Adoption and Emotional Trauma

We all know that adoptive children will naturally suffer from emotional trauma and emotional damage. That is a given fact, just based on what they have gone through prior to the match with adoptive parents. During the adoption process we were given loads of info on this and attended workshops and training sessions on trauma. But none of this could ever prepare me for the heart shattering crying and screaming that I would hear this evening when I left for work.

I have a night shift tonight and Ricky is at work which normally means a little ‘battle’ with the little man to allow us to leave the house.

I did the sit down with him and we talked about suggestions of what he could do in the short time between me leaving and Ricky coming home. Win!!

We came up with ideas but when it came to me opening up the front door that’s when the screaming began. Our family friend pick him up and held on to him, when I closed the door I heard him screaming for him to be let go and I saw his little hands against the blurred glass of the front door. My heart shattered, I couldn’t leave him this way and I had to go back in. Even if his crying last 5 minutes. Yes, this was more for me than for him, but my heart just wouldn’t let me walk away. As a dad I can’t just walk away when my child is in a traumatised state.

In my previous blog posts I have mentioned my little guy has been through so much up turn in the last 5 months. What he knew as his new norm following the adoption and that things for him were just settling everything has now been blown up and we are back to many temporary situations: temporary home, temporary work situations as well as just not knowing what the future will hold and how long everyone’s new norm will last for. And I feel that I am mostly to blame for this, which is why I want to be there to support him when he is in these moments and feeling vulnerable. I feel that this is not just because of how I feel that I am to blame for all the changes he has experienced but because I was his main caregiver – the stay at home parent for the 9 months before I went back to work.

This is not just standard parenting feelings but this is the reality of parenting an adopted child with backgrounds of emotional trauma and neglect amongst other things. It’s shit and it’s tough more so on us as adoptive parents. But, the love, the want to protect them, and attachment is real and it’s strong. Maybe how I have acted this evening is showing this. I don’t know but it’s my reality at the moment and my mind is swirling in what it’s….mainly what if I am not doing the right thing? Or is that my anxiety? I haven’t a clue and probably never will know what is truly going on in that little lads mind.

I’m not sure what I am getting out of this waffle of a blog post. I guess I just wanted to show my reality and cast a light on the traumatic side of adoption. I want to help normalise adoptive families and LGBT families as I feel our types of family aren’t fully ‘normalised’ or ‘understood’ properly in today’s society.

Thanks for reading this waffle. Any advice is welcomed. Hit me up on either here or my Insta account.

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.

My top resources and tips for talking about adoption and diversity with your child

Hey guys sorry its been a while since I last posted. General life things getting in the way and I’m having to manage my time much more effectively since retuning to work, and making sure I’m spending as much quality time with the little man as I possibly can.

So some people have asked me how we talk about adoption with L considering his age etc. To be honest, we don’t hide that we have adopted him. We talk openly about his mum and his nan whenever he wants to, and only when he brings it up. The way I see it is that he has a mum and other family members out there so he has every right to talk about them. To be honest we will only bring it up when it’s close to the time to send the contact letter which is now every year, we sent a settling in letter shortly after he moved in.
At the moment he has asked whether he is moving to a new home soon and he has even asked his social worker the same question, which naturally makes me feel for him and just end up giving him a huge cuddle. We did go through a phase a few months ago where he appeared to be settled and talking/worrying about moving to a new home didn’t come up, but recently it has. I can only think to put this down to my recent return to work, another change which he will have to overcome. We did prep him and he still has an item of mine to look after (its still a magnet from the fridge – which hasn’t changed if you read my last blog post!!). But after speaking with our social worker it is very common for children to take one step forward and 4 steps back, so it will take time for L to remember and believe that this is now his forever home and not another placement.

When we have spoken about his past and things like his previous foster placements we have used his toy car mat to talk about it (something which was suggested by our social worker). On his car mat we used different areas to show where he had been, so his mum and nan’s before ‘driving’ over to his first foster carers (his emergency placement) then ‘driving’ over to his second and last foster placement before ‘driving’ over to his forever home (ours). He often uses another car to talk about his brother as they were separated in their last placement. This allows him to understand his past and his previous placements, but also allows him to talk about it in a more relaxed nature and to talk as much or as little as he wants to. But this is just one of many other methods out there but its what works for us!

