January 31, 2020
* Names have been changed for reasons of confidentiality
Our journey to having a family was not as smooth as we had always assumed it would be. After a number of years trying to have a child and being unable to, we were faced with a choice to proceed down more aggressive fertility treatments leading to IVF or look into adoption.
We made the decision to look into adoption and spoke with an agency about the process. We felt they made a number of assumptions about us as a couple and didn’t take us seriously, which put us off. A few months after this initial meeting, we met with a social worker from SCFS who turned our opinion around; they put us much more at ease and we felt confident to continue.
Our social worker for stage 1 was amazing and helped to set the scene of what to expect. Initially, it was more of the safety and security elements being covered off and medicals which we expected. We also had our preparation group sessions to attend.
To start with we were very nervous about attending and what to expect. However, we were on the course with 4 other couples who were lovely and we all helped each other get through the process. We created a WhatsApp group so we could continue to support and encourage each other through the process, and we still meet up with our children now a few times a year which has been incredible.
The preparation groups do exactly what they say on the tin; they prepare you. Everything from expectations, play therapy, brain development, birth family and the reasons children are in care are covered. Whilst some of the information is hard to hear, it gives you a really good realistic insight into what the future may hold.
We took a short break between stage 1 and stage 2 in order to work on some things we identified in Stage 1, especially things around the house we needed time to tweak or do. We also used this time to start prepping the room that would be our child’s, so that we could do it inslightly more relaxed way.
Our social worker also changed in stage 2 due to the workloads and availability of our first one. Whilst this could be seen as negative, it meant that we had someone who could really dedicate the time to get to know us, our home and lifestyle, and best support us going into family finding, so it definitely wasn’t that way for us.
The home study is about getting to know you; not a ‘you’ that you think a social worker would want to see, but a warts-and-all version. It may seem in depth, but it has to be. They are not trying to catch you out but they do need to know the small things as it could be those small things which have a big impact on the child that is placed with you. Knowing if you’re loud, quiet, how you settle disagreements between you etc all plays a part in getting the best match for the child and for you. We were warned ahead of time that it was really in depth, but we actually didn’t find it as bad as we had imagined it would be. It definitely helped having a social worker we loved and felt comfortable with.
After stage 2 was completed and the Prospective Adopters Report (PAR) was written, it was off to panel. This was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of our lives. You cannot get the questions wrong though – they are about you and as long as you have been honest and upfront in your home study, there shouldn’t be any surprises at this point. Fortunately, we got a ‘yes’ and so we were able to move onto the family finding element of our journey.
We were very fortunate and unusual in the fact that we went into panel already having a linking meeting planned for the week after panel. We had joined link maker a few weeks before as prospective adopters and had already had a few contacts from local authorities about potential children, and reached out to some for ourselves.
As soon as we saw Dylan’s profile, we knew that he was special and we requested more information. He was 8 months old at the time. As we had now been approved at panel, the linking meeting could go ahead. Just one week after being approved, we had a match and were working towards our matching panel. It was a massive whirlwind of emotion.
We had our matching panel a couple of months later and it was agreed that Dylan was going to be our little boy.
When the week arrived for us to meet Dylan and start the introductions we were a bundle of nerves, driving up to the foster carers’ house. When we arrived, Dylan was just waking from a nap. We sat waiting in the lounge and then heard, “Your Mummy and Daddy are here to see you…” and in they came with Dylan, whose face was beaming.
The foster carer was invaluable, giving us step by step guides to his routine, likes and dislikes, habits and all the things in between. They were brilliant at being there for help, but letting us get more and more involved as the week progressed. The following week they brought Dylan to us and he got to sleep in his new cot for the first time and it all hit home.
We are now two years on. We have a caring, bubbly, headstrong, car-mad little boy and wouldn’t change any of it for the world.
If we could give advice to those starting the process or thinking about it, we would probably say ask the questions. No question is too simple/dumb/complex/selfish etc to ask, because this is not just the rest of your lives but also the life of your child. If something is a no-go for you, then say so; being a martyr over it or giving it a go will not help your family thrive in the future.
Likewise, if you are really hoping for something then that needs to be discussed so everyone involved knows what the plan is and if it is possible. We would also say be ready for questions back to you that you might not necessarily like. You have to be prepared to look at yourself, really look at yourself, and examine what might need to change in the future.
I would recommend reading all that you can around the subjects you might need to be ready to deal with and adoption as a whole. Be ready to be ‘all in’. You can never have enough knowledge or guidance, so take all that you can get from prep groups, from adopters who assist with these, from the social workers, from additional training offered because it will never be wasted.
Most of all the children who need families are likely to have experienced something in their short lives that will continue to affect them as they grow up; be prepared. They need someone to love them of course, but they need more than just love. Even as young as he was, Dylan has still tested us and pushed us in areas where we have been exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally.
We have a strong support network around us. We have other parents -adoptive and biological – around us to help us through, we have family who step in, we have people we can call and just rant at.
Be kind with yourselves. It is a long journey and one which is amazing and thrilling. But at the same time it’s incredibly hard, not just as a parent (which is always a challenge!) but as a parent to an adopted child with additional needs which are not always visible to everyone else. You do You, and be who your child needs you to be.
If you are considering adoption, you can find out more about our adoption service here. You can also check out our adoption resources, read more real adoption stories and find out about our next information events. And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us – we’d love to hear from you.