So, the first day had arrived and this old stately looking home for the assessment. The worst bit was the two days weren’t clumped together and the day off in between happened to be my birthday!! So there was no real celebrating until after the assessment. We arrived and were shown to the cafe and asked to wait here. Slowly some other people arrived, everyone appeared and acted in the same way….pure nervousness and awkwardness about how this assessment was going to go.
After what felt like the longest wait ever we were taken in to a huge room and sat down in a circle. There was myself and Ricky, a heterosexual couple, a lesbian couple and two single female prospective adopters. The social workers introduced themselves other than one of them. There were three social workers who would be carrying out the assessment and working through the tasks, and the final social worker was sat at the back at the room typing up everything, word for word, that was being said by each of us prospective adopters. They outlined how the two days was going to be run and advised us to just be ourselves and not to worry about anything. We then had to introduce ourselves to the group, as you were talking you could hear the keyboard being tapped by the social worker at the back of the room, this was really off-putting. It was quite apparent that I was not the only person who was feeling like this.
The first task came, and the social worker who was leading this task/assessment asked us to split up, so those who came in couples were told to work with someone else for this task. It was a visualisation type task, which I am no good at, I feel genuinely awkward and uncomfortable doing these type of exercises in groups even if I know the others in the group, let alone in front of a room full that consists of a majority of strangers!! We had to close our eyes and imagine being at a train station and waiting for a close friend or family member to arrive, but we realise that we have forgotten our mobile phone and had no other way to contact them. We were talked through this and asked to think about what we would do, how would we feel. Once the task was done we had to say one by one how we felt, what would we do etc. Naturally, I got asked first about how I felt. So, as was expected of us by the social workers and of our own social worker I was honest and said that I struggled with this task as I can’t visualise stories etc it is something that I have always struggled with. I got a look which I can only describe as utter disgust from the social workers. I then explained that I always have my mobile on me, so forgetting it is something that just wouldn’t happen with me, but still all I got was looks of disgust and disappointment from these social workers. Even the tapping of the keyboard appeared to be more violent!!
As the day progressed the awkwardness and feelings of wanting the floor to open up and swallow me was increasing. There was one exercise on this day which sums up this feeling completely and that was when we got split into three groups, again partners not being put into the same group. We all went into different rooms, luckily the social worker who was with my group was really nice. We had to talk about our journey and what has brought us to this point. I spoke first as I felt quite comfortable in this group and explained my journey and what has brought me to this point. One of the group had a similar story but the other prospective adopter talked about her failed IVF experiences. I truly felt for her, and could see that although she had overcome this emotionally, talking about it in front of a group of complete strangers did make her feel, naturally, uncomfortable. Once we had finished we went back into the main room and we all had to talk about how we felt explaining our journeys. I explained that for me I felt fine, I felt comfortable talking about it as the group I was in was friendly. There were a few laughs from the others in the room, which turned out to be a downfall. I still couldn’t get any tell-tale signs from the social worker that I was doing good in this assessment, I literally just seemed to get sighs and eye rolls, despite following their advice. Apparently this task was done to assess whether we had overcome our previous traumas, but to be honest this just felt unnecessary, I mean the social workers had already dug pretty deep into our lives and I’m sure that if we had not overcome previous traumas they would have picked up on this!
Luckily during the breaks we got to know the other prospective adopters so after we finished the first assessment day we went to a local pub to have a few drinks, get to know each other better and have a good old rant about some of the things the social workers had said. It became quite the bitch-fest. It was also great to get to know others in the same position as us, as these guys knew exactly what we were going through and it expanded our support network. We also found out about a great support group, New Family Social (NFS), who are a groups of LGBT adopters or prospective adopters, they do regular meet-ups. Each area of the UK has a group or groups and hold regular meet-ups, we luckily had one in Greenwich. It was great to find this out as prior to being told about the group we literally felt like the only gay couple applying to adopt as we knew nobody else in the same situation as us. It was that stereotypical only gay in the village feeling until we heard about this group!!!