With L having two dads we obviously want to talk and teach to him about other types of families to teach him about diversity. He has always been open and shows understanding about difference. He has previously asked questions about different religions but not really on him having two dads or other children having a mum and a dad etc.
But we have come across some great resources that teach children about difference, I thought that it would be helpful if I listed them below. These are all ones which we have read to L or utilised them when talking to L about difference, and he has taken them all in with no issues.

1) Olly Pike.
This guy is a genius, he takes a new twist on old bedtime stories such as the princess and the frog etc. Olly has 5 books of which we have 3 that we read to L (Kenny loves with Erica and Martina, The Prince and the Frog, Prince Henry) . The talk about diversity from race and LGTBQ+ themes. L loves these books especially Kenny Lives with Erica and Martina as well as The Prince and the Frog, these stories really connect with him which is amazing.
Olly focuses his books on teaching children about love, relationships, diversity and equality. With each book there is also the option of checking out his youtube channel for more education, or as he calls it edutainment!. Definitely worth checking out.

2) Two Dads.
This is a cute little colourful book about two dads. It is written from the perspective of their adopted child. This is a super cute little book, perfect for bedtime reading.

3) And Tango Makes Three.
This is another cute little book, which little man loves. its about two gay penguins in Central Park zoo who, want to start their own family, with the help of a zookeeper their dream comes true. A super sweet little book.

4) Daddy, Pappa and me.
A lovely bedtime story book focussed on the life of a toddler and his two gay dads.

These books have really helped with teaching L that difference exists and that’s what makes people special. Hopefully these will work for you too.

The feelings of being a working Dad

So last week I went back to work after having just over 9 months off work as adoption leave, minus my 3 keeping in touch shifts. It was the worst feeling of my life, my stomach was doing somersaults. Knowing I wouldn’t see my little guy for 3 days straight was heartbreaking. When I picked up L the day before I was due to go back to work he told me that he would miss me, this was like a bolt of lightening through my heart. Both me and Ricky had prepped little man that I was going back to work and told him that I wouldn’t see him for 3 days. Although we changed this to sleeps instead of days as this is easier for L to understand. This made him so upset thinking he wouldn’t see me again. It’s important to be honest and give him the time to prepare and understand so that it’s not a shock but also to help him understand the change that’s about to happen.

Right up till the beginning of this month I was longing to go back to work to reclaim my identity, even though being a dad would remain part of my identity I just didn’t want to be known as a stay at home dad. Thats not me at all, I’m by no means a domestic goddess, I hate cleaning with a passion and I don’t think the husband would be happy with me remaining on the couch all day!!

I woke up that morning with my 5am alarm screaming at me, got ready and headed out for the commute to work (minus my uniform as the dad bod is on point at the moment!). The minute I left I felt a huge amount of guilt rushing through me. Me and the little guy had spent almost every day together for almost the past 9 months near enough, leaving him just felt wrong and knowing that I would not see his little face for the next 3 days was awful. Most people that I spoke to were super supportive of this saying that it will get easier yet with adopted children its that layer of trust that is so important. Everyone prior to me and Ricky have just ‘left’ him with no explanation given to L. So then not seeing L for 3 days straight was breaking that trust that I have managed build up with him over the past 9 months, but also making him feel less secure as this is another major change going on in his life. This is why I felt so guilty leaving him, and to be honest I still do. I know that its completely impossible for me not to work, unfortunately I don’t have that luxury.

I spoke with our psychologist about this and she suggested that I give him something of mine for L to look after whilst I am at work, so I gave him one of my fridge magnets, I left it on the coffee table in the living room with a little note. Apparently, according to our psychologist, research has shown that children who have been adopted, will believe that you will return for the object instead of returning for them, this made me feel horrible knowing that this is probably what he thinks. But it worked. I saw him on the Saturday morning and he gave me back the magnet and said that he looked after it for me, taking it to school everyday, followed by telling me how much he had missed me asking me not to return to work. This made me feel so guilty, unfortunately due to my working hours I don’t get to see him before he goes to bed, yet when working a night shift I at least get to pick him up from school.

