Disability no obstacle to adoption, says new mum with best Christmas gift

Video report by Granada Reports journalist Tasha Kacheri

A disabled foster mum who has just fulfilled her dream to become an adoptive mother is urging others to sign up to become foster carers.

Hayley Finch, who has osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), a genetic bone disorder also known as brittle bone disease, has been caring for her two-and-a-half year old foster child Sheila since she was a young baby.

She has now finally had her Adoption Order granted and believes disability should not be an obstacle to others following in her footsteps.

Hayley Finch has now adopted little Sheila after fostering her since she was a baby Credit: ITV Granada Reports

There are currently almost 83,000 looked-after children - a child who has been in the care of their local authority for more than 24 hours - in the UK needing homes, with 3,000 children adopted in 2021.

But with 18 children entering the care system every single day in the UK, Sheila is urging others to sign up to be foster carers.

"We've had so much to celebrate this Christmas," says Hayley. "We're so overjoyed that the Adoption Order has been granted.

"Becoming Sheila's forever mum has made all my dreams come true. I am so excited about our future together.

"I've never let my disability hold me back. Anyone with a disability can foster - as long as you're able to care for yourself and a child."

Sheila's been with the family since she was six weeks old and in 2021, Hayley decided to adopt her.

But having brittle bones disease was something that Hayley was always worried might hold her back from being able to adopt.

"I always thought 'Am I physically able to be a parent, a mum?' And then when I approached the social workers and asked them about it, they said 'why not - you've overcome challenges in your life, this is just another challenge to overcome."

Hayley's bones are softer than they should be, and she has had more 300 broken bones in her life so far.

Her condition means she is only 4ft tall and has some mobility restrictions.

Hayley and Sheila Credit: National Fostering Group

"Although I have OI, I refuse to let it impact massively on my life, I’ve just found new ways to do things," Hayley said.

"I used to work full time as a nursery nurse at a nursery in Liverpool, looking after 0-5 year-olds.

"But now I do three days a week, so I can spend quality time with Sheila when she’s not at nursery.

"My parents have been fostering for 10 years now. When they first started, I was still living at home, so I saw first-hand what fostering was like.

"In March 2020, I decided that I wanted to become a ‘foster-to-adopt’ carer - this was partly due to me being single and partly due to my condition. I didn’t want to risk passing on OI to a child and wanted to be in the best possible health when a child arrived.

"Sheila had been placed in foster care with my parents at seven weeks old and an amazing bond developed between her and the whole family.

"Originally, there had been plans for Sheila to be placed with another family but this fell through.

"As soon as I heard this, I approached her social worker and asked if I could be considered to adopt her."

Hayley Finch with newly adopted daughter Sheila Credit: ITV Granada Reports

‘Foster to adopt’ places children with foster carers who have been approved to adopt.

"The most important day of my life was when I was approved as an adoptive parent and matched with Sheila – I was so overjoyed, nervous and excited about the prospect of Sheila being with me forever. It was the best day ever.

"Growing up as part of a fostering family, gave me a first-hand insight into the rewards of giving a safe and secure environment to children who need it.

"And now Sheila and I are looking forwards to the future – and the future looks bright.’

The charity Adoption Matters, says: "Having a disability does not exclude people from becoming adopters and it is widely recognised that people with disabilities can often provide a very loving home for a child.

"Disability is only one of the many issues that we will consider so don’t rule yourself out.

"It is also recognised that the life experiences of people with a disability can give them a unique insight into the lives of children in care, who often have a sense of themselves as ‘different’ or who may also have a disability.

"Living alongside disability in the context of positive relationships can teach children the importance of inclusivity and how to value difference."

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