Once I had put in the initial call, we were fairly quickly allocated a social worker and our adoption training with fellow applicants was scheduled in (this order has changed since then).
The training was thorough and informative. But intense and hard hitting. It focused on the reasons why children needed a home through adoption. We had to consider all sorts of awful scenarios. As hopeful parents-to-be, these were really tough to hear. The bottom line is that you have to be prepared that your future child will have experienced trauma of some kind. According to Adoption UK, three quarters of children who are adopted come from a background of abuse or neglect and are taken in to care from unsafe situations. This could be in the form of intentional or non intentional neglect through to different forms of abuse. Examples of these are just too distressing to type. The situation where a child is willingly taken in to care – relinquished – is rare. Inevitably, there will also have been some conflict between birth families and social services. Your future child may have memories of these days, even if they were very young. They may react negatively in some way. Now, or in the future.
I don’t want this to sound all doom and gloom. Sorry if it does. This is the honesty part though. Children may have very troubling life stories. One day you will have to share it with them. The days before you were their parent. This is hugely important for their identity. Regrettably, you may not fully know how they have been affected for years to come. What I will say, is that the adoption training definitely helped us decide we were ready to proceed. Some people do stop at this stage and don’t progress. It’s so much better to step back at this point, for everyone involved, rather than later down the line.
It’s important to set the right levels of expectations. Generally, if you apply to adopt, you will become a parent. No more will it, won’t it work. Will we, won’t we, face a child free future. Of course, there are no guarantees. There are obviously occasions when adoption ends up not being the route to grow a family. But, the percentage of people that apply to adopt and don’t get approved is low. It is rare that you get to approval or matching panel and they say “no”. That placements breakdown. Keeping these possibilities low is part of your social workers job. Bear this is mind if you are currently feeling a bit frustrated with any element of the process.
In relation to the assessments themselves, we’d heard they were long and intrusive. Allow some perspective here. The role of a social worker is to make absolutely certain that you are ready, competent and capability to look after a child. They have the highest level of responsibility in their hands. So this should mean they ask tricky probing questions. Guide you to reflect on the past. Look at thought provoking subjects and make you analyse different skill sets. This was all absolutely fine with us. I would be lying if I didn’t say that on occasion it felt a little tedious in parts. But we knew why. It stirred up a lot of emotions and brought things to the surface for me that I had buried deep down. Not really wanting to raise. It’s safe to say I got through a lot of tissues! Be patient and always have in mind that the professionals have you and your future child’s best interests at heart. Believe in yourself. Believe in them.
The “homework” is time consuming and sometimes a little repetitive – I think we wrote about 15,000 words! We did however genuinely enjoy it. It was actually very therapeutic. Comforting. Above anything else, it made us realise just how strong we had become as a couple. How lucky we were to have amazing supporting networks of family and friends. Ultimately it was a really great feeling to hear that we were being put forward as prospective adopters. Finally, we were going to become parents. For the first time in a very long time, I had a renewed sense of hope and optimism. I allowed myself to look to the future and after all the years of pain, this was very welcome.
One thing I wasn’t prepared for was the need for references from any past significant relationships. I did not like this at all. I had to contact my ex and ask for his help in making me a mum now, however many years later. I understand the reasoning behind it and it does make sense. The process needs to be this thorough. It quite rightly should be. Social workers must confirm that previous relationships didn’t end due to any children’s safeguarding issues. It was all absolutely fine and not as bad as I thought. It just wasn’t my favourite part.
Another tough part for me, was completing the “Pro-forma for Matching” where you have a list of characteristics relating to family history, medical conditions, past experiences and anticipated functioning. You have to tick “would accept” “would not accept” or “would discuss”. I felt very uncomfortable about this, like it was a selection process. We were saying “yes” or “no” to a child we’d never met. Knew absolutely nothing about. If you haven’t encountered this yet, try not to feel like I did. It’s not bad to say “no”. It’s far better to be honest. It won’t be frowned upon or impact on you being approved. I felt we should be saying “yes” to everything to stand the best chance. To stop us from being rejected! It doesn’t work like that at all though. If you don’t think you can face explaining a certain situation about their life story, or dealing with significant health or behavioural issues, there will be someone that can.
Overall, the process to this point was smooth and our social worker really connected with us which helped. We found her very supportive and she fully prepared us for the next stage, approval panel…..