A whole year of being a Dad!

So on Saturday just gone, it had been a year since squidge had moved in with us. It has been a year of just having our dream son, and a whole year of constantly hearing “Daaaaaaaaad”. I cant believe where this year has gone already its completely mind-blowing. Also so scary because it really hurts to see him growing so quickly, he’s not the little squidge that he was when he moved in just over a year ago.

The one consistent thing that has been going on on, and probably will be an ongoing thing, is that I have learnt so much. There has been a super amount of self reflection, lack of sleep because of this. I have realised that all of the learning and prep work that you go through during the adoption process is the tip of the iceberg and until your parenting a child who has gone through psychological trauma (no matter how bad it is) will you realise how tough it actually will be.
We have been through the mill lately with behaviour problems, generally not listening to us, feeling like absolute shit parents at times. Countless times I have felt like a complete failure, and to be completely honest I still do, but its a two way street, he needs to feel like we will be there for him. After many discussions with our social worker and our lovely psychologist who is working with us, I’m starting to remind myself that he is testing me and that he still does love me. I think that since this is all within the last few months its partly because he is now so settled and comfortable with us as his parents that he feels able to act out. Also, I was that constant figure in his life, for around 8months I never left his side, unless he was at school or if Ricky was with him, I was present for the good, the bad and the downright ugly moments in his life. But now I have returned back to work his life has changed again and his security barriers have now risen. He is still adjusting to that. Unfortunately, my job is not a 9-5 Monday to Friday job, I work 12.5hr shifts, days and nights as well as weekends so its a major adjustment for him and for me I am bearing the brunt of it. And it’s bloody difficult.

But I am super proud of this little guy, he has adjusted amazingly to his new life and all the changes that he has had to endure, change of house, change of parents and extended family, change of school and a change of his environment. He has taken it in his stride, and done so well. Academically he is acing it, he’s made a great circle of friends at school and is wanting to have some playdates with his friends. So proud of him for this.

Despite being told by many social workers that we will not get our dream child and that we wont have our dream family, we did. And I wouldn’t change a thing about him, he is truly the son I dreamt of.

Its now official

Hey guys! So just over a week ago, November 15th, it was our the initial court hearing to finalise our adoption of L. We had been told by our social worker that this was the initial hearing and that it could be likely that it would be more than one hearing, meaning that we probably wouldn’t get the adoption court order until the new year. Obviously we would have loved to get this in before Christmas, so that our first Christmas together would be as an official family.

So on the Friday as we were sat in our local hospitals peads outpatient department waiting for little man to see his asthma consultant, our social workers were sat in court putting forward the case for us to adopt L officially. We had been told that we would get a phone-call to let us know the outcome of the case, as we were driving home I just happened to check my emails to see one from our social worker. Part of me didn’t want to open the email that just had the subject heading “Adoption Hearing”, I just remember thinking “what if it was bad news?…..what would would we do next?”. Anxiety was sky high, I felt that my chest was going to explode because of palpitations. I took a huge deep breath and opened the email, followed by a high pitch oh my god. Ricky and L both were going “what, what, what” I told them that the judge has said yes, I turned around and said to L the judge has said you can live with us forever and ever. L just looked at me, his. face started to go red and he let out a huge scream and shouted yes and goes “so I don’t have to move home again” This has been something that he has been worried about incase this wasn’t his forever home and his forever family, this time of year has always been the time he would be moved on to a new home and family so naturally its not a time of year where he feels completely safe. I could see a sense of relief in his face amongst every other emotion running through him.
There was a few calls that we made straight away to immediate family members and close friends all of which consists of screams, sighs of relief and shouts of yay! There was just a feeling of being overwhelmed and relived at the same time. The final step will be the celebration hearing where we get our certificate and say our goodbyes to our social workers.

Although I am so happy that L is now officially our little boy and that we are not sharing parental responsibility with his local authority and his mother (although this is honorary parental responsibility) there is this feeling of worry. We have had such great support from social workers especially our social worker and L’s previous social worker but in a couple of weeks this will go. We wont have them at the end of the phone or be able to drop them an email for help and support, instead we will have to go through the process of post adoption support. Having heard of peoples experiences with this there is such a wait for support and this is what worries me. I get so anxious about things like this, and our social worker knows this and has always been able to support me with this so the idea of not having her at the end of the phone is a scary thought. But on the other hand this means no more visits, having to make sure that they are up to date with the smallest of details such as informing his social worker of medical appointments etc, and having to say he has a social worker on those A&E visits (which L has made us attend on so many occasions over the past 10 months!!) followed by those suspicious looks from health professionals, this will be no longer. For now we can move forward on our own path without the need of including those extra professionals.

