Q&A evening and Stage 1 2nd SW visit

On Wednesday my sister in law and I attended the question and answer workshop put on as part of the prep/training. I found that evening particularly helpful and several times was trying my hardest not to cry. Somehow hearing these parents speak about their children and the first time they saw them or heard them say ‘mummy’ or ‘daddy’ was very moving. It was very different hearing about it first hand than relayed through a social worker. I found it particularly helpful that there were two single adopters on the panel, both who had very young children placed with them. Finally I had the opportunity to hear someone who was in the same position as me! Somehow hearing them speak and describe their relationships with their children made me feel so much more confident that I could actually be approved at the end of all this. Reality dawned! I spoke with one of them at length afterwards who gave me her phone number and said if ever I just wanted to have a chat she would be more than happy – how lovely of her! I was absolutely buzzing afterwards and my head was all over the place. All in all the best bit of the preparation/training that I have been to so far. I’ve still go an evening on FAS, a day on attachment and an evening on post adoption support to attend. 

This morning I have had my second visit with my social worker. We discussed prep group and then the fact she’s already had two reference forms back which is great considering she only sent them out last week. If I can get the medical form this afternoon then that’s great I’ll just have to take it into the office. Doctors can, apparently, take ages to send them off and an independent medical advisor has to take a look at them before than can be signed off. The quicker they get the form the quicker it can be done. We discussed again age of children (she threw in the curve ball of if I would consider a very young child) and the possibility of a sibling group but the feedback I seem to be getting is, don’t make any decisions yet, keep an open mind to all possibilities. Relationships with existing children will all be taken into account, even nephews so they try to make sure the child is younger. This will all be considered in much greater depth in the home study. She says its really good to have all these discussions now because then she’ll know some of the things we really need to discuss in home study.

She also said there is the possibility she may be able to stay on as my key worker for stage two. My LA/agency is hiring in independent assessors to do stage two because of the volume of people coming forward to adopt. She says she may be able to work outside of her hours as an independent assessor to see me through, she says in the long run it would be easier because we’re already having conversations that will help make home study more simple – I won’t have to repeat information and she has a good idea of the types of things we need to discuss to make sure they go in the report. I really, really hope this is the case. I really like her and trust that she is ‘on my side’ as well as obviously thinking of the children that need placing.

Then we did the health and safety check and she actually came and looked round the house again (good job I tidied!). There are a few things that will need changing – locks taken off some doors and child locks put on others, where I keep alcohol, plug covers that sort of thing. We also discussed the wide range of plants on the ‘poisonous and dangerous’ list which she hadn’t looked at – when she heard potato plants and tomato plants were on there then she kind of relaxed up a bit. I don’t need to go and dig my entire garden up! 

Then finally we had to do the whole finances thing. I squirmed while she looked through my bank statements and she asked me questions about what I spent on this that and the other. She, thankfully, doesn’t have any concerns. Hurrah. I can sleep again now! She said that I will be entitled to all the benefits that other parents are entitled to and it might be worth working out now what might be available to me as that comes into effect the day the child is placed, not when they are legally adopted. Then we talked about adoption leave and pay. 

She spent three hours here again, but it didn’t really feel like a chore or as awkward as I thought it would. I know this is only the information gathering phase but I’m finding it very useful discussing things with her and getting a feel already for what we need to discuss (for my benefit as much as the report) during the home study.

So still so far so good. She says provided all the references come in, the next meeting we have will hopefully be to mark the end of stage 1 and…its in less than a month’s time! 

Advertisements

A day in the life…of me. Prep group day 3: the only singleton in the adoption village!

So day three of prep group was on Tuesday. It was a lighter day and we finished early (I think we may have exhausted the training SW’s with some of the group’s forthright views). My main issue or struggle with this day was not to do with the content of the course but with something that actually happened during ‘down time’.

 

But first, some of the content of the course. We began by being thanked by the SW’s for sharing our opinions the day before on contact, and being reassured that nothing we’d said hadn’t been expressed before and that it was best to share these things now so we can talk about them with our assessing social workers.

Someone said that they think they will still need help with the issue and were asked by the trainers to start getting that help by asking the adopters who are going to be at the Q&A next week how they feel about contact.

We then split into our groups again to discuss what contact arrangements we would recommend for the children in our case studies. Once we’d done that we had to think about the benefits of that contact for each person involved. Then we talked about the different arrangements that are possible for children in care, of which, adoption is only one. We then went back to the work we did on Friday, which involved making a plan of action for the children in our case studies, to see if we would change anything we had written.

Then we broke for lunch. During lunchtime people in our group had often been very quiet, in fact I was slightly disappointed that we hadn’t clicked more. I’d seen people say that they met great friends on prep group and that they stayed in touch the whole way through the process. I can’t see that happening with our group – whilst we were lovely and polite to each other, I can’t imagine, at this point (we have lots of training still to do) being friends with any of them. So there wasn’t usually much banter or discussion during lunchtime. Couples even took themselves off in corners to whisper to each other. I’ve got no problem with that – whatever people need to get them through what might be for them a stressful few days. 

