The introductions

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. 

The life of a working dad

Another slightly of topic/track post!! So I had my first night shift back at work last night (I’m writing this post whilst waiting for my train home!!). I have done a day shift but that was fine, the little guy was at school and all was good, obviously I was busy at work and since I hadn’t been working since the new year I spent have my shift trying to figure out what I was meant to be doing. As well as getting to know all the new faces! Well tonight was a chilled night but I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing out. Major FOMO!

This is natural though…right? Although I had dropped him to school that morning it was going to be over 24 hours before I would see my little guy again, plus the mr had taken him out after school yesterday so that contributed to the FOMO!! But being away overnight just felt wrong, it was the first night that I had spent away from my newly made family. I know it was the first of many given my job and I always knew that I wasn’t going to be given the luxury of being a kept husband, but it was bloody hard.

The past seven months of being a dad have been difficult, naturally. Parenting an adopted child is so much more difficult. Even I didn’t really anticipate how difficult and challenging it would be despite the consent mentioning of this by our social worker, but then until your in it you don’t know. It’s been difficult having to explain things to others especially when they go “oh all children do that” hmm they might but this is different! Being with him everyday for the past 7 months has been amazing, challenging and questioning my abilities on a daily basis, but so worth it. The idea of going back to work properly in September is tugging on my heart strings. Any tips would be greatly appreciated!!! Or at least reassure me it gets easier!!!

The most tiring and full on day yet!!

So the day had arrived where we travelled up to have a day of information, we would soon learn that this would be a brain aching amount of information.
We drove 2 hours from our home to meet the agencies medical advisor. Our social worker met us there and told us what to expect. A week or two before this child appreciation day we had gone over the medical report again to prep us for this meeting and to figure out questions. We met the medical advisor and she went through the whole report, explaining his health as well as his mothers health from conception through to the present day. She also explained that they have no health details relating to his father. The medic was really thorough with the information that she gave us, there were some concerns and things to bear in mind relating to his educational development, but these are things to keep and eye on for when he was a bit older. Following the meeting we had a brief chat with our social worker and she wanted to know how we felt. For both of us there were no red flags or concerns at all. We knew that things can crop up over time but the main thing is that he is developing well and with the right support he should be fine in terms of his education. Yes there were naturally concerns given the information we got given about his mums health during pregnancy, the lack of care he got at home with his mum and of course the lack of information on his dads health, but there would be concerns regardless. Health problems can arise at anytime. At this point nothing was off putting for either of us.

We left the medical advisors office and headed to his school. It was another long drive (over an hours drive) to his primary school. I remember thinking that if we got approved to adopt him he’s going to have a huge change in terms of his environment. The schools surroundings were gorgeous, lots of green and huge spaces for the children to run around in. Completely different to West London!
All three social workers were there (ours, L’s social worker, and the family finding social worker), the local authorities virtual school teacher, the schools SENCO and his class teacher for the meeting. We got to hear how well he is performing academically and got to see some of his school work. We were asked about schools that we were looking at for him and explained that we were in the process of finding some local schools and will be visiting them shortly.
The SENCO took us on a tour of the school and the school grounds. Then, there he was!! We saw him! He looked so cute stood there in his school uniform looking back at us really confused, clearly wondering who these two guys were looking back and smiling at him!! I couldn’t believe it, he was gorgeous and watching him being cheeky and running around the playground I knew he was the little boy for us. Such a special moment, one that we still haven’t forgotten.
We asked his teacher for a list of his favourite books which we would get for him so that if/when he moves it they are ready to read to him.

It was time to head to our final part of the child appreciation day, we drove a really short journey to meet L’s foster carers. L wouldn’t be there for the meeting as we were not yet allowed to officially meet him. We met both his foster mum and dad, they were completely lovely. We were welcomed in to their house and shown through to the kitchen, their house was lovely. I remember joking with our social worker that L would have a huge shock!
We spoke with the foster carers and again all three social workers were present for this, although L’s social worker and family finding social worker had to leave early. Our social worker stayed with us for the duration of the meeting. His foster carers told us that he was doing well and was a loving, caring funny little boy. His behavior initially needed some work to improve but it dramatically improved once him and his brother had been separated. We spoke about how he was at school and how his home learning was. They told us about his health and that they had no concerns physically, but psychologically he was still having nightmares related to previous trauma however, this was improving day by day. 

