Planning (or not)

Today was the curve ball ‘fire in warehouse all stock gone’ message you’d get in an assessment centre. Everything is going well and then at the final hurdle there’s something thrown at you that you have to deal with.

We travelled to a new outskirts of the county town today for the planning meeting. As far as we were aware this was solely to go through the introduction timetable and then receive child paperwork such as birth certificate. So off we trot all breezy and cool.

We arrive and have a mooch round the town. 5 minutes later we’d done that and signed in to the centre we were meeting at. We had to follow the sign for social services and its funny the things that stop you in your tracks and I thought wow we are social services people now.

Anyhow, this is exactly how we were treated by the grumpy reception lady – I wanted to tell her we were one of the good guys but she wouldn’t have been interested at all.

I went for a quick loo stop – which was painted in the most hideous green and pink colour which I had considered for our lounge – not any more. No-one wants to sit back with a cuppa and think they’re in a social services bog! Lost my visitor sticker down the loo and it was here I thought it might not all be plain sailing!

Turns out foster carer had a migraine so she didn’t turn up. Her social worker turned out to be on holiday. We were left in hands of child’s social worker who isn’t very good and both Husband and I were a bit annoyed by this point. Our SW was there with her student which turned out to be a life saver. Everyone was late. This seems to be something that’s ok as nobody ever apologises.

Anyway – we went through some documents, corrected some stuff, signed some papers and then began to go through introductions. First problem is that the agency decision that was due today hasn’t arrived so we can’t meet child until we have this. As I write this we still haven’t had it – turns out the paperwork was only sent to them yesterday. I’m not sure this is really good enough to be honest.

Then introduction plans hadn’t really been thought through to accommodate us having to meet birth parents and so we tried to move a few things around but without all the people there we needed then we couldn’t agree this either.

The student tried to call the foster carer when we were there but it all got really confusing as to who could and couldn’t do what so we agreed to leave it in their hands.

Probably doesn’t sound like much but when you’re this close and things feel a little like they’re unraveling its so so so frustrating!!! Even husband was mad if that gives you an indication of how bad it was.

So here we sit, after a quick distracting trip to the pub, waiting to know whether or not we will meet our child tomorrow. Watch this space!

In other news we installed the car seat – they are supposed to wobble and move aren’t they??! We will be going to the shop tomorrow to get it checked!

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Waiting Week

This is written half way through day two of adoption leave – so far today I have been to the hairdresser, been to all out of town retail parks, done a load of washing (as in one load, not tons of) cleared out the kitchen cupboards, rearranged a bedroom, taken some things to the charity shop, made dinner for husband and now as I sit and write this, there is still a vast space of day remaining!!

I’m doing ok!

I need to keep busy because for the first time ever I can say these words ‘we meet our son this week!’ which is both exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time. I know that pregnant people have the same feelings, I had the added luck of not having to actually give birth but the added complication of will he like me and what will I wear?

Before we get to meet him we need to have what is called planning day which for us is on Wednesday (and its planning 2 hours which isn’t nearly as catchy I suppose) We will meet up – us, our social worker, his social worker and his foster carers and go over the plans for introduction week (i’ll explain this in a bit) we’ll make sure we have everything we need to become parents – birth certificate, little red book etc and then that will be it, we’ll be all planned and ready to go.  We are also going to discuss what will happen when we meet birth parents (I’ll do separate words on this subject)

Introductions take a week. Well a week for us because of his age, any older and depending on needs it usually is for 2 weeks. Every thing is planned meticulously. When we went to matching panel we had to take some things with us to help during this upcoming week.  We had to take a blanket that we’d washed with our washing powder and then slept with so it would smell of us. We also had to buy a toy and have our photo taken with it. We then had the photos printed A4 and laminated (imagine what the man at Rymans thought to that request?!) The foster carers will put these up around their house and show child the pictures so he gets used to seeing us and the toy. Then when we meet him on the first day we take the toy (transition toy is the technical name) Finally we took a book/toy that was butterfly shaped and you could put pictures in it and then record your voice – we had one of each of us, one as a couple and then a picture of cat. I think I’ve got a voice for voice overs I have to say. Husband on the other hand had to do many retakes to avoid – hello this is daddy – sounding like some 18 rated horror movie!!