So imagine my surprise when into this usually quiet scene one of the other potential adopters floors me with a question across the room. I was about to shovel another bit of quiche into my mouth and was chatting with a couple on my table about the age of the child they would like to adopt when across from another table someone stops me and says, “Why are you doing this alone? Don’t get me wrong, I think its great that you think you’re strong enough to do it, but I’ve got X and I can’t imagine going through this without him – at least I’ll have him to talk to if I’m worried about how to handle things. So why aren’t you waiting until you’re married or have a partner to support you?’  

Wow. Just wow. Bearing in mind this woman hadn’t spoken to me at all over the three days… The already quiet room went silent, the trainer put her fork down and looked up. I was literally On The Spot. I felt the colour rise to my cheeks. Everyone was waiting for my answer. I kind of mumbled a bit about always wanting to adopt and thinking I’d wait until I met someone to do it, but that not everyone is as lucky as she is to meet someone. I said I still wanted to be a parent and as adoption is something I’s always thought about, once I found out I could do it as a single person, why not?

My assessing social worker had said they always put more than one single adopter in a prep group, so they feel that there is someone else in the same boat. I now see why, and I wish in my case it had happened as in that moment I felt totally isolated from the entire group. I’m thankful through blogs and Twitter to I know I am not the only single adopter to have ever have walked the earth but even so, right then, that’s how I felt..  

The trainer said absolutely nothing. Thankfully someone else on my table came to my rescue and said, ‘but also she’s not doing it alone, she’ll have friends and family to support her – look Superdad is here with her.’ I could have kissed him. Inside I was fuming. We might all have been there for different reasons but because I’m the most obviously different then its fine to ask me?!

After that I was kind of done for the day…my brain officially disengaged and I wanted to get as far away from there as possible. In the afternoon the trainer talked briefly about the process of matching and placing a child in your care and then what happens until the child is legally allowed to be adopted and we can wave goodbye to the SW’s for good…but it all just kind of washed over me.

We were then allowed to leave and my Dad and I were first out of the door. Rightly or wrongly I didn’t say goodbye to anyone, I just went. 

I will see them all again, plus another prep group, for a Q&A evening with adopters who have been through the process and are out the other side, next Wednesday. Then apparently we have quite a lot more training sessions to attend which I’m sure many of them will be at, so its not the end of my journey with them.  

I have linked this post to #WASO the weekly adoption shout out. For other great blogs on adoption go here: http://theadoptionsocial.com/tag/waso/

Prep group day 2: Attachment and Contact

On Monday I had the second day of prep groups. Everyone generally agreed that they spent Friday evening and Saturday morning absolutely shattered.

Monday started off with a review of Friday and asking us what we thought of the example permanence report we were given for a fictional child. I expressed fears about the fact the form felt very flat – it was very detailed but I couldn’t picture the child’s personality from the form. I was told that was where meeting teachers and foster parents would come in.

We then talked about how moving around a lot can affect a child and specifically about attachment theory.

We then looked at the case studies we had on Monday and decided what each child had lost in their particular situation and how that might have affected their attachments. Then we had to describe what we would do if we adopted these children to help them try to form secure attachments to us.

Then we had the dreaded contact discussion. People’s tensions were already running high about this topic. First it was discussed that adopted children often have siblings elsewhere, if those siblings are no longer in contact with their birth parents, then mostly it is expected that the child should have contact with those siblings. I’m absolutely fine with that.

Then contact with other birth family members was discussed. We were told that adopted children would not have direct contact with other birth family members but it was expected that they would have indirect contact.

I thought I knew all about this as I’d read other people’s blogs, and to begin with I didn’t think I had an issue with it. Every six months or so you send a letter to the adoptive parent a bit like a school report, factual and pretty sterile. And then the child may or may not get one back. But my understanding of what I’d gleaned was proved wrong.

The SW told us that they would expect the child to be involved in writing the letter that was sent. This I felt a bit uncomfortable with. The impression that was put across was that children really aren’t bothered about this and in fact enjoy writing the letters.

Now, if you adopt a baby and when they about four and you say to them that you are in contact with their birth family and let’s write them a letter, then I can imagine for the child it might not be too traumatic – they may not have many clear memories of the neglect and abuse they have suffered. But if you adopt a 6 year old and s/he is expected from the outset to be in contact with their birth family when they have clear memories of the trauma they have suffered, why/how is that in the child’s best interests? But, when I suggested that this might be the case, that actually some children might find this difficult, the response was, ‘if you do your job properly, they won’t’ and ‘it’s far more difficult for the adults than the children and the children are more likely to pick up on the stress of the adults than be worried about it themselves’. REALLY?