The meeting went well, and we both felt very positive about all the information we were given, nothing was overwhelming, like I had imagined it to be. Yet this may have been because everything was very positive. It was suggested by the family finding social worker that we swap numbers so that we can see photos of L and keep up to date with how he is doing. We could also speak with the foster carers if we had anymore further questions. This sounded really positive, it came across as a slight hint that things were proceeding the right way. We left and had a quick chat with our social worker before we got into our cars and headed for home. She told us to keep open minded and to remember that yes, he might be great now but things can change later on in life, given what went on antenatally. In the car journey home we spoke about the information we had been given but we both had huge headaches from the amount of information we had been given but nothing had really changed our minds, we still wanted to go ahead and continue to the panel meeting which had yet to be decided. Such a great feeling. There was no change in how we felt, we still wanted to proceed with this process with L.

The next step would be the panel, which we were told would take place in the next few weeks. During this time we were advised to get on with finding a potential school, making the introduction book and DVD. Both of these were to introduce us to L, which would be shown to L by his foster carers’. The idea is that they have the DVD on in the background as well so that the child gets used to seeing your faces and hearing your voices. With the book the foster carers’ should be reading and showing the child the book daily. We knew he liked Lego and marvel superhero’s so we made it with bits of Lego and mini-figures of Lego superhero’s. In the book we had pictures of me and Ricky as well as close family members in there so that he knew who was who. Neither of us was sure on what we wanted L to call us, Ricky was keen on being called daddy but wasn’t fully sure, so we decided the best thing to do would be to call ourselves Daddy Chris and Daddy Ricky. This was probably not ideal but it seemed the best option at the time.
The book was great fun to make whereas the DVD was quite cringey. The thing was you’re talking to a child, who is not there and you don’t truly know, you have no idea what their personality is despite knowing everything about their upbringing and health but you’ve never met them.

We were now ready for panel!

Our first Father’s Day

So this post is going to go off trend compared to the previous blog posts but I will post an updated one in the next couple of days.

So today was our first Father’s Day! It was amazing with the added drama from our little guy just to make sure there was some added flare to the day!

The day started with present opening on the bed with our little guy helping slightly with the unwrapping whenever he could. He was so happy when he saw us opening the presents which he helped us choose. He was super great with the card writing last night. We then went down to have our breakfast and chill for the morning before going out to get dinner. It was great to spend time together just as a family. We stayed at home for a few hours then headed out for some dim-sum which the little fella loved (it went much better than his first time!) followed by some good old cake!

We all had a great day, and it was so special just to spend it as a family especially since it was our first. I think he must have been confused as it was also his ever first Father’s Day as well which is why we wanted to have it chilled and relaxed.

I have learnt however not to tell him what we brought as he likes to tell his daddy what dad brought and vice versa!! But it’s through excitement as he wanted to give the presents out as soon as they had been brought. Love him!!

The first match

We hadn’t really moved in to our new home for that long before our social worker arranged a visit to assess the house, to make sure it was ‘ok’ to have a child living here as well. She briefly looked around and checked all the rooms but was more than happy with everything. The check was very different than the first assessment we had!

After our social worker had checked over the house and said that she was happy, we all sat down to go over things. She wanted to know how things were and if we had done any additional learning. She said that her team had their matching meeting recently and had a possible match for us. I was desperately trying to hide my excitement but it wasn’t working, I knew I had the most biggest smile on my face as she said this. She went over some information and told us that the child was an 18month old little boy, mixed race. He was doing really well, and explained his background. She handed over his ‘profile’, my excitement went straight to disappointment. From looking at the picture I knew something wasn’t quite right, and all was confirmed when I looked at the health section of his profile. He had a chromosomal disorder.

