I had a night of no sleep whatsoever, too many thoughts of adoption keeping me awake!
The books I ordered arrived yesterday, and reading through some of the stories in them it occurred to me that there is very little material on the new two stage adoption process which got implemented last year. So I thought I’d go back a step and describe what we’ve done so far.
We had talked about having children pretty much right from the beginning of our relationship, and 2014 was the year we had decided we would start looking into it properly. I found out that a week back in March was an LGBT adoption and fostering week from the New Family Social facebook page and I asked my partner if we should go, he agreed we should. We noticed our ‘local’ event was on the Thursday so we both booked the day off so we could attend. I put local in quote marks because it was in Swaffham, Norfolk, and took us the best part of two hours to get there in the car, but it was the only one which our local authority was attending, so we decided to go. The event started at 2pm so we left in plenty of time to get there for the start of it.
When we arrived we were pretty much the only people there, when I say ‘people’ I mean prospective adopters/foster carers, there were a lot of local agencies represented, including the local authorities and Barnardo’s. We spoke to the two agencies that covered our area and found out that Barnardo’s is actually based in the town down the road from ours. One of the representatives from our local authority had just moved away from our home town, so she knew precisely where we’d come from.
At 3pm there was meant to be a talk by a person who had already adopted and a foster carer, but we were still the only couple there! So, instead we had a very nice one on one (or two on two as it were) chat with them both. It was very informative I have to say, and something I regret is not asking more questions of them, I think we are both pretty bad at thinking up questions to ask on the spot, so we really should have prepared a bit more (although we hadn’t expected to get such a personal service!). The adopter had adopted two siblings and the foster carer had taken in two brothers on a permanent fostering basis, and it was nice to hear their experiences of the process, but again this was the old process, not the new one.
While we were there we also met a male couple who had been approved as adopters and were waiting a matching panel, so they were (hopefully) about to become parents, I think they said it had taken them nearly two years to get to that point. This is where the new process differs.
Whenever I read stories about adopters’ experience of the approval process something that is common throughout a lot of them is the sense of frustration about how long things seem to take. How a piece of paperwork sat on someone’s desk for weeks before being looked at, or how a social worker had gone on holiday with no one taking up the workload (I’m unsure how that would work as the relationship between social worker and potential adopter is quite an important one, so perhaps it is better to wait for them to come back than to keep switching?). Well, now there’s a two stage process designed to prevent the unnecessary ‘slop’ in the schedule, and to keep things moving.
Each of the agencies described to us at great length how the two stage process worked, how the first stage took a maximum of 2 months, the second stage took a maximum of 4 months at then end of which you would be approved or not, there can be up to a 6 month gap between finishing stage one and starting stage two, meaning you can be approved for adoption in as little as 6 months. Stage one basically consists of some groundwork checks to make sure you’re suitable from the outset, things like a Disclosure and Barring Service check (what used to be called a CRB check), a medical checkup and several references. That sort of thing. We haven’t quite started this stage so I can’t say too much about it yet, although I will in future posts.
Stage two is more involved with training sessions and groups to attend, but again we’re not there yet so I’ll detail that if and when we get there.
Anyway, we ended up giving our details to the adoption agency from our local authority, and they sent us through an information pack within two days, they must have posted it literally the day we saw them. This pack also contained details of some Information Events which we decided to attend.
At this information event we saw some details of some of the children that are currently awaiting adoption, their descriptions are certainly designed to tug at the heart strings! There were lots of couples and a few singles there, we weren’t the only same-sex couple there either which was good. There was a talk about the process which we felt we already knew about and didn’t cover anything that we hadn’t already found out about, and then an adoptive Mum took the stage. She told us some very enlightening things about her experiences, she had adopted two siblings (I have wondered since whether it was just coincidence that all the people we’ve spoken to had adopted a sibling group, or if it was intentional to try to get people to consider it more, as sibling groups are apparently more difficult to place). Some of the stories she told about her children and their experiences before being taken into care made me well up a bit, she described how one of her sons had some emotional issues because of it and how they were coping using the support available to them. Something that really struck me was what she said about the way they used discipline. Their plans before adoption went totally out of the window because there was nothing they could do to discipline their children that was anything nearly as bad as what they had experienced with their birth family, so it didn’t really work and they had to come up with a different strategy. It was certainly food for thought.
After the talks we had an individual meeting with a social worker, one of the ones who deals with the first stage of the process, to take some more detailed information about us. There were more couples there than social workers so we waited around looking at more children’s details while the first set of couples saw the social workers. We waited for about half an hour.
When we saw the social worker she seemed very distracted, and halfway through me answering one of her questions she quite clearly wasn’t listening, excused herself, and left us to say something to the couple she had spoken to before us. Not a good start at all. We went through her questionnaire and asked her a few questions, personally we didn’t feel like her heart was in it properly, I’m not entirely sure why. When we asked her about us having two dogs, she became incredibly negative, basically she told us we would need to choose between adopting and our dogs, which is not something I agree with at all. Dogs can be very beneficial to children growing up, you can use them to teach responsibility, get some extra exercise on family walks, along with a plethora of other things, she admitted to not being a dog person though. I don’t know how much experience she has as a social worker but I really hope we don’t get her as our stage one case worker. If she’s right about dogs we have no hope, almost every member of my family has a dog so there is no avoiding them.
We drove home almost in silence, feeling incredibly negative about everything to do with adoption. Before meeting that social worker we had been really excited and positive about it, fortunately it didn’t take too long for us to regain that feeling.
We took home the application form from the event with the instruction that we would need to fill it in within 6 months otherwise we’d need to attend another one before being able to continue, that gave us until September.
We sent off the form yesterday, and are awaiting a response from them, depending on when they receive it in the post we should have heard from them by the 26th or 27th of June as, according to the new process, they have 5 working days to get in contact.
That brings the story up to date. Everyone has been so positive with the exception of the social worker, I just hope that wasn’t a taste of things to come.
That was a long post, sorry. I do ramble on sometimes.