Just before Christmas we got an email with the introduction plan which L’s foster carers had approved. The first day we would see our little guy would be a week after New Years. It seemed to take forever for this day to arrive, but our amazing families had arranged an adoption shower the weekend before we travelled up for the introductions.
We travelled up the night before the introductions to avoid being late curtesy of the standard London traffic! L’s social work team arranged our accommodation for the first week of introductions. The whole 2 hour car ride up to our accommodation was odd, for the initial part of the journey it was full of good chat but the closer we got the more the nerves kicked in. Our lives were about to change completely. As soon as we got to the hotel it was time to sleep, although it was an awful sleep! Tomorrow we would meet our future son.
The meeting day finally arrived! We woke and arrived at the foster carers’ home for the start of the introduction planning. Since we arrived before the social workers we waited in the car as we were told that we couldn’t meet L until after the meeting and didn’t want to arrive before the social workers as he might be around. After the family finding social worker and L’s old social worker had arrived we were then called in. We finally met his new social worker for the first time, this was also the first time that L and his foster carers met her. Which didn’t seem to make any sense, it also didn’t seem to be fair to L, he was meeting his two new daddies and to throw other new people into the mix doesn’t make any sense for the little guy.
It was great to meet his foster carers again. We had been in regular contact since we last saw them. We all sat down in their dining room minus L and his foster dad, we went over the structure of the introductions, each day the visiting times became longer and towards the end of the first week we would be observing his full routine, breakfast through to bedtime. During the second week when L would be visiting us the times would be short and then get longer. On the last day he would be moving in, we would collect him from the foster carers accommodation and bring him straight home. Seeing the moving in day there, worded exactly like that made me feel numb, I was so excited though. I was still expected something to occur or them changing the plans, although I didn’t want it to but it still didn’t feel real.
We went through the paperwork of how things would work following L moving in and what we could and couldn’t do, for example we would be unable to consent for medical or dental procedures unless in was deemed an emergency, in which case we would be able to consent to treatment but would need to the inform emergency social workers ASAP. Follow up visits from both our social worker and L’s social worker were also arranged. They would be visiting weekly for the first 3-4 weeks to see how things were and if there were any problems etc.
As the meeting was coming to an end we got a brief glimpse of L with his cheeky smile and wave, as he peered down the stairs hiding from his foster dad and then running away once his foster dad had found him. I remember his foster dad coming into the meeting asking if we had seen a little boy running past!!! Loved him already.
After the meeting we finally got to meet L. He slowly came up to us nervously, still looking back towards his foster carers for support and approval from them. We both got down to his level to say hi to him. His foster dad introduced us as his new daddy’s which internally melted my heart, he said why don’t you give them some hugs. L gave each of us the most precious hug and then told us to follow him! We went into the living room and sat down, I then asked him if he could remember us and he said yes, he looked at me and said “your Daddy Chris” and then looked towards Ricky and said “your Daddy Ricky”. This was the most amazing and surreal moment. I don’t think that there is any way to describe how you feel when your child calls you daddy for the first time, other than to say it is such a heart melting moment.
We stayed for a few hours and left in the evening after spending lots of time talking and playing with L. He warmed to me quite quickly but was not overly sure about Ricky, L did play with Ricky and gave him some cuddles but would always come to me first then I would have to encourage L to go to Ricky. Looking back at this, the only thing we can think of why L was like this was due to Ricky being Indian and therefore having different coloured skin. From what we know about L’s background is that where he grew up including his time in foster placements, was in predominately white communities. Even when we visited his primary school in was an all-white school purely due to the location of it being in a very rural area of England.
When we left his foster placement we both felt really exhausted, it was an emotionally fuelled tiring day meeting our son for the first time. When we left it was really clear that L was also tired from the emotions of meeting new people, it was emotionally draining for us so it must have been ten times as bad for him. We got back to the hotel and went straight to bed for a few hours nap, we got a phone call from our social worker to see how things were going she said that she would be calling daily to see how things are. We told her about the L being slightly distant towards Ricky and explained what we thought this could be caused by, which she agreed to. Our social worker advised us to keep persisting with things, and that when L felt safe and secure with Ricky that things would change. I felt quite bad, and felt very guilty with L coming to me and building a relationship with him when it wasn’t happening for Ricky as well. I just wanted it to be a perfect start for the three of us, but truly knew it was never going to be perfect straight away.