Anyway, back to intro week. It goes a little something like this. Day one we go to foster carers house and spend two hours there with him. This will be the first time we meet him and I literally cannot imagine what this will be like (I do know I probably won’t be getting the extra shot latte on that day) I’m fully prepared for it to be weird – we feel like we know him so well yet it’s all going to be so odd for him. I also can’t imagine what seeing him for 2 hours and then trotting off home will be like!!

Day 2 we spend longer there and perhaps go out with the foster carers and child and observe lunch routines, day 3 we get there for morning routine and we can take him out on our own, day 4 we do evening routine and day 5 we swap over and he starts coming to ours. There’s always a mid way review which will be on day 5 where we just check that everything is going ok and make any changes to the introduction plan if needed. This is also the day we meet birth parents.

Day 7 we have had him at ours for a few hours in the afternoon and evening. We do his evening routine, get him ready for bed and then take him to the foster carers for the last time. In the morning we go and pick him up and bring him home FOREVER!!

At the pick up they ask the foster carers to meet you at the door so you can take him and go. I think this will be again a mixture of emotions.

Don’t get me wrong – I am so so excited and I cannot wait but I think people may be surprised that my face doesn’t light up at the prospect of this week in the way they might have expected. It’s one of the nuances of adoption I suppose. There’s still a lot of red tape, social worker involvement, the weirdness of being in someone else’s house for a week looking after your child, the anxiety of not knowing how he’s going to be when he’s lived with these same people for almost a year. Layred then with the normal feelings of good grief I’m quite daunted by motherhood!

So yes I can’t wait to get him home – but we’ve a little way further to go yet….

Life appreciation day and PANEL

So – part of the process in every adoption is a life appreciation day – which essentially means that anyone who has come into contact with the child since birth gets together in a room (our dining rom) and shares their information with us.

Our life appreciation day was actually life appreciation morning. We’d not tidied up in time and so were running round in the morning crazy. Husband had a big piece of work on and was still unshowered and in his pants 15 minutes before they were due. Low and behold one of them was early so husband had a rather quick get away upstairs.

We had about 7 social workers sat around our table – quite claustrophobic! It was a really interesting morning though and we found out more about birth parents, how contact had gone and how child was currently. We enjoyed hearing more about their life and getting more info to share when they’re older.

Next that day we had our SW manager come to meet us as she was coming to panel with us due to our SW being off. Husband was in waffle mode, I wasn’t. She was actually very lovely, reassured us, gave us some questions to think about that they might ask and then she went on her way.

We had a last minute photo shoot to arrange as child sw (student one) needed photos of our house, our garden, child room, me cooking, husband gardening etc it was all a bit odd but we nailed the brief. Won’t be seeing us in nay catalogues or magazines though – we are so unphotogenic!!

It also felt like the right time to tell the nieces. I put a dummy in an envelope and they had to guess gender and age. One was thrilled, one not so. I think there’ll be challenges sharing that grandparents!!! The in-laws also finally got giddy with us and helped us build the nursery. clearly the child had a bookcase full of books before a bed or clothes!

The day of matching panel arrived and I made a grave grave mistake. I went to panel without eating. So I was tired, stressed and incredibly short tempered. We still however had time to stop for a selfie before we went in. There was no pathetic woman trying to tell us where to go but there was our student who asked me how I was feeling. I told the truth. I was really nervous. Way more nervous than first panel – this one seemed to really count. It’s hard to describe. Student said there was no need to be nervous. She then received my response – easy for you to say!

As we were walking to the room J and his wife from training were coming in the opposite direction. It was nice to see a familiar face. I went full on in for the hug and kiss and petrified the both of them! We got into the same blank 4 walled rooms, I managed to scoff a chocolate chip cookie and all started to rebalance a bit on the hangry stakes.

It actually went a bit pear shaped in the ten minutes between arriving and going into the panel room. Child sw hadn’t realised our sw was off and so there was info that had not been passed on. Mainly that child had had contact with birth parents the week before AND that they wanted to meet us AND that we might get to meet sibling adopters AND that child was nearly walking. It was so much to take in I could feel myself getting a bit panicky.

