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Book review: ‘An inspirational must-read for everyone involved in adoption’

Adoption social worker Sandra Freeman reviews No Matter What – An Adoptive Family’s Story of Hope, Love and Healing by Sally Donovan

Sally Donovan has written No Matter What to share the journey she and her husband Rob made, from when they first try to have a baby of their own, through their infertility and their decision to adopt. Sally and Rob are overjoyed to adopt half-siblings Jaymee and Harlee, followed later by the distress of discovering the full extent of the children’s past.

The book begins with an account of what Sally describes as ‘having endured another day of traumatic struggle’ with Jaymee. “This is a test of me, a brave test of whether I am going to have the mettle to least the course with him,” Sally writes.

By taking the reader through infertility disappointment and the adoption process, the agony of waiting to be a parent is very apparent.

By going through the process from the adopters’ point of view it is clear that every day of waiting can feel like a lifetime, waiting for the phone to ring, waiting for the assessment, waiting for the decision (and this did not change once the children were with them!).

Once the children are placed the enormity of the task dawns, and Sally recounts the story of learning not just how to be a parent, but how to heal each of the children and advocate for them when other professionals consider that they know best.

I often felt uncomfortable when Sally wrote about professionals being late, walking mud into her carpet, and particularly the support worker who shared her own difficulties rather than offer any support. However, Sally does not dwell on these disappointments, rather they drive her on to find professionals who can support the family.

The book ends by moving forward in time – life is not perfect, and Sally is aware of the many challenges ahead, but the family ‘group hug’, is significant, and they will share them as a family. Sally, without doubt, has the mettle to last the course with her children.

As a post adoption social worker, who has also recently worked in a children in care team, this book struck a chord as to how our role impacts on children and adopters.

With timescale changes in the adoption system and increasing pressures we need to constantly remind ourselves that the targets we have to meet are to ensure children like Jaymee and Harlee are matched with the Sally and Robs of this world, and that they in turn have the support they need to undertake that role.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough – it travels with me in my handbag and I sing its praises to whoever will listen! I urge everyone involved in adoption to read this book and to be inspired.

Sandra Freeman works in the post adoption team at Essex council. No Matter What is published by Jessica Kingsley and can be purchased here. Sally Donovan’s blog can be found here.

Camilla Pemberton, journalist,

About Camilla Pemberton, journalist,

Camilla Pemberton is Community Care's children's editor