I straight away questioned this with our social worker. She said the team felt given my work background (working in paediatric nursing) it was a good match as I have experience of this. What was this as a reason? I was fuming. I felt that we had been completely ignored in regards to what our matching requests were. We were looking for a healthy boy not one that was going to have both physical and emotional needs later down the line as well as significant learning difficulties. Granted I would be able to care for this child but I know emotionally I would be drained. It’s one thing to care for a child at work but also to be doing this at home as well is something else.

This match was not fair at all, and their reasoning for this was a load of BS to be honest.

For us it was an immediate no although she wanted us to think on it. Me and Ricky spoke about it between the two of us and I spoke with colleagues at work but our decision wasn’t going to change. I did feel really guilty for saying no. This little boy was in foster care and by saying no I had no idea what was going to happen once we said no. How long would he remain in care for? But it was the right decision.

For now it was back to looking for the right match, for us.

Panel – The end of Stage 2

Firstly, sorry for the delay in getting this blog up, lots having been going on mainly with the little guy being quite unwell (tonsillitis) as well as other adoption issues and now its the half-term. One of the things that I’m learning quickly is that school kids have so many school holidays!! (he’s only been at school since feb and its his third school break…..if only I could have that many breaks from work!!). Anyway here it is……..

The day had finally arrived. The end of our adoption assessment was almost over and the start of finding our future son could begin.

We had a mid morning panel time slot, which was great so at least we could take our time getting ready and not have to wait all day for the panel assessment. We were asked to meet our social worker at her office reception before we went to panel. We met her and she gave us another overview of how the panel meeting will go. When we got to where the panel meeting would take place we were taken to another room with our social worker to wait. This was the most nerve-racking time of our lives, for me much more daunting than when I met with the registrar before I got hitched! Finally the chair person and another social worker came into the room and introduced themselves, we had already met the social worker who led the two day assessment days (no words needed here about how I felt meeting her again!!!). The chair person gave an outline how things would go and reassured us that he would be asking most of the questions, and just to direct our responses to him. He told us that some of the other panel members might have some questions for us but there shouldn’t be many.
Our social worker was called in first and would have been asked about us, our relationship and how we have progressed throughout the process, all of which would have been in the report that was also presented to the panel.

After 15 or so minutes we were then asked to join the panel. Our social worker remained present for our interview. The panel consisted of the chairperson (who was independent to the social services), a few social workers and their medical advisor. We were asked lots of questions relating to our relationship, I feel this was partly due to the comment made by the assessing social workers during our assessment days. Again we repeated back to them what we had said numerous times since the assessment day and this was well received by the chairperson. Other questions asked off us, were our relationship and how do we support each other, when do we know if the other one is struggling (clearly due to both our history of depression and anxiety), we were also asked about our house sale and my studies whether either of these would impact our adoption and bringing up a child. Naturally, we answered these truthfully which was really well received. Following these questions by the chairperson I was asked a question by the medical advisor about my surgery and how things are going and if anything else needs sorting. We were then asked to go back to the waiting room along with our social worker whilst they made a decision on our adoption application.

This was the worst wait, much more unsettling than the wait to go in! Our future was being decided in another room, everything we had worked for over the past 10 months or so was being decided and all we could do was wait. Finally after what felt like years the chairperson and social worker came in the room. It was good news, we were now approved prospective adopters. All the stress, tears and anxiety was completely worth it. All that was to be done now was the search for the missing piece to our family. We left the building with our social worker followed by a massive group hug. We couldn’t have been more happy. Our social worker said that she would be in touch later in the week.

We left for some celebratory drinks, one of the best days of our life. Our future was closer than we thought. The only thing left to do now was to sell the apartment and find our family home.

The stresses of stage two

I couldn’t have been more happy that the horrible assessment days were over and done with. In all honesty I felt and still do feel that the assessment days are pointless the way they are run.
Parts of the assessment days are just degrading, the idea is that we are honest and they can assess us but the way that I felt during the assessment made me want to leave, or be fully honest and tell them what I thought of the process.