I’ll explain how we feel about meeting birth parents in another post – we actually want to. I just think finding out 10 minutes before panel wasn’t ideal.

We went into the same board room with the pretty much same panel but questions more specific to us and the child. I felt the tears coming as soon as we sat down and all eyes were on us. The questions were quite hard to answer ‘why this child?’ ‘how will you manage the future unknowns’ (erm guess what? We don’t know?!) Anyway they did the whole x factor judging thing around the table – we got a unanimous yes to being matched and then we left the room. I wanted to cry and whoop and celebrate but without our SW there it wasn’t anywhere near as celebrated as we thought.

Next stop – meetings!!!!!

Matched !

Well it feels ever so covert to be telling you this so quickly but we have been matched with a child

In all honesty we were matched pre panel but couldn’t really get excited until we knew we had passed.

There is absolutely no way that I thought this would happen so quickly and as of yet I really haven’t got my head around it all – and wonder actually if I ever will??

The very first step is you receive a profile of the child and make your initial bid as to whether you’re interested (bid? Random word choice) We bid yes! (quit with the bid!)

Nothing could happen until we had passed panel. Now we are fully approved we can move forward with pace (well social services grade pace) to move towards matching panel (sure do love me a panel!)

First move is the child’s fuller report that tells you all about their background. a sobering read if ever there was one. There are people out there really struggling.

Next move is the child SW pops round to casually chat (this is such a gross under representation of the meeting!) The level of cleaning on this occasion was momentous. Our SW arrived early (unheard of) and asked us what questions we had – oh they’re just upstairs I said (lie! I had to write them as I was walking down the stairs – hazard!)

Child SW arrives, we make endless cups of tea, our SW spills hers, there’s a student sw, she’s late – dramas! Then we get more up to date child photos, I have a little sob and then we get surprisingly interrogated by the child SW – like panel all over again. The good news is she is pleased and we can crack on.

Diaries are got out and we talk in detail about the next couple of months – the nausea starts to creep at the thought of the reality – not bad – just shock I suppose that it’s finally happening!!

There are more moves. One involves us meeting the foster carers. We go to their house. I get my coffee order confused at starbucks and arrive having drunk a 3 shot latte. I’ma  little wired to say the least. This time I’d brought questions. The foster mum opened the door and hugged us and said hi mummy and daddy – I’d have cried if I wasn’t high on caffeine.

We got to hear all about child, sleeping, eating, playing – about the illness they’d had and likes and dislikes. It was amazing!

One more move explained for this post then I’ll leave it here. Our SW came round with a student SW to do matching panel paperwork and the final health and safety check. I flipping hate the health and safety check. So does our SW so she left it to the student. Who clearly was a swot and kept quoting articles at us. Apparently child needs a torch in bedroom in case of fire. Can’t walk but needs torch just in case.

Also – our medicines that I have to stretch to reach need locking up in case child grows inspector gadget type limbs. We went upstairs and I asked if she was going to go in every room. Our SW then told me to go downstairs out of the way.

I was grumpy. Then we learnt our SW was going off poorly and we were going to be left in the hands of swot girl. I thought I was ok with this – you’ll soon see the reality was quite different!

Panel

Much has happened – and by now you’ll know it’s good news – we passed panel! Hurrah and thank goodness!

I thought though it would be worth capturing what it was like and sharing that – writing everything down has been really helpful for me as well as giving me something to go back to and see how far we’ve come.

Let’s rewind a bit then. We’d had our final grilling for the report and in between that and panel we had a fair few weeks where we literally had nothing adoption related to do. It was amazing – if not a little strange – so much of the past 12 months has been filled with something so the break was welcomed. I went to Paris and Barcelona and husband went snowboarding. Making the most of our free time (albeit not together !)

Whilst we were lapping up Europe, SW was in the background beavering away at writing up about 30 hours worth of meetings, our references, homework and medical info to make our report reflect us as best she could. She’s promised this on a particular weekend so we could read through it and feedback. The bit of the weekend she meant was Sunday evening and she needed our feedback in 24 hours in order to hit her deadline of getting the report to panel. The 40 pages landed in our inbox and we approached in our usual ways – husband checking the detail and me scrolling through and declaring it fine.

