For a golden two-year period in our lives, the three of us and our families were part of a small village of adoptive families in Dubai. Every Wednesday afternoon we'd have a playdate that featured early supper for the children, and copious cups of tea dispensed with tissues, advice and hugs for the adults. This village made all the difference in our difficult early years.

Years later, with two of us now in Australia and one of us still in Dubai, we reflected on our decade of adoptive parenting experience. We decided to write the guidebook to adoptive parenting we wished we'd had ten years ago.

Between the three of us we now have 12 children, adopted and biological. Even now, despite not living around the corner from each other anymore, when one of our adopted children has a new issue, sure we google it and seek professional help, but we will speak with each other to ask advice, to see if we have had similar experiences. To get some reassurance that yes, this is normal.

Our stories will be difficult to relate to if you’re early in your journey. Some of the stories may sound fanciful, you might think “this isn’t going to be us”, you might wonder if we exaggerate or are a bit crazy! If we’d read this pre-adoption, we would have discounted lots of it. The stories make a lot more sense once you’re home with your child. Read this book again once you’re in the thick of things and we promise, we promise, you will have many “a-ha” moments.

The three of us collaborated on this book for a few reasons. To protect the specific stories of our children. To get the widest representation we could of issues. And because it gave us an excuse to chat, to write some of our memories down, and then, one weekend, to meet up and laugh, cry and write our way through to the completion of this book.

Unusually for three adoptive families, none of us arrived at adoption through infertility. None of us are especially religious. Each of us have families that mix adoptive and biological children. We understand our experience may be different to many of you who adopt. We each felt “called” to adopt, not through any religious sense of service, but through a desire to love and parent a child in need of a permanent family. We are in no way qualified to cover, and so do not speak to, the impact infertility has on you as a parent. Your adoption counsellors will be able to direct you to helpful resources.   

All our adopted children were intercountry adoptions. We chose to adopt older children, special needs children, sick children, as well as healthy babies. Whatever the form of our family and background of our kids, we firmly believe the experiences we’ve had in parenting our children will resonate with parents of adopted children, foster families, and children who have experienced trauma.

We miss our Wednesday afternoons, but we were expatriate families in a specific place and time. Our friendships, though, endure and remain a first port of call when an unexpected twist to our parenting journeys arise. We hope you find our stories honest and pragmatic, and that they give you comfort that yes, this is normal, and yes, you and your child are going to be OK.


L - R Selina Smyth, Jodie Hampshire, Tammie Flinos

L - R Selina Smyth, Jodie Hampshire, Tammie Flinos