Things will be different

This week – National Adoption Week – I have been cleared, after a ‘viability assessment’, to start the adoption process again for a brother or sister for my son.

The chat was prescriptive – she had to ask me lots of questions, mainly around how I parent my son and how life has changed.

What I found interesting was the vast difference between the process I went through last time and this one. First, everything is going to be quicker. As soon as the form I need to fill in is recieved by them then I will get a phonecall and the first of my weekly meetings with a SW will begin. At that first meeting I will get a panel date and I’ll be straight into home study, whilst at the same time references (6 of them this time!!), medicals and DBS checks will be applied for. For four months it will be full on until panel.

The actual homestudy will be different – more a matter of going more in depth about my relationship with my son and what life has been like for us post adoption order rather than questions about my childhood and my personal life. Also here there is no ‘tick list of doom’. We are not allowed to state what we think we would cope with or not, its all supposed to come out in the discussion. This LA expects us to be wide open as to the child we would be happy to take. In some respects the age I have to look at means that uncertainty is a key feature and I hated the tick list last time, but even so, something about this feels a little weird, like I really have to trust the SW’s to get it right!

And after panel it also won’t be the same. Last time I had only a month to wait before I heard news of my gorgeous boy and a further 3 and a half months before we made it to matching panel. That, at the time, felt like an eternity! This time around the SW was very honest and said in this authority that people were currently waiting over six months, many over nine months, to even hear about a match and it was unlikely those timescales would change in the near future. She said she just needed me to be prepared that a child might not actually be placed with me until 2018! But this really confirmed the decision to start the process now.

So all in all in will be a totally different experience. But I also enter the process in the wonderful position of already being a Mum to an awesome little boy. In some respects hopefully that means the waiting will be easier as I’m already ‘Mumming’, I am fortunate to already know that joy (and frustration!). I also have the benefit of hindsight from last time – my son has been the perfect match for me, it all happened in the right time. I have to hold on to the fact this time will be the same.


National Adoption Week

This year I seem to have read more posts and blogs about National Adoption Week (NAW) than any previous year. The sharing of positive stories as well as the sharing of warnings. Views in favour of adoption and those anti adoption. People upset and angry and confrontational both at the campaign and at adoption itself. It’s a confusing mix but I guess that’s quite reflective of the nature of adoption!

And how I feel about the whole thing is also complex. This blog isn’t really to join the party, its to try to help me work through some of my own thoughts on the subject.

I obviously support adoption where it is in the best interests of the child. I know there are some who say that would be never, but right now I disagree. I believe adoption does offer hope and security to a child who for whatever reason can no longer safely live with their birth-parents.

But what is the point of NAW? Despite the increase of approved adopters there is still a shortage of adoptive parents. My understanding is the purpose of NAW is to try to attract more adoptive parents and to find homes for children who need them. How the campaign goes about this – children advertised in the press, sugar-coated interviews – really is questionable. NAW also often sticks in the craw for many adoptive parents who would like to see a little of their reality shown. And the voices of those who are adopted expressing their opinions of what adoption means to them often go unheard.

But if the point of NAW is to find more homes for children who desperately need them, then in a way I can understand why the tougher aspects of adoption are not always actively promoted during this week (though I note this year AdoptionUK are releasing information about CPV and First4Adoption are doing a live webchat later in the week on the tougher aspects) as it might scare people off finding out more. But that’s what we, as adopters, want isn’t it? To prevent people from getting sucked in to a fantasy? And yet, I think people are more intelligent than that. As far as I can tell, this week is just trying to grab people’s attention, to even register adoption in their minds. To start to ask the question. From there people find out more. They call information lines, they go to information evenings, they question more. I know people who have attended information evenings and decided adoption wasn’t for them  after what they have heard there. I know people who have attended evenings and decided that it isn’t the right time for them. They go through the process if they think they are up to it. They don’t make a decision based on one interview they hear.

Ah, but the process is far quicker now and so people aren’t as well warned about the reality are they? Having been through the new ‘quicker’ process, I find that quite insulting. I often ‘hear’ people saying ‘this isn’t what I signed up to’ or ‘nobody warned me it would be this difficult’ and I’m so sorry that’s the case. I feel my training and reading did warn me. If anything my LA did all it could to put people off. We need ‘Super-parents’ they said to us and explained why – they didn’t hold back! They also made it clear they were looking for the right families for the children they had, not the other way around. They explained that might mean a long wait or that we might never be placed with a child at all but the children come first.