The next meeting we had with our social worker was done individually to get a feel of us without each other present and to go through our history as a couple and before me and Ricky got together. We arranged our meetings when each other was at work so that one of us didnt have to leave in the typical English December crappy weather.

I had my meeting first and it wasn’t not as bad as I thought it was going to be, however some questions were quite difficult to answer such as some aspects of my health such as my history with depression and also the relationship with my father, which was not in the best of places at this time and to be honest they were both interlinked. I hadn’t really spoke about either of these things openly before, let alone to a person I didn’t really know at all. Our social worker wanted to know what had caused our relationship breakdown and whether this would have an effect on my potential future child. I hadn’t really spoken much about my relationship with my dad before to anyone, Ricky obviously knew about the ups and downs but other than him I hadn’t really told anyone else. I barely knew our social worker and to go this deep into my life was difficult but also it was awkward as there was no choice, I had to talk about it or the alarm bells would be ringing. I don’t really share much of how I’m feeling to anyone, I guess you could call me a bit of a closed book but at this point it was made clear to me that I had to open up.

The one area that I found difficult to mention and to talk about was my mental health, despite the world being (from personal experience) opening up to mental health and being more accepting of it, I found this to be the opposite when it comes to social workers and parenting which is completely confusing.
At the time I was under a lot of stress, from work and from the pressures of adoption, as well as doing a university degree. We both felt at the time of this part social workers don’t really get that you have a full time job and other responsibilities there is a feeling of an expectation that you should be studying, researching and learning aspects of child development, attachment and learning more about adoption, yet that is just not possible. At the time I was on medication to help with this and was not really in a position to come off my medication however when she asked whether I was coming off them (no other question asked before this such as how do I feel being on them? Are they working for you?) I got the feeling and impression that this is what she was wanting to hear, so I said I was. Suddenly finding myself coming straight of them cold turkey. Probably not one of my best ideas, but at the time my mouth opened and it just came out, which left we with no option but to do this as the medical advisor to the adoption team would be requesting copies of medical records prior to the panel date (which was yet to be confirmed).

The comment regarding my and Ricky’s relationship that was made in the assessment day report was also brought up during this meeting, our social worker said that the assessing social workers felt that there was a disconnect between both of us and that they felt our relationship needs to be explored more (erm intrusive but ok). I said that we rarely display any affection in public or around strangers. I also said I felt it was inappropriate to be all cuddly and touchy during an assessment of our adoption application. When I asked why we didn’t show any PDA I said that there are still people who are anti-gay and why put ourselves in danger? Further to this we wouldn’t do it when out with our child because we wouldn’t want him exposed to any hateful comments. Our social worker did mention that she agreed with this and I took the opportunity to mention again that I felt that these comments made in the report were unfair, unjust and just rude. Following the meeting our social worker said she was happy with all the information that I had given and that she knows me and Ricky have a close relationship and understood our feelings on PDA. 

We had many more meetings following this and had to look at different aspects such as what we feel our own parenting styles would be and how we think how we were parented would play a part in our own individual parenting styles. I knew that I would probably be the more stricter parent just because we had already decided that I would be taking the longer work break so naturally I would be the one setting rules and enforcing them, whereas Ricky would be the more relaxed and fun parent. 
We had a meeting to discuss the house plans, by this point we were having a total nightmare with the house sale, sales kept falling through and our social workers now had concerns regarding this. They wondered whether we could now just cancel the sale, despite the money we had already paid on legal fees and the money. Both of us pointed out to our social worker that the reason for the sale was because, a) our previous social worker had said that she was not 100% happy with the apartment, and b) we would not be able to move for approximately a year following an adoption placement to naturally allow for us to bond and settle. We both felt that there was little understanding on their part, we were doing what we felt right but it was completely not our fault for the delays on the sale of the apartment. We had to reassure our social worker that we were still completely committed to the adoption.

