So our assessment process is now complete and we have naturally been lulled into that ‘funny in between stage’ where it all goes quiet for a little while. Our social worker is off tapping away at her laptop (I’m not sure why I have images of a modern day Jessica Fletcher) writing our Prospective Adopters Report (PAR) for panel. Hopefully the ‘Murder She Wrote’ theme tune I now have whizzing around in my head isn’t indicative of things to come?!
Whilst our social worker is hard at it, we are gearing up for the exciting job of decorating our nursery. My teenage daughter is working on a monumentally spectacular mural of unicorns, clouds and LGBT rainbows in honour of our new arrival. Cleverly she wants her sister to know that she can be whoever she wants as she grows. She has such a creative, beautiful soul my girl that I’m quite literally bursting with pride at her genius idea. Thankfully, the boys on the other hand, have got bored and by that I mean have given up asking when their baby sister is going to rock up. This is probably a good thing, as I have a sneaky suspicion she’s going to be fashionably late and it’s starting to remind me of hearing the words ‘are we nearly there yet?’ on the longest car journey ever!
Talking of cars, the adoption process is bizarrely beginning to resemble my theoretical driving test. I say this because I took it so many times, I actually saw it change from a paper test to a computerised one (I kid you not). Similarly, what once was paper and magazine profiles of children has now been replaced by a website comparable to an online dating website. Welcome to Link Maker, swipe right if you’re interested…… Oh ok so there isn’t any swiping involved but the concept is the same.
In true online dating fashion (yes I’ve read the horror stories) I’ve opted for a profile picture which was taken a couple of years back, when I was a slightly shinier, slimline version of my current self. Annoyingly hubby still looks exactly the same, if not better, so we may just narrowly miss any claims of misrepresentation. I can just imagine an awkward meeting with a social worker who makes a sharp exit after seeing us in the flesh, never to be heard of again! On a more serious note, this website is only for prospective adopters and sensibly requires verification from your social worker prior to being allowed access to children’s information.
Surprisingly it only took a couple of days for the authorisation email to drop into my inbox and when it did I just couldn’t help myself, I had to see what it was all about. Excitedly, I logged in, but what I faced instantly made my heart sink. There staring back from the screen were hundreds of tiny little faces all waiting for loving new homes. Momentarily pushing back my sadness, intrigued I clicked on a few profiles and before I knew it I found myself thinking…… ‘she’d fit’……. ‘oh now she’s super cute’…… ‘oooh she weirdly looks like my son’. Then of course, I’d start to read the background information and that’s when it became too overwhelming, causing me to hastily log out and have a serious word with myself. The same question hounded me for days after, how am I going to know when I find the one?
It didn’t take long for a social worker to click the interest button with regards to matching their baby with us and my heart skipped a beat at the sight of the notification. Opening the profile with baited breath, I skimmed the information on the screen before exhaling loudly. If I could sum it up for you in one word it would be ‘heartbreaking’. The familiar sinking feeling engulfed me once again as I quickly realised her level of needs were way too high for our family to consider. Guiltily I waited for a couple of days before summonsing up the courage to pen my email response.
Thank you for sending me the profile of beautiful Baby M. I’m really sorry to say that we feel that her level of need is too high for our family. We do however wish you and Baby M the best of luck in finding the right family very soon.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t long before a second notification arrived, this time profiling a child who should have ticked all our boxes. Whilst she did open up a serious discussion in our house, I just couldn’t shake the niggling feeling that it just didn’t feel right. One of the pieces of advice that I used to offer to prospective adopters when I spoke at preparation training was to listen to these feelings, if it doesn’t feel right, then perhaps it isn’t. I’m a great believer that the attachment process starts now and deep down I know I’m looking for a strong positive connection towards the child I’m reading about. The chemistry starts on paper for me.
Talking of chemistry, my Fostering Bestie has reliably informed me that there is now such a thing as a ‘chemistry meeting’ in the world of Adoption. At the time I thought she was winding me up when she told me she had adopters popping round to cuddle her baby to make sure she was the right one for them, but apparently not! If I’m honest this and activity days, which allow you to meet children (using the guise of a big party) make me feel a little uneasy, however statistics would indicate that it is helping to successfully match children who are (generally) notoriously difficult to place.
At the moment, I’m on a self imposed Link Maker ban. My reason for this is looking for matches prior to panel feels comparable to trying to buy a house before you’ve been approved for a mortgage. Even if you do find the right one, no one is actually in a position to move any further forward and given our first ever panel experience, it feels a little presumptuous to be preemptive. I’ve therefore decided to turn my sights to my dusty ‘post’ extension house which needs a good deal of cleaning until after our panel hearing.
So, talking about panel let me take you back thirteen years ago to our first ever one. There we were fresh faced, energetic and totally ready to become parents. Our social worker had prepared us for the room full of people, however nothing fully prepared us for the level of anxiety that we were feeling on the big day itself. It felt like our whole future was quite literally resting in the hands of the group of strangers seated behind the large set of wooden doors and I’m not sure anyone (other than adopters) can truly understand the magnitude of this experience.
Firstly, we were ushered into a little room to wait whilst the panel convened to discuss our report. Patiently we sat with our social worker making nervous small talk until the panel chair finally came to introduce herself and guide us into the large boardroom style room. As we entered the doorway the sea of faces danced slightly and I had to remind myself to breathe as panic started to bubble within me.
What should have been a couple of questions, felt like a quick fire round in a quiz (I’ve since learnt that this isn’t normal) and whilst I’m convinced we held our own, when our social worker’s cool exterior started to crack my panic started to resurface. Eventually, we were asked to to return to the pokey room in order for conversations to continue without us. There we remained for what felt like an eternity.
Unexpectedly, we never made it back into the panel to hear the verdict; instead we were greeted once again by the chair in the room which appeared to be shrinking by the second. Shamefully, we had brought indecisiveness to the room (mainly due to our age and hubby’s difficult childhood) and as a result panel failed to reach a positive recommendation on the day. The world felt as if it were crashing down around me as the chair shared the outcome with us, her mouth appeared to be moving but it was as if she were on a mute setting. I finally managed to tune back in for her parting words of advice which was to go travelling and perhaps revisit adoption at a later date. If it wasn’t for our social worker’s pleading eyes from across the table, I’m pretty convinced I would have lost my stuff there and then. A year and a half of our lives felt wasted and anger gnawed at my insides whilst tears pricked at my eyes.
Fortunately for us the final decision rests with the agency decision maker who on this particular occasion pointed out that we were above the legal age limit of twenty one and therefore using our age as a reason for unsuitability could be deemed as discriminatory. Of course we were elated upon hearing the news that she had decided to rule in our favour and needless to say this final outcome sparked one of the biggest celebrations of our twenties (just pipped to the post by our England Vs. Germany wedding day.)
Just to reassure you and put things into perspective, this was unbelievably (when I think about it now) during an era where it was only just being enshrined in law for all agencies and Local Authorities to be inclusive of same sex couples. Thankfully, times have moved on somewhat since and clearly we didn’t let it deter us from repeating the experience again multiple times. Surprisingly, we even unintentionally ended up taking the chairs advice and have since travelled to nine different countries, an experience which we have discovered can be enjoyed by little people too.
So with my sights turned to our current panel date I find myself wondering what questions will crop up on the day this time. Let’s be fair now we’re closer to forty than thirty, it definitely won’t be our age!!
One things for sure, the only matching I’m likely to be considering before then is socks and lots of them or perhaps…..
Matching underwear…….oh who am I trying to kid…..I’m not sure I even own any that fit!!!