Mandy & Steven’s story
"We always wanted to be parents, but despite trying different fertility treatments, we couldn't have children of our own. As we'd just turned thirty, we felt we couldn't wait any longer, so we decided to look into adoption and create the family we so desperately wanted.
We didn't know about how intrusive the process would be, the types of children that we would be matched with or how long it would take. Your end goal is what drives you forward.
There are a lot of misconceptions about the process. So, go into it with an open mind. We found it to be a very positive experience and much quicker than we first thought.
It was easier than we thought, the social workers were approachable and we felt comfortable with them. The communication is the most important thing and we were kept up to date all the time.
Within twelve months, we welcomed James into our home and family. He was only nine months old, so it's been wonderful to watch him grow up and enjoy so many memorable moments together.
When the time was right to extend our family, we once again back to the adoption team and in no time at all we had little Jessica in our arms.
There are lots of children who need a loving home. And it's made such a big difference to our lives too. The team is fantastic. You won't feel under any pressure. And they will take the time to make sure adoption is right for you.
As well as being mum to James who is now aged thirteen and Jessica who is eleven, I work for the charity After Adoption. It was the best decision we've ever made.
I'd advise people who are nervous about taking that first step to go for it! Go for that initial meeting and find out as much information as you can so you feel more confident in your decision.
Carl and Peter's story
Carl and his civil partner Peter from Bolton adopted brothers Joel, seven and Alfie, six.
Carl and Peter have been together for 13 years and had thought about adoption a number of times.
Carl said: "It was something we had discussed, but we kept thinking we were too old or too busy with work. Then our circumstances changed. Peter took early retirement from teaching and we had more time.
"We had our civil partnership and we travelled for a while, but we felt that we could do more.
"We had seen things in the press about same sex couples adopting and people closer to our age and we thought, let's do this."
Carl and Peter began the process of adopting and at first they thought that they wouldn't be wanted.
"I guess we had some doubts because we are a same sex couple and a bit older, but we heard back really quickly."
Within a few months of starting the adoption process half brothers Joel and Alfie were identified as a good match.
"We got information from everywhere about them. It was very thorough. The social worker, Joel's teacher and their foster carer all helped us with this.
"When we finally met them at their foster carers' house, they came flying out the door and into our arms
"We didn't expect it at all."
Once the boys were placed with Carl and Peter they took each day step by step.
"We were lucky as we had a lot of time together. Peter wasn't working and I was given adoption leave, so we had plenty of time to take things easy and get to know each other.
"The boys fell into a routine and were good at going to sleep. We made some changes, like giving them baths in the evening and that all went well.
"We spent the first few weeks going to the park, they rode their bikes and we took them to the woods a lot. We built dens and had picnics and threw stones into the river."
The first few months were not without challenges and Carl and Peter have been on a steep learning curve. Alfie regressed, which meant that he stopped dressing and feeding himself and began using baby language.
Carl said: "We had heard about regression, but we had no experience of it. We were supported by our social worker who explained to us that we should just go with it.
"Our family gave us some baby toys and we started dressing and feeding Alfie as if he was a toddler again. Sure enough it passed."
The boys are now more settled and have swimming lessons. Joel is at school and he loves choir and computer club.
Carl said: "They are happy that they have two Dads. They explain that to people and they are comfortable with it. We had a bit of upset around Mother's Day as someone said to Joel "You don't have a Mum", but he let them know that he has two Dads instead.
"We are a family and I guess I just can't remember a time when they weren't here. We have a home and we are on a great adventure."
Zoe and Simon's story
Zoe, and Simon from Bolton, adopted Sally, eight and Tom six, nearly two and a half years ago.
The couple had tried to conceive naturally, but were unsuccessful.
Zoe said: "We weren't able to have biological children and we had a strong instinct to adopt. It felt right for us from the beginning. We had known foster parents and people who have been adopted - because of this we also knew the value of keeping siblings together.
"It started with Simon making a phone call one day whilst he was walking around Bolton town centre. I don't think he realised it would be quite a lengthy conversation."
Within a couple of months Zoe and Simon were on a three-day course, where they learnt about adopting children and met parents who had adopted.
"We cried a lot," Zoe said. "It is a very emotional thing and I think it was a bit of an eye opener."
Zoe and Simon knew it was the right thing for them to do and they decided that in order to accommodate siblings they needed to build an extension.
"We moved in with relatives so we could create another bedroom," Zoe said.
"Everything happened very quickly. Six months after taking part in the course our social worker had found children, which she thought were a good match.
"She sent us a picture of a brother and sister and straight away we knew they were for us. I'm a drama teacher and they loved singing and dancing."
Zoe and Simon were then invited to an adoption event where they were given the opportunity to meet Sally and Tom.
