Military personnel are renowned for their fantastic parenting due to the discipline, camaraderie and dependability which they develop as a result of their career. However, assumptions and stereotypes surrounding the Armed Forces can often make it difficult for serving personnel to adopt through local authorities.
SSAFA, the UK’s oldest Armed Forces charity, understands the particular challenges that military families face during the adoption process, and has been helping the community to adopt for over 30 years through their unique SSAFA Adoption Service.
Since launching the service in 1964, the charity has successfully supported over 328 military couples and individuals through the adoption service.
With Big Adoption Day (21st March) approaching, here Stephen Richards, Head of Adoption at SSAFA, has addressed some of the myths and stereotypes that surround the military community, and which create barriers to the adoption process – in the hope that this will improve the process for military adopters moving forward.
MYTH #1 – MILITARY FAMILIES HAVE LITTLE STABILITY
Stephen Richards says: “Some Local Authorities assume that deployment and regular moves in the military mean that families can’t provide stability for children, and therefore will not consider them as prospective adopters.
“The frequency of moves in the military largely depends on the type of service, and the specific role that is held. Families that are required to move are always provided with assistance to ensure a smooth transition, and the Navy, Army and RAF all have their own welfare support organisations for military families who are deployed.
“Transitioning to a moving military lifestyle will no doubt bring new challenges however, most families cope very well with deployment and find that they grow stronger as a result of their experiences. Serving personnel can request a period of non-deployment in order to support family life, as well as up to 12 months adoption leave.”
MYTH #2 – MILITARY FAMILIES HAVE NO SUPPORT NETWORK
Stephen Richards says: “Another common myth surrounding military families is that they do not have a support network to lean on. Many people assume that a military family’s busy schedule and frequent relocations can create a ‘gulf’ with families and friends, leaving them without a strong support network. However, this is a complete misconception.
“Military families who relocate together also have access to a robust support network within their military base – including doctor surgeries, schools, nurseries, and a team of dedicated welfare support officers. There is always a strong community identity at the bases and families support each other well.”
MYTH #3 – MILITARY LIFE CAN LEAD TO STRAINED RELATIONSHIPS
Stephen Richards says: “People often assume that the pressures which come with a military career, such as long periods of separation or living abroad within a small military base, can create tension in a relationship or marriage – suggesting that military couples will not provide a stable home for children.
“There’s no doubt that military marriages require a lot of energy, patience and loyalty – however, that doesn’t mean to say that they will be any less successful or stable than a non-military marriage.”
MYTH #4 – MILTARY PERSONNEL AREN’T PARENTAL BY NATURE
Stephen Richards says: “Many people find it difficult to picture military personnel with young children because of the nature of their job. A person who is trained in handling weaponry is often perceived as an advocate of aggression. However, they are simply peace-keeping men and women whose instinct is to protect and defend. There are a vast range of roles and specialisms in the Armed Forces, including doctors, engineers, musicians, veterinarians and lawyers to name a few.
“People who have served, or are serving, within the Armed Forces have the experience and characteristics to make fantastic parents, due to their direction, camaraderie and reliability which they develop as a result of their military career.”
MYTH #5 – IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO ADOPT UNTIL YOU’VE LEFT THE ARMY
Stephen Richards says: “Adopting whilst you are a serving member of the Forces can be challenging – however, that’s why SSAFA is here.
At the SSAFA Adoption Service, we work closely with Armed Forces employers to ensure that housing and educational needs are met for military personnel who wish to adopt. We also offer a wide range of extra support to adoptive families, such as practical help and assistance, as well as a dedicated post-adoption Social Worker who adopters can speak to at any stage in their post-placement journey.
By offering these services, we can support serving families through the entire adoption process no matter where they move and no matter how long it takes. As a result, military men and women – who ordinarily wouldn’t have much chance at all of adopting due to the ‘unusual’ lifestyle – are able to fulfil their dream of becoming parents.”
SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, has been providing lifelong support to our Forces and their families since 1885. Every year our staff and team of volunteers help more than 67,000 people, from Second World War veterans to young men and women who have served in more recent conflicts.