The Road to Matching Panel

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The wait for a match can seem like an eternity. Especially after a roller-coaster of a journey. It feels like you literally can’t wait any longer.

We were exceptionally lucky with both our children. Links came our way very quickly. We were just on the right part of the curve at the right time.

Oddly, I dreaded this part. Of course, deep down I was excited. My chance to become a mum finally on the horizon. But I was really nervous. Nervous that I wouldn’t feel a connection to a profile. That we might have to say “no”. I couldn’t bear this thought. It was a choice about a child. A little human being. One that had probably been through the mill. But what if I couldn’t give them what they needed?

Thankfully, this part of our story played out perfectly. I feel fortunate our matches went smoothly. But sometimes this isn’t the case. @raising_roo_ is a single adopter and mum to a beautiful girl, she talks about their journey to form their family…

I attended an Information Evening in June 2017 then made my first phone call in July. My initial home visit took place later that month. I was given my outcome pretty quickly – I was actually invited to attend Stage 1 training the very next day! I hadn’t even completed my “Registration of Interest Form”. The Adoption Team were keen to avoid any delays as the next training after this was September.

My assessment process was pretty straightforward and followed the “expected” timescales. I completed Stage 1 and progressed to Stage 2. This was a series of meetings with my Assessing Social Worker “L”. L was an experienced social worker but new to the Adoption Team. I was actually her first potential adopter. For this reason, I had a “Second Opinion” visit in December 2017. L and her manager visited and went through my assessment to ensure all the questions panel might ask were covered. I experienced anxiety and depression throughout my teens and early 20s. We explored this together, ensuring my PAR was robust to minimise any further questions.

My approval panel was on 6th February 2018. It was a nerve-wracking experience! I’m a social worker myself and have presented many foster families to panel – but it’s a very different experience as the one being assessed.

There were seven people, plus two advisors, and two observers – a lot of people in one room. I was delighted to receive a unanimous yes! I was approved for one child age 0-5. Either gender but with a preference to adopt a girl. My referees all said they saw me as a mum to a little girl. As a solo adopter, who at the time lived in a flat, I didn’t feel able to adopt a child with significant physical or cognitive disabilities. I also didn’t feel I would be able to adopt siblings.

To support me through the panel process, my mum, sister, and 4 month old nephew, came to stay (although I went into the actual panel meeting alone). After panel, we went for lunch to celebrate. I was exhausted when we got back and needed a nap. My mum and sister went to Mothercare and celebrated by looking at clothes, prams, and other baby things. It was great having them there to support me. I’d recommend any solo adopter takes a friend or family with them to panel.

My matching journey was far from straightforward. Limited profiles came my way. My first potential link was a 2 year old girl. Her social worker and family finder, and my social worker L, came for a meeting at my house. This sadly did not go well. I felt I was a good match. Her social worker thought otherwise. She was hung up on me being single and maybe meeting someone one day. She couldn’t be persuaded that I would put the little girl first, so didn’t progress with the match. L actually put in a complaint about the way she managed the potential link. It was so hard getting my hopes up only for her to have a specific opinion about solo adopters.

After this experience, I had a holiday which was a good chance to take a mental break from thinking about profiles and matches. When I got home, I met with someone from my LA family finding team. They told me they had a number of little boys who needed families, but very few girls. Any girls had very high-level needs, which I felt I couldn’t meet. I decided to join Link Maker and consider profiles from other Local Authorities.

I’d recommend adopters use Link Maker. Although there are often long delays to enquiries, and it can be disheartening to never hear back. But I found it helpful to have a sense of control in the situation. If I was interested in finding out more about a child, I could ask my questions directly. Didn’t have to wait for L to do this for me. I also found the forum on Link Maker very helpful.

Through Link Maker, in June 2018 I found N’s profile. N was a nearly 4 year old girl who’d had a lot of disruption in her little life, with many foster placement moves. I felt an immediate connection and talked to my social worker. I registered my interest and a discussion quickly started with N’s social worker. We had a meeting in July, and I found out the next day they wanted to progress with a match! I was delighted, but also overwhelmed.

Having waited for what felt like forever, I felt a massive wave of emotion. I finally had a tentative “yes”. Over the following weeks information was shared back and forth. Matching panel was planned for 18th September. I met with N’s foster parent, her nursery, and even did a “look and see” at a garden centre. Seeing a beautiful little girl skipping round and thinking “that is my daughter” was a very special feeling.

I’d shared all this excitement with my family, and some close friends. Prepared work for my adoption leave. Started getting N’s bedroom ready. I bought a lovely bed, and some new toys. I really started to believe this could be real.

Sadly, ten days before matching panel, I got the devastating call that N’s birth mother had made an application to the court to discharge N’s placement and care orders. She wanted N to return to live with her. The Judge had granted N’s application and a new set of care proceedings was to take place. As a result of this, N’s Local Authority could not go ahead with the matching panel or adoption placement. Everything was on hold.