During this and leading up to our panel date, where they make a decision whether we would be approved to adopt, our social worker was compiling a document called a PAR (prospective adopter report) which is why we had to fill in so much information and do constant learning. We were also advised to do some volunteering, we both did some volunteering with a local cubs group (as this fitted with the age group we were looking to adopt). Trying to fit all this into an already crazy schedule was a nightmare, we learnt that social workers seem to forget that you have a life, work and other commitments going on as well as trying to do further learning surrounding attachment and volunteering. It was like we both had 2 full time jobs. We got to see the PAR as we had to agree to what was documented and to make sure there wasn’t any information missing from it before it was finalised, signed and submitted to the panel. Which would be the following month…….crazy but completely excited.

The dreaded two day assessment

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!!

The beginning of stage two

Firstly I just want to say sorry for it being some time since my last blog post. Who knew how much time and energy the school holidays take from you!! One of the issues of adoption is that until the adoption order is granted you can’t leave your child with anyone at all, which meant that due to the mr working I had our little dude the whole time. Don’t get me wrong it was amazing, and we got to bond a lot, its just extremely tiring and a 18hr day at least 4 days a week is draining!!!! I thought my 12.5hr work shifts were tough. But it was amazing to see my little guy grow, we went swimming and did some baking, sight seeing. It was a fab easter.

So on to explaining the beginning of our stage two journey. Following the news of being approved to continue we were so happy, but this is where the work really begins. Stage one is predominately formal paperwork to ensure that you are suitable to progress on to the second stage.
We met our social worker at the apartment and she explained to us the stage two process. we were given a folder which again explained the process and the dates of the almost monthly meetings! We were also told that we would be attending a two day training day early on in this stage. Other potential adopters who were also in this stage would be attending however, they would be further on in the process than us along with some other social workers. The reason for us attending so early on was because they didn’t want to delay our application as the next assessment day was not for a while. We were told that these assessment days would consist of different elements such as role play, which is a huge fear of mine, it brings on massive feelings of anxiety and I just completely withdraw. I also don’t do well in group activities because of not knowing the other people. This assessment day seemed like it was going to be a complete nightmare for me. We were given some advice which was to be ourselves and not to try and second guess what the social workers were wanting from us.
Our new social worker also went over the forms that we completed in stage one which was what child we were looking for etc and if anything had changed. We decided that we were now looking to adopt a little boy and decided that we would be happy with an age range of 2 to 5 years. We wanted a healthy child,, we were given the tick box form back and we had multiple choice options which were not open to, would consider or yes would accept. We had to list from these multiple choice options what we could consider based on physical health problems such as Cerebral Palsy, emotional difficulties, learning difficulties such as Downs syndrome and mental health disorders. All of these included parental health such as maternal mother has learning difficulties or has a mental health disorder. The problem with this form was it is so very basic and some of the health disorders listed had such a large spectrum that it was almost impossible to tick that we would accept because we didn’t want to open ourselves up to much incase we then had to reject a possible match later and then have to explain why we couldn’t adopt that particular child.
However, after speaking with our social worker at length we agreed to mark that we would consider/be open to most of the conditions other than mental health. This was due to personal feelings after I had done a lot of research into parental mental health and genetics.

Between this initial meeting and the assessment day we had a few email communications with our social worker but one face to face visit to ensure we were ready for the assessment day, I think she could sense that I was anxious about this. She went back over the advice that she gave us as well and told us that there would be two other couples attending two day assessment along with two single female potential adopters. There would also be four assessing social workers. This did nothing to calm my nerves!!!

The first stage…

We had a wait of a few days following the phone call saying that we had been approved to proceed on to the first stage. After what felt like a lifetime we got an email from the same social worker who had done our screening call, she told us that she would be our allocated social worker for the first phase. She introduced herself and told us that she wanted to meet us at her office in two weeks to go through the formal checks, ID and DBS checks etc. The DBS forms were posted to us and we had to bring the completed forms with us as well as contact details for both our managers so that our work and employment could be verified.