I can’t imagine any other situation where you would read so much information about yourself (whilst still alive) and I have to say it is a really strange thing to do. It’s mostly your own words, how you’ve answered the questions or the homework but with a slight interpretation from a woman you’ve spent less than 50 hours of your life with. She got it pretty spot on though and we were happy with the end result. We’d choose us.

She then came round for another visit the week before panel date to check in on how we were and to go through the report and any questions she thought we may get asked at panel from her experience. There were many – what would we do if a cild didn’t like the cat, how are we keeping an active lifestyle, how will I cope with not being a career woman (small feminist rant here from me) how will husband cope with the stress of his job, how will being parents affect our relationship – there were quite a few along these themes and she left us with them to do some prep before the main event.

The following evenings, after our dinner (unnecessary detail), we walked (marched) and grilled and drilled these questions into each other. I played a good social worker actually – so husband (slight tilt of head) tell me all about……It helped to say the answers out loud and then fall out slightly when the other gave feedback we weren’t quite keen on and high fiving each other when one of us totally nailed the answer!

Panel day arrived and we were pretty nervous, we got up and went to the gym. Came home and had brekkie and then got our parent worthy panel clothes on. My first attempt caused husband to comment that I looked like I was going to a fancy dress party rather than panel and he deemed my second outfit much more ‘mumsy’ (great!) We went into town and had a coffee and then made the slow march up to the council building – pausing for a quick selfie before we set foot inside (obvs)

We went to sit down before signing in as we had some last minute forms to sign and we were then collected by a small mousey woman who was a chaperone. She told us they were running late, which we’d anticipated as SW told us they usually are. Then she faffed around what we could do, we could go sit in the room, or walk along the river, or go to a coffee shop, or sit in reception. We said we were totally fine and could sit in the room. She asked us three more times. I said it was fine we could sit in the room. She asked again. I went to the loo. She asked again and I was quite a bit more assertive (then wondered if this was part of the assessment)

We finally got sat in the room – 4 bare white walls and council grade coffee flask – but it felt like we were one step closer. The chaperone went to find sw – it was in her best interests to do so! Left alone we decided to play hangman on the back of an old envelope, then noughts and crosses and then sw arrived.

A bit of chat and how are you and I then began to pace the room. Getting my steps up! We were waiting for the chair of the panel to come in and meet us. They usually give you a heads up about the report as well and some of the questions they may ask. She eventually came in and was really lovely and smiley, put us at ease straight away.

She said the report was exceptional and that our application was really strong. So, she said don’t expect a grilling (!) you might not be in for long and that’s a good thing. But we will have some questions around lifestyle, health and training.

Then we all trooped next door into a big old fashioned board room. I was now at that point where I could burst into tears at any moment. There were 12 people sat around the table and a space for me, husband and SW. There were introductions to everyone (a chair, vice chair, doctor, psychotherapist, someone who’d been adopted, a student, 2 minute takers, someone checking it was all legal and a couple of others)

She started by saying again what a strong report it was and highlighted some of our strengths. Then they took it in turns to ask us questions – the doctor asked us how we were keeping healthy, what will we plan to do when we get a child and what we do in winter (?) Then vice chair asked us about what we had learnt from the training we had been on, the person who had been adopted asked us how we would cope with the change in lifestyle and our change in relationship, someone else asked us about the access to other people who had adopted and then the chair asked us about how we’d manage friends and family in the first 2 weeks when we’re advised not to see anyone and settle our new family.

Then! Then they went around the table and each person had to say if they would or wouldn’t recommend us to be approved and why. They all said they would recommend us for approval and then we got to leave!!!! I almost collapsed in a crying heap on the floor outside but we were just so happy and relieved this bit was over! It is all you focus on for the whole duration of the training and home meetings that for it to be finally over and finally have our approval was really overwhelming.

Now – we do have to wait for final legal approval which will come on 26 April but for now we’re feeling pretty confident! Hurrah!

We made the calls and texts home and to everyone who’d sent lovely good luck messages and then we went home, got changed, went for a drink and celebratory curry in town!

