Spring is approaching rapidly and we are now in the process of planting veggies in our family allotment. The building process (to allow for extra bedroom space) is thankfully in the final stages and the process with the mostess ‘adoption numero cuatro’ is now in full swing.
I have to admit to being a teensy bit naive when it came to the chaos a building project can bring to a household. Perhaps, I should have paid more attention to those raised eyebrows when I was explaining that it was on the exterior of our property and therefore it would cause minimal disruption. Cue image of me manic laughing and rocking in a dusty corner (surrounded by clutter) at the prospect of all three of my children sharing a bedroom for a couple of weeks. Admittedly, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom and bunking in with each other has brought a few smiles to my face; like the night I lay listening to them tell stories to each other until one by one they fell asleep. Then there was the night that fits of giggles reverberated around the house when my youngest asked Alexa to call the other two ‘pooh head’s’. Needless to say the rest of the time it’s been meltdown city!
Amidst the bedlam we have remarkably almost concluded stage two of our adoption process. I’m really ‘pleased’ to inform you that I have been allocated a lovely ‘down to earth’ social worker once again. I use the word ‘pleased’ as it relates to a very funny moment when playing ‘Feelings Jenga’ with her and my children where it took me an eternity to think of something that pleases me as a person. On a more serious note the relationship that you form with your social worker is actually one of great importance as this is the stage that sees you sharing and dissecting pretty much all aspects of your life, the good, the bad and the ugly!
Now prior to meeting our social worker I formally diagnosed myself with dreaded process fatigue (shhhhhh don’t tell the medical advisor). Laughably I did actually google it to see if the condition exists but it appears not, so I’ve created my very own!
A person who presents with symptoms of frustration and tiredness as a result of engaging in the same process multiple times. They may describe the following symptoms:
Worn out, fed up, Knackered, shattered, battered, tired, exhausted, bored, weary, dog-tired, jaded, sick of, sick and tired of frustrated with, or simply fatigued.
Joking aside, I do count my lucky stars that it is a much quicker process than it used to be (with a timeframe of six months now allocated for the stage two). I often see media posts referring to how lengthy the process is but in reality that isn’t the case. What once took us multiple years can now surprisingly be done and dusted in a matter of months.
So what do social workers want to talk to you about I hear you ask? Well, they want to discuss your childhood and how it has impacted on you as an adult. If you have endured a challenging childhood please don’t let this put you off, as these experiences of yours can help to provide great empathy and understanding to a child who has been through the care system.
They will also take the time to explore the strength of your relationship with you and your partner (if you have one) and discuss any previous significant others. Professionals are of course searching for loving, stable environments where children can be provided with an opportunity to thrive. Adoption is all about the forming of attachments so looking at your existing relationships is key.
The Adoption process is not about trying to present as a ‘perfect person or family’ as let’s be fair, there is no such thing. It’s about the capacity to be thoughtful and insightful with regards to children in care and their early life experiences. It’s about demonstrating self awareness and accessing a moment in time to consider your strengths and limitations as a parent / prospective parent. (I know I’ve gone all social workery on you, but just hear me out).
The very reason for this process is to first consider if you have the skills required to parent a child from the care system and then more importantly given the information you have shared match you with the best possible child(ren) to start or grow your family. So for example, if you have experienced Domestic violence during your child or adulthood placing a child from a DV background (who may present with violence) wouldn’t necessarily be the best match for you. Whilst you may feel resolved with regards to your past, being exposed to violence within your home has the potential to re trigger your own traumatic experiences. I ask you to briefly to consider Roxanne Pallet and the ‘Big Brother violence scandal’ (if you are familiar with it). Whilst you may have your own opinion (and are absolutely entitled to it), as someone who reads extensively about trauma, I have questioned if having a man put his fists up near her was enough to re trigger traumatic experiences from her past making her genuinely feel incredibly unsafe. Given the fact that she has experienced DV in one of her previous relationships, it’s completely plausible and is a possibility that was supported by Women’s Aid at the time.
My advice to anyone going through this process or thinking about it, is to be open and honest with your Social worker and do not be afraid to discuss your limitations in addition to your strengths, as this is what helps to create successful placements for children and ultimately that’s what everybody wants.
My final nugget of wisdom for any first timers who have limited childcare experience – now is the time to get it. During our first process I volunteered in a charming little school and I found this hugely beneficial. Firstly it helped to identify what aged child I wanted to adopt and more significantly it gave me some practice at interacting with kids and quickly destroyed any fantasies I was harbouring over what it would be like to parent one!
Back to our present day process and the most challenging part to date has been the children’s interviews. Sadly, it only took the actions of a couple of inexperienced social worker’s (towards the end of our fostering career) for my children now to place the entire profession up there with second hand car dealers and Estate agents, or dare I say it (cue the ‘dum dum dum’ sound effect followed by dramatic pause)……..teaching professionals. Over Sunday dinner the night before our Social worker was due to visit I was quite literally bombarded with questions as to what she would want to know and why, and I realised that I didn’t actually know myself! My advice to you (if you have children) based on my own foolishness is to ask the Social worker beforehand what their plan is in order to prepare your children properly, especially if you have SEN children. ‘Thankfully’ (I’m now adding my own Jenga feelings ) our lovely new Social worker seems to have made quite an impression on my kids. I know this because (the least easily impressed) one of my children slumped down in the chair next to me after meeting her for the second time and said ‘she’s actually quite nice Mum’…..Boom!
So I think it’s safe to say that we are almost there. Of course ‘it’s not over until the fat lady sings’ (no doubt my mate at work will tell me off for the use of another non pc saying!) as there are still a few hurdles left before I can finally immerse myself in pink, sparkles and unicorns!
To be continued……