It was great to see work friends again and feel like I am more than a dad (although this is something I completely adore, but I felt like I was missing my identity), and have some routine back again. Yet, the idea of leaving my little boy again for so long is heartbreaking, even just the small non-fun things like cooking his dinner and the arguments of why he has to brush his teeth!!. Is this just me? Does this actually get easier? I feel that most well, actually all of my worries and anxiety about this is because I know that he has only really adjusted to the changes he has gone through and now I’m throwing more change at him, and this time its me making him adjust!!

I guess only time will let me know whether I can handle these crazy shift hours and not seeing my sidekick or not.

Top tips to get through the adoption process

During the adoption process I struggled with constant anxiety and trying to power through the process without really accepting how I was feeling and how it was tough on my mental wellbeing. I knew Ricky was struggling with certain parts of the process, I mean it’s only natural right? The whole of your life including your past is assessed, the social workers dig deep even looking at your relationship. What would have been really helpful is knowing that how we are feeling is ok, and that its natural. Obviously we didn’t want to show ‘weakness’ in front of the social workers as we didn’t want anything to jeopardise our adoption application.
I feel that its important to put my top tips to help those who are going through the process.

Tip number 1 :
Talk! Talk to your partner about how your feeling, it is super likely they are feeling the same amount of stress and pressure that you are feeling. I wish I was more open, I think I would have been less stressed and anxious about everything had I been more open. Also make sure you utilise your support network, friends and family, to help you with how your feeling. I used work friends quite often to talk about my adoption journey which was really helpful, normally it was to vent about social workers!! But talking really helps. Trust me!

Tip number 2:
Find local adoption groups to increase your support network, these groups will be helpful later when a child is placed with you and will help adjust to their new life as these other children are in the same boat as them. We have utilised a group called New Family Social, who are a group of same-sex parents to adopted children. They have groups up and down the country holding regular meet-ups, we went to a pre-pride parade picnic which was fab. These meet-ups are for those who have adopted go with their children but it is also open to those who are going through the adoption process. You register on their website http://www.newfamilysocial.org.uk and you add your social worker details as well as they have to verify that you’re going through the adoption process. This group was so helpful to us for getting advice on certain things and hearing other peoples journeys and finding similarities to ours. It makes you feel a little easier about the stresses of the process and knowing it’s not just us that are feeling super stressed.
There is also other groups such as Adoption UK, Family Lives, After Adoption (for post adoption support), PAC UK, Corum Adoption.

Tip number 3:
Take the time to spend with your other half and significant other as well as seeing friends and family, as once your child is matched with you its all go. We were matched with our little boy in the October and from then until Christmas there was meetings and visits to other professionals. In the January the introductions started, 12 days later he moved in. Time goes super quickly so make time for those date nights, catch up with friends because you will lose all that spare time.
Even after the placement even though you try to make time to spend with your other half when your son/daughter is in bed you just can’t because you’re emotionally wrecked and so tired. Also you are unable to leave them with anyone for too long until the court order is made, you also cant apply for the court order until a minimum of 10 weeks has passed. We made ours this month and our court date is the middle of November. So make time for yourselves before you become a family of 3 or more!

Tip number 4:
Stick to your guns and stand up for yourselves. In the early days I was criticised for some of the learning I did on attachment theories as I was focussed on more recent and more relevant research rather than focussing on the maternal deprivation hypothesis, since we were a gay couple adopting! But this didn’t go down too well but I stood up for this and I seemed to get a little bit of respect for this.
Also push for the support you need following the adoption, you are now a parent and if you need support to help your child fight for it. I utilise any support I could even got his school to arrange support because the child’s agency was being super slow. If you have to fight for the support fight for it, its for you and your child so it is vital you get the support you need.