Over the next couple of days we started to bond really well with him, I encouraged him to include Ricky in playing and our activities even when we took him to the local park. Watching and playing with him on the swings and climbing frames felt amazing. Every now and again I would leave L and Ricky briefly to play to get them to bond whilst I grabbed a coffee or caught up with L’s foster carers. We took him out a few times for lunch and to the local playground. We also took him out for some boring trips, as he called them, to see how he was for example to go to Sainsburys to get some things for his lunch. We learnt so much about the parenting small things during these trips such as making sure that he went to the bathroom before getting in to the car (a really good tip by the way!). It felt amazing to be doing these things and taking him out feeling like a parent, although as we said to our social worker during our daily evening phone calls, is that it is very artificial. We were technically meant to be spending time with L and making us lunch, taking him out etc but we became very aware that actually it’s difficult to do this when your in someone else’s home, also it was difficult to ‘telling L off’ as he liked to throw his toys around the bedroom and not listen to us. We felt that we were overstepping the mark as it was not our home and he was not yet placed with us. But also subconsciously we wanted to get to know him and bond with him so it felt negative to ‘tell him off’ this early on. However, we had to ensure he knew that he could not misbehave with us and knew that we were going to be his dad’s. We made sure to let the foster carers know if we had ‘told him off’ and why. But this was something that we needed to just forget about, our social worker told us it was important that we showed and demonstrated that we are his parents. She also suggested that we should change how we want to be called, after a long telephone conversation and discussion between both myself and Ricky we decided that I would be called Dad and Ricky would be known as Daddy.
Our last full day with L was really great. We spent the whole day with him, making him breakfast and putting him to bed that night, it was completely heart melting. We helped pack up his belongings such as his toys and clothes with his foster mum, this was super tough to do, we could see that she was fighting back tears doing this. We took him to the local Sainsburys to make sure we had things he liked to eat in our house, for the days that he would be with us before he moved in, permanently!! So exciting. We also learnt and found out that checking and asking him whether he needed the toilet before getting in the car was very important, as finding somewhere to stop whilst driving is really difficult, especially when they wait to the last minute before saying it! We cooked him dinner at the foster carers home and then helped with the bathing and bedtime routine. Reading him a bedtime story which was just the best experience. Once we had put L to bed and settled him we were luckily treated to a lovely homecooked dinner by his foster parents.
The last day of the first week of introductions we visited L for a few hours and collected some of his belongings which, we had packed up with him and his foster mum the day before, to take back with us. It was a cute couple of moments before we left as he was hugging both of us saying he can’t wait to visit and see his bedroom.
We drove the 2 hours back home in a very full car, we had to buy a car seat on the way home as this was not something we had yet brought. We talked about how much we had already fallen in love with him. We were both completely exhausted, emotionally and physically, but really excited to have L visiting and knowing that this is the final week of introductions before he moves in and we become a family from three. Once we got home we both headed straight to bed for a decent night’s sleep.
The following day came and we were up early waiting for L and his foster carers’ to arrive, the nerves and excitement were beyond belief. He walked slowly down the driveway looking slightly nervous and looking back to make sure that his foster carers’ were still following him, but you could also see he was super excited as well. He came in and immediately started checking out and exploring his new home. Once he had checked out the living room and made sure that we had a PS4 like we told him we did! He then went up to check out his new bedroom. He loved it, he was so happy and excited with the London bus bunk bed, and the grass style flooring. His foster carers’ were meant to stay for a few hours with him, so that he didn’t worry or panic but because he was so relaxed and happy here they left to sort a few bits and pieces and check into their accommodation. L stayed for lunch and we all ate as a family, which felt really nice and was so special. Everything we had dreamed of.
As the week went on he stayed with us for longer, being dropped off mid to late morning and we would give him his bath, read him a story before dropping him back to the foster carers’ accommodation in the late evening. It was a lovely week, we went for walks and drives to show him around his new area. We also showed him where his new school would be and took him on the walking route that we would take. We had a great week of getting to know L more, I think it helps feeling that we can do things our way and not having to worry about stepping on anyone else’s feet since we were in our home. We could also do things without having to ask where things are and if its ok to do something, so lunch time and dinner times were easier and we could take him out locally since we knew where local parks were.
The first week of introductions is very artificial and it’s not natural at all, its difficult to relax and get on with things in someone else’s home. The foster carers are meant to keep an eye on how the introductions go and feedback to the child’s social worker how things are going. So when the introductions occur in your home it makes things much more easier and more natural which naturally makes bonding easier with the child. I think this is because you can relax, we were lucky when it came to L’s foster family, they are super relaxed. They allowed Ricky and I to get one with getting to know him and giving us the space we needed. I can imagine that had his foster family been different and keeping an eye on everything it would have made things much more difficult. With L’s foster carer’s allowing us to get on with bonding with him it certainly made things easier with getting to know L.