What happens when adoptions break down? York's Catherine Adamson shares her heartbreaking story

CATHERINE Adamson's happiest day was when the two young children she was adopting moved into her house in York.

Her saddest day came just four months later, when the children moved out after the adoption failed.

"It took me six weeks to leave the house after the children left. The day they left was the most traumatic day of our lives," says Catherine, 51, who is married to Bill.

This all happened four years ago, but the pain is still raw. As Catherine tells her story, over a cup of coffee at her home off Huntington Road, she is in tears.

She has decided to share her story and speak out about what the authorities term "adoption disruption" to highlight the issue and to raise money for charities that support young people in need: The Island and SASH.

She is aware that failed adoption is taboo subject – but wants people to be aware that it does happen. She says figures are vague, but one report suggests as many as one in five adoptions are "disrupted" in the UK. And she wants to make the case for more resources to support children and families following adoption.

Catherine and Bill applied for adoption after failing to conceive. "I met Bill when I was 40," says Catherine, who runs her own business, Kaleidoscope Virtual Assistant Services. "We tried to have children, but wanting to conceive had its ups and downs. We considered IVF but that didn't feel right when there were so many children needing homes already.

"So we went down the adoption route. It took us two years to get approval – which is as it should be."

The couple were approved for adoption in September 2013 and just four months later were matched with two young siblings, who were under the care of a local authority outside of York and North Yorkshire. It was this authority and its social workers that worked with the family in the aftermath.

"It was so exciting," recalls Catherine. "Everything was so positive. We bought this house because we were adopting and needed something bigger, more of a family home. You have to start making changes to your life – like when you are having a baby. You need to, you want to."

Catherine smiles at the happy memory of those early days. "We were so hopeful; I'd always wanted children and assumed I'd have them.

"The children were excited. We had a two-week introductory period, when they came back to have tea then we'd take them back to their foster home."

The day they moved in was a "whoosh of emotions" says Catherine. "We were euphoric about things; about our hopes and our future and what we were going to be doing."

But that high soon turned to a low. Catherine says the local authority's social services did not reveal the full background story of the children, and when problems arose she felt left to struggle on alone, without support.

She said: "I felt they placed the children with us and ran for the hills. I felt abandoned. None of it was the children's fault. Their behaviour is a result of their life experience. They are not responsible for anything to do with the breakdown."

Ultimately, Catherine feels let down by the system: "There is a lack of support, energy and finance to do anything to help."

She adds: "I was spinning into a point of total despair and all the social workers would say was: 'don't worry, you are doing a fantastic job'. There was no recognition, no offer of support. What me and the children needed was just dismissed."

After four months, she and Bill made the heartbreaking decision to return the children to the care of the original local authority – and their previous foster parents.

She said it was a devastating outcome for all of them. "You don't take them on a trial basis. But I was slowly day by day, hour by hour, becoming less well. I was in post-adoption depression. I was in a state physically, emotionally and mentally, and I just could not cope. You are in such conflict; you want these children so much and love them, but it is making you so ill. What do you do?"

Catherine says Bill was "her rock" throughout. "Thank God I have a strong marriage," she says.

"It took me six months to leave the house and I didn't make eye contact with anybody.

"I felt judged; I felt people would think I was a bad mother who could not look after her children and let those children down.

"No one I have ever spoken to has judged me. But no one can judge you harder than you judge yourself.

"I want other people going through a difficult adoption to know they are not alone."

This summer, she will walk and wild camp 109 miles along the Cleveland Way to raise money for vulnerable children. She hopes to raise £10,000 to be split equally between The Island, which supports young people aged between eight and 13 in York who are struggling to cope at home, at school, or in the wider community, and SASH, which works to prevent youth homelessness in York, North Yorkshire and East Yorkshire.

York Press:

FOR SALE: Catherine, pictured above on her wedding day, is selling her wedding dress to raise funds for her chosen charities

As part of the fundraising drive, she is selling her wedding dress too. It cost £1,100 new, and Catherine would like to sell it for £400. "It is a beautiful dress, but I have no reason to keep it. It is a halter-neck and would fit a curvy size 14-16."

She is also organising a Race Night at Haxby Sports Bar on May 4, and a coffee morning to boost funds.

She says: “I can’t do anything now for the children we lost, but I want to try and make a difference to the lives of other children and young people. I want to try to prevent what happened to our children from happening again.”

About the charities:

SASH (sash-uk.org.uk) runs supported lodgings schemes in North and East Yorkshire, to help young people develop the skills they need to live on their own and provides emergency overnight accommodation for young people during a crisis. By providing support during a time of need, the charity hopes to break a vicious circle of unemployment and homelessness.

The Island (theislandyork.org) provides young people with fully-trained volunteer mentors, who provide one-to-one support to young people in need of support over 12 months.

To find our more and donate, visit Catherine's fundraising page at: uk.virginmoneygiving.com/CatherineAdamson

For details of support groups, visit adoptiondisruptionuk.com