Tip number 5:
This tip is for the person planning on taking the longer leave period. I strongly suggest for you or them to realise and understand that they will be undertaking a huge amount of stress; financially due to the significant reduction in pay once on statutory adoption pay as well as emotional strain. On top of that you will be the one to mostly endure the behavior issues. I took the brunt of my little boys behavioral issues (all due to previous trauma and changes going on for him) and enforcing the rules. It literally breaks your heart. It is difficult because you know that they are adjusting just as much as you, yet it is really important to ensure that you stick to the rules you make, however the best piece of advice I was given was choose your battles. A piece of advice I wish I had been given earlier! 

The first few months

It’s been so long since I last posted up a new blog. Sorry, it’s our first ever summer holiday and time just flies by. I was so worried that little man would be bored and I had no idea what to do with him during these 6 weeks but time has flown by I had no reason to worry. But don’t they just crave your attention?!?!?!?!

It has been 8 months since our little guy moved in. There have been many ups and many downs, in these 8 months, naturally most of these began once Ricky went back to work . But from talking to many parents this appears to be a very common thing!

The first couple of weeks we had regular visits from social workers, ours and L’s, to check and see how things were going. Making sure we were all settling down and that L was settling in ok. Things were going well he seemed to settled in very quickly with no major problems, sleeping super well like 12hours a night which was amazing!! We had a few trips out to local parks and in to town to go and check out the natural history museum. He loved it even the simple things like just getting the tube. He was adapting to his new life with us really well, we did two school visits with him, the first did not go very well at all, he freaked out and was clinging on to me and Ricky, the second visit went much better, it was more of a 1:1 session with his teacher, even getting her on to the climbing frame with him! The second visit was a push to get but it was very much needed and went really well.
It felt amazing to finally be a family, even though we were still having regular contact with his social workers it was great.

So all the drama and downs started with L becoming unwell shortly after Ricky had returned to work and during L’s first week at school. Well he has had multiple health and sickness problems. In the first few weeks he developed scarlet fever although this was only confirmed after multiple GP visits including out of hour GP visits and a urgent care visit, he then had bacterial tonsillitis which was horrible and hit him really hard sot this was 3 A&E visits and more recently head injury where he somehow fell up the stairs.
We knew that it is really common for adopted children to have behavioural issues but this is something that we have struggled to handle with our little guy. He tends to lash out at himself, he will pull his hair really hard, throwing himself to the floor when he’s told no or gets upset as well as hitting himself. There could be multiple reasons for this after finally speaking with a psychologist (which took a lot of pushing on our part and bringing this need up with the independent social worker in his LAC review) she has said he has missed out on a lot of care and input in his early life. She believes that he is 3-4 years of age in terms of his emotions and mental well-being.

Adjusting to life has been difficult, for me, I suppose many new parents would say the same thing. But adoption brings about its own individual dilemmas, depending on the child. For me I used to pile on the pressure to be just the best dad ever, I had dreams of what we could do during the days and just imagined this almost perfect life, but this was far from the truth. I didn’t realise how much my life would change, going from being a husband and working to being at home. This was worse when L went to school, I would often find myself alone at home waiting to go and pick him up from school. I felt like I had lost my identity. The lack of adult contact and adult convo has been very hard. These are things that you just don’t realise are going to happen and that you will feel kind of alone and isolated. Me and L took sometime before we found our click possibly because of in the beginning I was dealing with his sickness and all the other problems that arose over time such as his dental pain and I kind of withdrew because I felt the was something missing in mine and his relationship. We hadn’t found something in common which all changed when I started taking him swimming.

There are many issues with adoption and I think once the child is matched most social workers will be involved in the first month or so then they disappear and you get the odd catchup phone call here or there. But this is when it’s the most stressful time. All this being said I can not wait until we get the court order and he is legally ours. We can relax and enjoy being our little family. Adopting this little boy has been the best decision we have ever made.

My First Ever Book

Throughout my adoption journey from start to finish there has been lots of very different emotions. The good, the bad and the downright ugly! No lies or fairytales here guys. The one thing that always struck me is that no matter how often and hard I looked I could not find what it was that I really needed…. I needed to see, hear or read another persons perspective on adoption. I wanted to hear their own special journey and it didn’t matter if it was horrible. The one thing I wasn’t sure on was this “is it normal to feel like this?” during the process like I said I felt many different emotions, some of which I have spoken about in the previous blog posts. But since no-one else has really documented these things in a book I decided that I would do this based on my experience as well as my partners.