Next stop – an actual child!!

Still Going

It’s been quiet hasn’t it? Sorry about that! It doesn’t mean things haven’t been happening – we’ve just been having our weekly 3.5 hour meetings with our social worker covering a million and one things. Rather than email an update every week and subject you to the same mundane chat we have to go through – I thought I’d just treat you to the edited highlights.

You’re welcome.

In total there are 8 meetings with the SW, each lasting between 3 and 4 hours (the equivalent of 2 cups of tea and three wees) There is usually homework we’ve to complete which I do immediately and then spend 5 days nagging husband to do his. We also have to embark on a mammoth speed clean either the night before or morning of – I’m sure you don’t think it would make much difference but we never know which rooms she’ll want to look in and also lets be honest, she’s judging our ability to parent and we feel better about this if the house is clean and tidy.

Last week we were mid shouting match about something when the doorbell rang and we answered with smiles of pure joy – nothing if not authentic!

She gets settled and then cranks up the wheels of her wordprocessor (we’d call them laptops but not sure the Council have got there yet) and the meeting commences. Its hard to really go into the detail of what we discuss, its pretty personal and its pretty deep. Its also pretty helpful in getting us to think about what parenting an adoptive child will be like. There are differences and its good to be able to talk about these with an expert.

There are some funny moments amongst the madness.

SW loves husband and so he gets nearly all the airtime. He likes to pontificate and discuss and debate and reflect. I give an answer and hope she’ll leave soon. For 2.5 hours I allow him this. For the final 30 minutes I actually get quite grumpy about it. I’ve tried kicking him under the table, nodding a lot to demonstrate we got the point, widening my eyes in a none verbal way of saying please please shut up and then when all else fails I just say outloud please may I speak!

We over egg the ‘I read this’ or ‘I reflected on this’ she’s not seen through it yet but we give each other a smile when we do it – we know we read or reflected just that morning whilst running round cleaning!

We promised that the cat didn’t go upstairs and wasn’t an issue. In order to get around these blatant fibs we feed it as soon as the doorbell goes and then lock her outside. However, now she’s taken to sitting on the windowsill outside where we sit and demanding to be let in. I let her in, she goes straight upstairs. Then I need to wait long enough so it doesn’t look odd before I go for a wee and shut the room door that it has decided to curl up in. If I don’t do this before SW needs the loo we’re in trouble. Cat roulette

She encouraged us to visit the nursey we’d want to send our child to – I got the time wrong, we were an hour late and we actually have no children. Awks.

Every week without fail the parcel delivery services of the world conspire against me and deliver an Amazon or ASOS parcel as we’re sat mid meeting. She actually arrived today and asked what time it was coming – oh how we laughed (and then I said between 10.30 and 11.30.)

In the last three sessions we’ve covered support network, motivation to adopt (here we had to go through both failed IVFs and it was such a hard emotional session) past boyfriends, diversity, our religious beliefs, what we’ve learnt through the process, how we will support each other, the experience we have of children, the lifestyle we lead and how we will change this to have children, how we celebrate special occasions (she wasn’t sure about my month long approach to birthdays) our approaches to parenting, the differences we see in adoptive parenting, what we understand about child brain development, how we feel about contact with birth parents, how we will talk about the fact the child is adopted, how we will deal with a child who has been neglected or abused.

My reflection today is we started off wanting a child to complete us and our family and as you get further down the route you realise its much bigger than that. Its not just about being able to be mummy and daddy to someone, its about helping that child have the best life possible when it hasn’t had a good start in life and some of the impact of that life will be known and some of it will be unknown. I’m starting to feel much more confident about the fact we’ll be a little bit different.

There’s one more session left. I don’t think any of us can wait for it to be over.

 

Final Training

Well huge hurrahs for the end of training. 9 modules. 7 training sessions. 4 evenings. 1 Saturday morning. 2 full days. 0 friends made.

