The moment has finally arrived. The moment you feel you’ve waited your whole life for. Despite all the training and support, you somehow feel totally unprepared. It’s time to meet your child. Perhaps more than one. Your son. Your daughter. It’s time for introductions to start.
This stage is planned with precision. The child’s welfare at the forefront. A great deal of groundwork is laid by foster carers. Sharing transition toys and books. Showing videos of adoptive parents and their homes for familiarisation.
I had a whirl of mixed emotions. Imagined the worst. Convinced myself that my child would turn away as I reached out to them. That they’d cry when I tried to interact. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was the most incredible moment. A moment where in a split second, I knew I would love this child in a way I loved no other. Endless, unwavering, unconditional love. The kind of love that’s only shared between a parent and their child.
I’m so pleased to share Jessica’s story (Instagram account @jessicalaurenlewis). She talks of her experience of introductions. The reality of what’s involved. How it felt. She has given an insight into the practicalities and her emotions. This is her story…
“We first set eyes on our daughter in a slightly different way. Chemistry visits were to take place before matching panel. Not all local authorities do them. Even the next one to us doesn’t. But I think they are a good idea. The purpose is to see if there’s chemistry with the child. Between them and us as their prospective parents.
We’d known from the beginning, from “A”s profile, that she had some medical conditions that we needed to be comfortable with. That we would need to learn more about. These would also need to be factored into introductions if all went to plan at panel.
At our first chemistry visit, while “A” slept, we spoke to the foster carer and asked questions about routine, what food she liked, how she slept, what physio she had, what medical appointments she was going to. Then we heard her cry a little and the foster carer brought her down. She had the biggest smile on her face when she saw us. I remember clearly that she had the messiest hair! All I wanted to do was run over and cuddle her. But I couldn’t. I knew I needed to hold back until the time was right.
After she had lunch, we were able to have our first precious cuddles. My heart burst for her. It was honestly the best feeling. We’d known about her for a couple of months but due to various meetings and her foster carer being on holiday, it was delayed. It was so worth the wait in every way though.
We saw her once more for a chemistry visit before panel. This time it was a bit more hands on which was lovely. She had lunch, we helped bath her and got her dressed. Then we played with her for a while. The social worker took some pictures and it was just amazing. We just wanted to take her home with us, but of course there were more steps to take until we could.
We thought we’d see her again before matching panel, but they moved us forward. Luckily a space came up a week earlier. It was great they could fit us in, but it fell on the same day we were due to see her. We didn’t mind and we were happy panel was early. It was a step closer to her coming home.
We had matching panel on 11th September and were delighted to get a unanimous “yes”! Then only a week later, we had the planning meeting for introductions. This involved all the important people responsible for our little ones care. The adoption social worker manager, our social worker, “A”s social worker, the family finder, the foster carer and the foster carers social worker. The plan for introductions had already been drafted and we’d had the opportunity to see it between panel and the planning meeting.
The manager really helped in supporting us with “A”s additional needs and gave us a pack with theraplay ideas, some body maps and a sheet to note times we had to give “A” her medication. After that we went through the draft and made sure it worked for us all. We had to change a few times due to the foster carers commitment with her other foster children. But not a lot changed other than this and we were really pleased with it.
Our introductions started a week later. We got there around 9.30. Of course, we had met “A” a couple of times at the chemistry visits so had already had that first special cuddle. “A” was sitting eating breakfast and gave us the biggest smile when she saw us – it was the best feeling. The first day we spent a lot of time playing in the playroom. I remember feeling really awkward about being in someone else’s house, but the foster carer made us feel very welcome. The second day involved more time at the house, and we got to do the morning routine. We even got to take “A” to the park.
On the third day we knew we were progressing to do bedtime routine so got there later in the afternoon. We took “A” to soft play and then took her back. We did dinner time with her, gave her a bath and then gave her a bottle ready for bed. This was a special moment.
We then had a day off, so we put garden storage up and got the final bits ready for her to come to us for a visit the next day. The foster carer bought a lot of her stuff with her. She has a lot of equipment to support her medical needs. It was nice for the foster carer and the other children to look at “A”s bedroom. We chatted for a bit and then they left.
It was weird but wonderful finally seeing our little girl in our house. We spent the day indoors playing and getting her used to the house. We took her back at bedtime, gave her a bottle and put her to bed. This happened pretty much every day until Thursday. Thursday was scheduled as “coming home” day.
Throughout introductions our social worker rang us every day to see how we were doing. Offering support, but also keeping in touch to see if they needed to extend the length of introductions. As everything was going so well for us, this didn’t need to happen. So, it was agreed we could bring her home.
I felt so emotional that day. I felt sad for the foster carer and I felt sad for “A”. When we arrived “A”s social worker was already there. We all had a cup of tea. We all had cuddles. And then there was the goodbye. There were lots of tears – although “A” was laughing away! We went to the car and signed a few things the social worker gave us, and then that was it. We could take her home forever. It was the weirdest day with such emotions. Happy, sad, overwhelmed. Every emotion you can feel. But above anything else, we felt full of love.”
This is a lovely account of that special first meet. The mixed emotions you feel. I have yet to find anyone who didn’t find introductions exhausting. They are. But they are the start of your road to being a forever family. The tiredness is worth every second.
Sometimes, things do need to be re-evaluated. Sometimes things aren’t as smooth as Jessica’s story. Foster homes may have given the only sense of safety and security little ones have ever experienced. Having people coming into their safe environment, can be unsettling. It can be traumatic leaving. Leaving behind the comfort blanket that is their foster carer. On rare occasions, placements break down. Introductions have to stop. Not often, but it does happen. It would be unfair of me not to acknowledge this.
Luckily though for Jessica, and most others, this wasn’t the case. Their experience was a positive one. It’s lovely to be able to report that “A” has settled in really well. Their lives are full of love. Full of priceless moments that will last a lifetime. Full of memories to capture and share. As a family. Together. Forever.
Follow Jessica on her Instagram account @jessicalaurenlewis to keep up to date with her ongoing adoption journey.
Lastly, don’t forget my children’s adoption storybook – The Family Fairies – can really help to support your little ones in understanding key stages of the adoption process. Here is an exert of how I explain introductions and coming home.
“Time to meet at last, the big day was here. Happy tears and tight hugs to hold oh so dear. Learning together day by day. More Family Fairies guiding the way. Then their treasure came home, what a beautiful grin. Settle in, snuggle down. Let the fun begin!”