The book talks about our journey to fatherhood starting with surrogacy through to when our little boy moved in back in January this year. It is a honest, real life story based on personal experiences.

It is available on amazon as a paperback and as a ebook on kindle link is below, as well as being available in a smaller size on Lulu.com.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=christopher+gaidhu-withell&crid=138GY157L2LDS&sprefix=Christopher+Gaidhu-withell%2Caps%2C265&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_26

Please go out there and check it out. IF you do purchase this please drop a review. Thank you!!

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 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 matching panel

The day had finally arrived. this would determine whether we could adopt our little dude. We traveled the 2 hours back up to the adoption social workers office for the late morning meeting. Our social worker arrived shortly after us, followed by L’s social worker and the family finding social worker. L’s new social worker who was allocated to him as part of the councils restructuring was meant to be here for the panel meeting but she never showed up!

Both myself and Ricky were really nervous. This was the determining decision on whether we could proceed with adopting L or not, there was so much pressure on both of us to succeed with this, so much was at stake and mentally if it went the other way I don’t know what I would do. The panel team were made of up 7 different people including social workers, adults who had been adopted and an adoptive mother. Before we went into the panel we had a brief chat with the chair person who gave us a brief overview of how the meeting will go.

We were asked questions on why we felt that L was the right match for us, and what we have done to prepare for him such as looking at schools etc. By this point we had already visited a school and that we felt that this would be the perfect school for him, it was close to home, had lots of room for L to play and green spaces so it didn’t feel like a city school. We were asked questions by other members of the panel, there were a few questions such as what was our plan for work but also how would this fit in with school holidays, which is something we had not thought about. I mentioned to the panel that I intend to reduce my working hours to 10 shifts per month which would give me more time at home and therefore reducing the amount of time L would spend with other family members or childminders. Ricky also works shifts so childcare during term time as well as the school holidays is something that we should be able to sort out, from a worst case scenario point of view is that we would need support from our family no more than twice a week. 

L’s social workers were also asked questions such as why did they think we were a good match, what do they think we could offer him, and what else needs to be completed before we could be introduced to him. At the end of the meeting we had to hand over the introduction DVD that we made for him as well as the book we also made. The panel loved the book that we made, apparently it was one of the best that they had seen. Once we had handed this over to the panel we then left the room and went back to the meeting room where we had been before the panel to wait to hear their decision.

The chairperson and a panel advisor came to see us about ten minutes after the panel interview had finished, this was the longest wait, it felt longer than the wait after our last panel assessment. It was great news. They all agreed that we were a great match for L, we were over the moon with this. All this hard work, and the multiple emotional breakdowns were completely worth it. We had found our little boy. The next step would be meeting him!! I couldn’t wait to meet him, although we were told that this would be in the new year.

We left the book, pictures and DVD with his social worker for them to pass on to the foster carers’. Unfortunately we forgot to bring the teddy for him which we had included in the pictures in his introduction book that we made him, however, thankfully this would work out as we could give it to him in person if we were to meet him. 

We had to wait until we had the formal approval which we were told we should have within ten working days. This is when the nerves kick in and panicking. I had experienced this before, such as the panel result back at the end of stage two but that was different, yes it determined whether we could adopt or not. But now we had found our little boy and could adopt him, we had seen our little guy, met everyone and just been told by his social worker that we were pretty much a perfect match for him. To get this far and having put so much effort into creating the perfect home for him and making sure that we were doing everything right, the idea of not being approved by the agency decision maker would be completely heartbreaking. It was completely unimaginable. 

The following week came and I called our social worker to discuss a date for the next meeting and causally asked whether she had heard anything back from the panel. She then oddly asked why I was asking as she had received an email and thought we had already been told. We had been formally approved!! I could not stop jumping up and down, we were both extremely happy at this news. We even got sent a congratulations message from L’s foster carers’ which was completely unexpected but really sweet of them. 

2019 is going to be our year!!