The Hebden Family

RAF personnel Chris and Elissa Hebden started a new family thanks to SSAFA's adoption service.

The Hebden Family

RAF personnel Chris and Elissa Hebden started a new family thanks to SSAFA's adoption service.

When Chris and Elissa Hebden first saw an article for SSAFA’s adoption service in an RAF magazine, they had no idea it was the beginning of a journey towards starting their family. Now with two lively children at home, the couple and children’s lives have changed forever.

“We tried for quite a long time to have our own children, but it didn’t happen.” Elissa said. “We got an amazing posting to Cyprus where we went through IVF but nothing happened. Then when we were posted back to the UK, I saw and article about SSAFA in a local RAF magazine. It was about a family who had been in exactly the same position we were in.

“We went for a walk with the dog, wind blowing and a clear head I turned to Chris and said ‘it’s not going to happen for us… so if you are serious about having a family, we need to seriously look at adoption.

“I was surprised but he said 'okay let’s try it'.”

Chris added, “It took a while for me to be convinced, though Elissa was sure adoption was the way ahead. I had a belief, wrongly, that it would happen for us naturally. Then it got to a point when clearly it wouldn’t.

“We couldn’t have children of our own, and the age we are, we felt we had to act now or never, or we would never have children. She read the article and persuaded me and we contacted SSAFA.”

There is a lot to do, but SSAFA made it easy.

Elissa got in touch with the team at SSAFA one day after work, “I found it really easy to make the call. Rose rang me back and I just spoke to her over a cuppa and we went from there. Before we knew I we were at an adoption preparation day in London.”

“That was superb.” Chris explains, “That was the very first stage and we were really convinced. There was no question… we were going for it.

“It was intense, we were taken through the process, the type of children we may see, parenting techniques and what happens post-adoption.

“At the time the whole process seems tough but looking back now, it’s not as hard as you think it is. There is a lot to do, but SSAFA made it easy.”

They’re ours

The couple were approved by SSAFA’s independent Adoption Panel and were soon sent profiles of children.

“I think it was January, I was walking back home from work and Ronnie our social worker said ‘have a look at these two as soon as you get home’.” Elissa recalls, “And my heart just melted straight away. So many people ask ‘why those two?’, but there was just something about the picture and the write up that just made us go ‘yeah they’re ours’. Within two weeks we had their social worker at the door. It was just 4 months between seeing their profile and having them move in."

Chris added, “We met them, went to their foster parents house, they came here to see how they were in our environment and then we got approved at a second panel. And then they moved in.

“The most surprising part was the inductions, the first time we met them we knew they were ours. It hit me like a smack in the face. There is nothing we could pin it to. It was a gut feeling more than anything else.”

Our son called me daddy as soon as I walked in.

“When we first brought them home it was a scorching, red hot day. We met them at their foster carers, had a cup of tea and took pictures because we’d built a good relationship with them. Then we said goodbye and put them in the car, and I had tears. It was hard to take them away from the foster parents because they had been with them for 14 months.” Elissa said.

“The kids were so good all the way home. They played and slept in the car. We stopped off on the way to get ice lollies and a paddling pool to play in because of the weather and they were straight in the garden playing.”

“I was nervous driving there, but I also wanted to start our family.” Chris remembers, “I remember our son called me daddy as soon as I walked in.

“Everything moved so quickly that day for me to have many emotions. We were driving here there and everywhere, we were so busy. It was the end of the day that it sank in…when we put them to bed that first night we just thought ‘This is our life now. It’s started. Its real.”

They know that this is forever

“It’s been hard work. When they arrived, our boy had behavioural issues and certain triggers as well as educational needs. In the early days we were winging it and constantly on edge that our son would explode. But we are getting there, and it is worth it. The progress he has made has been incredible.

“And our daughter is most certainly the boss!

“The kids lives have changed massively. They have stability now. Even when they were with their foster family, they knew they could be moved on at any point. Now they know that this is forever and that stability has helped with so many challenges they have. They know where they stand now.”

SSAFA, you’ve just been amazing

The couple know they would not have their family if it weren’t for SSAFA and the people that back them.

“SSAFA you’ve just been amazing. Thank you so much for giving me my two wonderful little children. Thank you for making it as easy as it was and for still being there when we need you. Most people who adopt are on their own. The support they don’t have is unbelievable… but we know we have you when we need you.”

“And thank you to the people who back SSAFA’s adoption service. We wouldn’t have our two without you. What you do is invaluable.”

The couple are now encouraging other people they know to get in touch with SSAFA’s adoption team.

“If you are military and thinking about adoption, go to SSAFA. If you want to do it, do it sooner rather than later. Chasing a 2 and 5-year-old in your 40s is tough!”