THE SALFORD SUPERMUM
Inside Out meets Salford supermum, Alex Bell.
Single mother Alex has devoted her life to her
seven adopted children who all have Down’s syndrome.
Alex first tried to adopt
a child when she was 22 and a newly qualified special needs teacher.
Alex says, "I just decided that I wanted to be a parent
and these were kids that I could parent because that’s where my experience
"It was very, very unusual for anyone to adopt as a single
person and for anyone to adopt as a single person a disabled child was
even more unusual so I had to fight a lot of red tape to get through."
"I just see the children as my seven kids. I don’t see
the Down’s and I haven’t seen it for ages."
is one of Alex's children|
The first child Alex adopted was Matthew. He
is now 20 years old and a star in his local drama group.
Jacqui Marsh, Matthew’s drama teacher, speaks fondly
of him, "I wish all the kids were as good as him."
Alex fought hard to get Matthew into a mainstream school,
but now he has left school she still finds herself with a fight on her
She’s currently fighting an income support tribunal for
This is because, along with thousands of other young
people, Matthew has recently been transferred onto Incapacity Benefit.
Although this means they receive £20 per week more, they
now have to pay council tax, prescription charges and they’ve lost their
right to legal aid.
Alex explains, "They’re an extremely vulnerable group
of young people who will come across discrimination in their lives and
now can’t access the laws of the land. I hope Matthew’s going to be a
"I spend about 50% of my time fighting the system. It’s
very wearing. My time should be spent with the children and not fighting
red tape but it’s part of what I’ve taken on."
1 in every 1000 babies born is born with Down's
Approx 600 babies are born each year with the condition.
It was first described by John Langdon Down in
The chances of a woman having a child with Down's
syndrome increases with age.
Source: The Down's Syndrome Association
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What sets Alex apart from other adoptive mothers is she
actively encourages her children’s natural parents to have as much contact
with them as possible.
Alex says, "I am here to bring up these children but
also part of the deal is to help the parents mend."
"The way I achieve that is by telling them they can have
contact with their children. We make efforts to go down and see them."
But Alex doesn’t just retain contact for the sake of
the parents. She says, "They’re a huge support to me. I call them my parents
- they’re actually my kids' parents but they’re mine as well and I adore
them. They are lovely, lovely people."
Chloe is Alex’s seven year old daughter. Chloe’s natural
mother, Jenny, was 27 when she gave birth to Chloe.
Jenny says, "We were told Chloe had Down’s in a very
brutal way by hospital staff. We both found it very difficult to cope
Jenny describes making her decision to put Chloe up for
adoption, "It wasn’t a knee jerk reaction. It was, we felt, a very unbiased
and a very objective decision."
|Chloe plays in
the ball pool at her home in Salford|
"It was mostly for Chloe to be sure she had a happy life
"Living with Alex and her other children, Chloe will
never feel different. She’ll never be teased. She’ll always feel that
she belongs and that she was important to us."
Alex is extremely understanding of the parents’ situation.
She says, "I don’t judge them because I haven’t been in their situation."
"I don’t think I could be that brave to say to yourself
someone else could bring this child up better than you can. It’s just
a very brave thing to say."
Alex is now looking to the future and is in the process
of turning her house into a charitable trust so her children can stay
together when she’s no longer here.
At 47 years old, she shows no sign of slowing down.
"I still think I have it in me to take on a couple more.
After that I think I’ll have to stop."
"I’m not a saint. I’m doing what I want to do which sounds
"None of these kids asked to come and live with
me. I go after them I want to be their parent so therefore all the commitment
is on my side"
"I wouldn’t say that I have the best life in the world
but I think I have a pretty good one."