This is now the end of those formalities of our adoption journey, we have our little guy and can now begin building our lives as a family, it’s a scary but super exciting time. I suppose this is the start of our family live.

Moving in day

The day finally arrived, the 18th of Jan ’19! Our little guy was moving in and we were becoming a family of 3. There had been months of waiting for this day since we first saw his profile back in the summer.

We drove to his foster carers accommodation about half an hour from where we live. We arrived slightly early so messaged the foster carers to see if his social worker was there as well, no surprise but it was his old social worker and not his new one!! We walked up and knocked on the front door he was already and packed up. His old social worker gave us his passport, birth certificate and all the legal paperwork we need. We then said the goodbyes and left. It was all done super quickly as we were told it had to be. Kind of ripping off a plaster. I could see it was difficult for his foster carers, I was also fighting back tears. I knew and could see that it was difficult saying their byes to L he had been a massive part of their life’s for so long. Me and Ricky were and still are keen for them to be involved in his life because they were the first proper piece of stability he had. So we definitely will keep in contact with them.

We left their accommodation and headed for home. We had no plans to do anything that day other than spending the day at home and bonding with our little boy. We had lunch and chilled with him, playing in the garden and in his bedroom. He had dinner and got him ready for bed, we both read a story and stayed with him till he fell asleep. There was no crying or anything from him he didn’t even ask about his foster carers which was a little surprising, but also nice because it showed he felt safe and comfortable.

The first night was so difficult I don’t feel like I slept at all. I was checking on him constantly through the night making sure he was sleeping, breathing ok and all was good!!

It felt so surreal almost like a dream. We had waited so long for this to happen and now he was here. So many emotions were running through me. But I was so happy. Our family was now complete.

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!!!

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 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.

The initial call….

So after we posted the form of interest in adopting we had a bit of a wait before we heard anything back. The one day whilst I was at work I got a phone call from a social worker at Greenwich social services, she wanted to go through the form that we had sent off the other week and had a few questions for me. She told me that it would be a quick phone call and however this turned in to a 40 minute phone call (totally not the best of times for this chat as I was on my way to meet a family, but you know needs must and all!!). She asked a heap of questions relating to both mine and Ricky’s childhoods and upbringing, schooling (I hardly knew anything of Rickys childhood other than the basics so I kinda had to fob her off on some of this!), our finances such as our income and expenditure. Also what are our current jobs and is anything changing. She then started asking things about both of our child care experiences……I totally had this one in the bag!!

So after the 40minute intensive phone call she explained to me the call was a screening call and she has to now discuss our application with her manager before she can tell us whether we will be taken on as potential adopters with the borough. We should find out by the end of the week is all she could tell me. I was completely thrown off, partly because I was not expecting the phone call but also the questions were completely unexpected, I felt as if this should have been discussed either in person with both myself and Ricky there or over the phone with both us present. It was odd but then again something that I had no control over and couldn’t really mention my true feelings (something I would soon come to find is a regular feeling during a potential adopters journey).

A few days passed when and I got an email from the social worker who had phoned me earlier in the week, she asked me to call as soon as I was free so she could discuss the outcome of the meeting with me. I called as soon as I got the email and it was the best news ever……….we were being take on. We had now officially started our adoption journey. I called Ricky as soon as I got off the phone to tell him the news, we both felt so numb but we were both, obviously, so excited.

Our dream of having a family was in the making, it was weird as we knew that we could be ‘dropped’ at any point but there was also that feeling that somewhere out there is a child that could potentially be placed with us.
We could know announce our plans with other family members that we had not yet told but also to close friends and work colleagues.

We now had to wait until we were allocated a social worker to take us through the first of the two stages of adoption. We were told that we might have a short wait until one was allocated to us but we were advised to start researching the process and start some learning as this will help.

It was finally happening!!