopted them. Six months ago I adopted a baby who was only 36 hours old. I have a very busy household but I wouldn’t change it for the world!”

The council is hoping that more people like Annabelle will come forward to help the many children who are waiting for a home today.

And the process was given a massive boost by Government funding, allowing the council to set up a specialist early permanence team to look after babies and to create a post to seek out families for older children.

The grant, from the Department of Education, also enabled the team to launch the ‘Be Our Someone’ recruitment campaign, which was a huge success.

This is all good news, but there are still 51 children waiting for their ‘forever home’.

Coun Anne Burns, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “I am concerned that we simply don’t have enough adopters in the county, meaning we have to place increasing numbers of children with foster families far away from their home area.”

Another initiative to lessen a child’s disruption is the Fostering for Adoption scheme. This sees a child go straight to foster carers who are approved as adopters. If the court agrees the child needs adopting and the adoption agency approve the ‘match’ of carers and child, the foster placement then becomes an adoption one.

Annabelle pointed out Cumbria had a high number of under-twos – at the last count there were 25 – and added: “Moving a baby a lot is not going to be the best. Having a child from birth starts the relationship straight away, which is better for everyone And it is not just ‘conventional’ families that can apply to adopt, and/or foster.

Annabelle said: “It’s any kind of family. You can be a married couple, unmarried, single, gay, disabled.

“And Cumbria has got a really good post-adoption scheme. We work with schools and other professionals to make sure the child is given the help he or she needs.

“We stay with the child until they are a grown up, and it is a lifetime commitment because our records are kept for 100 years. Anyone who is thinking about it should get in touch.”

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* FOR the first time this year, Cumbria County Council is taking part in the adoption activity days as seen in the Channel 4 documentary ‘Finding Mum and Dad’.

The event, which is to take place in March, will see children and potential adopters from the North West come together for a ‘party’.

The idea, which has come from America, is for those wishing to adopt to meet the children face-to-face and engage with them in a fun environment.

Annabelle Hoggan, team leader for Cumbria County Council’s adoption team, said: “We are taking 12 children from Cumbria, for families to meet. It means that those looking to adopt see the children as real people, rather than just a piece of paper.”

In five pilot events, 225 children attended the days and families were found for 42 of these. Statistics from the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange in Boston, which has facilitated adoption parties for 30 years, demonstrated that they are twice as effective as any other method of family finding for children.

Coun Anne Burns, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Adopters would usually meet the child only after the match is approved. Adoption activity days reverse this process and adopters get the chance to find out if they are drawn to a child, and the information about them is exchanged after this.

“This doesn’t negate the assessment of adopters, or the very thorough matching process agencies undertake, but it also recognises the huge important of chemistry within human relationships.”