From the moment they came into this world 13 weeks premature, identical twin sisters Charlotte and Jessica have been battling against daunting odds.
Fighting to live after being born to a mother who didn’t even realise she was pregnant. Then defying the doctors who said they would never be able to walk and talk.
And now, their biggest struggle of all – to find a forever home with a family who will love them and offer the chance of a happy, fulfilling life.
This National Adoption Week the three-year-olds are just two of over 4,000 children in England patiently waiting for families of their own.
But with twice as many children as adopters, the wait is proving longer for some than others.
Like Charlotte and Jessica, who have special health needs and will need a family that can care for them both together.
At their foster home, with their cute red curls tied up in tiny pony tails and matching baby-pink glasses, it’s hard to tell the sisters apart as they excitedly show off their growing vocabulary. “Biscuit,” being a universal language of all kids.
Charlotte can get up and toddle around with her toy ice cream cart but Jessica isn’t yet able to stand.
Not that having cerebral palsy has ever stopped Jessica getting exactly what she wants, and the cheeky tot can use commando crawling to devastating effect.
Emma Johnson, family finder for the girls, says: “Jessica is a very determined little girl. She gets to exactly where she needs to go – when least expected!”
Though they look identical, the sisters are chalk and cheese when it comes to food. Charlotte’s a bit fussy but Jessica will happily eat anything put in front of her.
On paper the girls look like a catalogue of medical issues, yet they’re full of fun and as bright as buttons.
Affectionate and friendly, it’s clear that although they’ve had a difficult start to life the sisters have known nothing but love.
They also know just how to win over their warm-hearted foster carer Lesley, who has cared for them since they were born.
“It’s impossible not to fall in love with these two,” smiles Lesley, who is usually cuddling one or the other.
Super-carer Lesley has been fostering for 32 years and has given more than 40 vulnerable children a much-needed loving start in life.
Also a single parent to her own 20-year-old adopted daughter, Lesley is one of the many un- sung heroes of the care world.
But now, at 64, she fears she is too old to offer the twins a permanent home.
She says: “I worry that by the time they’re teenagers I’ll be in my 70s and I don’t think it would be fair on them. Also, lifting Jessica will become more of a problem as the girls grow bigger.”
It’s hard to know yet whether Jessica will walk, as Lesley explains: “The doctors have said that if she is able to sit up unaided by the time she’s five, there is more hope she will be able to walk in the future.”
The girls’ six-monthly physio checks have so far been encouraging and not only can Jessica lift her head and move around, she also has good upper body strength.
But social worker Emma stresses: “It is important that any family thinking of committing to these girls knows their full medical histories.”
There will be a great deal of extra help and funding in the future for the twins, as the extent of their global development delay and impaired vision becomes better known.
Both have had cataracts removed and it is possible that Charlotte could develop glaucoma.
But they can see to look at people, read books and spot the all-important biscuit tin coming out.
Taking on these twin treasures is not for the faint-hearted – but for the right family, the rewards of helping them achieve their full potential will far outweigh the hard work.
Anyone over 21 can offer a child a home. They do not need to be married or in a relationship. And gay or lesbian adopters or people with disabilities are welcomed.
- Could you be Charlotte and Jessica’s forever family? Contact First4Adoption on 0300 222 0022 or email [email protected]