This one was all about homefinding – which would you believe is about the process that happens to find children a home. In all honesty it was pretty handy we hadn’t made friends as if we had, this session would have severed all bonds. The basically lobbed a giant grenade into the room – labelled ‘competition’

Its complicated. New language is as follows:

Link – the connection between child and prospective parents

Match – when the link has been checked out and it looks like you may get the children

Linkmaker – its rightmove but for kids. Each person posts their profile and you enter your search criteria (age, location etc) and wait until you get a notification there’s a match

Here’s the process in a nutshell. There are 3 teams. Your social workers and you (team A) the homefinding team (team B) and the child’s social worker (team C)

One route:

Team A in stage 2 heading towards approval panel (ours is April)

Team B are looking at children coming into care and making connections between team A’s and team C’s.

Team A and Team C like the look of each other. Team B engineer a meeting.

Another route

Team A get approved

Team A get log on to Linkmaker

Team C are posting on Linkmaker

Team A or Team C like each other and a connection is made.

Another route

Team B invite Team A and Team C to an evening where there are stands and social workers and you mingle and share profiles

Another route

Team B invite team A and team C to a morning where the kids are playing and team A dress in fancy dress, play with the kids and then pick one

I think that’s as clear as I can make it. Yes it seems clinical but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt is that when the stork or science doesn’t bring you a baby – you just have to deal with it!

We’re spending a lot of time focussing on getting through our panel so focussing after that feels a bit surreal.

Anyhow, back to the session. We had name badges already on tables this week which avoided the hmm which weird folk shall I sit next to this week. We were with lovely guy (who, wait for it, I actually like) he was on form this week and a little rebellious. Then we had lurch and his wife who I have now named the dementor (A Harry Potter character described on google as draining peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them…)

Lurch is exactly how you imagine him. Tall, broad, dark hair, shadowy chin, dark eyes and a really slow stupid voice. Dementor is a social worker, adoption for her is just a misery induced experience and she clearly hates every minute of it. Lucky kids!

There were the usual introductions and stating of which stage you’re at with panel dates now thrown around the room with wild abandonment – the first hint of the evening’s competition. We listed hopes and concerns as a table group – if we’d had let her, dementor would still be there now filling up the concerns board!

Then we talked through the process on about ten more slides than the detail I’m giving you. There was plenty of opportunity to ask questions which was great until dementor piped up with her lurch and dementor specific questions – not relevant to any of the other people in the room. It was here I imagine husband’s blood started to simmer (volcanic eruption waited until we were in the car thank goodness!)

During the break we were talking about linkmaker being like a dating website and all the lonely hearts acronyms which Lurch and lovely guy seemed very familiar with. I pointed this out and was swiftly informed by lurch that him and the dementor met on a dating website. Slightly awkward silence. But no surprise.

Then we had to do a group activity where the 5 of us on the table had an anonymous profile to look at and we had to come to a consensus of whether or not we’d want to adopt this child. Weird. Lovely guy referred to it as living on a kibbutz and making communal decisions on the children we were raising! Anyway – I started to read the 4 pages of A4 out to the group. Then dementor offered to take over as apparently I sounded bored. I’ve no idea what the next two pages said as her monotonous tone sent me to sleep. Then when I expressed an opinion on no to taking the child she decided to unleash her patronising tone. Thankfully there was a little nudge under the table from husband. Point of the exercise was that the other groups had a name and a photo and it was a reminder to not just go by photo. 2 other groups said no. 1 group said yes and we were undecided. Like lovely guy pointed out – we were too busy deciding who should do the commune washing up!

Basically from this point on we will be all looking at the same children and competing to see who gets what they want. Brilliant. The one hope is that actually we may all want slightly different children. But everytime that ping on the linkfinder app goes it will be impossible to ignore.

Session over and with great relief we got in the car and drive home. Lurch and Dementor had really stressed husband out with their misery and specific detailed questions all evening. His parting shot was ‘no wonder they’re adopting. Having their own biological children would have been no good for the human race!’

So that was Tuesday evening and Friday was our first 3.5 hour SW session. I won’t bore you but we covered:

Support network – who are they, how do we know them, what will we use them for

Our relationship – what do we like/not like about each other

Lifestlye – what are we looking forward to/dreading about adoption

Past relationships – expressed my grumpiness at this one.

She’s also now meeting our referees and back next week for more talking!