"We were nervous. It was very difficult as you need to be calm and give them space. They were lovely. They were dressed up as a princess and a pirate.
"We had the chance to talk to them - it was lovely to hear their voices."
With the matching process underway, Zoe and Simon went to visit the children at the foster home
"Sally said 'mummy and daddy are here,' which got to me straight away. She was so accepting and ready to become a family," Zoe said.
"As Sally was seven there was some consideration that she might need to be separated from her brother to increase his chances of adoption. Older children are less likely to be adopted. We were so happy to take them both."
She added: "We had decorated the new bedroom for them and put pictures of them on the wall and bought a few teddies, so they felt at home.
"It was a whirlwind really. The children made the transition really easily and were great.
"Tom was a bit poorly at first and he didn't sleep well. His speech has been slow but he is seeing a speech therapist and he is really coming on. It is great to see them thrive.
"When he started his new school he ran in. They've both made loads of friends now and Tom goes to kickboxing and Sally loves gymnastics and athletics.
"We've already got so many memories and photographs and videos of the things we've enjoyed as a family. The first time we went to a hotel the children had cookies with their names on and loved the fact that they could go swimming at any time. When we went to Spain they packed their own suitcases and were so excited to be going on a plane.
"They've become a really important part of our extended family and they are proud of having cousins and love family parties. We are on a wonderful journey and they love life."
Adoption gave me my dream family
Growing up as an only child, Nicola Lane always dreamed about having a big family.
She had always been interested in the idea of adoption – so when she and her husband found they couldn't have children of their own, they decided to look into it further.
Nicola, 31, from Tameside, is now a proud mum to two young brothers, aged eight and six, and has the loving family she always wished for.
She said: "Adoption is a long and daunting journey but I would encourage anyone thinking about it to contact Adoption Now and find out more. You get so much support and training and ultimately it makes dreams come true for everyone involved."
Nicola told how she first started looking into adoption in 2012.
She said: "Applying to adopt is a long and sometimes intrusive process but that's how it should be to ensure this is the right thing for you. It's also only fair on the children, who have already had lots of upheaval and disruption in their young lives and need stability. However you get a lot of support through the process and beyond and it really helps to prepare you, helping you to understand why you want to adopt and how you will cope with any challenges. My husband initially had reservations about adoption but the application process actually made him realise this was right for us rather than putting him off."
The couple first saw their two boys at an adoption ‘activity day' in July 2013, where prospective adopters get a chance to meet and play with children waiting for adoption.
Nicola said: "Although I wasn't sure I was comfortable with the idea of this we agreed to give it a go. We had always wanted to adopt siblings and I thought I wanted to adopt girls – this is common and all the adopters were stood around the few girls at the event as if they were the glittering prize.
"Then two little boys dressed as Winnie the Pooh and Tigger came whizzing past us and we ended up playing with them for ages. Something about them just felt right."
The couple expressed an interest in the two brothers, then aged four and two, and the next stage in the matching process began. During this period they were given more information on the boys - including their backgrounds, likes and dislikes and photographs.
The adoption was approved by a panel two months later and the introduction process started with daily visits – first at the boys' foster home and then later at the couple's home. Ten days later the boys moved in for good.
Nicola said: "The night before we picked them up to bring them home was both exciting and daunting. Picking them up was emotional on so many counts – you feel like you are taking them away from everything they have known and loved but also you know this is the right thing for them in the long term and the start of a new life for all of us.
"They were both different in how they settled - one kicked his shoes off and settled in straight away while the other took a little longer. There were ups and downs but that's family life and we very quickly began to fit together."
Nicola describes the golden moment when she knew she finally had the family she had always dreamed about: "There was one day when we were in the Lake District on our first family holiday together and one of them said ‘this is the best day of my life mummy'. We had also just recently had the court adoption order come through and this felt like the icing on the cake – they were ours, they were happy and we could all finally relax."
She added: "It's really heartwarming when you start seeing them pick up your little traits – whether it's the way you walk or the things you say. We see aspects of our own personalities in both of them too. It's the old nature versus nurture argument but there's an undeniable sense of belonging between us all."
Nicola is open with both boys about the fact they are adopted and keeps in touch with their birth parents through ‘letterbox contact'.
She said: "We write to their birth parents once a year and I think this is really important for everyone involved. I think it's crucial that you are open about their adoption – it's part of their life story. Some adoptive parents are wary of this but it's better for it to feel normal to the children rather than it be another bombshell for them to face when they are older."
Since adopting, Nicola has helped to set up and run Forever Families, a registered charity which provides activities and support for parents and children involved in adoption. In fact, adoption suits her so well that she is hoping to do it again.
"I definitely want to adopt at least another child. I always did want a big family and we can make a difference to another child's life. The boys are really excited about it too."