I was distraught. In disbelief. I already thought of N as my daughter and now she wasn’t going to be? N’s situation was a very unusual one. I must stress that most birth parents wouldn’t be granted a new set of care proceedings. However, N’s birth mother had had a new baby and her parenting assessment was given a positive outcome. Her new baby daughter was living with her in the community. This demonstrated a “significant change in circumstances” which is the threshold for a birth parent to make this type of application.

After a lot of crying and soul searching, I made the sad and difficult decision to withdraw from the match. I knew the care proceedings would take at least six months to complete. There was no certainty of the outcome. I didn’t feel I could wait. The Judge could well decide that N should return to live with her birth mother. I just couldn’t face this prospect.

I’m glad to say I felt really supported by my social worker during this time. Her manager also reached out to share her sadness at what had happened. I know this was an incredibly unusual situation. Nobody could have predicted it. I don’t know what happened for N. I can only hope the outcome was positive for her – whether this was returning to her birth mother or being adopted.

It took some time to heal from this. About six weeks later, I felt able to look at profiles on Link Maker again. I found Roo’s profile in early November. Immediately there was something about her happy smile that caught my eye. I felt drawn to her in a way I can’t really explain. It definitely wasn’t a “you are the one” moment that some people have. Perhaps my experience with N made me protect myself emotionally. But I didn’t want to pursue any other discussions about other children until I had an answer about Roo.

Roo was 11 months old and had been fostered since she was born. Her older half-brothers had been placed in foster care while their birth mother was pregnant. The hope was they would all be adopted together. Sadly, her brothers had significant additional needs resulting from their trauma in the birth family home. A decision was made that Roo should be adopted separately, with a plan for ongoing sibling contact. After a few weeks of discussions, we had a meeting in December 2018. The next day I heard the amazing news the social worker and family finder felt I was the right mummy for Roo. They had 15 potential families who’d registered an interest in her profile in just one day…but I was the only adopter they visited.

I didn’t tell my family anything about Roo until Christmas Day. I surprised them with a letter board saying her name and “Coming Home Spring 2019”. There were a lot of happy tears over our Turkey dinner!

I met Roo’s foster parent in January 2019 to find out more about her. Matching panel was booked for 6th February. The ADM came back on 14th February, but because of half term for Roo’s brothers, our introduction period didn’t start until 25th February 2019. I count that as the day I became Roo’s mum.

We had nine days of introductions. I think this was too long when it came to it – but it made sense at the time. Roo visited my house for the first time on Day 6 and moved in on 6th March 2019. We recently celebrated our one year “Coming Home” anniversary.  Roo was 15 months old when we she moved in. I’m looking forward to celebrating the day when she has been living with me for longer than she was in care. That feels like a significant milestone for me.

Being a mum is incredibly challenging. In some ways maybe harder because I’m a solo parent – but then, I know it’s hard for couples too. To navigate their own relationship while beginning a new one with their child. So, let’s just say, adoption is really hard! But it is also wonderful. For every sleepless night, there is a beautiful smile. For every meltdown – a moment of pure joy. When your child initiates a cuddle or holdings hands. These moments are priceless.

If I could give advice for during matching, it would be to take care of yourself. Sleep, eat good food, see your friends, have very real and honest discussions. It’s incredibly hard to be patient throughout the process, but this is good practice for parenting. Your patience will be constantly tested but it is so worth it. 

I’m in awe of what Roo has achieved and of who she is as a person. I take pride in helping her to become an amazing little girl. We have a beautiful, adventurous life ahead of us!

What a detailed and honest account of @raising_roo_’s experience of the matching process. It’s hard to hear when things don’t go smoothly. When upsetting situations arise. But I believe it’s important to share. To show all sides. Even of rare occasions. I know a lot of adopters and rest assured; many matches get approved without problems.

But @raising_roo_ went through a lot. A lot of heartache. She needed to keep her faith. Follow her instincts. Wait for the stars to align. Thankfully, she did just that and now has the most beautiful little girl. It’s a delight to see the bond they have.

Matching is the most significant part of the whole process. Everything rides on it. The most pressure I felt was on the day the social workers visited to see if they wanted to go forward with us as the adoptive parents of our children.

I didn’t know how to react. I certainly waffled. Nervously giggled. Probably tried too hard. Luckily, my husband is the cool, calm and collected one. They probably thought these qualities made us a well-balanced couple…and they are absolutely right.

You can follow @raising_roo_ on Instagram to see this beautiful family as it continues on it’s special adoption journey. Remember you can also follow me there too – you can find all the links to me social medias on my Homepage.

If anyone is looking for some support in helping to explain key stages of the adoption process to their little ones, including matching, you can Purchase a Copy Here of my children’s adoption storybook – The Family Fairies.

“Then with a bish and a bosh

It all became clear.

The most perfect match,

Hooray time to cheer!”

Published by rosemarylucas

Adoptive mum and author of The Family Fairies, a children's storybook helping to explain the adoption process.

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