We met our social worker two weeks after the email, it was a very relaxed and chilled meeting. We had a brief chat about a learning/training group that they wanted us to go on which would be towards the end of the first stage.
Our social worker gave us a folder with information on how the process was going to go including the meeting with another social worker at the end of the process which would determine if we would then proceed on to the second stage. We were also given more paperwork that they wanted us to fill out, such as our childhood chronology, financial information (our income and expenditure, any savings and debts such as credit cards), our family tree and finally a learning diary that they wanted us to fill in through out the process (any reading or learning we did related to adoption).

Following the meeting we were asked to read up on attachment theories which we would discuss during our next meeting. This is where our social worker got a little annoyed! I found that they were more focussed on the old school theories of attachment, such as Bowlby. This was super frustrating as all these theories and based on the ‘traditional’ families such as a mother and father. I found more research that was based on positive parental interaction with a child it enhances a strong attachment. Our social worker was a bit taken aback and put off by this, it was obvious that they were not aware of this research. She asked how I came across by this research and how was this research relevant, I explained that it was more relevant to our situation i.e being two gay men about to bring up a child! I was really having to bite my tongue during this meeting, I was starting to feel that they didn’t want us to be proactive in our learning!.

This stage was very much focussed on paperwork and getting the formal things sorted. We had to sign consent for the councils medical advisor to obtain our medical notes from our GP. We also had a health and safety check done on our apartment, although this didn’t go too well. Our social worker felt that the child’s bedroom was too small despite it being a double bedroom, and that our balcony could be deemed dangerous, because we had Moroccan lanterns. She felt that the child could use the lanterns to climb over the side of the balcony..however she was not reassured that we would obviously not allow the child onto the balcony unsupervised. I was so frustrated with this because these were aspects that shouldn’t cause any problems or be an obstacle with our adoption process. However, it was clear that our social worker felt that our two double bedroom sized apartment was not big enough to raise a child. Following this we decided to sell our apartment following some positive valuations on it. We had always envisaged having a family home but now just seemed to be the best time to do it (this would later be a real pain!!). We listed our apartment the following week.

We attended the learning group in Lewisham that we spoke about during our first meeting with our social worker. Due to the dates that the group was being run on meant that our first stage slightly overran. The day learning group was more of an insight into adoption and learning about how the process is run and what we need to learn to show that we are able to care for adopted children who have had traumatic experiences in their previous lives. It was really great as there were also couples who had previously adopted and decided to go through it again, this was quite nice and reassuring to see that these couples were going through the process the second time. During the learning group breaks both myself and Ricky spoke with them to get advice and to hear their personal stories and experiences of the process.  It was reassuring to see and hear that despite all the stress we have been through and the stress that is to come, there is an end and that it is totally worth it.

A week or two following the learning group we had the meeting with our social worker and another social worker to discuss our learning and to answer questions related to us and our family as well as what we could offer our future child. The meeting only laster an hour or so, during which we were both asked questions some of which were quite repetitive as were our answers, such as what have we learnt and how can we implement this. We had to wait for about two weeks for our ‘case’ (as they kept putting it) to be put forward to the rest of the pre-adoption team who would decide whether we would be progressed onto the second stage. This was a crazy long wait, everyday I was checking my emails throughout the day to see if our social worker had emailed us. The waiting is the worst, there is a complete feeling of being out of control, something that I am not used to and hate feeling.

Finally I got an email from our social worker asking me to call her when I was free. Both myself and Ricky had a random, very rare day off together, so we called her and put her on loudspeaker. It was great news. We were progressing on to the next stage of the adoption process. YAY!!!! The call was very composed and we were told that there would be a short wait whilst we wait to have a new social worker allocated to us. Once we put the phone down there was loads of jumping and shouting going on. It was such a great feeling. After so much paperwork, unnecesary reading and learning we were moving forward and going to be parents!!!

For now it was just another wait…..something we soon learn to deal with as it would happen very frequently.