When the second day arrived two days later, the social workers started off by giving us chat saying that they felt we were not taking it seriously and not giving our true feelings. It was clear that they wanted the bad negative feelings, which I felt would not be a true representation of how I was feeling or had felt. I didn’t know whether this was a genuine chat or whether this was the speech given to all other previous prospective adopters. To be honest this really irritated and I was having to hold myself back trying not to say anything to the social workers. I felt like there was no pleasing them. For me it was difficult to not to think about things before responding as it was obvious that we were being recorded, we could distinctly heard every key being tapped by the social worker who was at the back of the room on the laptop. We had all been honest with them when undertaking the exercises etc but I felt that they were wanting us to be negative all the time, which would mean that we were not being honest with them. From this point on I was being more negative in my feelings therefore not being true to myself, which is what they wanted from us, but there was clearly no pleasing these social workers. Another exercise that they asked us to do was to write down on a piece of paper our dream child, I asked us to think of our dream, ideal child and write it on a piece of paper. Once we had done this they told us to rip up this piece of paper, and then asked us individually how we felt. When they got to me I said that it was a horrible thing to do and that I felt upset as this was my dream child, however, in reality this did not affect me in anyway. I knew I wasn’t going to get my dream child, I was going through an adoption process so this child probably won’t have the hair colour that I had thought of, they probably won’t have the dream name that I had picked out, even if we had gone down the surrogacy route I wouldn’t have my dream child because we wouldn’t know what egg had been used. But is there such a thing of a dream child?! NO!!!. Just another pointless exercise, the second day was full of utter BS like this. Well there was some usefulness in the second day, so it wasn’t completely pointless, we got some useful information from the social workers on trauma and what to look out for in terms of behaviours and how to deal with the basics.
At the end of the day we filled in an evaluation form, which we were all brutally honest, I feel that we all felt the same. I know I was completely brutal in my feedback.
We were told that reports on how they felt we had been and performed during the assessment would be typed up and emailed to us via our social workers in the next week or so.
We met up with our social worker shortly after getting the assessment reports back which we did individually via email which was about 2 weeks after the assessment days. Although we had been given the go ahead to continue with the adoption process (apparently had we not passed the assessment we would have had to undergone further training and advised to do further learning) I was pissed at some of the report. I was told that out of the group I had taken on the class clown role, like seriously, I was fuming that they put that in a formal report. In the report the social workers had written down that I made a few ‘jokes’ causing people to laugh during the assessment. The only two comments that I made was during the first exercise on the first day by saying I could visualise what they wanted us to and the second comment was during the exercise where they separated us all, when asked how we felt opening up to strangers I said I found easy as the group I was with were nice and easy to talk to. Also mentioned in the report they made a comment that they thought we did not seem close. We were both taken aback by this comment, I was also annoyed at this comment as we aren’t naturally cuddly or ‘loved up’ in public let alone with strangers, also how is this a reflection on our relationship considering these social workers don’t know us as a couple or furthermore how is this a reflection on our parenting? I would not be all touchy-feely in front of my child, to me that’s completely inappropriate, as is doing it in front of strangers!!
When we met with our social worker I brought this up, she could tell the minute that I said hello I was annoyed!! I mentioned how I felt and our I felt that parts of this report were not a true reflection on myself or on us as a couple. After the explanations/rant our social worker seemed happy with what we had to say. She did mention that normally prospective adopters have more time in stage 2 and know more of what is expected before they attend the assessment days. The reason we were put on the course early was because they didn’t want to delay the process and then have to push back a potential panel date for us.
We were then told that the next meetings would be done individually to discuss our relationships. I was still annoyed following the conversation, but what could be done? Nothing was going to change and it’s not like our social worker could change the report, but more importantly we were still in the process and progressing forward. As I’m typing this I am still fuming about, the thought of someone else going through the process and having to experience being made to feel like that really gets to me. Im hoping that by doing this and writing this blog might help change things, I do feel that the adoption process does need modernising and less stigma needs to be placed on certain things, as does the focus on previous traumas.
Anyway I will stop this post now before I go off on some rant and get sidetracked!!