I am seriously struggling with this but we were told if we weren’t willing to sign up to this then we were unlikely to be recommended to be approved. We were told we need to remember none of this is about us, its all for the good of the children and what they are looking for is people who can be ‘super-parents’. But my fear surrounding the issue of contact is not about how I feel about it, it IS about the effect it will have on the child and I struggle to believe that a child who has suffered at the hands of their birth parents, would have no issue at all being made to write to them twice per year.

May be if you’re an adoptive parent and you have experience of this you can help me understand? Are older children really unaffected by writing to birth family? How has it positively affected your children?

 

Preparation Course Day 1

Today I attended the first day of the prep course. I have to admit I went with mixed emotions not just for myself but also for my Dad who attended with me. I’d been looking forward to this for ages – it feels like by attending this I’m finally on the way – so I was excited. I was also nervous – would I say something really stupid? What would the other potential adopters be like? Would there be other single adopters there? Would my Dad feel out of his depth?

Well, my Dad pretty much took it in his stride. The other adopters all seemed lovely. There weren’t any other single adopters there. And yes, I did say something stupid – several things!

In a brief overview, we discussed today what words we associated with adoption. Then we thought about what basic needs a child has and how they should be met. We looked at case studies of children and what the issues were in each of their situations. The we had to decide what recommendations for the future we would make for those children. We talked about the term ‘abuse’ and all the sub-definitions that come under that wider term. And then the adoption process itself and what we can expect to happen through the stages.

Wider that that we went off topic ALOT! There was, of course, a lot of discussion surrounding the channel 4 documentary Finding Mum and Dad and how some people were now considering older children off the back of that. There were concerns expressed at the prospect that a future child would have to grow up knowing they were adopted. There was also fears expressed over contact arrangements with birth families and we’ve been told this will be explored more at a later date. There were lots of questions surrounding the children that are up for adoption across our authority.

I really enjoyed hearing the anecdotes the social workers had about the children who had been placed – it makes it all seem a little bit more real.

Although it was hard hearing the stories of how the majority of children come to be in care and what a truly difficult job social workers have in deciding whether to remove a child from their birth family or not, I did overall really enjoy today. It felt good being able to be open with people about the adoption process, (I’m rather envious of the people who said they’d announced to all their facebook friends they were coming on the training today) and to hear that other people have the same hopes and fears that I do. Overall I am still hoping that the groups on Monday and Tuesday will help me in working out if I could meet the needs of more than one child.

Stage 1 Visit 1

The Social Worker visited on Friday morning.

She talked me through Stage One again and how this is the information gathering part of the process. There were lots of forms to fill out: first was some basic info for my medical form which will now be sent off to my doctor. Then I have to make an appointment, go in and the rest of it will be filled out. This will cost me somewhere between £70-100 depending on my doctor. Then there was the DBS form (the new CRB). Then there was the ‘official’ application form which I’d already partly filled out because the letter was slightly ambiguous as to whether I was supposed to have filled it out before the visit or not. Turned out that the chronology part of it is easier to fill out over the internet so I have to do that at a later date – its basically my life history – any major events (or what would have been at that age), places I’ve lived and worked etc.

After that the Social Worker went through the portfolio I have to produce in the next two months. It includes an extensive health and safety form with questions ranging from ‘Is there a stairgate’ to ‘Is your swimming pool surrounded by a lockable enclosed area?’ which I have to begin to fill out before her next visit – she then has to verify the answers. I also have to produce a family tree back to my grandparents and an ‘eco-map’ in which I have to map out all my support networks. I also have to fill in pet questionnaire for each of my pets, including the chickens! Then there is the personal profile where I have to give an even more detailed account of my childhood, relationships, education, employment, lifestyle and views about adoption.

I have to complete the first section of the personal profile about my childhood via email by the end of next week. My many references will now also be taken up and quite a lot will be determined by how quickly they get them back as I can move on to stage two until they’ve all come back.

The next session with the social worker is in three weeks and it’ll be looking at the health and safety aspects of my home and viewing/verifying the health and safety form I have filled out. She also will be looking at my finances. Usually Social Workers look at mortgage repayments but because I don’t have any, she has to look at three months of my bank statements which feels far more intrusive. Its so bizarre, I’ve read about this with other people and thought about how I would feel and thought I’d be fine with it. But now its actually happening it does feel much more personal.

But, all in all it feels great to finally be on the way and to have actually started the process. Apart from all the information I have to get in to the Social Worker, the next thing that will happen is the groups/training which start on Friday and I’m very much looking forward to going.

I have included a link to some music this time…I hope. Still not great with the whole blogging, linking stuff malarky. I told two people (one a good friend, the other someone who has befriended me on Twitter – still not sure if someone you’ve never met but interact with quite a lot can be defined as an actual friend?) I was starting to get very nervous about the social worker coming to visit and they both independently (they don’t know each other) sent me a link to this song and said they thought of me when they heard it (or words to that effect). So I’m trying to include it here to remember their kind words. So thanks J & J.