What it didn’t do was equip me for the tools I might need and sadly I think this is where the warning might need to be more direct – you’re going to need all the tools in the box to parent these children, but you have to fashion most of those tools yourselves. I actually think we are ‘Bat-parents’ in that respect – we’re not superhuman, we’re normal people fashioning utility belts of PACE and therapeutic parenting, and capes of theraplay and active listening. But unlike Bruce Wayne we’re not multimillionaires who can fund all of that ourselves, we’d like an ‘Albert’ to help us…ok I’m stretching the analogy a bit far and…I digress!

Do I think NAW goes about promoting adoption in the right way? No – especially not those ‘are you my forever family’ adverts. Do I think it serves a purpose? Yes. I know there are people out there who would make fabulous adoptive parents – with all that would entail – but who might need a shove up the bum to do something about it and find out more. NAW can give people that shove.

I think perhaps we are asking too much of one week in the year. It can’t do everything we want it to. Adoptive parents desperately want a voice – despite those who say we might have too much of a voice on the whole issue – there are those who rightly feel their children’s needs are being ignored, that they have been left unsupported and afraid for the future and nobody is hearing them. May be we need a National Support Adopters Week aswell? One where the needs of adoptive families are explained and promoted and out in the open. Where we can take the opportunity to lobby our MPs for better support, alongside agencies, LA’s and charities who might explain what they are doing and would like to do to support families (- if they had the funding!).

And of course adoptees – their voices need to be heard by everyone involved in adoption. Could we have a National Support Adoptees week too? Where the reality of the adoptee experience could be honoured and heard rather than drowned out by all the other shouting. Where they might drag into the light the mistakes of the past so we can all learn from them. And also help us to be better parents to our children today.



Is this viable?

I have a date for our ‘viability assessment’ booked. I say ‘our’ but my son (understandably) is not allowed to be present.

And what a horrible term for it! ‘Initial visit’ sounds cheerier, less formal. But I know they are coming to assess if it is feasable for me to parent another child and, there is of course more at stake this time around. First and most importantly, my son – how another child in the home demanding my attention will affect him and his security. Our relationship – how another child in the home might damage our fragile bond and the trust my son has learned to put in me. My resilience – if I could really cope with another traumatised child – severly neglected or emotionally damaged, fearful, anxious, terrified, or withdrawn – alongside caring for my other son and making sure all his needs – physical and emotional – are met. And what about long term – when they are teenagers and are off the rails or rebelling, or fighting between themselves, or fighting me…will I still be able to cope with that? Its not jut my resillience now they’ll be thinking of, but in the future too.

I do realise what a massive challenge this will be. Well… as much as I can – just as much as I knew the first time around! But its not something I am wanting to do on a whim or without serious thought to the impact on life as we currently know it.

They may decide I am not up to that challenge or that my son is not ready for it. They may decide that it is not a viable option to place another child with us right now…or indeed ever. And that would be fair enough as that, as yet imaginary, child has to be the primary focus.

So I have to wait for the judgement of this assessment when it comes. And of course I find it difficult to be judged – I have those nerves in the pit of my stomach just like last time. But it is necessary – for me, for my son and especially for any potential child placed with us.


The next step…

So the LA have been in touch…and here we go with the hoops. For some reason I have to write to formally request a ‘viability assessment’ and email wont do. I have to write an actual proper letter outlining who I am, my son’s age, my former LA, when he was adopted etc  – all stuff I have already given them verbally over the phone  (you can sense my eyes rolling as I’m typing this, right?). They also asked that I contact my former Social Worker as soon as I could to ask for permission for them to request access to my file. So of course being me I emailed her straight away – she in turn emailed me straight back to say how wonderful and that she was so excited for me!

The lady I spoke to on the phone didn’t seem to think that my son’s age would be an issue and also seemed very positive – so that’s something. She said once the viability assessment was done and if we all felt that it was indeed the right time to go ahead then things were likely to move pretty quickly – she said I might be looking at only 3-4 months for the assessment! (I however am remaining cautious on that – CRBs and medicals both caused delay last time, plus there are always things that crop up).

But anyway, I’m off to write that letter…